Written by Matt Dunham
This week I have been using the Winchester Wildcat semi-auto .22. To start off, it has been a fun week. It is a highly enjoyable gun that I would add to the collection rather than replace any of my current guns and I will explain why.
What’s new about this gun:
It has a fast release mag capability by pulling the red stripe on the side backward. This saves you from having to reach under and use the traditional flip clip against the mag. It’s a small but enjoyable capability of the gun that ties in with its other features to give the shooter more speed.
The last shot holds the bolt back. This improves safety as it clearly shows people nearby to see the gun is unchambered. Perfect for a range day. It also adds to speed and function with the next improvement.
The gun has a red tab by the magazine on the left side of it. Although this sounds small this couples very well with the last shot bolt hold back amazingly as you simply push this with your off-hand to release the bolt back to chamber the first round of your next mag.
How these three things all work together. You shoot your 10 shots and need to shoot more. No worries. Pull the fast release mag and slap your next loaded mag in, push the red tab and keep firing without having to take your trigger hand off. This is why I’ve had such a fun week.
A further capability is that it has a built-in underside Picatinny rail. It isn’t anything mind-blowing but it is new for me to use. It is plastic and I would have appreciated a metal one so I wouldn’t recommend torqueing anything down super hard on it.
The final innovation of this gun is that it can drop the action and trigger out with the push of a button so you can clean the barrel like a normal bolt action rifle. It is a little bit fiddlier than removing a standard bolt from a bolt action rifle, but it is a breeze compared to any other semi-auto I’ve cleaned. To be honest, I don’t know why this hasn’t been standard practice in semi-auto .22’s as many users aren’t gun enthusiasts and removing the action becomes confusing for them which leads to poor gun maintenance.
What I hold against the rifle:
It feels a little bit plastic to me which can make it feel slightly like a toy. Especially when you shoot it at a high rate of fire and reload it so fast. I would like to see a more machined high-quality variant although it will put the price range of it over $1000. I think the option should be made in the following years for the Winchester Wildcat enthusiasts and premium semi-auto rimfire users. It is important to remind you that this is not a toy. It is a weapon, and it shreds rabbits, possums, and magpies.
My thoughts on the Wildcat:
This gun is an extremely reliable semi-auto rimfire, and trust me, I pushed the F out of it. I never had a single jam. I had one cycle that did not collect the next bullet out of an old Ruger magazine so I cannot hold that against the rifle as being able to run Ruger mags as well is a huge advantage. The Ruger mags cannot hold the bolt back on the last shot but can still be quickly released like the Winchester mag. I recommend using your Winchester mag and quick releasing to your preloaded Ruger mag to get 20 shots downrange in minimal time. Therefore, keep your Ruger’s mag!
The reliability and modern functions are what make this gun epic and fun to shoot. It is standard for a semi-auto .22 in accuracy shooting about an inch at 40metres with Winchester 40 gr, subsonic hollow points. Perhaps other ammo will perform better for accuracy. This is another reason why I would hold onto my trusty bolt action .22 rifle rather than completely replace it. Where this gun completely outshines my bolt action .22 is with close range multiple shot targets. It is an absolute possum blaster. I recommend putting a light attachment on its built-in Picatinny rail rather than bipod because of this. Furthermore, its reliability makes it outperform my .17 HMR semi-auto and I used that to replace my .22 semi-auto. There is nothing more frustrating than missing game due to a gun malfunction, leaving you to struggle desperately fixing the gun as the possum slowly climbs away while giving you the middle finger. The reliability of the Wildcat has earned a high amount of respect from me.
The wildcat boosts speed, reliability, and ease of use. It’s light and doesn’t hurt the wallet. .22 ammo is cheap so you can shoot targets at speed all day long. There is not much I can put against this rifle. If you like traditional rifles you may find it feels a bit plastic and small, but I still recommend you shoot it nonetheless. It is best shot as a modern sporting rifle, shooting close targets (10-40m) at speed. For Kiwis that want that semi-auto plinking feel again but aren’t wanting to pay for a Tippman Arms, this is the rifle for you.