Winchester SXP Black Shadow
By: Mark Stone
Known as the Black Shadow, Winchester's new SXP is a pump-action with enough attitude problems to equal Mark Stone's less than easy going reputation.
Once the staple diet of American smoothbore shooters, pumpaction shotguns would seem to once again be in the ascendance, the number of new ones hitting the UK market growing slowly whilst those looking for a budget orientated, trouble-free 12 bore couldn’t actually find anything better. And let’s face it, given the fact that the shooter is the motive power and all the gun has to do is chamber the round and detonate it, simplicity is the predetermined factor since basically pumpers don’t go wrong.
So when Winchester bring out a pump that at heart is what you could loosely refer to as a ‘public disorder’ tool, add a barrel that keeps it within our shotgun parameters and give it a retail price of just £369 of your hard earned pounds, it should be a winner. Oddly enough though, Winchester doesn’t seem to think so! Why? because apart from the aesthetics and the Winchester name and logo, the rest of the new SXP Black Shadow is Turkish, built by Silah in Istanbul who manufacture guns for a whole host of other companies.
Irrespective of the fact it’s built under licence in Turkey everything about the SXP is typically Winchester, even down to the red and white carton. Inside you’ll find as the name suggests an all-black single-barrel, pump- action shotgun along with three flush-fit Invector Plus choke tubes, a skeletal key and a small booklet of instructions, a genuine bargain basement outfit for a bargain basement price. Rumour has it that the SXP comes with stock shims but not in this case and given the stock’s somewhat unusual physical attributes I can’t see what use they’d actually be. Now don’t get me wrong, the SXP actually has plenty going for it besides the price tag. Complete with a synthetic stock and forend slide, the 28” anodised barrel comes with a raised 7mm cross-cut vented rib and a small brass bead, the chrome lined, steel proofed tube forming a goodly part of the gun’s 48½” overall length. The black weatherproof finish extends all round the black alloy receiver, the surface broken up by a short red partial border and the word Winchester and SXP. The black plastic trigger-guard houses a narrow non-adjustable triggerblade along with a cross-bolt safety at the front and a large bolt release lever at the rear, pushing the knob upwards releasing the single-claw bolt from battery.
An interesting feature is the guidance system the bolt and chamber utilize to ensure a perfect cyclic path. The short barrel extension that leads into the 3” chamber along with the bolt-head employ what look like a cog gear arrangement. But instead of altering ratios the alternate dogs and grooves mate together to ensure that the bolt and chamber are in perfect physical alignment each and every time, a system that’s slick in feel and one you can actually feel working when you’re shooting the gun and a system that significantly speeds up the pumping action. Apart from that a simple barrel ring and large mag cap keep the barrel firmly in position around the magazine tube whilst the integral forend slides travel neatly along two well defined channels within the base of the receiver.
Now to what you might describe as the SXP’s slight downfall, a set of dimensions that make you wonder who the SXP was designed for. Whilst the substantial forend is well proportioned and comfortable to hold and operate the stock is unusual and deserves to be highlighted. Albeit the butt is finished with a soft, ergonomic and very effective recoil pad, the physical abnormalities are apparent from the moment you assemble the gun. Drops at comb and heel are 1 5/8” and 2 1/16” which mean when you mount the SXP correctly your looking at the rear of the receiver and not along it. Add into this a length of pull that measures 13¾” and a trigger weight of 9lbs and it starts to look like the SXP’s gone somewhat pear shaped with a stock that is more a toy town scale model than a full sized shotgun stock.
However, all is not lost. By spending a few minutes with the Arrow Laser Shot, I was able to determine that the gun to all intents and purposes looked exactly where I did and by making sure that when mounted the comb was approximately an inch below my cheek bone the SXP became flat. That said I did make sure I had a comb raiser with me when I headed off to shoot the gun although as it transpired I needn’t have bothered.
Hit or miss
Booking in to shoot a round of Sunday morning sporting birds I soon discovered that by ensuring the SXP was missmounted the exact same each and every time, I walked away with a 85% score courtesy of a varied selection of Express game and competition loads, although crossing birds weren’t a guaranteed kill every time. In the shoulder the gun’s overall 8lbs weight, neutral balance and a minimal slide movement of just 4½” each way makes the SXP a very controllable shotgun with some commendable handling characteristics.
Yes, the short stock does mean you have to concentrate a little bit more but its certainly not insurmountable and a physical anomaly that’s quickly forgotten about once you’ve got used to it. But at £369 the SXP is still worth buying, even if you need to add a comb raiser or fit an extension to the butt. Granted you shouldn’t have to be doing this to a modern gun especially a new one but it seems a shame to dismiss what at heart is a good, functional pump-action 12 bore with the further options of a 26” barrel or a fixed choke.
What’s in a name?
OK it’s a Winchester in name only and they themselves don’t seem overly fond of the fact. But once again I don’t know why since inherently there’s nothing overly wrong with the SXP. Fair enough its original function wasn’t as a hunting gun but if Winchester, Browning or whoever could alter the stock the SXP would have a genuine, wallet friendly pump - action that would have tremendous appeal especially for beginners, wildfowlers, keepers and all others looking for a true all-purpose all- rounder… because at heart the SXP is a great little pump-action 12 bore.
|Name||Winchester SXP Black Shadow|
|Calibre||12 - bore|
|Action||Alloy pump - action|
|Chokes||Flush - fit Invector|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates