The Winchester SXP Shotgun—a Good Place to Start? (REVIEW)

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winchester sxp

The SXP is a basic shotgun but a good example of a pattern that works.

We’re going to get a bit philosophical with this one. Winchester, one of the nineteenth century’s most iconic rifle makers, a company that revolutionized shotguns at the turn of the twentieth century, is still making guns. It’s alive and well, and making a play for a bigger part of the market. If you are looking for a new scatter-gun, and you’re working on a budget, Winchester has a gun for you.

Before you get delusions about something romantic like an old 1897, let’s come to terms with what we have here. The Super X Defender Pump is just about as basic as a shotgun gets. It is a time-tested design. The pump is as reliable as you are, probably more. The basic flat black finish is meant to both protect the steel and keep light from reflecting off the gun, which could give away your position if you’re hiding out. This is a home defense gun, one with easy-to-use controls and none of the bells and whistles that can be easily overlooked in a defensive situation.

Winchester SXP

The chamber is wide open to allow for easy extraction and single-shell loading.

The barrel is a typical 18-inch design with a solid lug that attaches it to the magazine tube. With one round in the chamber, the gun will hold five 3-inch shells, or six 2.75-inch shells. Loading is easy, as the gate below works like most of us are accustomed to. The pump moves easily and drops when you pull the trigger.  While it isn’t uncommon, I like having the action open up fast. It helps with repeat shots, as you don’t have to nudge the pump back toward the muzzle before you rack it back.

The receiver is made of an alloy. That’s all the information I’ve got about its composition, and it isn’t much. Many steels are alloys, as is aluminum. I will say it feels solid and wasn’t something I had even noticed on the range. The bolt has four locking lugs and it locks up tight. That’s where the magic happens. The receiver takes some of the recoil energy and repetitive stress associated with pumping action, but it isn’t containing the blast like the bolt and the barrel, so the alloy should work well.

Winchester SXP

The trigger group drops free to allow for easy cleaning. The gaps here are the only rough spot in the build.

The controls are simple. The trigger group drops free. If there’s one place where you can point to the inexpensive nature of the shotgun, it is in the tolerances surrounding this singular part. The trigger group fits well in the gun and mounts solidly. Yet there are more gaps around it than I’d like to see. While they won’t impair performance, they may allow in grime that will need to be cleaned more frequently. As the whole group drops free, this shouldn’t be an issue in the long run.

There are some design elements I didn’t expect to see on a gun in this price range. The first is the hard chromed hammer and bore. The bolt is finished in black chrome. The chrome will help keep rust and corrosion in check, which is great on a gun like this that you may not baby the way you would some other shotguns.

The stock itself has been designed with a recoil system that is supposed to channel energy away from the cheek piece and down into the shoulder. More on that below. The look of the stock is slightly less traditional, thanks to the angular shapes in the polymer. But they’re subtle. If you like the straight, no-nonsense look of the iconic pump shotguns, the SXP may be a bit edgy, but only if you’re close enough to see the stock. From a few feet away, the lines disappear. And from in front of the gun, the SXP makes the traditional impression.

Winchester SXP

The loading gate lifts shells reliably. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t force a failure.

The safety is a simple crossbolt, and it works like it should. The forend is a rigid plastic with aggressive ribs. The brass bead front sight is there when you need it. All in all, it is a fine example of an entry-level pump shotgun.

Shooting

We shot the SXP on a varied range that included steel targets, some paper silhouettes and a clay thrower. As the gun weighs-in north of six pounds and has a shorter barrel and a cylinder choke, it isn’t a do-it-all shotgun. You can use it to break the occasional clay if you need to, but it is really meant for close-quarters work on much larger targets.

