Shotguns deliver a solid bang! for your buck and are one of the most popular home defense choices today. Shotguns are simple, affordable, and typically extremely reliable. While there are many different types, the classic pump-action is likely the one that comes to mind most often when people hear the word shotgun. The Winchester SXP Defender was often recommended to me over the years. When an opportunity to pick up an SXP came along, I eagerly opened my wallet.
Unboxing the SXP when I got home was a quick process and revealed basic packaging. It came in a branded Winchester cardboard box with a Styrofoam insert to hold the shotgun in place. Aside from the shotgun, there was a lock, manual and plug in case you need to limit your capacity for hunting.
Everything was secured nicely in its own cut out within the Styrofoam that kept it safe in transit. I would’ve liked to see a basic soft case to be included — as a minimum — but it was not a deal breaker.
Winchester SXP Features
“The SXP is exactly what I was looking for and nothing more.” That was the thought that crossed my mind when after unboxing the SPX, shooting it, and reflecting on the experience. I wanted something relatively lightweight, with a shorter barrel for home defense purposes, a total capacity of at least six shells, and the availability of plenty of aftermarket accessories. Check, check, check, and… check.
The chamber and bore are both hard chrome-plated to reduce wear and corrosion. The SPX comes standard with a fixed cylinder choke. For those of you who prefer to run a scope or red dot on your shotgun, the alloy receiver is drilled and tapped to easily add your scope bases. The Winchester SPX features a standard brass bead front sight, drop-out trigger group, and crossbolt safety placed at the front of the trigger guard for easy access.
Overall Length: 38 ½ inches
Sights: Bead Front Sight
Chamber: 3 inches (accepts 3-inch and 2 ¾-inch shells)
Magazine Type: Tubular
Barrel Length: 18 inches
Weight: 6 pounds, 8 ounces
Range Thoughts: Handling and Reliability
One of the most enjoyable aspects about this gun was the smoothness of the action. Since it’s inertia-assisted, follow-up shots were quick and simple.
The texture on the stock and ribbing on the forearm were just enough to assist with a secure grip if your hands got wet, without being gritty and uncomfortable. The recoil pad was sufficient, but I would’ve appreciated a little bit more recoil absorption.
Short shooting sessions would not have been an issue, but for testing, I put a lot of rounds through it. With that being said, for hunting scenarios or normal shotgun range time , I think it would be more than adequate.
From a reliability standpoint, I had very few issues. Over the last four range trips, I put a total of 250 rounds downrange at both indoor and outdoor ranges, with temperatures down to the single digits. Out of the 250 rounds used for the test, 100 were various buckshot rounds, 100 were various birdshot rounds, and 50 were slugs.
I wound up experiencing two failures, both of which were failures to eject and near the tail end of the 250. Perhaps it was operator error. I can not say for sure whether I short-stroked the gun, so I hate to blame the gun.
The accuracy was as expected from an 18-inch 12 gauge. For my original accuracy test, I chose to use #4 buckshot, from 15 to 75 feet at 15-foot intervals. Of course, the groupings spaced out after 30 feet as expected. For the most part, within 45 feet, the “intruder” would be getting hit with most, if not all, of the pellets.
Winchester SXP: Final Thoughts
The Winchester SXP Defender is a solid, entry-level 12 gauge shotgun with plenty of after-market accessories to take it to the next level. Given its combination of reliability and affordability, I would recommend at least checking it out, if you are in the market for a new shotgun. I’ve been having a blast, pun intended, shooting the SXP and think you will too.
Have you had the chance to shoot the Winchester SXP Defender? Share your review and experiences in the comment section.
Bio: Ryan Domke is a freelance writer, photographer, and social media consultant with a passion for guns and tactical gear. He works with some of the largest manufacturers in the firearms industry, allowing him the opportunity to continuously learn from and knowledge share with the 2A community.
When he’s not spending time with his family, you’ll likely find him at the range or starting a new DIY project. If you’d like to check out some of his other content, you can find him on Instagram at (@TheGuyGearReview).