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12/09/2019

So we are in that spot between Thanksgiving and Christmas. A little snow, a lot of cold and just a touch of panic over holiday shopping and festivities. It’s tough to have conversations with grown children about travel, or our unwillingness to travel.

We love our children, we love our grandchildren, but our generation sees Christmas as a home by the fireplace holiday, while their generation is consumed with a need to go away from home to some vacation location, or to attend an event, or series of events.

So my wife and I get invited to get on a plane, to go someplace, where family will stay in hotels, dine out every night, attend holiday events and generally not spend time communicating with one another beyond, “Don’t you have the tickets? I thought you had the tickets”, “I’ll get the check. No, I’ll get the check”, “What time does the performance start?”… etc., etc..

They get concerned that we will be “alone” for the holidays. It seems odd that they don’t recognize that two people who have been together for over fifty years aren’t alone when they are together. We began as as boyfriend and girlfriend, a normal amount of crazy, then husband and wife, father and mother with all of the challenges that come with raising children, keeping them safe and nudging them toward the terrific adults they are. Approximately 65% of our adult lives were devoted to parenting and, to some extent, it continues on today.

We will call family and Facetime on Christmas, have a quiet and relaxed special dinner, sit in front of our fireplace with lights and decorations around us, and celebrate the substance of the day, the birth of Christ. If they would like to spend time with us, they know where to find us. Oh, yeah. The rifle…

Winchester Wildcat

Manufacturer Istanbul Silah – Turkey
Item #
521100102
Caliber 22 Long Rifle
Magazine Capacity 10
Barrel Length 18″
Twist Rate 1:16″
Barrel Material
Alloy Steel – Black
Receiver Material
Composite
Weight 4 lbs 0 oz.
Overall Length 36.25″
Stock Composite
Pull 13.5″
Drop at comb 7/8″
Drop at heel 7/8″
Non-optical sights Ghost – Adjustable
Scope Mount
Picatinny Rail
Trigger Pull 5 lbs. 4 oz.
Safety Cross Bolt
MSRP $249.99

The paradoxical Winchester Wildcat; lifting it out of the box, the Wildcat feels small, almost like a compact rifle for a young shooter. It is very light and it is compact, but the stock geometry with a 13.5″ length of pull and sharp radius pistol grip are a comfortable fit for an adult. The comb height and sight height makes for natural line of sight to a target.

The Wildcat’s lightness comes from a number of contributing areas. The stock is polymer, the lower receiver assembly is polymer and the receiver that mounts the barrel is polymer. The alloy steel barrel has a sporter contour. The forearm is narrow, but finger grooved for a stable and comfortable grip, and grooved to form a nonslip surface. The buttstock, bucking tradition, has been hollowed in the middle. It is heavily ribbed for solid structure and the underside has been removed because… well, nobody ever uses it.

The use of polymer for receiver and the bulk of the rifle is not controversial. Not functionally, but from a use of polymer material standpoint, the Winchester Wildcat is a futuristic version of my 60 year old Remington Nylon 66 that has seem probably half a million rounds of ammo. For as mid century modern as the Remington is, the Wildcat has a very contemporary, very sleek, very modern look with some very nice engineering.

Above, the composite receiver, slip fit barrel and cross bolt through clamping surfaces. The tab at the front locates the front end of the lower receiver assembly.

By depressing the disassembly button at the rear of the receiver, all of the moving parts of the action and the magazine housing come out as part of the Lower Receiver Assembly. The bolt handle rotates upward to clear the ejection port. The lower receiver housing is a polymer piece. The blowback action is striker fired.

The Winchester Wildcat features a wealth of entertaining innovation. Yes, I did say entertaining, but not at the expense of functional improvement. I think Winchester should label the magazine “No Fumble”. Not only does it insert in a positive fashion, but it ejects into the palm of the hand with a quick tug on the side mag releases.  When belly side up on the bench, a conventional mag front release will also eject the magazine. The hemispheric striker hits a rimfire round where the primer compound resides, rather than having its energy dissipated by a cartridge’s solid brass rim edge. Neat. Yes, those are two hex wrenches tucked away in there. One for sight adjustment, the other for stock fastener removal.

