A good pump-action shotgun is a staple of the American gun owner’s arsenal. Whether you go shooting with clay pigeons or plan on bringing home months’ worth of dinner, a shotgun might be the answer to the question “What’s the perfect gun for me?” We’re looking at the Winchester SXP in this review. How does it stack up to similar guns of its build, and where will you get the most out of using it? We’ll answer all of this and more as you consider purchasing a Winchester SXP to add to your collection.
Type of Gun
An Overview of the Winchester SXP
The Winchester SXP is short for “Super X Pump.” Labeled as Winchester’s attempt to bring the pump-action shotgun into the 21st century, the gun looks delightfully old school while adhering to a few modern conventions. It looks like a classic, with a finish that is definitely mountable on a wall. From the first glance, this is a gun you could place as the talking point of a sitting room.
Winchester claims that the gun is the fastest pump-action shotgun available on the market today. While we haven’t shot every single shotgun in the world, we’ll admit that it feels as speedy as anything else we have had in our hands. Our quickest reflexes armed us with the ability to cock the gun as many times as possible with the Winchester SXP fully loaded. We never found any issue with performance while focusing on reloading and firing speed.
A huge reason for such a smooth performance from the Winchester SXP is the muzzle-forward balance built into the gun. While this also helps for cycling action, it was impressive that the SXP can handle its 26-inch barrel with such grace. Usually, a barrel of this size causes serious scattering potential and can go a little wild if you’re using this to snag birds in the open.
That never happened with the Winchester SXP. Thanks to the barrel and muzzle design, we felt like we had a focused shot every time we aimed the gun. The weight is distributed near the muzzle end of the shotgun, allowing a better balance that can make all the difference when you’re aiming for your next meal.
Ease of Use and Handling
Even if you’re a seasoned professional with pump-action shotguns, you’ll appreciate a gun that allows you to pick it up and feel comfortable with it before you use it. The Winchester SXP does this in spades. Forget about reading an owner’s manual or searching through forums for tips on this shotgun. Once you ditch the pin that keeps the trigger assembly, you’re good to go. Not bad for a shotgun that simultaneously brags about being the fastest shotgun in the world, huh?
Conveniently, the bolt carrier inserts into a plate located behind the action bars at the rear of the gun. With this in place, the bolt carrier has no risk of falling to the ground and getting damaged whenever you take the Winchester SXP apart. All you have to do is press down on the rear of this firing pin. From there, you’ll take off the carrier, and start the cleaning process for the firing pin, bolt and everything else in the bolt carrier.
All you have to do is look at the Winchester SXP to see that it’s a simple shotgun for pointing and shooting. You’ll notice a few spots with the Winchester branding on the receiver side, the sides of the grip, and other pleasing figures that are etched into the stock. Other than that, you’re looking at the epitome of a shotgun: no frills, and can take down just about anything that walks, talks or crawls. You can choose other finishes, but we’re pretty partial to the black and glossy default color scheme.
You’ll find the rib above the barrel, elevated for ease of use and location. Only one brass bead can be found at the end of the barrel, and really, do you need any more than that? Anything past this would just feel excessive, especially on a shotgun designed to meet the needs of the aficionado.
When placed against your shoulder, you won’t see anything other than the sighting plane. Too many other shotguns we have used place needless visual distractions that take away from the focus on your target. We’re especially thankful that the Winchester SXP isn’t just a classic design in name only – it actually holds to the principles of models that you just don’t see anymore.
Choke Tube Options
If you’re looking for flexibility, you can choose three different options in the choke tubes that come with the Winchester SXP. You’ll find full, modified, and improved cylinder choices included with the shotgun when you purchase it. All three of these give you a great amount of flexibility when you decide what to do during a bird hunt.
You’ll find a mounting point for the buttstock, as well as a swivel stud located at the end of the tube cap on the magazine. You’ll have no trouble loading the Winchester SXP, and you might even be surprised how smoothly you can slide a shell into the chamber. You’ll get the smallest amount of resistance from the shell lifter as you fill up ammo.
When we tested the trigger, we found almost 10 pounds of resistance. This is a solid amount of pull, but nothing too hefty when you’re in a pinch to secure your target. You’ll find the typical cross bolt-type safety switch on the front of the trigger guard. Unless you are brand new to owning a shotgun, this will be incredibly familiar to you, and you’ll have no trouble making sure the shotgun doesn’t go off without warning.
