Review: Winchester Wildcat Sporter SR

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posted on January 9, 2024
Review Winchester Wildcat Sporter SR Lead

American Hunter Senior Executive Editor Jon Draper contacted me to ask if I’d pick a modern, affordable, all-purpose .22 LR rifle to review. After all, who among us doesn’t love a good .22? So I began combing firearm company websites for a rifle meeting Draper’s description. I landed on Winchester’s Wildcat Sporter SR, mainly because it’s a great-priced .22 rifle that combines traditional-looking walnut with cutting-edge features such as barrel threading for a suppressor.

Winchester Wildcat Sporter SR .22 LR rimfire rifle full length facing right.

A few weeks later I received the rifle and began shooting. Right away I noticed some features that I had no idea existed, such as its innovative, ambidextrous spring-loaded magazine release that remedies a gripe about 10/22-style rotary magazines in that they are tough to eject. But that wasn’t the half of it. I soon began noticing all kinds of little buttons and things I didn’t recognize, so to avoid looking like a total fool, I did what every guy like me despises; I consulted the owner’s manual.

And it’s a darn good thing I did! Had I not, I likely would have fired this gun for months—perhaps indefinitely—without fully utilizing all the ingenious features it contains. Before we get to those, however, let’s start from the top.

In essence the Wildcat Sporter SR (Suppressor Ready) is a semi-auto .22 LR rifle owning a 16.5-inch chrome-moly barrel, a satin-finished Grade 1 wooden stock, adjustable peep sights, a receiver-mounted Picatinny rail and a 10-round rotary magazine. The SR version’s barrel is cut with ½x28 threading, and this is a big deal to me because shooting with a suppressor adds so much versatility and enjoyment, especially when instructing kids, hunting without hearing protection or just plinking with buddies.

Winchester Wildcat Sporter SR threaded barrel.

The rifle weighs just 4.4 pounds, is 34.75 inches long and has a relatively short 13.5-inch length of pull. With just these basic features, I was tickled with the rifle, especially since it fired 200 rounds without a malfunction and produced good accuracy (once I found ammo it liked) all while shooting without hearing protection thanks to the SilencerCo suppressor I’d installed. But then I discovered its other hidden features. 

There is a problem with semi-auto .22s, and that problem is greatly exacerbated with shooting large volumes of rounds with a suppressor. The suppressor tends to blow gas, carbon and grime back into the action, causing it to foul very quickly and very badly. The Wildcat features a plastic red button on the back of the action near the tang that when pushed (literature says you can use your finger, but I found using a pencil works better) releases the entire bolt, trigger and fire-control mechanism so that it can be removed from the gun, cleaned and replaced in seconds with no tools. How cool is that?

Winchester Wildcat Sporter SR action removed from rifle.

After removing it, I noticed that this .22 doesn’t use a traditional hammer system as most rimfires do. Rather, it uses a spring-and-firing pin (striker-fired) system more like a modern rifle that results in harder firing pin strikes.

I also noticed that the trigger housing stores two hidden Allen wrenches; one for adjusting the peep sight and another one for removing the stock. Tell me that isn’t sweet! (I do love the fact that it has a peep sight, as I believe kids should learn open sights first before graduating to an optic.)

Basically, every button or lever that is red on this rifle represents a control that can be used to manipulate the gun. I already spoke about the magazine release button; but also the action release button on the left side of the action is red, as is the bolt-lock button that’s on the forward portion of the trigger guard.

Winchester Wildcat Sporter SR 10/22 style detachable magazine.

The rifle’s cross-bolt safety is ambidextrous and effective, but it’s probably the only complaint I have about the rifle; it’s very stiff and loud. When squirrel hunting, a quiet safety is desirable.

Overall though, this Winchester is innovative, clever, supremely versatile, reliable and inexpensive. In terms of accuracy, I found it will behoove the buyer to try multiple varieties of ammo to find what works best; like other semiauto .22s I’ve tested, this one can be finicky. When matched with ammo it likes, however, 1.25-inch 50-yard groups and better are possible.

Winchester Wildcat Sporter SR rimfire rifle accuracy results chart.

Technical Specifications
Type: semi-auto rimfire rifle
Caliber: .22 LR
Magazine: 10/22-style; detachable; 10-rnd. capacity
Barrel: 16.5"; chrome-moly steel; sporter contour; button rifled; threaded ½"x28 TPI w/ thread protector
Trigger: single-stage; 3-6 lb. pull weight
Sights: adjustable rear peep w/front blade; Picatinny rail included
Safety: cross-bolt, reversible
Stock: straight comb; Grade 1 walnut; satin finish; 13.5" LOP; sling-swivel studs
Metal Finish: matte blued
Overall Length: 34.75"
Weight: 4 lbs., 4 ozs.
MSRP: $369.99; winchesterguns.com

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