Test: Winchester SX4 Composite 9 Rounds, the super-fast semi-auto shotgun

Although the renowned American manufacturer Winchester launched the SX4 a few years ago, the successor to the SX3 had not yet found its way to the all4shooters.com editorial office. Now the overdue test is being made up for in detail, with the new composite variant with extended magazine tube. Winchester Repeating Arms delivers the shotgun in a very sturdy, bright red hard case. The included accessories serve their purpose, but the extras do not turn out to be particularly lavish. Two additional chokes that are flush with the muzzle along with a choke key, a combination trigger lock, a set of sling swivels, two plastic stock extensions (spacers) and a detailed instruction manual (in nine languages) – that's it. Oh yes, the semi-auto comes from the factory with a magazine reduces, so only two cartridges can be loaded into the tubular magazine. The first thing we did, therefore, was to disassemble the shotgun to remove from the magazine tube the rod installed as a reducer.

the magazine extension
The main difference from other SX4 series versions here are the coating and the magazine extension.

Workmanship and features of the SX4 Composite 9 Rounds

Once disassembled, the shotgun could then be examined in great detail right away. The meticulous workmanship of the SX4 Composite 9 Rounds, right down to the most hidden corners, leaves absolutely nothing to be desired – compliments to the manufacturer. The Winchester SX4 is a gas-operated 12/76 gauge shotgun with an aluminum alloy receiver. While many American shotguns have a rather rustic exterior, this shotgun impresses with an extremely successful and elegant design. In particular, the dark gray "Permacote" coating on the barrel and receiver gives the shotgun a very high-quality appearance.

the controls of the Winchester SX4 Composite 9 Rounds
Overall, the controls of the Composite do not differ greatly from other SX4 models.

The beautifully shaped barrel rail with the red fiber optic front sight also contributes greatly to the neat and dynamic look. The shotgun is not manufactured in the USA, but at Browning Viana in Portugal – perhaps its European origin is the reason for its appealing appearance. Unlike some other sporting autoloaders, Winchester does not fit the SX4 Composite 9 Rounds with a special sporting bolt  handle or a specially enlarged bolt release button. Only the safety behind the trigger guard is quite generously sized. Handling and operation of the shotgun are nevertheless very easy. The slanted grooves on the bolt handle and the smooth action of the safety and bolt release certainly contribute to this. Reloading was also easy and works very smoothly, even with the double-load technique. This involves picking up two cartridges at a time and sliding them into the tubular magazine in a single motion. Quad loads are different: this technique, with four cartridges in the hand, requires some dexterity and regular training with the SX4, otherwise you get stuck at the loading port during quick reloads.

The stock of the Winchester SX4 Composite
The stock of the Winchester SX4 Composite can be adjusted in length to fit the shooter using plastic spacers, and two spacers are included. The Inflex recoil pad deflects recoil away from the cheekpiece.

The black plastic stock has a fairly smooth and hard surface, which is, however, adorned with a grippy pattern on the relevant parts. The recoil-absorbing "Inflex" recoil pad appeared hard and smooth during the first test shot, but surprisingly proved to be very slip-resistant. Once tucked into the shoulder, the shotgun sits bombproof: ideal conditions for dynamic disciplines such as IPSC sporting shotgun.

The 30”/76 cm long barrel makes the magazine tube appear quite short, but it holds eight cartridges in 12/76. In 12/63.5 and 12/60, the magazine tube even holds nine cartridges. The combination of a long barrel and a large magazine tube with retaining clip results in a pleasantly front-heavy shotgun, which has a positive effect on muzzle flip. The factory trigger can be considered very effective: after a minimal and very short pretravel, its break was precisely defined and absolutely crisp on the test gun. The measured trigger pull weight of 2250 g is already a very good value for a self-loading shotgun, but feels considerably lower thanks to its very good characteristics.

The SX4 Composite's receiver
The SX4 Composite's receiver is ready for the mounting of optics.