Very clean ergonomic design. All controls are easy reach and actuated with appropriate resistance.

The Winchester Wildcat magazine holds ten rounds. Its feed lips are metal to take a lot of wear and tear, a follower wheel on the back of the magazine rotates ammunition in while loading and the small tab sticking up in the right of the photo holds the rifle’s bolt open on entry.

 

 

A little forend slight of hand. A rail cover conceals an unused rail and sling swivel. While it is easy to pull off, it is not easy to knock off. I apologize for the dust. The shop is heated with propane, fired in a closed system that looks like an antique wood stove. Subsequently, the shop interior’s humidity is about 20%. Good for drying stock blanks, good for preventing rust. Lousy for static sensitive electronics and, obviously, for photography. Guess I will pick up a HEPA filter…. and get my lungs checked.

For as light as the stock is, it definitely feels stout. Winchester used a combination of ribs, boxing and triangular for to make the stock very rigid. The Wildcat’s barrel floats in its barrel channel, which removes inaccuracy caused by uneven pressure points on a barrel.

Shooting performance

The groups appearing on the table that follows were shot with a 9x scope to register the rifles accuracy rather than that of my eyesight. That said, I like the ghost sight set up. It is fast and accurate. I’ve seen them criticized for having a fuzzy rear sight image… see “ghost” sight, and some folks suggest it is impossible to center a bead in circle… see “precision peep sights”. For folks who can trust their brain to conspire with their eyeball to center concentric circles, a ghost sight is excellent. The rifle was nearly as accurate with the ghost sights.

The sights are polymer, which fits in well with the rest of the rifle. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation, and yes the hex wrench to adjust them is stowed in the lower receiver assembly. That one is a little curious, as I don’t see pulling the guts out of a rifle to adjust the sights when I could just add the small hex wrench to my pocket shooting tool kit. Yes, “small” is the correct size wrench.

Ammunition Bullet
Weight
Grains
Rated
MV FPS
24″ BBL
Actual
MV FPS
18″ BBL
50 Yard
5 Shot
Group
Remington Cyclone
36 1280 1394 1.4
Federal Champion
36 1260 1229 1.3
Remington Thunderbolt
40 1255 1213 1.5
Remington Golden Bullet
40
1255
1226
1.1
Winchester Wildcat
40 1255 1218 1.2
Winchester Target
40
1150
1203
0.9

The 50 yard groups were shot from a rest. Wait… how do they say it? Oh, yeah. The rifle was steadied on a solid rest. The shooting bench was fashioned from sturdy pine (my big ol’ picnic table with a large cast iron rest). A slight buffeting wind was blowing across the target in a north by north west direction that rustled through the sparse strands of hair on my head. Temperature was 32.06°F, humidity was 99% and the barrel, it was warmed to 42°F. No, you don’t have to recreate those conditions. The rifle shot the same, cold or warm and you can always wait until the leaves go still between gusts before taking a shot.

Overall

Winchester’s Wildcat is a refreshing product at a time when many manufacturers are making rifles that are not only priced cheap, but they are made cheap. The Wildcat is well made and reliable; lots of ammo, a number of shooters and no failures to fire or feed save on round of Remington Thunderbolt that wouldn’t fire in any 22 LR rimfire firearm present.

My wife, who is the picky one in the family, loved the little Winchester. The form of the stock was comfortable for her, even with a 13.5″ length of pull. She spent some time shooting the 1/2″ tops off of our bean poles at 50 feet. Something I will remember in the spring when it comes time to reestablish the vegetable garden.

I found the Winchester to be a an excellent 22 rimfire; sights, trigger, magazine system, cleaning. The Wildcat’s manual references shooting with a silencer. Perhaps there are more models on the way, maybe one with a threaded muzzle. We’ll see.

 

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