Firearms

Review: Winchester SXP Defender — Pump Action Perfection

RYan Domke shooting the Winchester SPX shotgun at an outdoor range in the snow

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

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.

Winchester SXP Black Shadow pump-action shotgun right profile
The Winchester SXP Black Shadow pump-action shotgun uses a rotary bolt and an inertia-assisted action.

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.

Specifications

Gauge: 12
Capacity: 
5+1
Action: 
Pump 
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.

RYan Domke shooting the Winchester SPX shotgun at an outdoor range in the snow
With the inertia-assisted action, the author was able to shoot quick follow-up shots.

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.

Attacker silhouette target with several #4 buckshot patterns marked
The author tested the accuracy of the SXP from a wide range of distances, using #4 buckshot. You can see the groupings expand with distance but are still mostly within the torso of the target.

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.

  • Winchester SXP Black Shadow pump-action shotgun right profile
  • Winchester SXP Black Shadow pump-action shotgun with four orange clay pigeons in the snow
  • Winchester SXP Black Shadow pump-action shotgun on a snow covered deck
  • Winchester SPX shotgun FDE resting on a fence rail
  • RYan Domke shooting the Winchester SPX shotgun at an outdoor range in the snow
  • Attacker silhouette target with several #4 buckshot patterns marked

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).

About the Author:

Ryan Domke

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).
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (9)

  1. Dear Sir
    I was disapointed with the quality cheap metal parts and workabilaty of theSuper X SXP Trench Guns I bought. I worked in a max security prison for 27 years. I was on the tactical team and commander of our K9 unit I used a lot of tactical weapons. The release action button is located in a very , very poor location .If you are hurt in action it is almost impossable to do a one hand operatin like you can with an 870 Remington, I own a lot of Winchesters but for me this one failed the reliabilaty test I wish I had not bought 3 of them . .
    I hope you remedy this on future models. I want you to know I still love my old 351 Win rifle and my 101 Win shotgun.
    Sincerly Howard M. Whitcomb

    Howard M. Whitcomb

  2. I own the SXP Defender and love it. It’s a very dependable and capable shogun. I also own a model 1300 that I purchased In early 20’s (Now 53) that I absolutely love. The 1300 or the forgotten shotgun as a lot of people call it is a great all round shotgun. I’ve lost count of how many rounds I’ve put through it and it’s still in fantastic shape. I’ve fed it I don’t know how many Different brands and types of shells through and it just eats it. I don’t recall ever having a jam with that gun. It’s never let me down. So when I was looking at the SXP I was a little Leary of it being made in Turkey and all but I took a chance with it and am glad I did. It’s as good a shotgun so far as my 1300. No jams, eats what I feed it, And goes bang when I ask it too. It’s a 1300 Defender basically same design through and through best I am tell. Action was a little tight at first but broke in just fine. It’s lightweight so there’s some recoil (it’s a 12 gauge right) but it’s doesn’t make me not want to shoot it. All in all, it’s a great home defense/tactical shotgun. Can’t beat the price at around $300 which is what I paid about a year or year and a half ago. I recommend it for sure.

  3. I own the SXP Defender and love it. It’s a very dependable and capable shogun. I also own a model 1300 that I purchased In early 20’s (Now 53) that I absolutely love. The 1300 or the forgotten shotgun as a lot of people call it is a great all round shotgun. I’ve lost count of how many rounds I’ve put through it and it’s still in fantastic shape. I’ve fed it I don’t know how many Different brands and types of shells through and it just eats it. I don’t recall ever having a jam with that gun. It’s never let me down. So when I was looking at the SXP I was a little Leary of it being made in Turkey and all but I took a chance with it and am glad I did. It’s as good a shotgun so far as my 1300. No jams, eats what I feed it, And goes bang when I ask it too. It’s a 1300 Defender basically same design through and through best I am tell. Action was a little tight at first but broke in just fine. It’s lightweight so there’s some recoil (it’s a 12 gauge right) but it’s doesn’t make me not want to shoot it. All in all, it’s a great home defense/tactical shotgun. Can’t beat the price at around $300 which is what I paid about a year or year and a half ago. I recommend it for sure.

