There is no rifle more American and more friendly than the .22 rimfire rifle. The .22 will put meat on the table, train young shooters, and guard the ranch from pests and predators. The .22 has trained soldiers and more than once guarded the homestead from intruders. If there is any one rifle you should have it is a .22 caliber rifle. While single shots, lever action and pump action rifles are all good the .22 self loader is an efficient and worthwhile investment. Winchester introduced the Wildcat .22 a few years ago. They were hard to find to say the least. I don’t know if Winchester had teething problems or supply problems but I was able to obtain one through regular commercial channels early this year. The Wildcat is an interesting rifle well worth its modest price.
When I look over a rifle I like to consider sighting equipment first. The Wildcat features plenty of rail for mounting red dot sights or a rimfire scope. The rifle also features a well designed aperture rear sight. The front sight is the tear drop style, tapering to the slightly rain drop top. This sight is very easy to use well and makes for rapid sight acquisition. The rest of the rifle isn’t conventional at all. The stock is a composite but feels solid in the hand. There is mounting hardware to mount a laser forward if need be. If you run into a bobcat, feral dog or other nasty things around the campsite a laser or light will come in handy. The Wildcat like all .22 self loaders is blowback operated. The rifle, however, is striker fired. This makes for a rapid lock time. Winchester made a wise decision in designing the rifle to accommodate Ruger 10/22 magazines. This means extended magazines are readily available. The Winchester magazine is easily loaded. A special wheel on the magazine body is depressed to allow for easy loading. During the test and evaluation I used several Ruger X magazines with good to excellent results. While the magazine is easy to load the magazine release is an even more interesting model of engineering. There is a conventional magazine release but also a large release, with components on either side of the stock, that is pressed to release the magazine. There are quite a few human engineering drawbacks in other rifles neatly solved by the Wildcat. The bolt holds open on the last shot. The bolt release is well designed. The safety is a crossbolt, the barrel is eighteen inches long.
The most interesting piece of engineering in this modular design is field stripping the rifle. Be certain the magazine is removed. Clear the chamber- then check again. There is a red knob visible in the rear of the receiver. Press this knob in with the forefinger. At the same time, with the other hand, pull the trigger guard downward. The main action then pulls out of the stock. The cocking handle folds out of the ways as field strip is accomplished. This system makes cleaning simple. The chamber may be easily cleaned from the rear of the rifle. Despite modern improvements in gun powder .22 Long Rifle ammunition is dirtier than most. Powder ash and even the lubricant found on the heel based bullet eventually cruds up an action. There is nothing easier to clean and maintain than the Wildcat save perhaps a single shot rifle. The package weighs four pounds unloaded. This is a neat little rifle that doesn’t become a burden hunting all day and stores easily in the truck.
When firing the rifle I found a useful trigger action, not exactly crisp but useful enough for a .22 rimfire. According to the Lyman Electronic trigger gauge trigger compression is 6.5 pounds. The rifle is easy to use well as expected. I have fired a few over four hundred rounds of ammunition without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire or eject, no break in malfunctions. .22s usually choke due to ammunition problems. Only so much to be done with a heel based bullet and dirty powder. I recommend cleaning the rifle every two to three hundred rounds and running a light lube. As for accuracy the rifle will take a squirrel out of the top of the tallest tree around these parts. It is a joy to roll tin cans and pine combs. Most of the ammunition expended has been the CCI Mini Mag, with quite a few Stingers thrown in just in case. At 25 yards groups of two inches are average. This is an accurate iron sighted rifle. I suppose an optical sight would improve things but I just don’t think I will mount one on this rifle. It is light, friendly, and reliable, all we may ask.
Winchester Wildcat .22
Caliber .22 Long Rifle
Overall Length 36.25 in.
Length of pull 13.5 in.
Drop at comb 7/8 in.
Barrel length 18 in.
Weight Four pounds
Average retail $250