It’s hard to believe that Winchester’s Super X semi-auto series in its modern form has been around for nearly 20 years. Introduced in 1999, the Super X2 was a revamped version of the original Super X of the 1970s and early ’80s.
After enjoying a good run, the Super X2 was eventually replaced by the Super X3, or SX3 for short. The lighter and more streamlined SX3 proved to be a worthy replacement. Available in 3- and 3½-inch 12-gauge models, as well as 3-inch 20-gauge, the SX3 has been offered in waterfowl, turkey, field and various target configurations.
Unfortunately, the SX3 had a difficult time competing, especially in the already crowded 3½-inch super magnum semi-auto market, against the likes of Benelli, Beretta and even Winchester Repeating Arm’s parent company, Browning. In an effort to bring costs down and make the SX3 more competitive, Winchester dropped the soft Dura-Touch coating on synthetic stocked models a few years ago and offered a basic black metal finish on non-camo models.
The new SX4
This year the Super X series, however, has once again been revitalized with Winchester’s introduction of the fourth generation, the SX4. The SX4 is even lighter than the SX3 by about a 1⁄4 pound. At 7.15 pounds, Winchester SX4 review gun with a 28-inch barrel weighs exactly the same as my personal SX3 with a 26-inch barrel. That means waterfowlers can have a longer barrel and a lightweight gun. Barrel length options are 26 or 28 inches for standard models and 24, 26, and 28 inches for the compact model.
A red TRUGLO Long Bead fiber-optic front sight is standard on all SX4 models. On the SX3, a brass bead was standard, while a fiber-optic sight was only available on select models. Like its SX2 and SX3 predecessors, the SX4’s barrel is over-bored to .742 inches and three flush-fitting Invector Plus choke tubes — full, modified and improved cylinder — are provided.
The SX4 boasts several other noteworthy upgrades. These include a larger bolt handle and bolt release button, standard features on the SX4 that typically cost more as performance upgrades on other models. The bolt release button is not only larger, but also contoured and square-shaped so it can be easily depressed by a thumb, even when wearing gloves. The safety is also enlarged, square-shaped, and contoured for ease of operation with heavy gloves. It’s similar to the contoured safety found on Browning’s A5, but is square rather than rounded. It’s easily reversed for left-hand use. The SX4’s enlarged trigger guard is also much more spacious than that of the SX3, providing a gloved index finger plenty of room to safely fire the gun.
Inside is Winchester’s proven Active Valve gas system. Winchester seemingly took an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” attitude and left this proven operating system alone, with one notable exception: there is a brass ring at the base of the SX4 piston, rather than a black, plastic ring on previous Super X pistons. This should improve longevity of the piston, as well as reliability.
Testing the SX4
It wouldn’t be a decent Winchester SX4 review without actual shooting, right? Indeed, during testing at the local skeet field, the SX4 digested various standard target loads without any problems. These included Remington American Clay & Field 11⁄8-ounce 9s at 1,200 fps, Browning BPT Light 11⁄8-ounce 8s at 1,145 fps, Aguila 11⁄8-ounce 8s at 1,225 fps, Winchester Super Target 11⁄8-ounce 7½s at 1,145 fps, and Winchester Super X Game Load 1-ounce 8s at 1,290 fps. The only thing the SX4 didn’t like was Kemen 7⁄8-ounce 8s at 1,200 fps, which wouldn’t eject. This isn’t unusual for a 3½-inch chambered gun, and the fact that the SX4 cycled 1-ounce and low-velocity rounds speaks volumes about this semi-auto’s versatility. I plan to keep my test gun and use it as my regular skeet gun, since the crisp 7-pound trigger pull and fast cycling yet soft-shooting Active Valve gas system make the SX4 a pleasure to shoot.
It also pleasantly handles big waterfowl loads. On my first hunt with the SX4, I bagged a pair of Canada geese using Rio 3½-inch Blue Steel 13⁄8-ounce BBBs at 1,540 fps. Despite this load’s high velocity, felt recoil was negligible in the SX4, with no residual pain later on, either.
This could be due, in part, to the SX4’s new Inflex recoil pad, which has a redesigned surface area that better protects the shoulder and directs recoil forces down and away from the face. Improved ergonomics also help make the shotgun more comfortable to shoot. The pistol grip is thinner, allowing greater control of the gun. Likewise, the forearm has been redesigned and contoured to better accommodate the supporting hand. The lack of Dura-Touch on recent SX3 synthetic models created a slick surface that could be difficult to hang on to in wet conditions or without gloves. The ribbed “checkering” on the SX4 provides a sure grasp in all conditions. It’s economical yet effective.
The price point was further lowered by the exclusion of a drop and cast shim kit, although LOP spacers are still provided. The SX4 is also made in Browning’s Portugal factory, rather than in Belgium by FN as previous SX3 and SX2 models. If that’s a concern, consider that Browning’s Maxus and A5, both excellent guns, are also made in Portugal.
The SX4 is initially being offered in only 3- and 3½-inch 12-gauge models, but I expect a 20-gauge version will follow shortly. The SX3 is still available this year, too.
SX4 finishes include wood on Field and Field Compact models, black synthetic (tested), and camo on the Waterfowl Hunter. The standard camo pattern is Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades, but Bottomlands and Realtree Max-5 are also offered on SHOT Show Special models. Synthetic models come with sling swivel studs.
With a balance point that is right at the receiver/forearm juncture and a price point that won’t break the bank, the SX4 is quite possibly the best value going currently among 3½-inch gas-operated semi-autos. It has everything you need and nothing you don’t