As for the recoil. With 2.75-inch shells, this gun does have noticeably light recoil. We worked with a variety of shot sizes and speeds, from light target loads up to 3-inch slugs and buckshot. The lightest target loads kicked more like a 20-gauge we had on hand. The heavier loads felt like you were shooting a 12-gauge. I’d hoped that the reduction from the stock’s design might lighten the load enough that I would endorse this for the recoil sensitive, but I’m not going to. It still kicks. The design is intended to channel the energy away from your cheek. I tend to zone out when I’m shooting. I focus on the task-at-hand as it is, and I miss things like this unless they’re obvious. If recoil is a concern, and you still want the punch and presentation of the 12-gauge, I’d highly recommend using this with lighter buckshot loads.

I wish Winchester would use another color besides red for their branding. Red means run, son.

I wish Winchester would use another color besides red for their branding. Red means run, son.

As for its other shotgun-like attributes, the SXP performs well. The SXP hits what you aim it at. Buckshot, which is my recommendation for anyone serious about home defense shotgun shooting, spreads about 8 to 10 inches at seven yards. Birdshot opens up considerably. We shot steel with slugs from as far out as 100 yards. At that distance, hitting a 12-inch plate was much more difficult than it would be with a rifled slug gun, but it is an impractical defensive distance anyhow. The SPX handled the slugs fine.

Conclusion

This is a fine shooting gun. We ran it hard and got it dirty. The photos here are from its first outing. On its second, we shot it in driving rain. During that shoot, we were dirty and wet, but not half as filthy as the gun. No matter how much mud we got on the gun, or in it, the SPX fired when we pulled the trigger.  There’s something to say for that. When I got it home, I hosed it down with an actual garden hose, toweled it off and then hosed it down with CLP.

Winchester SXP

In the end, the SXP is as intimidating as any other 12-gauge, and for a lot less money.

That’s what this is. With an MSRP of just $349.99, this is a solid entry-level gun. I’ve seen it for sale in the mid $200s. Because it isn’t as widespread as many of the pump shotguns, there will be fewer options for customization, though there are some companies making furniture already. As they grow in popularity, more aftermarket parts and accessories will follow.

In the end, there will have to be some decisions made about national pride. Winchester is more than a brand. It is a venerable American tradition. I’d personally pay more for a gun made in the United States. Not that I have anything at all against the Turkish people. And I certainly respect what they’re doing with shotguns. But we’re not talking about the same Winchester my grandfather knew and loved. Instead we’re talking about a budget shotgun that does its job, every time. If you believe that we’re post-national, that the world is one big global economy, than the Winchester would be a great choice. If you want a shotgun to keep up in the cabin, or take on that canoe trip, this is a great choice. I’m tempted to close by saying “it-is-what-it-is.”  While that’s true, it is more than that. It is a well-built shotgun that performs way above its pay grade. It is a versatile tool. And it is part of how we have to think about Winchester now, too.

Winchester SXP

The strange angles on the stock are the only deviation from tradition.

Winchester SXP

You can see the slight puff of lead off the steel. Even from this distance, the aim is true.

{ 35 comments… add one }
  • Tim Kulik October 27, 2017, 11:25 pm

    Winchester sx4 I just spent 900. 00 on, kicks like a mule.

    • Tim Kulik October 27, 2017, 11:28 pm

      Winchester SX 4 I just bought kicks like a mule with 3 1/2 inch shell. I thought this new gas system was suppose to reduce recoil.

  • George dina September 20, 2016, 9:49 pm

    I just bought a sxp pump and mine came with full choke and cylinder choke tubes. Retail for 309.00. It also came drilled and tapped so I plan on puting my vortex red dot atop . can’t wait to shoot this one.

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  • WAG January 5, 2016, 11:39 am

    I can only get 4+1 2.75″ shells in my SXP DEFENDER….Why ???

    • Sparky August 6, 2016, 11:29 pm

      I have a Defender also and to my knowledge that\’s the capacity of them, I get 4+1 as well

    • Joseph Smith September 9, 2016, 11:56 pm

      That’s weird, took my new one out today and had no issue with 5+1 of 2.75

  • Floyd March 28, 2015, 11:55 pm

    I bought the 12 gauage sxp defender and was wondering if I could put a longer barrell on it to use for turkey and deer hunting.