  4. I own the SXP Defender and love it. It’s a very dependable and capable shogun. I also own a model 1300 that I purchased In early 20’s (Now 53) that I absolutely love. The 1300 or the forgotten shotgun as a lot of people call it is a great all round shotgun. I’ve lost count of how many rounds I’ve put through it and it’s still in fantastic shape. I’ve fed it I don’t know how many Different brands and types of shells through and it just eats it. I don’t recall ever having a jam with that gun. It’s never let me down. So when I was looking at the SXP I was a little Leary of it being made in Turkey and all but I took a chance with it and am glad I did. It’s as good a shotgun so far as my 1300. No jams, eats what I feed it, And goes bang when I ask it too. It’s a 1300 Defender basically same design through and through best I am tell. Action was a little tight at first but broke in just fine. It’s lightweight so there’s some recoil (it’s a 12 gauge right) but it’s doesn’t make me not want to shoot it. All in all, it’s a great home defense/tactical shotgun. Can’t beat the price at around $300 which is what I paid about a year or year and a half ago. I recommend it for sure. Thanks.

  5. Purchased SXP Marine a few years ago. Installed provided plug and the modified choke. Deset quail go up and down relly quickly. Short barrel and fast handling were great for this hunting scenario. Limited on opening day with steel shot (Calif. Law). Later on took 3 more. Magazine limiter removed, stuffed with #1 buck, sits nestled in home for fast handling and short barrel. Nice job Browning in Turkey!

  6. ATI Outdoors makes a really nice forearm for these shotguns, as well as a pistol grip stock. Well made parts and variety of colors. Also easy enough for a gunsmith to drill and thread the receiver for a rail attachment.
    Also, while not aftermarket, there’s lots of Winchester factory parts available. Field shotgun style forearms, vent ribbed choked barrels, rifled slug barrels, etc. I personally own the 26” vent ribbed and 22” rifled barrels. It’s like having 3 guns in one. The rifled barrel requires a spacer to be fabricated and used on the mag tube due to the barrel lug location but it’s nothing complicated. Hope this helps!

  7. I love the idea of this gun. I have the limited edition shot show special from two years ago, it came with three chokes. My ONLY problem is the forend grip has vertical grooves and the forend pops out of my hand on virtually every shot. I don’t have a strap on it; I don’t think I should need it; I think it might be slow in a tight situation. Though after the first shot you probably wouldn’t need a second shot!!! I was thinking of switching to a Magpul forend but then my colors won’t match. Otherwise, the gun works great and is smooth.

  8. Your article mentions “plenty of after-market accessories”, but you don’t name any of them. I’d be interested in hearing about some of them and about how they work. I bought a SXP,several years ago, specifically to compete in the WWII division of a state-level 3-gun match that was held annually here in Texas. The shotgun ran great, and I have nothing but good things to say about it.

    The WWII division of that match required a basic 12-gauge pump gun, so accessories were not sought. But they eventually stopped having that match. So I started looking to accessorize the SXP. The first thing I sought was an extended mag tube. It was only then that I read where the gun was manufactured in Turkey and only imported by Winchester. The magazine tube has a knuckle pressed into it, near the end, specifically to prevent the use of extended mag tubes. The article stated that the import resrtictions required that modification.

    I don’t know if that’s true but, whatever the reason for it, I can confirm that the knuckle is there in the mag tube. And there were no other accessories available for it at that time. But it was a very dependable gun, so it got loaded up with 00 Buck and relegated to “bedside duty”.

    But that was numerous years ago. No, you say, there are “plenty of after-market accessories”? I’d love to hear about them, and about how they work. Maybe that would be a good idea for a future article? 🙂

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