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Weatherby Orion 20-Gauge: Shotgun Review

The subdued Orion Matte Blue 20-gauge shotgun may not stand out on the gun rack, but it shines in the field.

Weatherby Orion 20-Gauge: Shotgun Review

At just six pounds, the Weatherby Orion 20-gauge makes an excellent field gun. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick)

Most hunters associate the Weatherby name with big game rifles, but the brand has been offering shotguns for 55 years. In that time, several over/under shotguns built in various factories around the world have worn the

Orion nameplate, but the current iteration, which hails from Turkey, was released in 2015 as the Orion Grade I in 12-gauge with a glossy Turkish walnut stock and gloss blue finish. Recently, Weatherby released two 20-gauge versions of the Orion I, which are available with the gloss blue finish or a new matte blue.

I had the opportunity to test the new Orion Matte Blue in 20-gauge, and I must say it’s quite a departure from the Weatherby guns I grew up shooting. Since its early days, Weatherby guns have been known for their style and showiness. High-gloss Monte-Carlo stocks with maple spacers and rosewood accents became synonymous with the brand’s Mark V rifles. Weatherby guns were anything but understated.

weatherby orion 20-guage matte blue shotgun
Weatherby Orion Matte Blue 20-Gauge Shotgun (Photo courtesy of Weatherby)

Weatherby Orion Matte Blue 20-Gauge Shotgun Specifications

  • Action Type: Over/Under
  • Gauge: 20-gauge (tested), 12-gauge
  • Chamber: 3 in., 3.5 in.
  • Stock: A-grade Turkish walnut
  • Stock Finish: Satin
  • Reciever: Steel, Matte blue
  • Chokes: 3 flush-fit (IC, M, F)
  • Barrel Length: 26 in. (tested)
  • Weight: 6 lbs.
  • Suggested Retail Price: $1,049
  • Website: www.weatherby.com

Weatherby Orion 20-Gauge Details

Which brings us to the new Orion Matte Blue, a rather austere gun (certainly by Weatherby standards) that doesn’t grab attention in the gun store the way Weatherby rifles and shotguns of yore did. This gun is downright subdued. It’s a field gun in the most classical sense, putting on no heirs but performing dutifully on the hunt.

Like other Orion guns the new Matte Blue 20-gauge comes with a boxlock action, mechanical triggers, and a sliding tang safety/barrel selector. The locking lugs are located on the sides of the action: dual lugs extend forward into channels built into the shoulders that ride on both sides of the barrel. The design is similar to the one used on guns like the Beretta 686 and has proven reliable over several decades and thousands of fired rounds. The major advantage of having the lugs on the side of the action is space savings, and the 20-gauge Orion’s action measures a mere 2 ¼-inches deep. I could easily wrap my hand around the receiver to carry the Weatherby, which weighs in at just six pounds with a steel receiver. The balance point is located just under the chambers and between the shooter’s hands.

hunter with weatherby orion 20-guage matte blue shotgun
The Weatherby Orion 20-gauge is a lightweight gun that's comfortable to carry all day in the field. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick)

The Orion Matte Blue’s stock is made of Turkish walnut which is well-featured but not extravagant. There are several features on the Orion’s stock that I like, particularly the rounded Prince of Wales grip with clean texturing and the Anson-style forend release. I’ve grown up shooting guns with Deeley release levers built into the forearm, but the push-button design of the Weatherby (which is similar in layout to guns from Caesar Guerini, Boss, and Purdey) offers a cleaner look. It’s also a very convenient and reliable design. Like other Orion guns, this one features a forearm with a bit of a sagging belly. It’s actually quite comfortable and I suspect shaving down the wood might increase the odds of cracked forearms, but trimming a bit of forearm would make this a very svelte upland hunting shotgun. As it stands it’s already a lightweight, smooth-swinging double.

The matte blue receiver features the Weatherby name in gold lettering and nothing else. It’s a good look. For years, companies have tried to embellish their affordable field shotguns with ornamentation that was at best uncalled for and at the worst an eyesore (the lumpy gold pheasant that adorned the now-defunct Stevens 512 comes to mind). Its unpretentious nature makes the Orion Matte Blue a charming gun. It’s a workaday stackbarrel that will break clays and kill birds, even though it may not wow onlookers at the gun range.

weatherby orion 20-guage matte blue shotgun
The 20-gauge Orion features three-inch chambers and auto-ejectors. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick)

Other features found on this gun include chrome-lined bores, three-inch chambers, and auto ejectors. The 12-gauge version comes with either 28- or 26-inch barrels, but the 20-gauge only comes with 26-inch pipes. Three choke tubes (IC, M, F) come standard. For sights you’ll find a single brass bead and a receiver with a slight upward curve on both sides of the flat center rib on top of the receiver. The crescent cut on the top of the receiver gives the effect of express sights.

