Home >> Reviews >> Review – 12 Gauge Winchester SX3

Review – 12 Gauge Winchester SX3

“Like you need another gun”…is the response I always get from my when I even hint at being liking a firearm. “Like NEED has anything to do with it!”, is generally what I mutter under my breadth.She knows me all too well. If I at the point where I’m hinting that I like something, I’m already putting it on my short list. Now, need is a bit of a stretch when it comes to my decision to buy and SX3, but I did have a gap in semi-auto shotguns that would eat magnum loads. I wanted a big-boy semi for ducks, geese and such. At first I was leaning towards Benelli Super Black Eagle, or a Franchi I-12, both stellar choices, and then a friend let me shoot his Browning Maxis at my club’s sporting clays range. I was blown away by the amount of felt recoil that the Browning eliminated. What’s more I ran a few of my super-light 3/4 ounce 12 gauge loads through it and it cycled those, just as well as the 1 1/8 ounce field loads. A few weeks later, while on a bird hunt, I got a chance to run the Maxis with 3″ magnum loads. All I can say is, WOW! It made me instantly question why I was sitting there with a pump, taking the full brunt of 3″ loads with all of the muzzle rise and pumping that accompany the old slide action. That did it. It got me looking at the Maxis, which spread into the Remington Versamax and the SX3. Shortly after my time with the Maxis, I got to shoot a dozen or so rounds through an SX3, which proved just as impressive as the Maxis. From there, I made my choice based on availability and price. The SX3 comes in just under $1,000, where all of the aforementioned are over $1,000 without an appreciable difference to fit or feel.

I’ve now had my SX3 since the beginning of February and have had it out shooting both clay’s and skeet. Baggin’ birdies will have to wait until later this year

The Gun

I went with the SX3 in the Real Tree Max-4 pattern that will take up to 3 inch shells. The sun will definitely not be glinting off of the mat finish and I expect it’ll hold up well to getting banged around in the blind or

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boat, which is just what the doctor ordered. For me the gun mounts quickly and comfortably, the most important part of the equation. The front sight is of the red, fiber optic variety, which allows for a quick alignment check to make sure you’re looking straight down the barrel. The gun comes with two shims for adjusting length of pull and four shims with different angles for drop at comb adjustment. It also comes with 3 chokes; full, modified and improved cylinder.

As I mentioned earlier, the “so what” with this gun is it’s amazing gas system. The Active Valve system automatically self-adjusts, allocating the exact gas pressure necessary to fire a wide range of loads — critical for any autoloader used in real life hunting or target shooting. When firing the heaviest magnum loads in 3 1/2″ models, gases vent upward and a portion of the gases are vented forward out of the Quadra-Vent™ ports in the forearm, further regulating bolt speed. 3″ models fire everything from light, 1 1/8 oz., 2 3/4″ target loads to 3″ magnums, while 3 1/2″ guns handle everything from 11/8 oz., 2 3/4″ field loads up to heavy 3 1/2″magnums. Talking about the efficiency of this system doesn’t do it justice. You’ve got to get your hands on it and squeeze of a few stout rounds to really appreciate it.

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The barrel is also back-bored to .724 inches which is the ideal interior barrel diameter for 12 gauge, ensuring tight, consistent patterns. Any larger and gases blow by the shot cup and reduce pellet velocity. Too small and the pellets are deformed as they pass through the forcing cone, causing poor ballistic performance.



Field striping is as easy as unscrewing the magazine cap and removing the forend and then the barrel, as is typical with most auto loaders. The gas system does port powder residue into the area around the magazine tube. The amount of fouling present after shooting will be dependent on how many rounds you’ve fired and how clean the powder is in your shells


The SX3 is available is several different configurations:

  • 12 gauge with a 26 or 28 inch barrel that excepts either up to 3 inch or 3 1/2 inch shells
  • 20 gauge with a 26 or 28 inch barrel that excepts up to 3 inch shells

There are currently 3 different gun finishes to choose from; Waterfowl Mossy Oak Bottomland, Waterfowl Realtree Max 4 and the field gun with walnut stock and forend with a flat black barrel. Here are the particulars for the SX3.



  • SYNTHETIC STOCK WITH TEXTURED GRIPPING SURFACES gives your hands a sure, non-slip grip and the non-glare finish won’t spook wary waterfowl
  • .742″ Back-Bored TECHNOLOGY provides optimum shot patterns that are dense and even
  • INVECTOR-PLUS™ CHOKE TUBE SYSTEM offers consistent patterns to match your situation
  • HARD CHROME CHAMBER AND BORE make these surfaces highly resistant to corrosion and wear from steel shot
  • VENT RIB gives you a smooth, clean sighting plane
  • TRUGLO® LONG BEAD™ FIBER-OPTIC FRONT SIGHT offers true, precise sight picture
  • Active Valve GAS SYSTEM cycles a wide variety of loads while reducing felt recoil
  • QUADRA-VENT™ PORTS vent excess gases for cleaner operation
  • DROP-OUT TRIGGER GROUP allows easy cleaning
  • AMBIDEXTROUS CROSSBOLT SAFETY is easily reversible
  • CAST/DROP SHIMS AND LENGTH OF PULL SPACERS allow adjustments for perfect fit

At the Range

My SX3 weighs in at 7 pounds and 2 ounces, which makes it a fairly light carry. Having several other light shotgun, I have no problems running a round of sporting clays or skeet with the SX3. It mounts well and quickly and points as well, if not better than some of my other shotguns.

I can’t over emphasize how well the gas system eats felt recoil. Running through a few hundred field loads in a session shouldn’t leave you battered and bruised. You’ll be hard pressed to find a 12 gauge that handles itself better in terms of managing recoil.

The Final Word

If I had it to do over again, I’d still by

the Winchester SX3. From my perspective, it’s among the best auto loaders available today. Whether you’re a hunter, or looking for a semi-auto for the clay bird variety, the SX3 has a configuration that should work well for you. I would recommend, if you’re in the market, to pick one up to see how it fits you.


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