Looking at the bore and chamber, you’ll notice chrome plates. This is a fantastic choice on the part of Winchester, as you won’t run into any problems with corrosion or rust. You won’t find any shim kits, which is a common inclusion on other Winchester models. We found a typical 10-pattern average for the combination of load and choke designed for this review.
Also included in the Winchester SXP is the Speed-Plug system. With this in place, you can quickly put in or take out the factory-installed magazine plug. All you have to do is press on the spring retainer, and you’re set – the plug slides right out like it’s greased up for you. Even though this seems incredibly convenient, you should exercise caution that the magazine spring doesn’t fire out of the tube and into the wild. You don’t want to turn this into a single-shot Winchester SXP.
With skeet targets, the Winchester SXP is a challenge. Using a full choke, the shots went incredibly high for our expectations, and we had to make more adjustments that should have been necessary for basic skeet shooting. While this is fine for seeing birds before they fly away, it causes problems for those who don’t plan on hunting.
Pricing Options for the Winchester SXP
Hunting for a good price on the Winchester SXP shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you know what the price should be. Taking a quick look on websites such as Cabela’s tells us that the shotgun goes for about $400. During August-October of 2018, Winchester is offering a mail-in rebate for up to $500 back on the purchase of a new shotgun.
Negative Aspects of the Winchester SXP
There’s always room for improvement in a firearm, and as much as we like the Winchester SXP, we have a few areas we’d like to see addressed. It’s not taking away from our recommendation to buy this shotgun, but there are a few things you should know.
First of all, the shotgun needs its button for freeing the action to be put on the other side. It feels awkward as is and you feel like an amateur when fumbling for it.
The trigger needs some improvements as well. It averages around 10 pounds per pull, but there was some serious inconsistency in our time spent with the gun. This is a problem when the shotgun weighs just a little more than half of its trigger pull.
Yes, the shotgun is less than $500, and perhaps a better pull is asking a lot. That being said, the entire firearms industry has set new standards for better trigger pulls. Handguns, shotguns, and rifles have all seen remarkable improvements within the last couple of years, and our reviews of other models make it especially noticeable.
The price itself is great for the Winchester SXP as a shotgun if you need one right this minute. Considering the available features in other similarly-priced shotguns, however, we’re cautious to give it a full recommendation based solely on the amount of money you would be spending.
The Winchester SXP: Buy or Pass?
Our final say on the Winchester SXP is that it’s an excellent choice for someone who enjoys going out in the wild and taking down wild birds. The ease of the location of each important part on the barrel and muzzle help to keep you focused on your target while searching through the scenery directly in front of you.
Practically speaking, this shotgun is functional for home defense. Keep it somewhere safe but close by, as the common black finish makes it nearly invisible at night if your hands can’t find its location when you need it. If this will be your main reason for owning a gun, you might want to consider the other color finishes available for the Winchester SXP.
If you’re primarily skeet shooting, we would tell you to pass on this one. Too many times during our testing, the shots went wild, even from reviewers who have been shooting since before they knew how to tie their shoes. We wouldn’t go so far as to call it an impossible task, but exercise caution when looking for a shotgun to be used with clay targets. This isn’t our first choice for a skeet shooter shotgun.
Overall, the Winchester SXP is a great shotgun for those who aren’t looking to drop a massive amount of money on a new firearm. There are other budget shotguns that you can find, but they don’t measure up to the standards of the Winchester name. We recommend this gun to anyone looking for a cheaper model, and who isn’t worried about missing a few targets along the way.
Final Thoughts on the Winchester SXP
Compared to some of the classic models that Winchester has put out in the past, the SXP stands up to the name that has been around for quite a while. Go all the way back to the 1893 model and you might remember the need for a slight improvement in producing smokeless propellant. This resulted in 1897, a shotgun that lasted for more than half a century.
The Winchester SXP does a fine job of living up to this name. It’s not our first choice for a shotgun that won’t break your bank, but our tests in the field revealed a much more comfortable grip and support than other similarly-priced shotguns we have used in the past.
Combine the potential for a sale with the Cabela’s mail-in rebate and you’re looking at a solid entry-level shotgun for a much lower price than what a Winchester would normally command.
One last word of advice: be sure that you find a Winchester SXP that has been manufactured after the 2015 recall. Earlier models were found to be unsafe and could potentially fire on their own, with or without the safety activated.
If you decide to purchase used, consult the store or vendor where you purchase the Winchester SXP. Make sure the new part has been installed before you find yourself with a faulty shotgun.