When it comes to pump shotguns for defense, the list of usual suspects is short and populated with familiar names like Remington, Ithaca and Mossberg. But Weatherby? The last I remember of Weatherby pump shotguns was back in the mid-1980s. My then boss of the gunshop where I was employed decided to become the king of Weatherby in the Midwest.
He bought every Weatherby Model 92 that could be had. I was working early that day and was the only one at the shop when the truck arrived.
After I unloaded the truck, I was beat. Hey, the driver was a Teamster. Do you think he was going to unload the cargo? To treat myself for the work, I sorted the guns by wood grade and set the best one aside for myself. Alas, the boss decided that that particular 92 would be best used as a duck gun for a friend of his, and off it went.
Today, Weatherby offers a pair of new pump shotguns. The glossy receiver is gone, the beautiful wood is gone, and the Made in Japan is gone. The new guns are matte finished with synthetic stocks, and they are imported from Turkey. The Turks have been working hard to get themselves into the Western market as firearms makers. They have been building handguns, rifles and shotguns intended to fill the market segment of “I need a reliable gun and don’t want to spend a mint getting it.”
While the final details might be lacking in other firearms from Turkey, they are not skimping on build quality or features for Weatherby. They just (at least in this case) are not losing sleep on cosmetics.
The PA-08 TR is a simple version of the Weatherby PA-08 Upland, and it’s an entirely traditional shotgun in layout. On the Upland you can have wood, but why bother? You see, the PA-08 TR, with its much more durable synthetic furniture, starts at $368. I blinked when I saw that, because in the gunshop I worked at, “$368” and “Weatherby” only existed in the same sentence when discussing accessories, not complete firearms. So what do you get for your three-and-a-half-bills at retail? How about an aluminum-alloy-receiver, plain-bead-barrel pump shotgun that holds five rounds in the tube (23/4 inch, the three-inch shells only come up to four) and weighs six pounds, 10 ounces?
The barrel is chambered for three-inch shells, so you can use all your favorite magnum shoulder-crushing loads if you wish. The bore is chrome-lined, so cleaning is a cinch, and you need not worry about the bore showing the effects of neglect or having been loaned to your brother-in-law. You do not, however, get the chrome-plated bolt, as the TR comes with an oxide-finished bolt for a no-glare appearance. The stock is proportioned for normal people, with 14 inches of pull and normal drop and pitch. The barrel on the TR is only 181/2 inches long, which is fine for a defensive shotgun, but the cylinder-bore choke would seem to be a tad limiting. This proved not to be the case, as patterning the PA-08 TR was quite informative. Typically, a cylinder-bore barrel will give you an inch of pattern spread for each yard of distance. With the PA-08 TR, I was getting not much more than six inches of pattern at 10 yards. That is entirely useful and even a bit on the tight side, which is fine by me.
The sights, a bead on a post front and the rear of the receiver, are traditional and a bit general if you plan to be using slugs very much. For launching buckshot and birdshot, the setup works just fine.
The second Weatherby pump is the PA-459 TR, and it is a horse of… well, it is the same color—black—but it is a different shotgun. (You can, however, have your PA-459 TR with stocks in digital camo if you wish.) The obvious changes are the stock, forearm and sights. The stock is pistol-grip equipped, very much like that of a certain Teutonic design we’re all familiar with. The forearm is radically sculpted, and in addition to aggressive grasping grooves, it has a built-in accessory rail. You can easily mount a light there, something that you have to swap forearms to get on other brands of shotguns. In addition to the amazing price of $468, Weatherby has just saved you the cost of a replacement forearm on which to mount a light.
The sights on the PA-459 TR are a ghost ring and blade front, with a rail on the receiver for optics. If you so wish, you can put a red dot there. I’m really old-school and don’t see much use for red dots outside of competitive shooting. (Wow, did I just say that?) The ghost ring and fiber optic sight combination does make it a real pleasure to launch slugs. The rifle range gongs suffered grievously while the slug supply held out. The rest of the PA-459 TR is similar to the PA-08. Both weigh six pounds, 10 ounces. The PA-459 TR is a bit shorter in the stock, by a whopping 3/8 inch, and the drop and pitch are close enough that you won’t notice a difference. Where the choke on the PA-08 TR is fixed, the PA-459 TR has a screw-in choke that is ported, but the included one is the same cylinder bore. However, it patterns even tighter than the PA-08 TR, so I have to wonder just what those people who are building shotguns in Turkey actually think “cylinder” means.
