In 2005, Weatherby first teamed up with Italy’s Fausti Stefano Arms to introduce the side-by-side D’Italia shotguns. The partnership was successful, so Weatherby decided to shift its over-under Orion and Athena production to Stefano last year. This ended a longstanding association with New SKB of Japan. The D’Italia Athenas and Orions, of course, retain distinctive Weatherby styling.
The sample gun was the Orion D’Italia II in 20 gauge, featuring Stefano’s Rizzini Four-Lock System. Instead of the two typical locking points, the design has four points of engagement between the barrels and the receiver. It is a combination of previous FN and Boss locking systems with a modified FN-style underbolt with two extra recoil shoulders machined inside the receiver. These fit into two recesses machined into the sides of the monobloc. The result is a shotgun that holds on the sides like the Boss, but the bolt is lower to accommodate the underbolt. Another new feature is a sculpted frame head, providing a custom touch usually seen only in much higher priced over-unders.
The receiver is hard-chromed with a matte-silver finish and is fully engraved with a grouse-in-a-woods scene on each side along with the Weatherby name in the company’s trademark script. The bottom features a rising ringneck pheasant, while the remainder, along with the tang and the center of the top lever, is engraved in a floral scroll pattern. The opening lever’s pushing surfaces are checkered. Stippling covers the sculpted top of the receiver block. The trigger guard is plain, except for the gold-filled engraved trademark flying “W”, and the trigger is, in trademark Weatherby fashion, plated in gold. While the engraving is of the factory grade, mass-produced, chemical type, it is nonetheless nicely executed and adds a touch of elegance to the shotgun.
The fore-end features a basic checkering pattern on each side. The bottom metal on the fore-end has a shield engraved on each end, while the locking lever features a fern pattern. The metal of the fore-end bracket that mates with the receiver features simple scroll engraving and engraved on the bottom are the words: Patented – Four Locks. The top barrel has a roll-engraved band at the front and rear of the chamber. The front band is designed to mask the monobloc joint. The sides of the monobloc are jeweled and mate with the frame on two short hinge buttons set on each side of the receiver rather than the conventional hinge pin. This allows a lower-profile receiver. The single, selective inertial trigger requires the recoil of the first shot to reset the trigger to fire the second barrel. The gun features automatic ejectors and an automatic top tang safety that contains a selector switch to allow a choice of which barrel to fire first. Heavy-duty coil firing pin springs ensure reliability.
The barrels on our sample were 28 inches. Both the center and top rib are vented. The top rib has a series of parallel grooves along its entire length to form a matte surface. The rib features a single gold bead on the front. The chrome-lined barrels have lengthened forcing cones. The barrels also feature the interchangeable, screw-in Weatherby Integral Multi-Choke system (IMC) that is interchangeable with Briley tubes. Three choke tubes come standard—improved cylinder, modified and full—and Weatherby offers additional chokes ranging from cylinder to extra full. The stock has a thinner wrist and fore-end than previous models and 22 line-per-inch checkering. Its open pistol grip features a rounded end. The Orion D’Italia II is the middle grade of the Orion line, and Weatherby lists the stock as fancy grade walnut—but that’s taking a few liberties. The sample gun had a rather plain, straight-grained walnut stock and fore-end with very little figure. The checkering was well rendered with sharp, defined diamonds and no overruns. The patterns on each side of the grip connected over the top with a “V” that resulted from a continuation of the double border on each side. It was a nice, extra touch. The finish was pure Weatherby—high luster with a deep thick coating to protect the wood.
Wood-to-metal fit was quite good for a production shotgun, but did show a slight gap along the left side of the tang and at the rear. The fit to the action was excellent. The stock was fitted with a ½-inch solid black recoil pad.
The gun was very well balanced and pointed naturally with just a bit of desirable muzzle heaviness. However, three of the shooters on our test team found the comb to be too high for a proper fit. While this was apparent during the feeling out stage and while shooting test patterns, the gun performed well on clay targets without any of the expected problems from the too high comb and the center of the patterns was very close to the point of aim, so it might be an academic-only problem in reality.
The new Italian-made Weatherby Orion includes some custom features not usually found on a gun in this price class and is an excellent buy for anybody looking for a new over-under shotgun.