With some notably pricey exceptions, Weatherby is known for building affordable to moderately-priced reliable firearms. Their shotgun line’s like Jennifer Lawrence: proficient and attractive yet accessible. Weatherby’s upped their not-incredibly-expensive scattergun game with the $1099 MSRP Element Deluxe semi-auto. It’s a shotgun made for the shooter who likes to spend his days shooting birds — both feathered and clay — while looking good doing it . . .
The Weatherby Element Deluxe is an elegant blend of traditional styling with a few contemporary notes sprinkled in, like the streamlined trigger guard and triangular cross bolt safety. The finish on the sleek “aircraft” aluminum receiver is polished to a deep gloss. You remember that gorgeous gun your grandfather owned? Like that.
The Turkish-made Element Deluxe sports what Weatherby calls AA grade walnut. In my experience, those designations can be, well, flexible. Regardless, the Deluxe’s highly polished stock and fore-end are as understatedly handsome as a pair of Lobb shoes. Both parts are sharply checkered and nicely fit to the receiver. If you don’t look at the name on the side, you’d be forgiven for mistaking an Element Deluxe for something more expensive that came from Italy.
The Element Deluxe ships with a little plastic case containing three Invector-style chokes: improved cylinder, modified and full. Also included: a choke tube wrench, a butt pad spacer to add length of pull and four shims for adjusting the stock’s drop and cast to fit your particular form.
The Element boasts a vent rib and a fiber optic front sight. The gun’s dual-purpose release button throws the highly polished chrome-plated bolt into battery and lets you unload the magazine without cycling shells through the chamber. The chrome lined barrel comes in your choice of either 26″ or 28″.
The Element line is Weatherby’s first departure from gas-operated semi-auto actions. All three models use a simpler, cleaner, ultra-reliable and surprisingly smooth-cycling inertia action. Once only offered in Benelli guns, like all good things, Benelli’s patent ended about ten years ago.
Why inertia over gas? Fewer moving parts, lighter weight and easier cleaning. Even better, you won’t have to clean it as often; unlike a gas gun, gunk and schmutz are vented out the barrel rather than forced back into the chamber to cycle the gun. A few squirts of Rem Oil or a little CLP is all you’re likely to need to keep your Element Deluxe popping coots and/or clays.
The knock on inertia actions: they don’t soak up as much recoil as gas guns do. Roger that. Shooting the Weatherby Element Deluxe, I could see where popping hundreds of doves all day long in Argentina would be a more bruising experience than firing a comparable gas gun.
Inertia guns can also have trouble cycling lighter loads. I shot two rounds of trap with some cheap target loads as well as the soft-shooting #8 loads I brew myself without a hitch.
While Browning, Franchi and Stoeger also produce inertia action shotguns, the Benelli Montefeltro is the Element’s natural competitor. I’ve only shot the Monte briefly, but I find that the Weatherby does everything the Benelli does and arguably looks better doing it. While leaving $200-$300 in your pocket.
In short, the Weatherby Element Deluxe is a capable field and clays gun with the first-rate look and feel of a more expensive Italian job. It’s a compelling option for shooters who covet a finely finished shotgun from the old country but can’t justify the cost.
Specifications: Weatherby Element Deluxe
Barrel length: 26″ (28″ also available)
Overall length: 48 3/4″ (46 3/4″ with 26″ bbl.)
Length of pull: 14 5/8″
Weight: 6.25 lbs.
MSRP: $1099 (about $900 retail)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit and Finish: * * * * *
Gorgeous, glossy receiver and barrel with beautifully checkered figured walnut stock and fore-end. The wood to metal fitment is flawless. I might have gone with a more traditional brass bead rather than the light pipe front sight, but that’s just me.
Reliability: * * * * *
Despite inertia guns’ rep for rejecting lighter loads, no such problem here.
Value: * * * * *
The combination of looks, function, feel and ease of maintenance — especially when compared to its competition — make the Element a hell of a lot of gun for the price.
Customize This: * *
Can you? A little. But with its classic good looks, please don’t.
Overall: * * * * *
Like all inertia guns, the Element Deluxe delivers more felt recoil than a gas gun — the trade-off for lighter weight and less frequent (not to mention easier) cleaning. That aside, the Element Deluxe is excellent value for money — for a gun that will become a family heirloom.