What do you do with a new gun? Shoot it a bunch and have some fun.
Recently had the good fortune to run into a Winchester SX3. Don’t get the chance to record first impressions very often, so the following is a layman’s review of the latest gun which will be gracing the safe.
Winchester SX3: Composite (field gun)
LOP: 14 ¼
Chokes included: IC, Modified and Full
The first time out with the gun there were no changes on the LOP or shims. For giggles I kept in the full choke to shoot a round of sporting clays. Was with a buddy that dropped a full choke in his shotgun and it became a friendly round of “I can make that shot too”… Better translated as “I can’t make that shot either.”
Weight: This gun is light. Specifications state that the gun weighs 7 lbs, but felt like it weighed closer to 6 lbs than 7. Compared to Frankenstein, my 8.8 lb accessorized Urika, it felt like a toy… Please note that I have an extremely low threshold for pain (I cry when I shave and need a local anesthetic when combing my hair) so shooting a couple hundred rounds of Remington or Winchester 1 1/8th 1300 factory loads through a light gun wasn’t sounding like a recipe for an enjoyable afternoon.
Handling/feel: The grip and the forearm are thin and for the average to smaller-sized shooter the gun will comfortably fit in the hand. The size of the grip was just at the point that I had to adjust my thumb as the inside knuckle was getting abraded by the sandpapery Duratouch coating. Folks with large hands might find this grip too small to get good contact and would likely have to wrap it or wear a glove with palm swell sewn in to make it more comfortable.
The forearm doesn’t have any oddball Schnabel styling at the end, so for those of us that like to reach out to the end of the forearm, it was mighty comfortable. Although, having shot the last generation SX for awhile, the skinny SX3 feels like a hungry Calista Flockheart to a comparative, albeit talented, SX2 Kathy Bates. In short, chubby chasers may like the feel of the SX2 a little more. Personally? I like them both.
Because the stock didn’t have any spacers it was short and came up under my eye easily - although I did have to lean forward a bit more. A shim or two will be going in to lengthen it up but the balance felt fine. Cast and pitch were close and would likely fit the average sized shooter well – cast and drop spacers are included with the composite model, so adjustments can be made. Haven’t made the attempt to install spacers yet - so can’t comment on if one needs to have a mechanical engineering degree to do the job. If you find yourself struggling with complex can opener technology, you may want to call a gunsmith for help as you may potentially put out your own eye. I have a gunsmith on speed dial.
Got into a stand and dropped a shell in the gun and it snapped shut tightly without any problem. Because the receiver is thin there doesn’t seem to be the same amount of room above the carrier that exists with other guns. You don’t have to put a shell in with a lot of care – but will have to be slightly more considerate than usual. If you like to quickly toss a shell in the chamber you may have to slow down. YMMV.
The safety was a little stiff and located to the rear of the trigger.
Pull! The target leaves the house, eyes are in front waiting for the clay to do most of the work and find its way to the break point. While swinging the gun, I’m reminded of its light weight and the last thought before I pull the trigger is: “My poor underwear…”
Bang! The clay is hammered pretty hard thanks to the dandy full choke and yet, there’s no cheekbone bashing - or recoil-induced stubborn stain.
Turns out that the gun is a really soft shooter, partly because it’s a gas gun – but that alone doesn’t account for the almost complete lack of smack. After manhandling the pad it’s evident that it’s hollow and is designed to collapse when absorbing recoil. Comfort lies between a regular pad and those gummy gel pads. It didn’t feel bad on the shoulder during the mount and didn’t feel particularly doughy during the shot. So, hat’s off to Winchester for not succumbing to the Beretta Syndrome and overdesigning the pad… They made a simple, elegant solution to the recoil problem and that’s to be applauded. Also, remember my comment about having to lean forward a bit more? That also helped ameliorate the recoil as it drove the gun straight back to my shoulder... Still, I attribute more of the recoil reduction on this gun to the recoil pad than the gas system or the moderate amount of lean applied.
The composite model would be ideal for hauling around the field and it should - barring any mechanical or durability issues - drop a few ducks in the decoys next season and perhaps break a few more clays. I’m very surprised at how well the gun handled recoil – and I’m even more surprised I don’t see this gun more often at the clay range or out in the field. It’s a nicely put together firearm.