I just spent an afternoon with a group from Pheasants Forever, participating in their annual shotgun test. The PF folks had gathered about 20 new guns and invited 25 or so members to shoot them. We tried guns ranging from Remington’s $400 887 pump to Caesar Guerini’s $6000+ Apex O/U. One of the most widely praised guns of the test was also one of the cheapest: Weatherby’s SA-08 semiauto (above).

We shot a 20 gauge in the test. The PF members loved it. They commented:

“It’s easy to swing.”

“It doesn’t beat you up.”

“It would make a great youth gun. Or a quail gun for me.”

Made in Turkey, the SA-08 is a gas gun with a low-tech design. It comes with two pistons, one for heavy loads and another for light loads. It has a black plastic stock and forearm, slender lines and is quite light. Some shooters with small hands won’t like the distance from the pistol grip to the trigger. Like Italian autoloaders, it has a bolt lock, and on the SA-08, the lock is a little button on the side of the trigger guard that takes some getting used to. That’s about the end of the SA-08’s shortcomings, and it has one huge plus: it lists for $449, which is dirt cheap for a gas gun.

It’s an easy gun to shoot straight, and it cycled a few hundred rounds at 5-stand throughout the afternoon without malfunction. That’s not a full-on torture test, of course, but preliminary indications are, Weatherby did its homework in sourcing this gun. Sooner or later, the Turks will build a gas gun that we can trust to perform, and maybe this is it.

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Turkey season is over here, but it still runs until the end of the month in some states. At the PF test, I talked to a turkey hunter from the Twin Cities who had a novel solution for the frustrations he endured in Nebraska this spring. “I ran my Nebraska tag through the shredder so I wouldn’t be tempted to go back and try again,” he said. I have eaten plenty of tags myself, but it never occurred to me to make one into cole slaw.