In 2017 Winchester launched the fourth generation of its Super-X line of semi-auto shotguns. Known as the SX4, these guns were met with great enthusiasm by shotgunners, but the SX4 was initially offered only in 12-gauge. That changed in 2019 when the company added a line of 20-gauge options to the SX4 shotgun family.
Like the 12-gauge version, the 20-gauge SX4 utilizes Winchester’s reliable Active Valve gas system. The Active Valve features a gas piston with internal self-adjusting valves that automatically regulate gas levels needed to operate the action. Excess gases are expelled through the Quadra-Vent ports in the forearm. The Active Valve system allows the SX4 20-gauge to effectively fire a full range of ammunition from light target loads to 3-inch magnums, and it’s easy to maintain. There are fewer moving parts than on competing gas systems, and field stripping and cleaning is simple and doesn’t require special tools.
SX4 shotguns are lighter, trimmer and more affordable than previous-generation SX3 shotguns. By replacing some aluminum alloy parts with polymer components (the trigger guard, for example), Winchester managed to shave a few ounces without sacrificing durability. In fact, Winchester’s Glenn Hatt told me that in many cases modern polymers are more durable and scratch-resistant than aluminum. The new SX4 shotguns are also equipped with oversized bolt handles, bolt releases and safeties. The trigger guard is wide enough to accommodate gloved fingers, and the bolt-release button and shell carrier are nickel-Teflon coated for durability.
The square crossbolt safety, located behind the trigger, is reversible. The SX4 20-gauge comes with a chrome-lined chamber and bore, and three flush-fit Invector-Plus choke tubes (improved cylinder, modified, full) come standard. Twenty-gauge SX4 models come with either 26- or 28-inch barrels with fiber-optic beads and quarter-inch flat ribs. Magazine capacity is four rounds, and these guns are equipped with plugs that allow you to reduce magazine capacity to two rounds when hunting waterfowl. The included spacers allow the shooter to adjust length of pull in quarter-inch increments (synthetic stocks come with two spacers, wood stocks come with three). Synthetic-stock models come with one spacer in place, which means these guns have a 14¼-inch LOP out of the box. A drop-out trigger group also comes standard.
Testing the new SX4 20-gauge during a December waterfowl hunt at Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake, I noticed its balance point is slightly farther forward than the SX3, making it slightly more nose-heavy but not unwieldy. The trim, nicely rounded, new pistol grip design is more comfortable than the SX3’s grip, and I could manipulate the oversized controls well when wearing gloves. During that hunt I was shooting Browning’s 3-inch BXD 20-gauge waterfowl loads driving an ounce of No. 2 steel shot from the muzzle at 1300 fps—not exactly a magnum goose load but enough shell with enough wallop to wear you down when the shooting is fast and furious. The SX4 20-gauge Waterfowl model I was testing produced minimal recoil, which allowed for faster follow-up shots. Following that hunt I spent the months of January and February chasing cottontails in Ohio with the SX4 20-gauge.
The Winchester had no problems cycling ⅞-ounce loads, and the gun’s exterior stood up well to the beating it endured while being dragged through the briars in search of rabbits. I’d have preferred the 26-inch barrel while following beagles in heavy brush, but at 6 pounds, 12 ounces the SX4 20-gauge Waterfowl was light enough to carry all day. The SX4’s point of impact was very flat—about 50/50—which is ideal for a field gun.
There are currently more than 10, 20-gauge SX4 models available, with barrel lengths from 24 to 28 inches including a Field model with a walnut stock, Waterfowl versions with Mossy Oak and Realtree camo, a composite version with a black synthetic stock, and Universal Hunter models with various camo finishes. There are also Compact versions of various models that offer a 13-inch LOP. Suggested list prices start at $939.99, a good value considering the build quality and features in the SX4.
Winchester’s SX4s are some of the best gas-operated semi-autos on the market, and the 20-gauge version is a welcome addition to the line. It’s durably built, offers a lot of sensible features, produces minimal recoil and is priced affordably. If you’re in the market for a 20-gauge gas gun that’s versatile enough for everything from clay target shooting to upland hunting and waterfowling, this gun should be at the top of your list.
Technical Specifications • Type: gas-operated semi-auto shotgun •Gauge/Chamber: 20/3ʺ • Barrel: 24ʺ, 26ʺ, 28ʺ (tested); chrome-lined, back-bored • Sights: fiber-optic front bead • Magazine: 4-rnd. capacity • Trigger: 6.6 lbs. • Safety: crossbolt • Stock: synthetic; matte black finish (wood and camo options available); LOP 14.25ʺ (w/one shim), 1.75ʺ drop at comb, 2ʺ drop at heel; Inflex Recoil Pad • Metal Finish: matte black (camo options available) • Overall Length: 49ʺ • Weight: 6 lbs., 12 ozs. •Accessories: LOP shim, 3 Invector-Plus choke tubes (F, M, IC), choke-tube wrench • MSRP: $939.99; winchesterguns.com