Overall length for the Orion Matte Blue 20- gauge is 43.5-inches, and length of pull sits as 14.5- inches. There’s a soft rubber recoil pad that’s well-fitted. The mechanical single trigger has a gold finish, it adds a bit of flare to this austere shotgun.

With a MSRP of $1,049, the Orion Matte Blue 20-gauge rides between the cheaper Turkish imports that lack features like ejectors as well as the Weatherby’s build quality and more expensive entry-level Italian guns. In that regard, the Weatherby occupies a middle ground that makes it both reliable and robust, yet also affordable—competing in price with many of today’s semiauto shotguns.


The Weatherby’s tang safety is pressed forward to the fire position. While the tang/selector is pulled back in the safe position, it can be moved left and right for barrel selection. When the selector is to the left two dots appear on the right side of the selector and the bottom barrel fires first.

Having mechanical triggers like those found on the Weatherby is beneficial should you have a malfunction on your first barrel. If your first selected barrel fails to fire the second barrel will fire with a subsequent pull of the trigger because recoil is not required to rest the trigger. I wish the gun had a slightly wider trigger face, but I certainly cannot complain about the pull weight. The Weatherby broke right around six pounds for both the first and second shots with the mechanical triggers, which is lighter than many guns costing more. The triggers also break cleanly with no creep or slop. A shotgun trigger doesn’t need to break like that of a precision bolt gun, but it should be predictable and consistent just like the Orion’s.

The rounded pistol grip is very trim and the forearm narrows toward the top to offer a comfortable position for the fingers. Fit and finish are good, and the Weatherby’s construction seems very solid throughout. The action shuts tightly (which should loosen after initial break-in) but smoothly.

The new 20-gauge’s trimmed-down action is petite, and this gun is very comfortable to carry. As mentioned, the forearm is a bit potbellied, but the design is comfortable and fills the hand and doesn’t take away much from the looks of the gun.

Weatherby Orion 20-Gauge At the Range

I range tested the Weatherby on a day with driving winds, which made shooting more difficult. I broke more clays than I missed, and the Weatherby handled very well. I love the look of the Prince of Wales grip, which is a nice touch to this $1,000 gun and will surely grab the attention of seasoned shotgunners. I wish the grip was a bit fuller, but I have large hands and regularly shoot target guns which typically have beefier grips than field guns. Quite the reverse is true for the forearm. As stated, I wish it weren’t quite so pot-bellied, but the overall feel and dimensions are near perfect for a field gun to my mind. I understand why the Orion’s forearm is sculpted the way it is. Some may not like the Orion’s matte finish, but I think it’s perfect for a field gun. A matte finish cuts glare, which means this gun won’t be as likely to draw the eyes of passing waterfowl should you bring it to the duck blind. If you prefer the gloss look you can purchase the standard Orion I in 12- or 20-gauge for the same price as the matte version. Interestingly, the gloss 20-gauge version comes with 28-inch barrels while the matte 20-gauge comes with 26-inch pipes.

hunter with weatherby orion 20-guage matte blue shotgun
The Orion Matte Blue features a Turkish walnut stock and a simple matte blue receiver—both elegant but ready for the field. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick)

The gun shot quite well on the range. On the patterning board it shot a bit high, but essentially you can expect this gun to shoot between a 50/50 and 60/40 pattern, which is ideal for hunting. The center of the pattern was about two-and-half-inches left of center when fired at 30 yards with a modified choke, which is better than many competing shotguns—even those that cost considerably more.

Weatherby might always be known primarily for their rifles, but their shotguns deserve a closer look. Over the past few years, the brand has offered up their new inertia-operated, Italian- made 18i, which is one of the best semiautos for the price, and now they’ve extended the Orion line to include new models that are also exceptional values and a clear sign that Weatherby is committed to their shotgun fans. If you want an over/under shotgun that’s dripping with gold accents, high-end engraving, and stocked with top-shelf walnut you can find it (might Weatherby resurrect their Athena line?)—but if you want a great working double that hasn’t overlooked any of the important details, the Orion Matte Blue is a great choice. It isn’t particularly fancy, but great field guns don’t have to be.


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