The Winchester Super X3 Shotgun

Winchester’s soft-shootin’ hard-hittin’ SX3 Composite shotgun delivers 

The Winchester SX3 is a fast-handling shotgun, capable of firing the heaviest loads at the longest ranges for large game.


Story and Photos by Jerry Catania

Who says the sequel is never better than the original?

I first came across the Winchester Super X1 shotgun at one of the Steel Challenge matches in Piru, CA, in the 1980s. Someone—I forget who—won the overall title with that gun. Produced from 1974 to 1981, the Super X1 was all steel and expensive, which probably explains why it was discontinued.

    Winchester introduced the SX2 shotgun in 1999. Although it had the same general name and look as its predecessor, it was quite different, utilizing a different gas mechanist and an alloy receiver to save weight. Available in 12 gauge with a 3.5-inch chamber, the SX2 was capable of handling all types of 12-gauge shells.

I wrote an article about the SX2 in the June 2004 issue of Gun World and praised the gun highly. It quietly disappeared from Winchester catalogues when Winchester was forced to close the doors of its historic, 140-year-old New Haven, CT facility in 2006, where all of Winchester’s firearms were manufactured. The SX2 is still available in the FN Herstal line renamed the “SLP” tactical and police shotgun, which I covered in the July 2004 issue of Gun World.

Winchester re-opened the facility in 2007 and an improved version of the SX-2 was introduced: the SX3. Changes were subtle and the results include improved handling, increased reliability, lighter weight (by a full half-pound), less felt recoil—and all in the fastest-firing 12-gauge autoloader ever made. The SX3 lives up to all the hype. Available in several versions in both 12 and 20 gauge, it was the model called the SX3 Composite that we chose for testing.

The Winchester SX3 proved to be a fast-handling shotgun, capable of firing the heaviest loads at the longest ranges for large game. It is also perfectly suitable for quail, doves, turkey and waterfowl.


The SX3 Composite features a gunmetal gray Perma-Coat UT (Ultra Tough) coating that is applied to all external metal surfaces for extreme corrosion resistance. The bolt is further plated with electroless nickel for reduced friction and additional corrosion protection. The barrel is back-bored to a diameter of .742-inch, whereas barrels that are not back-bored typically have a diameter of only.725-inch.

Back-boring results in more uniform patterns by decreasing pellet deformation and by providing higher velocities (shorter shot strings) through reduced friction between the wad cup and the barrel—especially with the heaviest loads. The receiver and magazine tube are made of weight-saving alloy while the barrel is slim but very high in tensile strength. The ventilated rib is machined for further weight reduction.

The black synthetic stock has a Dura-Touch armor coating that offers a soft, velvety feel while providing a sure grip in wet conditions. It is extremely wear-resistant, as well. In addition, the SX3 comes with two extra spacers to increase length of pull, and five spacers to adjust the stock for drop, cast-off and cast-on.

The proprietary sporting clays-type recoil pad (Inflex Technology) combined with the Active Valve gas system reduces felt recoil by as much as 50 percent over inertia-operated semi-automatic shotguns. My personal observation is that recoil is dramatically less than that of an inertia-operated shotguns and almost unnoticeable when compared to a typical pump shotgun.

The Winchester Super X3 is a great handling shotgun. I was able to fire big payloads of shot from a rested position without unduly rattling my fillings. The SX3 is fast enough for pheasants, dove or quail, and light enough to carry all day and soft shooting for ducks and geese. It will also handle the big shot loads for turkey, varmints and deer. I have never fired a more user-friendly shotgun.

To read this article in its entirety, pick up a copy of  Gun World’s January issue, available on newsstands now.

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