In search of a moderately priced Home Defense shotgun over the past few months, my attention kept returning to the Weatherby SA-459. Ultimately a few out of the box features, including a synthetic pistol grip stock and interchangeable choke tube, had me jumping on one this spring.
Weatherby currently offers two models of the SA-459; the TR (threat response) and TK (turkey). Both guns come in 12 or 20 gauge and retail for the same price. The significant differences between the two models being barrel length, stock color, and included choke. The TR is built with a 18.5″ barrel, black synthetic stock, and comes with a cylinder bore choke. In the end I chose the latter, a TK model with 21″ barrel, camo stock, and extra-full ported choke tube.
As one of my personal firearms, I’ll be posting a long-term test and review of the shotgun and its performance. At the time of purchase, MSRP for both models was $699.
Although my original intention was to purchase a shotgun solely for home defense, the deciding factor in choosing the SA-459 ended up being the versatility provided by the interchangeable choke tubes. A feature not found in many shotguns designed specifically for home defense, the option to switch chokes will open the potential to use the firearm for several different applications (including turkey hunting, of course). With 21″ barrels, the TK model is just slightly longer than the average home defense shotgun, but I believe it will still maneuver well enough in tight quarters to pull double duty as a defense/hunting gun.
Out of the box, the SA-459 TK is damned attractive! The “mothwing” camo pattern is a welcome break from the endless line of black synthetic stocks. With a 13.5″ length of pull the gun throws fast to the shoulder, and the matte finish and forearm checkering provide a firm grip. The molded rubber pistol grip is supple feels good in your hand. I have never been a big fan of a parkerized finish, and this gun is no exception after noticing a few light handling marks during the assembly. In my experience, parkerizing is a little too easy to mar, but it will have to do.
After an inspection, lube, and assembly my SA-459 was ready to get put through its paces. Check back in a few days for our first range test.
Range Testing – Updated 04/02/2012
After a few days of torrential Pacific North Wet weather prevented the opportunity to get out in open spaces to sight in my new SA-459, I finally had to settle for firing her first shots at my local indoor range. Buckshot at ten yards really isn’t much of a challenge for any shotgun, however, some short range fire would add confidence in the guns ability to land a shot across my living room should a home defense situation ever arise. With an itchy trigger finger, I chambered up a round of 00 and let it rip at B-27 silhouette target.
Not too surprised with the results, a few inches off target straight out of the box. I will take this example and pause for a moment to stress the importance of sighting in your firearm even if you only intend to use it at short range, such as home defense. It may seem like common sense, but I have known individuals that purchased a home defense firearm only to place it directly in the closet, and “hope” they never have to use it. Although shotguns require less-precise aiming to hit an intended target, a feature that lends them perfectly to home defense, failure to properly sight them in brings new meaning to the “spray and pray” approach. Above all other hunting and shooting scenarios, accuracy is most important in home defense.
Following my first shot, I attempted to adjust the ghost ring rear sight and bring the gun on target to center mass. Despite turning the spring loaded adjustment screw, I was unable to move the ghost ring past the center marks on the sight housing. This was a malfunction that would require some inspection on the bench back home. (more to follow on that) A bit disappointed with the failure in the sight adjustment, I finished off the box of buckshot with a round burst to test the cycle rate and recoil.
Unfortunately it was difficult to get a good sample of the semi-auto burst accuracy. Ensuing the impact of the first two rounds the target began to dance and twist around on the hangars, as a result, the holes in the target are not representative of the actual pellet trajectory of the remaining burs. (Note to self: bring some weighted clothes pins to hang on the bottom of the target for any future tests) However, the first two shots did appear to hit the target in the same location as my first single shot, which was just a few inches to the right. For the time being, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the SA-459 does appear to be consistent under burst fire. I should also note that this fire test was performed with the included extra full choke, which is not the ideal choice at close range. An improved cylinder choke is on the way, and will be used for future short range testing. For a gas operated 12 gauge, recoil was moderate, but nothing to be concerned about. At the very least, the first few shots out of the firearm prove it adequate for short range protection, and I feel a little more confident hanging it as the “go to” weapon on my home defense rack.
