December 05, 2021
I covet top-end guns and gear as much as anyone, but the fact is, a $2,000 semi-auto can’t drop ducks any deader than a $500 pump in skilled hands. Indeed, I love it when an ole’ boy--or even a kid--shows up with a battered Mossy 500 and outshoots everyone. But there’s one do-all, affordable slide-action that likely doesn’t get the attention it deserves. That’s Winchester’s Super X Pump.
The SXP is the offspring of one of the most iconic guns of any genre, Winchester’s Model 12. With its internal hammer and English-styled fit that made this slide-action repeater suited to instinctive wingshooting, for 50 years the “Perfect Repeater” was the pump gun of choice for hunters until Remington began eating its lunch with its much less expensive 870.
Realizing it couldn’t compete against new-age guns manufactured with more stamping and less hand-finishing, Winchester retooled its factory and produced the Model 1200 in 1964. Although the gun featured mechanical improvements over the 12, it was predictably not as polished and never won over the legions of Model 12 fans. In 1978 it was upgraded to the Model 1300 Speed Pump, named for its self-initiated cycling that made it faster than other pumps.
In ‘89 Winchester was bought by the FN Herstal company, but by the early 2000s labor costs became so untenable at the union-operated New Haven, CT, facility that in 2006 manufacturing was moved.
In 2009 Winchester launched a new-and-improved version of the 1300 called the Super X Pump. Since, it’s been offered in over 40 models. Its simplest version—and also one of its least expensive—is a versatile, walnut-stocked model called the SXP Field. It is quickly filling the void left by the 870.
The SXP Field is a pump-action shotgun with a 7075 aluminum receiver, 3-inch chamber and a 4- or 5-round magazine depending on its 12- or 20-gauge chambering, respectively. Its 26- or 28-inch barrel is back-bored and threaded for Invector Plus choke tubes. Its wooden furniture features effective 18 LPI checkering and an industry-best Inflex recoil pad that’s both cushy enough to mitigate recoil yet not so mushy that it snags during the mount. This SXP’s stock dimensions are closer to that of the Model 12 than many newer shotguns on the market. As such, it shoulders and points intuitively.
“Basically, we didn’t just go buy a Turkish-made shotgun and call it our own,” said Winchester product manager Glenn Hatt. “We redesigned the SXP to our exact specifications and oversaw every step of its production,” he said. “We kept the features that made the 1300 great—like the ‘potato-peeler’ ejector, but we improved it where we saw service issues over time,” continued Hatt. “For example, the 1300 used to have a nut that held that fore-end group together but now it’s all one solid piece. We hard-chromed the chamber and bore and updated the styling, of course.”
The feature that differentiates the SXP from most other pumps is its inertia bolt that provides the initial rearward movement of the slide. If the gun is fired one-handed without holding the forend it will often eject the fired shell by itself. The action hastens the pumping process by allowing the shooter the fastest start time possible--comparable to pushing a sprinter from the starting blocks exactly when the starting gun fires rather than making him anticipate it. The automatic facilitation of the pumping action also reminds shooters who may not be accustomed to pump guns to work the action when the forend slightly tugs the hand. It’s remarkable.
Other notable upgrades include an anodized-like finish on the magazine tube that keeps it slick, and therefore the action slick, even as the gun gets dirty. It’s familiar crossbolt safety located on the forward edge of the trigger guard is now reversible for lefties.
While the SXP’s trigger is now easily removable, it is made of polymer. Although good plastics are often more durable than thin metals, actual metal would sure give the gun a higher quality feel. This, and perhaps its lack of a mid-bead and sling studs, are my only complaints.
Field testing the SXP was delightful because being a long-time fan of semi-autos I’d almost forgotten how fun a good pump-action is to shoot. I hit the first 20 clay pigeons thrown and I never even forgot to pump the gun, thanks to the pump’s beckoning pull. Paper testing demonstrated rich patterns true to choke; Recoil was on par with other sub-7 lb. pumps—which is to say it was stout with magnum shells—although the recoil pad and stock fit helped as much as physics would allow. In firing over 300 rounds, I didn’t experience a single jam. It performed as well as any $400 gun I’ve ever tested.
Don’t overlook Winchester’s "modern Model 12" just because its barrel is stamped “Turkey.” It’ll do everything a hunter asks of it, from downing ducks and geese, shooting pheasants, taking turkeys and even as a defensive security blanket under your bed. At a real-world price around $400, the SXP might just be the best bargain going, anywhere, any genre.
Winchester SXP Field Specifications
- Type: pump-action shotgun
- Gauge/Chamber: 12/ 3”; 20/ 3”
- Magazine Capacity: (2 ¾”): 4 + 1 (2 ga.); 5 + 1 (20 ga.)
- Sights: brass bead
- Stock: Grade 1 Walnut, 13 3/4 LOP
- Weight: 6 lbs, 12 oz. (12 ga.); 6 lbs, 10 oz. (20 ga.)
- Barrel Length: 26”; 28”
- Finish: matte/li>
- Chokes: IC, M, F
- Accessories: 3 choke-tubes, case, wrench
- Suggested Retail Price: $409