It used to be that when I thought of Weatherby, I pictured the beautifully crafted high-end rifles and shotguns that graced the gun racks of the sporting goods store I worked at in my college years. I wasn't the only gun guy behind the counter who would shoulder one Weatherby or another and take aim at the taxidermied animals high on the walls when customers weren’t around.
Recently, I was looking into defensive 12-gauge pumps and realized that my mental catalog of Weatherby offerings was out of date. It was missing the pages related to the company's Threat Response shotguns which are purpose-built for tactical and self-defense applications. As of this writing, the TR series includes both pump-action and semi-auto models in a variety of finishes with prices ranging from $399 to $849. This review takes a closer look at the recently released PA-459 TR 8-Shot pump action.
All of this shotgun’s metallic and polymer components sport a non-reflective matte black finish. The lightweight aluminum receiver is topped with an adjustable aperture Ghost Ring sight mounted in an aluminum housing. A 3.5" length of aluminum Picatinny rail is mounted directly in front of the rear sight to allow for the addition of an optic.
The 18.5" steel barrel supports a fiber optic front sight and a removable choke. This model ships with a Cylinder Bore choke installed (other choke sizes are available through Weatherby). The tubular steel magazine is fitted with a removable aluminum extension that increases the shotguns total ammunition capacity to 7+1 rounds when using 2¾" shells, or 6+1 when loading 3" shells.
The grooved polymer forend is about 12" long, extending back toward the shooter far enough that it almost touches the trigger guard when the action is cycled. This added length is a boon to small-statured shooters because it allows them to "choke up" on the slide. This makes it easier to properly balance the shotgun and to avoid short-stroking the action. A 3" long accessory rail is molded into the fore-end at the muzzle end for attaching light and laser accessories.
The smooth-faced steel bow trigger is protected by a rounded polymer trigger guard. The trigger of this particular shotgun gauged at 7 Lbs. 8 oz. of trigger pull and felt smooth all the way through its short stroke. A cross-bolt safety is installed behind the trigger guard and is pressed to the right (shows black) for safe, and to the left (shows red) to fire. The slide release takes the form of an ambidextrous lever with a checkered surface mounted in front of the trigger guard.
The single-piece fixed polymer shoulder stock features a vertical pistol grip and recoil pad. This stock provides a 13.5" length-of-pull (LOP) which makes it a good fit for both large and small framed shooters. The grip is over-molded with soft rubber for improved traction and the soft synthetic rubber recoil pad is nearly an inch thick. Sling swivels can be attached via the ring shaped support mounted to the magazine tube and to a swivel stud affixed to the shoulder stock.
When breaking out the PA-459 TR for a test drive at a local shooting range, I happened to meet up with a group of college students who were there to break some clays with sporting shotguns. As it turned out, one of the young men was shooting a classic wood-stocked Weatherby hunting shotgun he had inherited. As the combat shotgun was passed down the line, the comments and reactions to it mirrored my own impressions.
This defensive shotgun is handy, light and well-balanced. The Ghost Ring sights are easy to see and fast to acquire for quick shot placement. The action cycled smoothly right out of the box to the end of the testing. The thick recoil pad provided a tangible reduction in felt recoil while the pistol grip is comfortable to hold and work with. The men and women in the group were of various sizes and skill levels, but all were able to run the Weatherby without any problems. In short, it was a hit with the crowd.
Checking this pump-action shotgun for proper function included a diet of shot shells ranging from inexpensive target grade birdshot rounds to hunting grade buckshot and defensive slug loads. The gun ran reliably without any malfunctions of any kind throughout the informal and formal testing. To check how it patterned, the PA-459 TR was fired from a standing position into paper targets set at 7 yards from the muzzle using 2¾" shells. Federal Premium #8 birdshot loads produced the largest pattern of 10.5". Winchester Super X 9-Pellet 00 buckshot spread out to form a 5.25" pattern. Hornady's Varmint Express #4 buckshot, loaded with the company's VersaTite wad, demonstrated very little spread at this distance with a 3" pattern. Winchester's PDX1 Defender load launches a rifled slug and three pellets of 00 buckshot. At 7 yards, the slug struck to point of aim with the three pieces of buckshot forming a 5.25" group around it.
For those who are in the market for a defensive shotgun, there are quite a few options to choose from these days. What makes the PA-459 TR stand out from the crowd is that it offers a solid set of desirable features without the steep price that often accompanies them. This is a 12-gauge that runs reliably and will fit a wide variety of body shapes and sizes. If the features of this particular model are not quite what you have in mind, take a look at the rest of Weatherby's Threat Response line up. They have something to fit just about every defensive application and budget.