Next it is back to the workbench to inspect the rear sight. Check back in a few days for updated content.
Rear Sight Modification – Updated 04/05/12
Unable to adequately tune the rear sight on my first visit to the range with the SA-459, I headed back to the workbench for full inspection and dis-assembly. Upon removal of the ghost ring, which is held in the sight housing by a spring loaded horizontal adjustment screw, the problem was immediately clear. I encountered a number of burrs, left over from the casting process, along the edges of slot that is responsible for housing the ghost ring within the sight base. The burrs were limiting the intended lateral adjustment of the ghost ring, and ultimately preventing the firearm from being sighted in.
The stock sight on the Weatherby SA-459 is probably the least expensive component on the firearm. For most owners, including myself, it will be one of the first if not the only upgrade installed on the weapon. That being said, I am not too surprised or concerned about the minor defect in quality. However, all rationalizing aside, Weatherby does not deserve a free pass. The sight being one of the most critical components in firearm accuracy, every owner should expect them to function properly out of the box.
Moving on, and despite my future plans to upgrade the sight, I can never pass up the opportunity for a little DIY gunsmithing/repair. Although I do not condone or advise any unqualified owner attempting repairs or modifications beyond their ability, I will share my simple solution to the problem.
After removing the site from the gun, and the ghost ring from the housing, I was able to clear the excess material from the ghost ring slot using a cordless dremel tool and small grinding bit. Be sure to remove the sight from the gun in order to prevent any accidental damage to the finish of the receiver. Take your time, and be careful to avoid removing too much metal. Follow up with a few minutes of sanding to smooth the wall of the housing, and finish it off with a gun-blueing pen to protect the newly exposed surface. In the absence of a dremel tool, the same results could be achieved with a hand reamer or sand paper, and a little elbow grease.
Viola! 15 minutes later and the sight will function good as new, or more appropriately, as intended.
With the sight disassembled, this presented an additional opportunity to enhance the ghost ring visibility. Following a few brush strokes of glow-in-the-dark paint, I was able to improve sight and target acquisition. After re-installing the sight on the picatinny rail, the SA-459 is ready for a second attempt at sighting in. Stay tuned for further review.
Bore sighting – Updated 04/14/12
After fixing the sight adjustment on the stock ghost ring, I took another shot at sighting in the SA-459. Unfortunately, my efforts to fine tune the rear sight were not rewarded, as attempts to sight in the SA-459 at ranges up to 40 yards all yielded the same results as my previous trip to the range. I was able to dial in the vertical adjustment, but no matter what I did with the rear ghost ring all shots were landing to the right. At this time I was sure something was out of whack and returned home to investigate.
Back to the workbench, I mounted a laser to the top rail and setup a laser bore sight in an attempt to compare picatinny rail and bore alignment. Based on two unsuccessful trips to the range I was not surprised to find that the rail appeared to be slanted a few degrees to the left. At just 10 yards the alignment was off about 1 inch.
In summary, the limited adjustment of the ghost ring coupled with the misaligned picatinny rail leaves the stock sights on the SA-459 severely lacking. Or more accurately stated, simply useless. Fortunately the sight is probably going to be the first and/or only upgrade most owners install on their SA-459. I have heard of at least one other SA-459 TK with the same problem, and it is likely a defect in this run of Weatherbys. Hopefully it will be corrected in the future, but if you do choose to purchase an SA-459 I would plan for a new sight as part of your gun budget just in case.
I have already selected Leupold Deltapoint reflex sight, which should be installed on my SA-459 within the next few weeks. Follow my blog for updates!
