Winchester Wildcat Sporter SR Review

By Jeff Johnston, FE Hunting & Shooting Editor

I know of no soul who has ever fired a suppressed .22 rifle and then declared, “Meh, I like the loud one better.” 

And it was for this very reason that I added yet another .22 rifle to my robust collection—one I now call the “Deuce Deuce Long Quiet.” Yea, I get that I could have had any one of my rifles threaded by a gunsmith for $150 plus hassle, but why would I do that when Winchester offers its Wildcat Sporter SR for around $300? Clearly I didn’t have an answer either.

But after buying the rifle, I discovered it’s more than just another semi-auto with some threads. It’s been purposely built for running with a can.

First off, its gas system is such that it actually cycles ammo with an effective suppressor installed. Many .22 semi-autos can be seriously finicky bastards, but I had no problems with this rifle out of the box. Then there is the issue of fouling. Twenty-twos are notoriously dirty, a trait that is exacerbated many times over by a suppressor that forces more lead residue, gas and grime back into the action. Normally after a few boxes of LRs I have to stop and spray a half-can of Ballistol—if not brake cleaner—into the action while holding it upside down. Sometimes a wire brush is required, and that’s never an easy endeavor due to the .22’s tiny chamber. But this baby? Just push the little red button that’s recessed on the action’s tang and pull the trigger guard downward. The entire trigger/striker/bolt assembly falls out so it can be thoroughly cleaned in seconds. The action’s casing even holds two Allen wrenches for removing the stock and adjusting the peep sights. Now that’s freaking sweet. 

Turns out, every tab or button that’s made of red polymer on the rifle has a function, including its mag releases (it has several for shooter preference), dual bolt releases and safety. Combined with the fact that it weighs just over four pounds, has a short 13.5-inch stock and a pic rail for throwing on a red dot, it’s perhaps the perfect rifle for teaching kids. Maybe I’ll buy mine one someday, because I’m keeping this one for myself.  $369 

Pros: Suppressor ready, the easiest .22 auto to clean ever, lightweight, inexpensive.

Cons: Not the most accurate .22 in the world

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