The Winchester SX-4 Autoloading Shotgun
The Herstal Group, referred to as Browning more often than not, has had the Active valve genre of gas-operated autoloaders on the market for a good long while. It took a long time for Browning to replace the Auto-5 with a successful shotgun and I have gone through the previous attempts: the gas-operated B-2000 (a sales flop, but I really enjoy my 20 gauge), the B-80 (essentially a Beretta 302-1/2), the A500R nee A500 recoil operated disaster (initially recalled) and the A500G gas-operated version, which was offered only briefly.
Though reliable, the latter was one of the strangest fitting shotguns I have ever owned. I really did not understand how it could possibly fit any human being.
After all this, at long last came the Browning Gold of 1994. The Browning Gold was also marketed as the Winchester Super X2 in a somewhat plainer configuration. I have owned, and extensively hunted with, at least five Browning Golds. These include a pair of 12 gauge three inch chambered models, one 12 gauge 3-1/2 inch version and a couple of 20 gauge Golds. All have been good performers, providing a couple of tweaks are made.
Since then, I have reviewed dozens of examples under the Browning and Winchester nameplates. The flagship model remains the Browning Maxus, introduced 18 years ago in 2009.
For 2017, Winchester has introduced the SX4. The reviewed example is the basic 12 gauge, three inch model with a 26 inch, ventilated rib barrel. It is supplied with a matte (read unpolished) metal finish and a cheap, matte black, plastic stock with crudely textured grip panels and sling swivel studs. The inside of the barrel is chrome plated. The receiver, trigger guard and trigger are aluminum alloy. The front "bead" is a fiber optic tube.
Although Winchester advertising claims it is lighter, it weighs the same (6-3/4 pounds) as the SX3 walnut previously tested. Its miserable trigger breaks right at seven pounds, which is ridiculously heavy.
Although Winchester literature says this gun comes with a "Hard Heel Insert" recoil pad, that is not the case. It is supplied with a garishly oversized pad without an insert. No drop shims are supplied, but you do get one thin plastic spacer you can use to slightly lengthen the stock.
Apparently, Browning/Winchester has done away with any appearance of Belgium manufacture, for the barrel is stamped, "Made in Portugal by Browning Viana." In any way I can possibly rate a shotgun, the SX-4 is a significant downgrade from the SX-3.
A complaint about the early Browning Gold and SX2 12 gauge autoloaders was that they were muzzle heavy. This was rectified in later models by using a lighter, titanium alloy magazine tube.
Muzzle heaviness is back, though, with the SX4 and it is worse than ever. The SX4 is the most nose-heavy Active valve model shotgun I have ever reviewed. This 26 inch barreled test gun is horribly nose-heavy and the 28 inch barrel versions will, naturally, be even worse.
Other changes are also puzzling. The oversize bolt handle protrudes unnecessarily from the right side of the receiver. There is now a reversible, rectangular cross-bolt safety. It is an eyesore, but works as well as its predecessors. There is also a new, peculiar looking, parallelogram-shaped bolt release and a trapezoid shaped trigger guard. The forearm is angular in shape for no functional reason. Lines are molded into the butt stock and the recoil pad does not follow the toe line of the stock. This is Euro-trash styling at its worst.
The oversize forearm cap threads are crudely mis-machined and a pain to screw on. The pistol grip is truly dinky, another change in the negative category, as far as my hand is concerned. There is no grip cap.
Presumably, someone at the Herstal Group must have thought this gun doesn't scream cheap and ugly, but it does. To me, it is clearly a rapid advance to the rear, compared to the SX3.
With very poor balance and handling, retina-scalding styling, an unacceptable trigger and an overall low-quality build, this is a shotgun model I will be delighted to never handle or shoot again. Anyone would prefer an SX3, a Browning Silver, or a Browning Maxus to this Winchester SX4. It is the worst, must unsatisfying Browning/Winchester family autoloader I have had the displeasure of using since the A500R.
Copyright 2017 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.