Winchester Repeating Arms added the Super X semi-automatic shotgun to its catalog back in 1974—a design that is now in its fourth generation—but it wasn’t until 2022 that the company produced a version that ejected to the left for use by the approximately 10 percent of the shooting public that is left-handed. Being offered in 12 gauge in several finishes, barrel lengths and chamber lengths, our test gun for the following evaluation was an example of the SX4 Left Hand Waterfowl Hunter with full-coverage Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Habitat camouflage, a shortened 26" barrel and a chamber sized to accommodate up to 3.5" magnum shells.
Like the rest of the line, the left-hand SX4s are semi-automatic, gas-piston-operated shotguns. Employing the company’s Active Valve gas system, the SX4 self-adjusts to the length of ammunition being used by venting out excess gas through four vents located at the end of the fore-end. This enables the gun to cycle reliably without imparting more felt recoil to the shooter’s shoulder than is necessary to cycle the action. As excess gas is expelled, so too is the resulting carbon fouling that would otherwise accumulate inside the action; this makes for a cleaner-running gun that also operates at slightly cooler temperatures.
As this gun is destined for field use, Winchester utilizes aluminum alloy for the receiver, resulting in a lightweight design that is also naturally corrosion-resistant, and the barrel’s chamber and bore are also chrome-lined for increased wear and corrosion resistance. A ventilated rib runs atop the barrel, which ends in a TruGlo red fiber-optic rod that looks like a lantern when presented to the early morning sky.
While the sight was made to stand out, the rest of our test sample—from the composite fore-end and buttstock to the receiver—was designed to disappear, as its entire exterior surface is finished in camouflage. Our shotgun was clad in Shadow Grass Habitat, but the Left Hand Waterfowl Hunter is also available in Mossy Oak’s Bottomland and Realtree’s Max-7 patterns, to help satisfy a variety of hunting pursuits.
The SX4 Left Hand’s controls are oversize everywhere it counts. The bolt handle protrudes a little farther than average, and the bolt release is large enough to manipulate through gloves. The same holds true for the crossbolt safety, which is reversible should you be left-handed but have right-handed muscle memory from shooting “backward” guns your entire life. The loading port is also enlarged, and we found that we were able to fill it to its four-round capacity without having to de-glove. On average, the gun’s single-stage trigger broke cleanly at 6 lbs., 2 ozs.
For our range day, we brought out a variety of shooters, both left- and right-handed, that varied in height and body composition. Although the shotgun comes with a set of interchangeable length-of-pull spacers, it felt good enough straight from the box that no one felt the need to alter the stock configuration. We decided to function test a variety of shells from Federal, including a 2 3/4" Top Gun target load, a 1 3/4" Shorty target load and a 3" Black Cloud waterfowl load.
Of the three included flush-fitting Invector-Plus-style choke tubes (full, modified and improved cylinder), we chose the modified to pattern test the Black Cloud FS Steel ammunition. After averaging 10 patterns, we recorded an impact area that was only about 1" high and 3" left from our point of aim on the 40-yard targets. As this is a steel load, we noticed that the pattern had become rather large at that distance, putting even more pellets into the outer ring than it had the inner circle.
Many of the shooters commented on how soft-shooting the SX4 was, even with magnum loads, no doubt a combined result of the self-regulating gas system and the shotgun’s Inflex 1 recoil pad. Additionally, we all appreciated the moderately aggressive texturing on both the fore-end and the grip, as it was comfortable to the touch yet still served its purpose of anchoring the shotgun well.
Our left-handed evaluators enjoyed not having the moving parts in their face during operation and being able to easily single-load with their strong hand. Conversely, the righties remarked how helpful it was to have the action on the “other” side, as it made it easier for them to inspect and load with their weak hand if they so desired. All shooters found the shotgun easy to swing and agreed that their eye found the fiber-optic sight with little hesitation. The left-hand SX4 fired everything we fed it, including the Shorty shells—which is somewhat surprising, as it was not really designed to do so. However, although they pushed the action back far enough to be ejected, they could not lock it open.
Ultimately, the Winchester SX4 Left Hand Waterfowl Hunter is just a mirror copy of the right-hand SX4—which will be very welcome news for southpaw shotgunners—as we had previously been quite impressed by the design during prior evaluations, and we found the lefty version to be just as capable. While a small handful of other left-hand semi-automatics can be found on the shotgunning landscape, few offer the features, reliability and soft-shooting characteristics of the SX4 platform.