Shotgun Review: Weatherby Orion

I was racewalking down the aisles of SHOT Show trying to make a meeting on time when I glanced into the Weatherby booth and stopped dead. The gun that caught my eye was the new Weatherby Orion O/U. At first blush, it’s a ringer for the sadly discontinued Orions made by SKB, the Japanese maker that closed its doors a few years ago. The SKBs, imported by Ithaca in the 60s and 70s, and by SKB and Weatherby later on, were excellent guns and I miss them. Could Weatherby have resurrected the SKB? I didn’t have time to look into it. I asked Weatherby’s Tim Frampton to send me one and went rushing off to my 11 o’clock.

The gun arrived this spring and I’ve had a chance to shoot it some. So, it’s not an SKB or even a copy of an SKB. That’s the bad news. Good news is, it seems like a pretty good gun at an attractive price point. It’s Turkish-made, and, while its lines (at least from the receiver back, more on this in a bit) mimic the receiver and the Prince of Wales grip of the SKBs, it’s a completely different gun. The action is very much like a Beretta 680-series O/U, with two pins in the breech face locking into recesses mid-way up the monoblock. In English, that means it is a low-profile design that keeps the receiver trim, and the gun should be very strong. Beretta has made several zillion O/Us of this design and it’s extremely durable and popular all over the world.

In 12 gauge with 28-inch barrels the gun weighs about 7 1/3 pounds, which is a decent weight for all-around use. It has a mechanical trigger and a manual safety, both features that target shooters prefer. It points and swings well, and I had no trouble hitting low-gun skeet targets with it. The gun has 3-inch chambers and comes with three Invector-style choke tubes. As of now it comes in 12 gauge only, with 26- or 28-inch barrels.

The Orion is nicely finished if you like glossy guns, and if you don't like glossy guns, why are you looking at Weatherbys in the first place? They've always been glossy. The stock is fairly plain walnut, wearing a soft, sporting clays style pad with a hard insert at the heel. The monoblock has been jeweled, which is a classy touch. Metal surfaces are a deep, shiny black and unadorned except for "Weatherby" in gold letters on the receiver. As I said, the stock has the same graceful Prince-of-Wales lines of the SKBs, but the forend, unfortunately, is not so slim. In fact, it looks about like the belly of a big largemouth bass and the effect on the gun's otherwise pleasing lines is jarring. Weatherby assures me they are aware of the problem, and that they have plans to put the forend on a diet. Once that's done, this may prove to be an excellent, good-looking value in an O/U, as the list price is $1099. Turkey keeps promising to be the new Japan, and with this gun it may very well have taken one more step toward that goal.