Winchester SX-3 Field 12 Gauge Autoloading Shotgun
The tested shotgun is the Winchester branded, Herstal Group, gas-operated, Super-X3. It is a three inch chambered, twelve gauge autoloader. It is currently called the SX3 Field, while the box designates it as the Black Field.
· Caliber / Gauge: 12
· Item Number: 511144391
· Magazine Capacity: 4
· Barrel Length: 26"
· Overall Length: 46-3/4"
· Length of Pull: 14"
· Drop at Comb: 1-1/2"
· Drop at Heel: 1-3/4"
· Weight: 6 lbs. 12 oz.
· Chokes Included: Full, Modified, Improved Cylinder
· Chamber Length: 3"
· Metal Finish: Matte Black
· Stock / Grip: Walnut with Classic Cut Checkering
· Wood Finish: Satin Oil
· U.S. 2013 MSRP: $1,069.99
The basic Activ valve gas action has been with us since 1993, with the introduction of the Browning Gold, in the Super X2, Super X3 and Browning Gold / Silver shotguns. The patent by Joseph A. Badali and Joseph F. N. Rousseau was officially filed on Jun 21, 1994 and published in numerous places, including as US 5429034 A. Actually based on the unsuccessful Winchester Super-X Model one, in part, it became Browning's most successful gas-operated shotgun. Twenty years later, it is now one of Browning's most enduring autoloaders, exceeded only by the original J. M. Browning Automatic-Five.
Advertised as 6-3/4 lbs. in this 26 inch Invector Plus barreled version, that's exactly what it weighs. Almost too predictably, the trigger breaks at virtually the same weight, actually an ounce or so heavier than the gun's entire unloaded weight. Aside from my usual objections to current, wretched, Browning autoloader triggers, I found a great deal to like about this shotgun.
Though the satin walnut is hardly finely figured, the checkering is well done, the “black” overall finish of the gun is a clear step up from the very rough looking Beretta A300 Outlander and similarly poorly finished guns. The trigger guard is appropriately sized, not radically oversized, and the safety at the rear of the trigger guard is effortless to get off and on. Funny-colored receivers and loud trademarks are popular, but the SX3 thankfully bucks this trend with muted and tasteful accents.
Although the Black Field is by no means a trendy fashion plate of a multi-colored shotgun, it is refreshingly tasteful, with clean lines, no garish sling studs screwed into wood and an understated look appropriate for a field shotgun. It has no center bead to break off or pull out, a clean, honest look, with less plasitc carefully molded by Old World Craftsmen.
The trigger guard itself is aluminum alloy, thankfully not yet another promiscuous application of plastic. At 6-3/4 pounds, the SX-3 is a good half pound lighter than many gas guns, including the Outlander, and at least a quarter pound lighter than autoloaders such as the Vinci, Franchi Affinity 12 gauge. It is even an ounce or two lighter than the A400 Unico non-KO and Browning Maxus models. It is also, at somewhere around $900 and change, quite affordable compared to many upscale (or at least up-priced) Beretta, Benelli, and Browning label models, including the base Maxus Stalker.
Measured via Skeets bore gage, this Winchester Invector Plus barrel came in at a surprising .745 inch bore diameter, quite large compared to the touted ".742 inch" Invector Plus barrels that normally run .738 - .739 inches inside diameter. Trulock choke tubes are invariably right on the money. For testing, I installed a feather light (and pretty blue) Trulock Titanium extended tube designated Improved Modified. It is .715 inch exit diameter, just as marked. Effective constriction, in this gun, is a clean thirty thousandths.
Ejection was confidently brisk at 8 to 9 feet distance, with B & P F2 Legend 1-1/8 ounce Legend shotshells. Not unexpectedly, recoil was mild, particularly for a shotgun of this weight. Recoil was also quite manageable with 1-1/4 ounce, 1330 fps hunting loads. Loading was effortless, with no stubborn shell-stop for your thumb to battle with.
If there is an autoloader that hits the price / performance mark, the SX3 is it. Easy shooting for skeet and sporting clays, but light enough to be pleasant to carry. Though the overall look is understated, it is not a pretentious looking contraptionary device. There never will be an outstanding all-around shotgun, but the SX3 comes as close as an autoloader probably can. It's forte is as a working man's hunting gun, but you'll also have plenty of fun keeping yourself tuned up smashing clays with it, without much duress to shoulder or wallet. It is easily one of F.N. Group's most appealing, all-around offerings.
Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.