Economy class

The affordable Weatherby Orion behaves like a high-end over/under

Last fall, a pheasant hunt rekindled my interest in finding an elegant over/under shotgun, but with a price tag I could afford. Initially, I figured Weatherby would be out of the question. To me, the brand has always been associated with the premium-grade rifles and various high-velocity magnum cartridges that Roy Weatherby first introduced back in the 1940s. Then I took a look at Weatherby’s shotguns, which have been manufactured since 1967, in particular the affordable 12-gauge Orion over/under, with an MSRP of US$1,099.

Manufactured in Turkey, this well-built, entry-level over/under is loaded with features. On the functionality side, first up is the mechanical trigger, which ensures the second barrel fires even if the first one is a dud. Next are the automatic ejectors, which are a must for me when hunting with an over/under. Nothing’s worse than fumbling to remove a couple of spent hulls when you still may have a third shot at a fleeing flock of Hungarian partridge.

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Credit: Mark Hoffman

The Orion is well suited for pheasant hunting

Then there’s the manual safety, which also doubles as the barrel selector. When you’re ready to shoot, simply slide it forward into the fire position for whatever barrel you’ve selected, then slide it back into the on-safe position after shooting. This is a significant feature of quality over/unders, as it allows you to select a different choked barrel with ease (the Orion comes with screw-in improved cylinder, modified and full chokes). The barrels themselves are internally chrome plated for corrosion resistance and greater lubricity, making them easy to clean.

As for the chambers, they are cut to exactly three inches, while the barrels lock to the action via two cone-shaped bolts that project from the face of the breech and lock into matching slots midway up the monoblock. Long in use, this safe and durable locking system ensures years of shooting. I also really like the release button on the end of the fore-end, which made removing the fore-end as simple as pressing the button and pulling down—so much easier than the more common fore-end latch.

Visually, the Prince of Wales grip gives the Orion a classy look. It also lends itself to a variety of hand sizes, and makes for a quicker-handling gun. Both the checkered stock and matching fore-end are made of straight-grained walnut finished in high gloss. And the stock is fitted with a soft recoil pad with rounded edges, which makes for a quick mount. Finally, both the barrels and the receiver are high-gloss blued, and for a nice touch, the Weatherby name is etched in gold on the receiver. The barrels are also topped with a matte ventilated rib and brass bead front sight, providing a non-glare sight line that fits my shooting profile well.

Test results

To test this shotgun, I decided to bust some clays and pattern it with a couple of top-end upland loads (below). All in all, it’s a quick-handling shotgun and it certainly smoked a large percentage of clays. I must admit, however, that I started to feel the effect of its recoil after 50 rounds. It’s a fairly light field gun, and felt recoil is an identifiable result of that.

3Mark Hoffman

While my pattern test was limited, I did find that the Winchester Rooster XR put a considerably higher percentage of #4 pellets into a 30-inch circle at 40 yards than did the Federal Premium Upland. I also found the patterns somewhat diffused, but they could potentially be improved with aftermarket chokes from the likes of Trulock Chokes or Jebs Choke Tubes, an option I would certainly consider for this gun.

I also noted just how finely machined the action is, opening and closing with precision. And I was pleasantly surprised to find only a two-ounce variation in trigger pull consistency between the top barrel at six pounds 10 ounces and the bottom barrel at six pounds 12 ounces—very impressive. Weighing in at just seven pounds two ounces, this is a well-designed and constructed stack-barrel with enough class to belong in any upland field. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to take it on my next pheasant hunt.

 

B.C.’s Mark Hoffman is Outdoor Canada’s hunting firearms reviewer.

The specs
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Gauge: 12

Chamber: 3"

Overall length: 45"

Length of pull: 14 5/8"

Drop at comb: 1 3/8"

Drop at heel: 1 5/8"

Weight: 7 lbs