March 22, 2022
By Joel J. Hutchcroft
Okay, I admit it. I borrowed the headline from Winchester’s promo materials. But I think it is just right because the newest version of the Wildcat has a threaded barrel that’s ready for a suppressor.
Shooting Times reported on the Winchester Wildcat .22 LR autoloader when it was first introduced in 2018, referring to it as “unquestionably the most ingeniously designed gun” the writer had seen in quite a while. The new Wildcat SR has all of the innovative features of the original, plus, as I just mentioned, it has a threaded muzzle. Let’s review those fine features.
The carbine’s molded synthetic stock has a black matte, textured finish and a large cutout in the buttstock. The skeletonized buttstock helps reduce weight; the carbine weighs in at 4.0 pounds. The stock incorporates what Winchester calls the “upper receiver,” and it contains the barrel. The upper receiver is polymer, and it has a 10-slot Picatinny rail on top for mounting an optic. I used a TRUGLO TRU•TEC Micro red dot for my shooting sessions with the new Wildcat SR, and it was fast and easy to put in place. (You can read more about the TRUGLO TRU•TEC Micro in my Quick Shot on page 56.) On the underside of the stock’s fore-end tip are three more Picatinny slots, and they are for attaching a light, a laser, a bipod, or other accessory. The underside also has a sling-swivel-stud eyelet, and it and the Picatinny slots are concealed by a removable cover. The pistol grip and the fore-end have textured surfaces, and the grip has a slight palmswell.
The stock houses the “lower receiver,” and this bunch of parts include the bolt, the firing assembly, the trigger, the bolt lock, the bolt release, and the magazine release. The blowback-operated Wildcat uses a striker-fired mechanism that is said to provide a faster locktime and a lighter trigger pull. The trigger pull on my sample averaged 5 pounds, 10 ounces for five measurements with an RCBS trigger pull scale. There’s just a very slight amount of take-up, but it is exceptionally smooth, with almost no detectable overtravel.
The manual push-button safety is located behind the trigger, and it is reversible.
The slide-lock button is positioned in front of the trigger guard, and it allows you to manually lock open the action. Pressing the bolt release button on the left side of the upper receiver or pulling back on the cocking handle releases the bolt lock, and the action closes.
There are two magazine releases, and both are ambidextrous. One is in the form of a wide release bar located at the front of the rotary magazine. The other is presented as a side-mounted rail with aggressive gripping slots along the side of the magwell. Actually, there are release rails on both sides, but they are all one part. In fact, the front release bar and the side release rails are all one part and operating either of them drops the magazine.
Speaking of the magazine, it’s a rotary style with metal feed lips, and it holds 10 rounds. It utilizes an interesting “speed unload” feature that makes unloading cartridges from the magazine super-easy. Here’s how it works. At the right rear of the magazine is a small, notched wheel. You simply hook your fingernail in one of the notches and rotate it. The rounds pop out from the metal feed lips easy-peasy. The magazine also has a boltstop that locks the bolt open after the last shot is fired.
One 10-round magazine comes with the Wildcat, but the Wildcat also accepts magazines from various vendors that are compatible with the Ruger 10/22-type magazines, and Ruger and several aftermarket manufacturers offer high-capacity versions.
The Wildcat SR’s 16.5-inch button-rifled barrel is shorter than the original Wildcat’s 18-inch barrel, but it is chrome-moly steel, just like the original. And as I said, the Wildcat SR’s muzzle is threaded for a suppressor. The thread rate is 1/2x28 TPI, and a thread protector is included.
The Wildcat has a removable ramped post front sight and a fully adjustable ghost-ring rear sight. Both sights are secured with hex screws, and two hex wrenches are clipped to the lower right side of the action assembly. The smaller one is for the rear sight, and the larger one is for the stock screw in front of the magazine well. They are hidden inside the stock when the carbine is in operation, and they are accessed by removing the trigger group and magazine.
Said trigger group and magazine are removed with the push of a single button that is located at the rear of the upper receiver assembly. It’s easy to manipulate, but it’s not so easy that it could inadvertently come out while shooting.
To find out how the new Wildcat SR shoots, I spent an enjoyable afternoon with it at the shooting range. From a sandbag benchrest at 25 yards, I test-fired a dozen .22 LR loads, all of which were loaded with 40-grain bullets. Some were solids, others were hollowpoints. All functioned perfectly.
As for its accuracy, the best-shooting load for me was the Eley Edge 40-grain LFN, which averaged 0.50 inch for five, five-shot groups. Other top loads were the Norma TAC-22 (0.82 inch), American Eagle High Velocity (0.84 inch), and Federal Gold Medal Target (0.88 inch). As you can see, all averaged less than an inch. Seven of the 12 loads averaged 1.00 inch or more, but none went over 1.33 inches. Overall, the 12 .22 LR loads averaged 0.97 inch. The full results are shown in the accompanying chart.
Browning’s BPR Target & Hunting 40-grain HP load produced the highest velocity out of the 16.5-inch barrel, averaging 1,300 fps. With an average of 1.11 inches, it was middle of the pack for accuracy.
Nothing is more fun to me than plinking away with a fast-shooting, accurate .22 rimfire on a beautiful summer day, and that’s what I did with the new Wildcat SR. It functioned perfectly, and burning up just about all the .22 LR ammo I had in reserve was fast, furious, and fun.
Winchester Wildcat Suppressor-Ready Specification
- Manufacturer: Winchester Repeating Arms, winchesterguns.com
- Type: Blowback autoloader
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- Barrel: 16.5 in.
- Overall Length: 34.75 in.
- Weight, Empty: 4.0 lbs.
- Stock: Synthetic
- Length of Pull: 13.5 in.
- Finish: Matte blued barrel, matte black receiver, black and red stock
- Sights: Fully adjustable ghost-ring rear, ramped post front, optics rail
- Trigger: 5.63-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Two-position
- MSRP: $299.99