The barrel on the PA-459 TR is also chambered for three-inch shells and is chrome-plated. While it is 181/2 inches long, the protruding choke tube brings the barrel up to 20 inches. The choke tube threads are of the Winchoke pattern, so you can change the included, ported choke for one with more constriction and no porting. I wouldn’t, but more on that in a bit.
The actions of the two shotguns are not the same. Not that they have to be, but the PA-459 TR has its slide release in front of the triggerguard, behind the loading gate. The adjustable ghost-ring rear, combined with the fiber optic front, gives you the ability to zero your preferred load and not have to depend on Kentucky windage to ensure center hits. The red fiber optic front is also plenty fast, and the usually fragile plastic rod of the fiber optic is protected by sight wings much like those of the AR-15 and M16.
As I said earlier with the PA-08 TR, the receiver of the PAS-459 TR is machined from aluminum alloy—7075-T6 (to be precise), the same as your favorite black rifle (if it’s MIL-SPEC)—and produced in CNC-machining centers to close tolerances.
At the range, the PA-459 TR patterned even tighter than its brother. Hornady No. 4 buckshot patterned three inches at 10 yards, a very useful amount. I’m not one who expects or desires a huge spread, attempting to get at least one pellet onto something useful. I want the whole sledgehammer payload delivered where I intend, and the PA-459 TR does just that. I didn’t even start on pepper poppers inside of 25 yards, as it was clear what would happen: The steel would be hammered down so hard it would threaten to bounce back upright. I was dropping match-set poppers out past 35 yards with the PAS-459 TR. Getting all or most of the pellets onto the plate does that.
I did, however, rediscover an attribute of Newtonian physics that we all like to forget: Light guns are easy to carry, but tough to shoot. At less than seven pounds fully loaded (they both came with duck plugs in the magazine, easily removed to gain the full capacity), this gun loaded with buckshot was work to shoot. In fact, if not for the ported choke on the PA-459 TR, I might have had to take a break, a few aspirin or even (the horror!) head home early. Keep that in mind if you’re thinking of putting in a hard day’s practice with an equally lightweight shotgun.
Also keep in mind that a pump shotgun does not work by being gentle with it. Don’t be abusive, but you really can’t rack the slide too hard when shooting, and the harder you work, the better they work.
Now the big question: Should you, or shouldn’t you? And if yes, then which one? Weighing on the “yes you should” side are the chrome-plated bores, reliable function (no malfunctions in several days of practice and test shooting) and low cost. Of all the firearms designs to be had, the pump shotgun, 12-gauge version, is the most bulletproof. The parts are large and well proportioned on both of the Weatherby pumps, and as a result I would expect them to be as robust as the classic shotguns in this field. Also, if you do find yourself in an emergency situation, the pump, working with any shotgun load that will fit the chamber, is a good bet.
On the downside are their light weight and the Made in Turkey markings. The light weight is easy to fix: Add more weight. One way would be to install an extended magazine tube. Right now that might be a bit difficult, as the Weatherby shotguns are both brand new and thus makers don’t make tubes for them just yet.
The second downside, the Made in Turkey part, is of some concern in certain shotgunning circles. Me, I wouldn’t worry. The Turkish know how to make firearms, and they’ve been doing it for decades. Weatherby is a company familiar with the ins and outs of importing firearms, and it certainly knows how to inspect a prospective design before putting its brand on it.
The deciding factor? The cost. You can acquire a Weatherby defensive shotgun, and for the difference in cost between it and what you’d spend on a competing design, you can afford enough ammo to practice with it that you’d be familiar with how a pump shotgun should work. In the end, skill matters a whole lot. As for which one to pick, that depends on if you prefer the plain look and profile of the PA-08 TR or have an interest in a light rail and pistol grip stock that comes with the PA-459 TR. The traditional stock design works just fine for me, so I’d probably select the PA-08 TR. However, for those of you who have learned how to use a shotgun wearing a pistol grip, you’re golden. With the PA-459 TR, you get the stock you’re used to and the light rail at no extra cost.