Tacstar magazine extension – updated 04/14/12
Falling under the same category as those HD shotgun owners that place their firearm in the closet shortly after purchase and “hope” they never have to use it, another common misconception regarding home defense is the number of potential threats you may encounter during a home defense situation. Most home owners falsely assume that threats will present themselves in limited numbers, possibly one or two individuals attempting to enter your home. I do not intend to go into the gory details and statistics, but do a little reading on the subject and you will find that “strength in numbers” certainly applies to organized criminals. The 4 or 5 round capacity found in most HD shotguns may seem like enough, but I would not count on it. For this reason, I have chosen to upgrade my Weatherby SA-459 with a magazine extension to increase shell capacity.
If you are also interested in increasing the magazine size of your SA-459 be sure to review your local laws before continuing, as some states impose restrictions on magazine capacity. It should also be noted that since this is not a “bolt-on” upgrade and requires modification of you SA-459, it will likely affect the factory warranty. Proceed at your own discretion.
Mag extensions are a popular upgrade for home defense shotguns, and there are several options on the market for just about every shotgun model….except the SA-459. In fact, at the time of this review, there are very few aftermarket upgrades for the Weatherby as it is a rather new entrant to the home defense market. However, undeterred from increasing the capacity of my shotgun, a little research unveiled that the magazine threads match those of the Benelli Nova and Super Nova. After some review, I chose a TacStar +2 extension that will effectively increase the shell capacity from the stock 5+1 to a more suitable 7+1 using 2.75″ shells (-1 for 3″). I believe you can safely assume that any extension designed for the Benelli Nova/Super Nova will also “work” on the Weatherby SA-459, or PA-459 for that matter, so you have several options to choose from if you can not find the TacStar model.
As referenced in the warranty disclaimer above, a quick fit check revealed that the extension would not be a simple “screw-on” upgrade as it is intended for the Benelli Nova. When threaded onto the stock magazine tube, the base of the extension is not quite long enough to make contact with the stock forearm, preventing the cap from holding the assembled firearm together as required. The second problem is in the design of the stock magazine tube itself, which is crimped inward at the end to function as the spring/shell retainer. Fortunately these two fit problems share the same solution, but it will require some DIY gunsmithing to remove about 1/8″ off the stock magazine tube.
In the heat of the moment, I forgot to snap a picture to display the end of stock magazine tube. However, if you own an SA-459 you will quickly identify the crimped edge holding the spring when you remove the end cap. Without removing/grinding out this edge the new spring and additional shells will not be able to pass into the extension. Regardless, the need to remove about 1/8″ off the tube to attain a tight fit with the stock forearm will also take care of the crimped edge retaining the spring.
You have a few options when selecting a tool to grind the tube. A dremel with grinding or sanding bit, hand files, etc. Whichever you have available and select to use, just make sure you take your time. I recommend you remove the magazine tube from the receiver, tape off the threads to avoid any accidental damage, and also mark the tube at the desired length before beginning the work. I used an angle grinder for the first bit, then did some finish work with a dremel and fine hand file. After a few minutes the stock magazine tube was shortened to the correct length and had a nice flush internal joint with the magazine extension.
Once the stock magazine tube has been modified to the correct length and internal dimension, begin reassembly of the firearm as you normally would. Be sure to thoroughly clean and lube the magazine tube to remove all magazine shavings. Also lube the mag extension before installation. I also recommend installing a new shell follower at this time since the one supplied by Weatherby is fairly cheap, but it is not necessary. Obviously, install the extended spring in place of the stock spring and then thread the magazine extension on to the tube in place of the stock end cap. Installation complete!
In the event you want to restore the firearm to original specifications, you are still able to swap out the spring and extension for the stock components. Since the extension does not have a sling swivel, swapping back to the stock spring and end cap may be a preferred option for hunting purposes.
While this is a nice tactical upgrade, do not attempt if you are not comfortable with the modification or it is beyond your ability to complete. Contact a competent gunsmith to install the upgrade if you are still interested and it is legal in your state. If you are interested in purchasing an SA-459 or PA-459 with the magazine extension already installed, feel free to contact me.
Additonal content and mods to the Weatherby SA-459 can be found on my custom work page.