Winchester SXP Defender Review: An Affordable Pump Shotgun [2022]

The Winchester SXP is a great pump shotgun for the price. It's lightweight, easy to use, and has plenty of features that make it one of the best values on the market today....

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Winchester SXP Defender Review: An Affordable Pump Shotgun [2022]
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winchester sxp defenderWinchester SXP DefenderCheck Price

Intro

Winchester Repeating Arms is responsible for some of the most popular rifles and shotguns available on the market, both present and past. When I was on the search for a budget-friendly pump action shotgun, the Winchester SXP (Super X Pump) Defender was frequently recommended. I finally “pulled the trigger” and picked one up roughly six months ago (January 2022). 

In this review, we’ll take an in-depth look at the specifications and features, and I will provide my thoughts on the shotgun after putting almost 750 rounds through it.

winchester sxp defender profile photo
The SXP Defender paired with Winchester 00 Buckshot makes for a nice combo at the range and for home protection, depending on the layout of your home.

Winchester SXP Defender Review

winchester sxp defender

Specifications

Gauge12 Gauge
ActionPump Action
Capacity5+1
Magazine TypeTubular
Overall Length38.5 Inches
Barrel Length18 Inches
Length of Pull13.75 Inches
Chamber Length3 Inches
Weight6.5 Pounds
SightsBrass Bead
Stock MaterialComposite

In the Box

The unboxing process of a new firearm is always fun. With the SXP Defender, it was a quick one. All you will find nestled in the styrofoam insert within the box is the shotgun itself, a lock, literature, and a plug. The plug is used to reduce the shotgun’s capacity to meet requirements for hunting or certain competitions. Thankfully, it was not a factory-installed magazine plug, leaving you the option to cut it to your desired size. 

I wasn’t expecting to find much else in the box, to be honest, but the styrofoam insert was rather beat up, likely due to shipping. However, the gun arrived fine with no damage, so I can’t complain too much if that was the only problem with the packaging. 

Features

Despite being so affordable, the Winchester managed to provide several quality features that wouldn’t have you thinking it was truly a “budget” firearm. You’ll find a chrome-plated bore and chamber, a drilled and tapped alloy receiver, and an inertia-assisted action. 

The inertia-assisted action is smooth like butter, and the chrome plating on the bore and chamber helps to reduce wear. The drilled and tapped receiver allows you to add a scope or rail and is a great addition. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the other specific parts of the gun to help you decide if this is a solid home defense option that you’d consider or a simple range toy in your eyes. 

Stock

The synthetic stock is a tough composite and has an average recoil pad. I do wish the recoil pad did a better job diverting more of the recoil, but since I don’t typically put hundreds of rounds through it at a time, it’s not much of an issue. While the stock does have a slight texturing, it would have been nice to have a few more grooves and a slightly more aggressive texture. 

winchester sxp defender recoil pad
I do wish there was better recoil management, but for a quick range trip, the recoil pad is adequate.

Forearm

It’s easy to get a secure grip with the ribbing that Winchester put on the forearm. However, there is not much texture to it necessarily, so if I were shooting in extremely wet conditions, I would be a little concerned with the pumping action and keeping a secure grip.

winchester sxp defender forearm ribbing
This style of ribbing on the forearm makes it easy to rack the shotgun.

Trigger

The SXP Defender also features a drop-out trigger group that makes cleaning a breeze. It’s not just helpful for cleaning purposes either. Many shooters who run shotguns in competitions will carry a spare trigger assembly for a quick swap-out in case anything happens. 

The trigger guard is an average size, and I’m able to shoot with Mechanix gloves on with no problem. However, I would have preferred the trigger guard to be slightly larger, but I wouldn’t call it a “con,” more so a personal preference. The trigger pull feels lighter to me than some of the complaints I’ve read, and it’s consistent, so I don’t feel the need for a better trigger given what I use this shotgun for.  

winchester sxp defender drop out trigger group
Cleaning is made easy with the Winchester SXP’s drop-out trigger group.

Controls and Safety

Shotguns are notoriously easy to operate. Why? Because they have very few controls and are often said to be “point and shoot” guns. The SXP Defender is no different. It features a basic crossbolt safety that sits directly in front of the trigger. 

Behind the trigger, you’ll find the action bar lock, which is sometimes also referred to as the slide release. Both of these are easy to manipulate quickly and don’t seem to get in the way while shooting. There isn’t really a need for other controls, which keep things nice and simple.

winchester sxp defender trigger and crossbolt safety
An easy to operate crossbolt safety is located directly in front of the trigger.

Accuracy and Reliability

I’ve put just shy of 750 rounds downrange, with several different types of loads. I’ve shot buckshot, birdshot, slugs, and low-recoil rounds. I wound up seeing a total of six failures, most of which were in the first half of those 750 rounds. With that being said, I do believe at least a few of them could have been due to operator error, where I may have “short-stroked” the gun. The inertia-assisted action allows you to shoot very quickly, so it’s possible I was going “too” fast, trying to get that second shot off. 

