Rifleman Review: Winchester Wildcat 22 SR

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posted on April 26, 2023

Winchester Repeating Arms introduced its Wildcat .22 semi-automatic in 2019, providing an updated rimfire rifle with many innovative design features for rimfire enthusiasts. Two years later, the Wildcat 22 SR provided a suppressor-ready variant for those who wanted a quiet report and reliable operation with a suppressor attached. Watch our American Rifleman Television Rifleman Review segment above for all the details on this cutting-edge .22.

"Now, going on inside this gun, there are a lot of engineering solutions to problems that .22s have. First of all, you can't have a gun without a good magazine," said Mark Keefe, NRA Publications editorial director. "So their magazine looks like a 10/22 magazine, and this gun will take BX25 magazines and other aftermarket Ruger magazines, but there are some differences going on here. There's a metal plate here for the last-round bolt hold open, and then these guys also have the same patent on the magazine developed for the Browning X-bolt, so you end up with a thumb wheel that allows you to take tension off as you're loading."

Winchester's Wildcat 22 SR red rotary magazine shown on a black table with cartridge around it.

The Winchester Wildcat is also capable of accepting all standard Ruger 10/22 magazines, but these will not lock the bolt back after firing the last round. Additionally, Winchester makes it easy to operate its Wildcat. Removing magazines from the well just in front of the trigger guard can be done in one of two ways. There's a traditional release latch located just forward of the magazine well that can be pulled rearward to remove the magazine. There is also a bright-red latch located just above the magazine well, and pulling the latch to the rear allows the magazine to fall from the well.

"They've made extensive use of polymers throughout this thing, so this gun weighs 3.5 lbs., which, frankly, is interesting, because the trigger is 5 lbs., 3 ozs., so the trigger pull weight is actually heavier than the whole gun unloaded," Keefe said.

The threaded muzzle and black thread protector of the Winchester Wildcat 22 SR shown on top of an NRA bullseye target.

Despite the light weight, there are plenty of features on the Wildcat. The upper receiver features a machined rail for mounting optics, but the rifle also comes with a set of integrated iron sights. Additionally, the bolt can be locked back with one of two controls, either a latch located on the front portion of the trigger guard or a bolt hold-open latch located on the left side of the receiver. The innovations don't end there, though.

"Taking this gun apart is actually a lot easier than you might think, and that's one of the chief criticisms of the Ruger 10/22," Keefe said. "You can't clean it from the rear because, of course, it's a solid receiver. So what Winchester did was combine the take-down mechanism with a way to get a bore brush in the back."

A man aiming the gray-colored Winchester Wildcat 22 SR on an indoor range.

Simply pushing the recessed button located at the back of the receiver simultaneously drops the removable internal components and provides clearance for a bore brush and cleaning rod to enter the chamber through the rear of the action. Additionally, the removable receiver component comprises the serialized portion of the firearm. It also includes an Allen wrench that provides users with an easily accessible tool kept with the firearm that allows for further disassembly and rear sight adjustment.

"My hat is really off to the guys at Winchester," Keefe said. "We've had .22 semi-automatic rifles for more than a century, but I got to tell you, when it comes to using engineering to solve problems, the Wildcat is where it's at."

To watch complete segments of past episodes of American Rifleman TV, go to americanrifleman.org/artv. For all-new episodes of ARTV, tune in Wednesday nights to Outdoor Channel 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. EST. 

Winchester Wildcat 22 SR Specifications
Importer: Winchester Repeating Arms Co.
Manufacturer: Istanbul Silah (Turkey)
Action Type: blowback-operated, semi-automatic, rimfire carbine
Chambering: .22 Long Rifle
Receiver: matte-black polymer
Barrel: 16.5"; 1:16" RH twist
Magazine: 10-round, rotary, detachable box
Sights: windage-adjustable white-dot rear, fiber-optic front
Trigger: single-stage; 5-lb., 3-oz. pull
Overall Length: 34.25"
Weight: 3 lbs., 13 ozs.
Stock: polymer; length of pull, 13.5"; drop at heel, 2.5"; drop at comb, 1.5"
Accessories: owner's manual, lock, thread protector, two hex wrenches
MSRP: $290

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