What about the accessories? The selection for semi-automatic shotguns from Winchester is impressive. There are magazine tubes in various lengths and different capacities, as well as various recoil pads and other spacers to adjust the stock to the respective body size. A wide range of choke inserts is also available on the market, both in muzzle-length and extended versions. For Winchester's SX3 and SX4, there is also a special mounting rail with a Weaver profile, which is simply attached by means of two clamping screws – the receiver already has corresponding recesses for this purpose. If you want to fit the shotgun with an optical sight, you can save yourself a trip to the gunsmith. Further tuning accessories such as enlarged charging handle, special magazine feeders and tuning springs are also available.

Winchester SX4 Composite specs and price

Winchester SX4 Composite 9 Rounds
1170 euro (price may vary in your country)
Magazine Capacity: 
8+1 rounds
Overall Length: 
1340 mm
Barrel Length: 
30”/760 mm
Stock Length: 
362 mm
Trigger Pull Weight: 
2250 g
3300 g
Left/Right Version: 
Features:Gas-operated autoloader, optics-ready aluminum receiver, fiber optic front sight, barrel optionally available in 28”/71 cm length.

On the shooting range with the Winchester SX4 Composite

Winchester SX4 Composite 9 Rounds - the extended magazine tube
Due to the extended magazine tube and the retaining clip between the barrel and the magazine, the SX4 Composite 9 Rounds gains some front weight even when unloaded.

First the positive: there was absolutely nothing to complain about in terms of function. Winchester's SX4 Composite 9 Rounds worked perfectly with any type of ammunition used. The shotgun fired relatively smoothly with low muzzle flip and little recoil. There was not a single malfunction during the entire test. Even magazine loads with wildly mixed cartridges of various types were emptied without a hitch. Whether light or heavy, the test gun digested any load, regardless of whether it was 24, 28, or 32 grams.

The same applied to the shotgun shells: the gas-operated autoloader completed several shot strings each time with shells of varying thickness and case length. The Winchester SX4 ran completely trouble-free here as well, whether with weak, ultra-short 12/60 gauge shells or with long, hard-loaded 12/76 Magnum cartridges. It is precisely with the short 12/60 shotgun shells that most semi-automatic shotguns repeatedly experience functional problems – no wonder, since these cartridges are actually intended by the manufacturer only for manually operated shotguns. All the more pleasing, then, when a semi-automatic also shoots this ammo without malfunctions. This not only says something about the successful tuning of the shotgun, but also has tangible advantages in dynamic disciplines. Due to the lower recoil and muzzle flip of the weakly loaded cartridges, follow-up shots can be fired much faster, a plus in disciplines in which the time required is also evaluated.

Three interchangeable chokes Winchester SX4 Composite 9 Rounds
Three interchangeable chokes are included with the SX4 Composite from the factory (1/4, 1/2, 3/4). The coating on the barrel and receiver is called Permacote.

Two shooters competed to check the accuracy, and each type of ammunition was tested several times by the two testers in order to rule out possible aiming errors as far as possible. Accuracy at 25 meters can be described as very good, although aiming via the barrel rail and the front sight is not the best prerequisite for narrow groupings. With an additional rear sight, a ghost ring sight or a red dot sight, the groups should be even better. But even so, the results are worthy of all honor. The Winchester SX4 Composite hit the center at a high shot of about 40 to 70 mm, depending on the load. A slightly higher front sight or a front sight with a larger diameter could help here.

SX4 Composite from Winchester: test conclusion

The Winchester SX4 Composite 9 Rounds is an excellent and visually very appealing semi-automatic shotgun at a very good price – it is worth every single penny. One more thing about Winchester's statement mentioned at the beginning regarding speed. Extremely fast shot strings are indeed possible with the SX4. However, the testers were not able to verify whether it really is the fastest semi-auto shotgun on the market using the usual testing methods and therefore could not confirm it beyond doubt. However, the Winchester SX4 impressed with its absolute reliability and excellent price-performance ratio. It is certainly one of the best auto-loading shotguns currently on the market. It's just a shame that the test was over so quickly.

Text: Frank Flumm and Hamza Malalla

For more information on the SX4 Composite 9 Rounds please visit the Winchester website.

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