Gun Of The Week: Winchester Wildcat Sporter

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posted on March 29, 2024

In this American Rifleman Gun Of The Week episode, we’re on the range with a Winchester repeating rifle. This is the Wildcat Sporter. Chambered for the ubiquitous .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge, this latest offering is packed with innovations and wrapped in traditional walnut wood. Watch our video above to see this latest Wildcat in use on the range.

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Winchester Repeating Arms is no stranger to rimfire .22s, and the brand has been a champion of our sporting heritage by offering rifles and shotguns for defensive and sporting purposes for well over a century. In the 1920s, Winchester unveiled the Model 52 Sporter dubbed “King of the .22s,” which had a production run of over 50 years and held many top-level titles. Fast forward to 2019, the year when Winchester announced its first Wildcat rifle, which at the time, caught the attention of American Rifleman editors for myriad reasons. It was featured right here on Gun Of The Week, too. But that original platform was wildly different than most guns we’ve seen come from the legendary brand. It was futuristic-looking. It was trim and light. And it had an all-new action. It ran flawlessly and was a lot of fun on the range, just like this latest Wildcat wearing satin-finished walnut furniture, which makes for a gun packed with modern features while having traditional looks on the outside.

Winchester wildcat sporter sr right-side view wood stock red strip gun

Since .22s are the type of rifle meant to be shot a lot, it is important to have a robust action and barrel capable of delivering good performance and accuracy. This is where the Wildcat Sporter shines. And there are options to choose from whether it be a non-threaded 18” chrome-moly steel barrel or, a threaded 16.5” unit on the SR version. Both versions feature button rifling and a recessed target crown for protection. The receiver has a Picatinny rail for optics and is topped with a fully adjustable aperture sight, much like the ghost-ring setups you’ll find on tactical shotguns. The combination of ring and post up front make it fast and accurate enough. The features don’t end there. The Wildcat Sporter stock has graceful lines and thoughtful touches throughout that make for a great experience on the range or in the field. You’ll get two studs for mounting a sling, light texturing panels to improve purchase and an ergonomic layout to allow you to assume a natural shooting position, whether using the factory “irons” or behind a magnified optic.

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Running the gun couldn’t be much simpler, too, not to mention loads of fun. Since it is a blowback-operated semi-automatic, the gun feeds from detachable box magazines of the Ruger 10/22 pattern, though Winchester’s factory magazine is quite nice and offers up some features the general pattern does not. With an empty magazine, the action should lock itself open, but if you’ll need a manual override, Winchester has options, with one forward of the trigger guard and the other, which is red, along the left side of the receiver; our testers particularly enjoyed these two bolt-lock mechanisms.

winchester wildcat sporter sr gun rifle left-side view

Like the bolt’s lock, Winchester also provides two unlock features for the magazine. Just forward of the 10-round magazine, there is a red “lip”—pull it rearward and the magazine will fall out. Likewise, above the magazine area, on either side of the stock, is a serrated plastic strip that is also red—simply grasp the red strip with thumb and forefinger and retract rearward and the magazine will fall out that way, too. Furthermore, our testers very much appreciated how the Wildcat disassembles. There is a red button at the rear that must be depressed when the action is closed. This button will unlock the polymer receiver, allowing it to be lifted out from its resting place. This makes for an easy job that can be simply done hastily in the field or at home on the bench.

Winchester Wildcat Sporter Specifications
Importer: Winchester Repeating Arms
Action Type: semi-automatic, repeating, rimfire rifle
Receiver: black composite
Barrel: 18" steel (16.5" for Suppressor-Ready; threaded 1/2x28 TPI)
Magazine: 10-round detachable box
Sights: adjustable aperture rear, post front; integral Picatinny rail for optics
Stock: satin-finished walnut
Overall Length: 36.25"
Weight: 4 lbs., 8 ozs.
MSRP: $350 ($370 Suppressor-Ready)

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