Weatherby Orion: A Hunting Superstar

Like its namesake constellation, the Weatherby Orion in 20-gauge is ready to hunt.

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Weatherby Orion: A Hunting Superstar

A beautiful wood-stocked over-and-under shotgun is an iconic symbol of bird hunting. If you don’t own one, you probably want one, even if you don’t do a lot of upland hunting. A classic over-and-under is one of those things no gun safe feels complete without. They’re an elegant combination of form and function.

Sub-gauge over-and-unders are classic upland guns, offering sufficient ballistics in a pleasant-to-carry size. With that classic combination in mind, Weatherby created a set of 20-gauge over-and-under shotguns in the Orion line. And like their celestial namesake, the Orions are built to hunt.

Hunters carry a 20-gauge because it should be smaller, lighter and easier to carry in the field all day than a 12-gauge would be, and thus a 20-gauge over-and-under should be svelte and trim without being whippy to shoot. The Orion was a hit in 12-gauge, and when Weatherby set out to create a 20-gauge version, they built it with size in mind.

“Not only did we build the 20-gauge version of our Orion on a smaller, gauge-specific action, but the Orion platform in general uses a locking system that really reduces bulk,” said Zachary Hein, Director of Marketing for Weatherby.

Weatherby Orion 20-gauge with 28-inch barrels
Weatherby Orion 20-gauge with 28-inch barrels

A pair of side-mounted locking lugs nestled in just above the ejectors allow for the Orion’s action to be less tall than the action in many similar guns. As a result, the overall action size is reduced, making the overall feel in the hand much smaller. It’s slim and svelte, just like a 20-gauge should be. Importantly, it’s evenly weighted and balanced right on the hinge pins, which allows it to swing smoothly in spite of its trim weight.

Three 20-gauge Orion models are available. The first, a field version built for easy carry, has a matte finish on the wood and metalwork and comes with 26-inch barrels. Another field version has 28-inch barrels and a glossy finish on the wood and metalwork. The third version is specifically designed for clay target shooting and features 30-inch ported barrels, a glossy finish, and a four-way adjustable comb that allows shooters to better fit the gun to their own specifications for a more natural point of aim.

Weight is an important consideration in a 20-gauge — too light and the gun is difficult to control on the swing; too heavy and it’s a burden to carry and swing on fast-moving wild birds. At 6.2 pounds, the 28-inch-barreled Orion feels balanced and controllable without being heavy. The sporting model is 5 ounces heavier, the extra weight allowing for a more deliberate swing on clay targets.

“The short 26-inch matte blue version is built to be lighter and more maneuverable, while the Sporting version is longer and heavier to make its swing a bit more predictable. The 28-inch glossy Orion bridges the gap between the two, making it the most versatile version in the line,” Hein said.

This gun is built to make it difficult for you to miss (no guarantees, though!). Forgiving dimensions create a natural fit for the majority of shooters, allowing you to acquire and break targets faster. The gun is equipped with auto ejectors to throw empties with authority so you can reload quickly if needed. It also uses a selectable barrel system so you can choose which barrel fires first, and a top tang safety makes the gun suitable and comfortable for right- or left-handed shooters.

The Orion is fit with A-grade Turkish walnut with precision-cut checkering for a sure grip. The field guns have a Prince of Wales grip, while the sporting model has a standard pistol grip. Because it’s built for clay targets, the sporting model features a fiber-optic front sight and comes with five extended choke tubes. The field models have a brass bead on a vent rib and come with three flush-mount choke tubes. In all models, chrome-lined bores provide durability and a healthy measure of rust resistance.

If price has traditionally been a stumbling block that has kept many hunters away from classic over-and-unders, the Orion is shattering those expectations, too. A 20-gauge Orion can be had for around $1,000, putting it solidly in the “budget” category for over-and-unders, but without cutting the corners most brands have had to trim in order to hit that price point. The sporting model, at $1,149 MSRP, will be at home on the sporting clays field among guns costing 10 times as much.


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