New Gun Test: Winchester SXP Trap

New Gun Test: Winchester SXP Trap
The newest variation of Winchester's SXP pump is the SXP Trap is a deal at $479.

Stepping up to the 16-yard line with Winchester's SXP Trap in hand, I dropped a shell in the gun's chamber and slammed the slide shut. I looked down the elevated ventilated rib to be sure the bright green fiber optic front bead sat atop the white middle bead, raised my eyes up away from the gun, and called "pull."

The target quartered away. I moved the gun to it, and didn’t notice the heavy trigger pull as I mashed down on it. The gun went off and the clay shattered to bits. And so it went, shot after shot, with the newest variation of Winchester’s SXP pump.

Trapshooting remains our most popular clay target sport. You can—and should—shoot trap with your field guns for hunting practice, but shooting trap well is done most easily with a specialized gun. And, while it’s entirely possible to spend thousands on a trap gun, the new SXP trap model sells for a mere $479, making it the lowest-priced dedicated trap gun on the market.

Yet for that low price you still get the features that make a trap gun a trap gun. The SXP Trap has a Monte Carlo-style stock with its distinctive raised comb that makes your face sit higher over the gun when it’s mounted to your shoulder. This allows you to shoot with your head up, and it effectively makes the gun shoot higher, which is important in trap because you don’t have to cover the rising, going away targets with the muzzle in order to hit them. It’s much easier to hit targets you can see.

For that low price you still get the features that make a trap gun a trap gun.

The butt is covered with Winchester/Browning’s Inflex recoil pad, which does a better job of absorbing recoil than most factory pads. That’s important, too, because trap involves lots of shooting in a fairly short time. Personally, I am more aware of recoil when I shoot trap than I am when I shoot skeet or sporting clays, so the pad is a nice feature.

The high rib on the barrel tapers toward the muzzle, which has the effect of raising the point of impact. The twin beads are there not to use as sights, but as a reference so you can make sure you have mounted the gun correctly before you call for the bird. You can get the gun with a 30-inch barrel, or with a 32-incher to add steadiness to your swing. It comes with three choke tubes, which will see you through all trap-shooting situations, from the 16-yard line back to the 27.

Beneath the extras, this gun is the same gun as Winchester’s other SXP hunting and home-defense pumps. Originally known as the Model 1300 when it was introduced in the 1970s, the gun went out of production for a time when Winchester’s Connecticut plant closed a few years ago. A non-compete clause in the agreement with the union meant the gun couldn’t be produced for a couple of years, and Winchester took advantage of that time to reengineer and improve some parts of the gun, and to find a reliable vendor in Turkey to build it. It’s back, probably better than ever, and still is an excellent value.

For a time Winchester called the gun “the Speed Pump.” It does cycle so smoothly it seems to pump itself under recoil, especially with heavier loads. When I test-fired the gun shortly after it was re-introduced, I tried to work the slide after the shot and couldn’t--because I had already and unknowingly cycled the gun. That’s how slick this gun gets after it’s been used for a while. My current gun did require some break-in time, but after I had put 50 rounds through its action, it reached a state of buttery smoothness. Since then, a couple of cheap target loads have stuck in the chamber after firing, which I have found to be a common occurrence when you shoot low-priced shells out of low-priced guns.

At around 7½ pounds, the SXP Trap is lighter than most trap guns, thanks in part to an alloy receiver. Light weight isn’t a necessarily a good thing in target shooting, where extra gun weight absorbs recoil and smooths swings. Most trap guns weigh in the 8- to 9-pound range, but even without that extra recoil-absorbing weight, the gun is still hefty enough to be easy to shoot and fairly easy on your shoulder.

As on any budget gun, some corners were cut to keep the price low. There’s the heavy trigger, for one thing. The trigger on my gun breaks at 9 pounds, 7 ounces, which is a lot, although I personally never notice trigger pulls when I’m shooting moving targets. The stock is hardwood but not walnut. Neither of those flaws is difficult to live with for the price. Mine has gotten a lot of use this spring, and has worked perfectly for a number of kids on the high-school trap team that I coach. Winchester also makes a “compact” version of this gun with a 13-inch stock and a choice of 28 or 30-inch barrel, which one of the girls on our team has been shooting very well this season.

The SXP is a great choice as first trap gun, as a gun for summer league, or for a high school team member. If you get serious about trap you’ll eventually move up to a gun made to withstand tens upon tens of thousands of rounds of competition, but in the meantime, the SXP Trap is a fine gun to start with at a price that leaves you lots of money left over to pay for ammo and targets.

Winchester SXP Trap Specs:

Gauge: 12, 3-inch chamber

Weight: 7½ pounds

Barrels: 28-nch (compact only); 30- or 32-inch barrel (full size only)

Length: 50¾ inch with 30-inch barrel

Finish: Satin-finished hardwood, matte black metal with red accents

Chokes: 3 Invector Plus Tubes

Price: $479