A review by Dick Eussen
The Winchester .22 Rimfire Wildcat rifle takes injection moulding construction to a whole new level, and it’s also amazingly accurate for hunting small game and pest control.
Once in a while, something new in rifle designs grabs the imagination and, while there have been several innovative firearms designs in the last 50 years – red dot, large-capacity magazines, low-drag bullets and more – one thing that stands out is the use of injection moulding for stocks and forefends to replace traditional timber stocks.
The .22 Rimfire is the most popular round in the world. It’s the choice for most people as their first gun, and not without reason as bullets are relatively cheap, accurate and deadly on small game. Teaching a kid how to shoot with a .22 is simple, because rifles chambered for the small round don’t kick; thus it’s easy to see why .22
Rimfire rifles have one or more models in their line-up. The latest example is the new Winchester .22
Rimfire Wildcat, a self-loader that has introduced ‘sexy looking’ to its line-up, which perfectly utilises modern designs and production techniques for .22 Rimfires.
As this gun is a self-loader, its availability is restricted to landowners and commercial shooters.
The Winchester .22 Rimfire Wildcat rifle takes injection moulding construction to a whole new level, with only the barrel, breechblock, springs, pins and nuts being steel; the rest is pure space-age injection mould.
The benefits are that the action is already bedded and stock warp from heat and humidity is no longer a problem. Other innovations are a Ruger-inspired 10-shot rotary magazine, an innovative design that has largely replaced tubular and long straight steel box magazines.
The magazine has a small ‘capstan’ wheel at the rear which is rotated counter-clockwise to operate the magazine follower for easy loading and unloading. A plunger lifts the bolt stop – push it down to release the bolt on an empty magazine. The steel barrel is clamped into the moulded stock receiver with a single angled transverse screw that also retains the front stock screw and the trigger unit. Any excess gas exits from vents on the left side behind the breech.
A 100mm pica tinny rail is moulded on top of the receiver for mounting accessories – scope or red dot. The fitted aperture sight is great for plinking and small game hunting and a perfect match with the ramped front bead sight. You may remove both if you plan to mount a scope.
All the operating parts of the rifle are contained in one module that is easily removed and replaced for cleaning without any tools needed. The trigger-blocking safety is a cross bolt type located on the rear of the trigger guard. It can be reversed to suit left- hand shooters. A buffer controls bolt travel distance, while a mainspring wraps up the guide rod that passes through the top of the breechblock and retains the pivoting operations bolt handle. The hammer is a striker-type, instead of hammer operation.
The one-piece injection moulded stock suits both junior and senior shooters; although, for large adults, the rifle will have a carbine-like feel. The stock has a pistol grip that matches a slight comb rise near the butt. It is fitted with swivel loops. The fore end is grooved for a secure non-slip grip, while a plastic cover on the tip (when removed) exposes an accessory rail for a bipod or a shooting light. Due to restrictions imposed on owning and shooting the new Wildcat, I was unable to physically test and shoot the rifle, but overseas tests have concluded that, while the rifle is not bench rest quality, it’s nevertheless a fine game piece that is amazingly accurate for hunting small game and pest control.
In hindsight, I would love to own one and would not hesitate buying it if I could. It’s Winchester quality and innovation that no doubt will be followed up with a bolt action model that we can all own and shoot.
WINCHESTER WILDCAT AMMO
To compliment the rifle, Winchester had reintroduced its .22 Rimfire Wildcat ammo (remember it?). The label dates back over 40 years and I still have a box that I purchased from Darwin’s Fishing & Outdoor World back in the 1980s. I have shot many rabbits, foxes and feral cats with Wildcat ammo. The ‘new’ loads feature a 40-grain copper plated bullet which was specially designed for the new Wildcat rifle. The bullet embarks a 24-inch barrel at 1,255 fps, spot on for the above-mentioned game. The bullets will be packaged in lots of 500. That is a lot of shooting fun.
Visit Winchester's website for more info.