When I’m testing shotguns, I prefer to use full-size torso-style targets to get a good idea of where my groupings are actually spreading out to. I found the accuracy to be exactly what I  expected out of an 18” pump shotgun. Within 10 yards and aiming at the center of the chest on the target, my buckshot groupings primarily fell in between the shoulders from a horizontal perspective and between the belly button and upper chest from a vertical perspective. 

Out to 45 feet, the torso target was still capturing most of the pellets, but the groupings definitely were spacing out, which is to be expected. 

winchester sxp defender review and test at the range
The SXP Defender has been a ton of fun to shoot. Here, a friend was able to capture the fired shell being ejected during some testing earlier this year.

Winchester SXP Defender Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Reliable
  • Inertia-assisted (Smooth Action)

Cons

  • Lack of Model Specific Accessories
  • Not Made in USA (Turkey)

Accessories

While there are fewer accessories for the Winchester SXP than some other popular shotguns, you can still customize it to suit your needs better. 

ImageProductPrice
truglo front optic sightTRUGLO Fiber-Optic Universal Shotgun Front SightCheck Price
sig sauer romeo5 SIG Sauer Romeo5 Check Price
vortex crossfire Vortex Crossfire II Check Price
ATI Outdoors Ravenwood T3 Shotgun Stock
ATI Outdoors Ravenwood T3 Shotgun Stock
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Sights and Optics

The single brass bead sight gets the job done but definitely leaves something to be desired. The easiest and most simple accessory to improve the sight is a universal fiber-optic front sight. TruGlo makes one that snaps on over the barrel and is held centered by a notch that goes around the bead sight. I have used them in the past and found that they help to pick up your target quicker. 

truglo front optic sight
The TruGlo universal fiber-optic front sight comes in green or red.

Since the SXP Defender comes drilled and tapped to accept scope bases, rails, or the like, you can easily add a Picatinny rail for a red dot. Plenty of companies make rails that fit the SXP, so I would suggest adding one, followed by a red dot like the Sig Sauer Romeo 5 or Vortex Crossfire. I would go with the Vortex Crossfire between the two, but either one will make your target acquisition quicker and more accurate.

Grips and Stocks

If you’re looking for a more tactical look and feel to your SXP Defender, take a look at the T3 Pistol Grip Shotgun Stock by ATI Outdoors. It essentially contains three upgrades in one product, giving you a pistol grip, a 6-position adjustable stock, and an upgraded recoil butt-pad. It’s one of the next firearm accessories on my list to grab personally once I find a good deal.

Alternatives

Since you’re reading this Winchester SXP review, chances are that you are interested in the “budget” pump guns category. You can typically find all of these alternatives under $400. Don’t let the low prices fool you, they are still great shotguns.

Savage Stevens 320

winchester sxp defender

This is another shotgun that has been recommended to me by a ton of fellow shooters. The 320 pump-action shotgun comes with a 5+1 capacity and an 18.5” barrel. A nice standard feature of the 320, is a pistol grip to help with control. It’s also drilled and tapped for a scope or rail, giving you many options to improve your accuracy and speed. 

Mossberg Maverick 88

Mossberg Maverick 88 All Purpose Black 12 Gauge 3in Pump Shotgun - 28in

Frequently found around the $200 mark, the Maverick 88 is a surprisingly reliable and sturdy shotgun. It’s made in the USA and is a home defense gun for many people. It’s a no-frills base model example of a shotgun but serves its purpose well. It has a 5+1 capacity, front brass bead sight and cross-bolt safety. If cost is one of your main deciding factors, check out the Maverick 88 and consider giving it a shot.

Remington 870 Express

remington-870-express-bluedbrown-12-gauge-3in-pump-action-shotgun-28in-1707703-1

Typically right at that $400 price point, the Remington 870 has been one of the best-selling shotguns for decades. Many consider it to have excellent accuracy and reliability, and I’d have to agree. While I don’t own one personally, I’ve never experienced a failure while shooting one. It has a 6+1 capacity and a plethora of accessories available to upgrade it. 

Final Thoughts

The Winchester SXP (Super X Pump) Defender is exactly what I was looking for and nothing more, which is not a bad thing. It has performed reliably and has been a blast to shoot. For home protection and range fun, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab this shotgun. If you’re looking for a new shotgun for either of those reasons, I would suggest adding the Winchester SXP Defender to your list of shotguns to consider.

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Ryan Domke

Ryan Domke is a freelance writer, photographer and social media consultant with a passion for guns and tactical gear. He works with some of the largest manufacturers in the firearms industry, allowing him the opportunity to continuously learn from and knowledge share with the 2A community. When he’s not spending time with his family, you’ll likely find him at the range or starting a new DIY project.

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