What’s this? Some guy on the Internet knocking down one of America’s favorite 22LR rifles? Ok, hear me out because I know extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
The Ruger 10/22 is near-and-dear to many of our hearts. Many of us learned to shoot on the legendary 10/22. The fact that there’s an entire aftermarket industry cranking out 10/22 accessories is a testament to how much America loves the 10/22. At current prices, 10/22’s can be had for around $300 but many people drop some serious money in upgrades, commonly switching out the barrels, trigger, and stock to introduce modern features into a platform that’s stayed pretty much the same since the 1960s.
Out of the Box
The competition is fierce at the $300 price point for semiautomatic 22LR rifles. Ruger has dominated for decades but the Wildcat comes in with a $269 MSRP for the unthreaded barrel model. I’ve seen these online for $220. The threaded barrel models cost a little bit more, I paid $280 for mine which is a fantastic value. I now own two.
Designed from the ground up with 10/22 magazine compatibility in mind. The Wildcat worked flawlessly with Ruger 10/22 magazines. I confirmed this with 10 round 10/22 mags, the BX-15, and BX-25 Ruger magazines….all of which ran flawlessly using CCI Blazer, Federal Bulk 22, and CCI copper plated 22LR.
The only trade-off is you lose last-round bolt hold open when using 10/22 specific magazines.
The Wildcat 22LR comes equipped with ghost sights and features an integral Picatinny rail for optics, as well as a rail slot located on the bottom of the chassis to easily mount a bipod. The Wildcat is a blowback design featuring an 18″ button-rifled Chromoly steel barrel with threaded options available. Its skeletonized stock helps keep it lightweight, with the total package coming in at only 4 pounds compared to the 4.6-pound weight of the Ruger 10/22 Takedown.
Where the Wildcat Really Shines
So the features for the price are pretty good but so far I haven’t talked about what I really like about the Winchester Wildcat. First, the Controls are way more intuitive than the 10/22. I always fumbled with the 10/22 mag release and the Wildcat gives you 2 different options for ejecting an empty mag.
First, you’ve got your standard 10/22 style magazine release where you depress the button underneath the rifle. Nothing special. But Winchester also included a second way to eject magazines by pulling back on the serrated red panels on the side of the chassis pictured below.
Now disassembling the Wildcat is where things get really interesting. To disassemble, you only depress the red button at the rear of the action’s lower receiver and pull the trigger guard down. This pulls the entire action out as the bolt, trigger housing is self-contained. The bolt handle is hinged so it easily rotates and drops out with the rest of the action.
With the action free from the chassis you now have easy access to the bore for barrel cleaning and you can simply spray down the action and fire control group with your favorite solvent for easy cleaning. This was an incredibly innovative design from Winchester. I wanted to test the limits so I actually went over 1,100 rounds without cleaning the rifle and didn’t experience a single malfunction aside from using subsonic ammo which is notoriously bad at cycling in semiautos.
The Wildcat 22 packs an incredible amount of features into a sub-$300 price point. I’ve actually bought 2 now and have sold most of my semiautomatic 22LRs. I’ve been converted by Winchester’s thoughtful design choices and recommend this rifle for new shooters and anyone looking for a feature-packed plinker without breaking the bank.