The pump-action shotgun is purely American. It began with Christopher Spencer’s toggle-action pump gun, followed shortly by the John Browning-designed Winchester Model 1893. At that time, hunters and shooters were on the cusp of “white” or smokeless propellant that would displace black powder, and the 1893’s open-top action was not up to the higher pressures, so it was replaced by Browning’s stronger Model 1897 that was produced for more than half a century. Keeping the tradition, Winchester recently came out with the SXP, short for Super X Pump, which leads them into the 21st century.
Made in Turkey for Winchester, the company touts it as “the world’s fastest pump-action,” and its claim isn’t far off the mark. In testing I found the action amazingly fast, perhaps due to what Winchester calls its “inertia-assisted action.” Strange, because if you try to cycle it slowly, it seems stiff and unyielding, but in the field it is fast and smooth. In testing, the slide came back unassisted and in most cases fast enough to eject the fired shell. The hand on the slide may actually be an impediment to fast operation, except that it is needed to complete the cycle of carrying the next round into the chamber. To aid smooth cycling, the SXP has dual action bars that prevent twisting and binding.
My test gun was the Field model, one of 13 models currently available. It has satin-finished hardwood with attractive checkering, considerably nicer than one would expect on a shotgun of this price. Capping the stock is Winchester’s Inflex Technology recoil pad that is designed to direct the recoil down and away from the shooter’s cheek. In testing with Hornady’s 11/2-ounce, 3-inch turkey loads, the recoil was stiff, but the SXP was surprisingly pleasant to shoot—even more so on the skeet range with Federal’s Gold Medal Extra-Lite target loads.
The action is machined from high-strength aluminum and finished in a very attractive matte black. All the stresses of firing are taken up by the bolt’s locking lugs with little or no strain on the receiver. The SXP uses four large lugs located on the rotating bolt’s head that engage matching cuts in the breech end of the barrel. The lugs rotate into position by means of a cam located within the bolt’s body. In use for years in rifles such as the M1, M1 Carbine and M16/AR-15, they are fast to lock up, easy to unlock and provide superior strength over older designs that use rising locking blocks within the bolt’s body. In addition, the bolt and other moving parts are hard black chrome-plated for less friction and smoother function.
The trigger group is easily removed for cleaning and inspection by drifting out a single pin. A quick flush with a dirt-flushing aerosol is all that’s needed to keep the SXP running. The trigger pull averaged a hefty 10 pounds when measured on a Lyman digital scale; that’s very stout. The safety is a familiar crossbolt located in the front of the trigger guard. Winchester says it’s in easy reach, but if you have short fingers it can be a bit of a stretch.
The barrel’s bore and chamber are hard chrome-plated for smooth extraction, and, since chrome plating is impervious to rust and corrosion, carefree maintenance of the bore. The Field model is chambered for 23/4- and 3-inch shells, while the Waterfowl and Turkey models are chambered for 31/2-inch ammo. The SXP uses Winchester/Browning’s familiar Invector-Plus choke tubes, enabling the user to quickly adapt to whatever shooting situation he encounters. The SXP comes with three Invector-Plus tubes: improved cylinder, modified and full.
I shot Hornady Heavy Magnum Turkey loads with 11/2 ounces of No. 5 shot using the supplied full choke tube, as is standard for most turkey hunters. The 10-pattern average for this particular load/choke combination in this barrel was 70.25 percent at 40 yards, spot on for full-choke performance.
Other features of the SXP are Winchester’s Speed-Plug system that allows quick placing or removal of the factory-installed magazine plug. One need only unscrew the magazine cap then push down on the spring retainer to remove it and the plug will slide out. I am unsure of the advantage this feature provides, but one needs to be careful that the magazine spring does not rocket out of the magazine tube and into the water or brush, essentially turning a slick repeater into a single-shot.
The stock dimensions are pretty common among American repeaters, and one notices the absence of a shim kit already available on other Winchester repeaters.
Throughout the test, I found the SXP to be quite a nice shotgun, especially for the money. One could spend more and do a lot worse.
Type: pump-action shotgun Gauge: 12-ga., 3" Barrel: 26", 28" w/ventilated rib Trigger: single-stage; 10-lb. pull Magazine/Capacity: tubular; 4- (2¾") or 3-rnd. (3") Sights: single brass bead Safety: crossbolt Stock: walnut-colored hardwood w/satin finish; length of pull 14"; drop at comb 1 5/8"; drop at heel 2"Overall Length: 46 1/2" or 48 1/2" Weight: about 6 lbs., 12 ozs. Metal Finish: matte black; barrel matte blued; internal parts black chrome Accessories: three Invector-Plus choke tubes, choke-tube wrench MSRP: $399