Winchester SXP Shadow Marine Defender

By Jeff Johnston, Field Ethos Hunting and Shooting Editor

I realize most of us Field Ethos-types like nice stuff, especially when it comes to guns. But there are instances in the gun world when: A) inexpensive doesn’t mean cheap and B) inexpensive is preferable depending on where you intend to store it. Everyone needs a beater gun or two, just like every dude needs a beater truck.

That’s why I have a Winchester SXP Shadow Marine Defender in my boat. I believe it’s the perfect defensive arm at sea or on a lake full of meth heads on a holiday weekend. Why? Because it’s lightweight and short so it’s easy to stash in a hold, its matte chrome finish and composite furniture guarantees it won’t rust even in the salt, and at under $500 at retail, it wouldn’t kill me if it got stolen or if one of my idiot friends accidentally dropped it overboard.

But here are a few real facts about this venerable firearm:  

First off, it’s part of Winchester’s SXP line, or Super X Pump. There’s a long backstory on these guns that begins with the coveted Model 12, but all you have to know is that the SXP is a direct descendant of Winchester’s game-changing model 1200 that was introduced in the mid-1960s. In 1978 Winchester improved upon the 1200 and named it the 1300 “Speed Pump” thanks to its spring-loaded, rotating bolt head that actually assists in pumping the gun when the bolt is released from the lugs. As such, it’s the fastest pump gun on the market, a fact established by some exhibition shooter with nothing else to do. In 2006 the company was purchased by the Belgian FN company who moved production to Turkey to save labor costs. In 2009 it began making its excellent Super X Pump. Over the years I’ve owned several of them, and I can attest that these “pumps that want to be semi-autos” are very reliable and represent a fantastic value in the shotgun market. For my full video explaining the SXP’s history and how “speed bolt” works, click here. Today there are over 40 SXP models.

I prefer the Marine Defender in 20-gauge because it’s lighter than the 12. This, combined with its pistol grip, means I can hold this shotty with one hand and fire it, while, say, steering the boat or fighting a toothy tiger shark that’s bent on eating through the stern and killing everyone on board. Here’s the thing with shotguns too: Loaded with birdshot, an errant shot might blow a hole in the gunwale but it likely wouldn’t traverse multiple plies of fiberglass to blow a hole in the bottom of the boat, thereby sinking it. And you also have the option for slugs if you need longer range, for, say, sniping Somali pirates as they zig-zag in and out of your wake while firing pipe guns and yelling a lot. 

The forward light rail accessory is handy, although I don’t have a whole lot of hope for the fiber-optic front sight pipe that fits over the barrel via flexible plastic. Frankly, I wish it just had a plain metal bead that would be guaranteed not to break off in times of need. 

While I have used a boat as an example of this shotgun’s use thanks to its “marine” moniker, I can think of a half-dozen other great stash places for it, including a private aircraft, a cabin, a tent in bear country, you’re dust-riddled closet or even in your backyard shed in the Memphis suburbs.  $369 at Bass Pro

Pros: Lightweight, impervious to the elements, compact, inexpensive, reliable

Cons: wish it had a brass bead rather than a plastic Tru-Glo prosthetic; the action release button is on the left side and with the pistol grip it is difficult to access. 




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