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Winchester SX3 Black Shadow

Winchester SX3 Black Shadow

Winchester produce an impressive array of semi automatic and pump action shotguns under the banner of SX3 for auto and SXP for pump. Their design and pricing is such that they both offer excellent value for money and provide the sportsman with a reliable and fast-handling shotgun. Available in a variety of models, it is the Black Shadow field model on test here.

Each SX3, regardless of spec, is designed to be adjustable by means of stock insets or Intelligent Active Valve System to give as much usability and reliability to the shooter as possible. I really like the action, as it has Winchester’s impressive all-black highly scratch- and water-resistant coating that looks fab and is sturdy under field conditions. It is accented with the red strip logo and has a cut receiver top for scope mounts for slug or red dot sight use.

Within is the bolt system, utilising a rotating bolt of two piece construction with a single large claw extractor for positive extraction, even with wet or slippery cases. There is a bolt release below the ejection port that allows two standard shells, or additional on FAC models, to be speedily loaded. The bolt automatically looks back after the last round, or to load from an empty mag, and although the bolt handle is a bit highly polished it is large enough not to fumble whilst out in a hide.

Trigger-wise the single, detachable unit is just as you expect, a deep curve trigger blade is fine, even with gloves, although the trigger guard is a tad small. Actual trigger release is crisp and whilst you are swinging on a pigeon is not noticeable anyway, and the safety is your standard cross bolt ‘block the trigger’ job.

Lock, Stock…

The barrel can be had in 66, 71 or 76cm lengths dependent on model and calibre chosen, but each has the Back Bored barrel technology which allows use of all shot types and loads from light lead to the heaviest steel goose loads. On top is the 6mm flat rib for good eye level and is ventilated along its length. Up front is the Invector Plus choke choice, three supplied, common Invector tubes that give precise fitment and even better shot patterns.

The heart of the SX3’s reliable performance and renowned speed comes from the Active Valve System (AVS). This valve is designed to reliably feed all manner of light to heavy loads without flaw and also contributes to the light recoil that one notices on firing the SX3. It is a simple gas piston unit that is self-adjusting with piston and valve working independently with a cycling or stroke being quick and short.

The stock, both forend and butt section, has a black or charcoal coloured, textured finish with accented cut strips to give an interesting futuristic look. The grip has sectioned off stippled panels and grip at the shoulder is aided by the excellent Pachmayr soft recoil pad.

story continues below...

The stock design is adjustable – courtesy of supplied inserts – with 363mm to 377mm length of pull (or 358 to 372mm on the woodstock version). You can also alter the cast and drop to the butt stock by inserting small plastic wedges between the butt and the back of the receiver.

Winchester have all bases covered here and so a combination of length of pull and drop/cast will suit all but the most fussy.

Seeing a Pattern

I selected a variety of Game cartridges to see how the SX3 copes with different loads. I also chronographed each load. I set up pattern plates at 30 yards and shot the SX3 with Modified choke installed. Gamebore Clear Pigeon loads with 30 grams of No 6 shot in a 70mm length are good reliable loads. These gave consistent velocities of average 1152fps. At 30 yards they produced dense even patterns, with over 100 pellets covering the central section of the plate.

Lyalvale Express Pigeon Special 65mm length with 29 grams of No 6 shot produced 1254fps velocity with very smooth and positive loading and ejection. The patterns were very evenly spread with 72 No 6 shot within the central kill zone. Heavier shot loads like the Remington Shur Shot Field load 70mm length with 34 grams of No 4 Shot are a more specialised load and they gave 1308fps. The bigger shot size spread more as expected but still patterned well with 67 pellets within the inner 15 inch circle.

The Winchester is easy to load, points really well and is smooth and reliable in the field – just what you want from a sporting gun. It’s light and very fast-handling and even I managed to drop a few pigeons as they came into the woods to roost. The SX3 was very quick to return to your sight line or not interrupt your swing, so a second shot was easily achieved and quite often effective.

The overall finish is very practical for a sporting gun with a good degree of adjustment to the stock positioning that I like, and as a do-anything practical gun for rough shooting the SX3 would be an excellent choice.


It’s very easy to see why the SX3 is so widely accepted by the British public as one of the best semi-automatic shotguns on the market. It is reliable, fast cycling, very smooth and genuinely has little recoil – all attributes that any field shooter will appreciate. The SX 3 Black Shadow will not disappoint whether controlling vermin or bringing home game for the table.

CONTACT:International Sports Brands 01235 514550 www.browningint.com

  • Winchester SX3 Black Shadow - image {image:count}

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  • Winchester SX3 Black Shadow - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Winchester SX3 Black Shadow - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Winchester SX3 Black Shadow - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Winchester SX3 Black Shadow - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Winchester SX3 Black Shadow - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge


  • Model : Winchester SX3 Black Shadow
  • Action: Semi-auto gas operation
  • Stock: Synthetic matt black finish, adjustable
  • Gauge: 12 Gauge
  • Chokes: Multi choke Invector Plus
  • Barrel length : 66, 71 or 76cm
  • Chamber length: 76mm or 89mm
  • Rib: Ventilated
  • Magazine: 2 +1 (high capacity 8 shot available)
  • Weight: 3.3kg


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