    • rfxcasey May 19, 2015, 12:55 am

      Yes, you have to get the correct one from Winchester though. Give them a call. Its about $140 if I remember correctly.

  • Bill March 6, 2015, 5:38 pm

    I am studying this shotgun for my brother in law. He wants a low cost good quality self defense 12g. It appears to be good but is it as reliable as an 870 or Moss 500? Quality construction and components? Back in the day I had a 1300 Defender that was great but is this new model as good? It’s available locally for $279 and I haven’t seen an 870 or 500 in riot/self defense configuration for anywhere near that price. But cost is moot if it doesn’t go bang reliably. Humm…. decisions……
    Oh and the person that commented about the old 1897 being able to “pump fire” by holding the trigger and working the pump, Ithaca M37s also do that. I have an old model police version that is fantastic.

  • Craig March 4, 2015, 7:45 pm

    I purchased the ultimate defender model wsith the pistol grip, front and rear sights and breaching choke, it is a reliable gun. I replaced the stock and forearm with a set from ATI and just recieved a 28in barrel so i can take it bird hunting and sporting clays. now I’m looking into getting a rifled barrel for it. the barrels change quickly and easily.

  • mark February 15, 2015, 9:32 am

    Hey! Does anyone know what I need in parts by brand or number for a breecher with a choke tube adapter for my Winchester sxp marine defender? I see parts on line for it but I cant seem to find a staight answer, one suggested a( browning inverter plus ) choke . if anyone can help I would appreciate it thanks, Mark

  • Aaron June 30, 2014, 9:53 am

    You know, I can find online a Winchester 1200/1300 Defender for a very similar price; in some cases cheaper. Parts for the same Defender type can still be found as well. Besides, it’s pretty hard to beat the ridiculously slick action on those shotties. I bought two in the past number of years. One for $225 excluding shipping, ex-LE issue, and the other for $200 even directly from a small shop, and in “closet queen” condition. Best part: 1300 Defenders were still made here in the USA; just a couple towns over from where I live.

    Not that I would mind trying out the Turkish-made Winchester, but for me buying an American gun means buying one of the few products that were/are made here in the USA.

  • D. Hicks June 22, 2014, 5:27 pm

    I agree with some of the comments.The Mossberg is made in the USA.I buy AMERICAN.The old Winchester are fine but they don’t make them anymore.The Winchester 1200/1300 was junk, I had a 20 and a 12gauge both were crap.The model 1897 .97 Winchester,is not the only shotgun you can pump,hold the trigger back and shoot,the model 12 Winchester the Ithaca model 37 and some others were made like that.Before the government thought gun owners were stupid. I own a Remington and a Mossberg ,I stick with Made in America Thank you.

  • Charlemagne June 19, 2014, 3:16 am

    I think the best deal in a tactical shotgun is the IAC 982 Hawk. It’s a high quality Chinese copy of the Remington 870. It’s got some of the features of Police Magnum like a metal trigger guard and milled extractor but it costs less than an Express. Most Remington parts will fit and the others can be adapted . You can get them for under $200 and with a few Remington and aftermarket pieces you can have weapon equal to a Remington 870 Police Magnum for less than half the price!

  • Thor June 17, 2014, 2:58 am

    Was that some badmouthing of the 1897? It is my Winchester of choice. It has an extended magazine tube and the only shotgun I know of where I can squeeze off a shot, keep the trigger pulled down, and wipe out targets by simply working the pump. Puts out a lot of buckshot in very little time. I can alternate slugs, shot, or buck and home invaders are not standing even with vests!!!

  • Russ June 17, 2014, 12:01 am

    The trigger pack looks just like in Savage/Stevens 320. I wonder if this gun is made in the same factory for Winchester.

  • Bailey June 16, 2014, 11:19 pm

    I have the marine edition. Took it to a clay range. I had a few issues with feed, but they were quickly remedied. That being said the score ended up being 19 14 and 10 with mine being last. I still think this is pretty good considering my friends were using target shotguns with 26 in barrels. Overall I am happy with the performance and the fiber optic sights on mine come in handy under low light situations.

  • JIMMYJET June 16, 2014, 10:36 pm

    So, a warmed over 1200? It was a crap gun to begin with in the early sixties, got a little better by the 80’s and finally helped bring down Winchester just a bit into the 21st. century. Good thing for Mossberg and Remington though.

    • NAVYVET June 17, 2014, 3:19 pm

      I will stick with a proven winner my Benilli M-1 shot gun This amazing firearm wil fire the lightest to the heavest loads out there

      • josh June 19, 2014, 8:38 pm

        That benelli you just described is not in the price range and also lacks the pump action…I believe the m1 is a semi-auto shotgun ranging between $500 and $1400 depending on style of m1 you want… you can buy 2-5 Mossberg’s for that price range… that gun is awesome though!!! I have shot a few!!!

  • Kevin Key June 16, 2014, 6:22 pm

    They may be nice guns but they are no comparison to the 1300 Defender with wood furniture.

  • Kaleb June 16, 2014, 5:27 pm

    I have a SXP Marine Defender and it is awesome! I haven’t gotten a chance to shoot it a lot yet but it works good for everything I’ve tried so far, even Skeet!

  • Doc June 16, 2014, 3:16 pm

    You didn’t mention bbl change out – the 500, as mentioned, rocks in that department. So does the Win. 1897 (though we all have that scar next to our thumb). Also, close in, while Buck does OK, the better REALISTIC ‘self-defense’ (‘imminent danger’ zone) Bird-shot will rip a LOT more holes and nick a LOT of organs and vessels when you need to ‘disable’ someone. Ask any corpsman or paramedic and they’ll tell you the truth about buck v bird shot at close range. Father out, of course buck is better.

  • Duray June 16, 2014, 2:49 pm

    I was turned off the Winchester pumps by a 20ga we had in my shop. It kept double feeding, so we sent it in for warranty repair. Winchester sent it back “fixed.” I took it out of the box, thumbed in a few shells, pumped it = instant double feed. For the money, I’ll stick with Mossberg & Remington.

  • Chris June 16, 2014, 1:51 pm

    I have it and like it. It’s under the king-sized bed at home right now. Nice, solid-feeling 12-ga… and I actually like the flat black as well. The price was an important part of my buying decision, but so was the quick action. I haven’t put too many rounds through it (my Browning is my clay-buster), but I have yet to notice anything I don’t like; and like the author said, for home defense, it will do just fine.

  • Bernie Ver Haagh June 16, 2014, 11:44 am

    I need to know if the Winchester XSP will shoot the Aguila cartridges flawlessly like the Winchester 1300 Defender? I notice that Anguila is now handled by http://www.tx-at.com/.

  • Grifhunter June 16, 2014, 11:27 am

    What is missed in most reviews is that this gun is the evolutionary descendant of the Winchester 1200/1300 pump shotguns sold by the real from Winchester firm from the 1960s on. Its the same gun, only now made by Turks in Turkey, instead of pro gun voting Americans. All you shooters who need to save the very last dollar (on a gun you plan to bet your life on) should think about the jobs you send overseas and lost and pro gun votes when you buy a foreign gun.

    Anyway, the Winchester 1300 of old was a reliable defense and sporting shotgun and this SXP model will likely be able to swap in hunting barrels, stocks and accessories sold for the 1300.

    • dean May 1, 2015, 12:42 pm

      Ya ya ya… so stop buying sigs and glocks too then.

      • Travis September 21, 2016, 11:57 pm

        Sigs are made in New Hampshire, and Glocks are made in Georgia.

  • josh June 14, 2014, 3:42 pm

    Another whole hearty gun would be the good old time tested Mossberg 500 they come in many different variants and now offer the easy change stocks and barrels so you can very easily change from closet or under bed defender to hunting shotgun in mere seconds…. either gun would be a great choice its your preference…. they are in the same price ranges….

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