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Old March 3rd, 2021, 11:00 PM #1
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Winchester Wildcat vs Ruger 10/22 range day

I was fortunate to get an in stock alert for the new Winchester Wildcat in 22LR with the 16.5-inch threaded barrel last month. Price was slightly higher than when it first came out with the 18-inch barrel, but still under $260 shipped. It is a Turkish build for Olin that owns the Winchester brand and has in the past had some Winchester shotguns manufactured in Turkey as well as classic rifles made in Japan.

I had, to my regret, initially passed on a Thompson/Center T/CR22 package that came with a case and red dot for under $300 in the first half of 2020, and of course wanted it when the deal was expired and the package was nowhere to be found at least at that price point. The T/CR22 was an intriguing rifle designed to accept Ruger 10/22 magazines and came with other features that I found attractive, including a rear aperture sight. The Wildcat replicated these features; it also accepted 10/22 mags and it had a rear aperture. And it had other innovations. This time, I didn't hesitate in purchasing.

In 2019, I picked up a Ruger 10/22. I had several from before, but like many 10/22 owners, you can't keep just one, and this new model had a few things going for it. Ruger designated it the "Mans Best Friend" Collector Series Rifle (model # 31115). It came with some swag including a nifty rear sight adjustment tool (that can be put on your key ring) as well as a $25 certificate to shop at Ruger. It was, like the Wildcat, under $260 to get to my FFL. This rifle had a problem that I failed to notice until after the transfer - the front three-blade sight was canted and it wasn't adjustable. Ruger immediately offered to take it back and fix after a phone call. Ruger's rock solid guarantee on the function of their competitively priced products is often not considered when firearms shopping, perhaps because we've grown so used to it. I like this particular 10/22 model because it had the rear aperture sight as well as a stock with a changeable cheek riser module. The fancy engraved bolt was nice. But it's Ruger so it's also rugged and built to last.

If you've heard anything about the new Wildcat, you've heard that it's innovative. Not only does it utilize the Ruger 10/22 mag system, they've tried to improve it. Moreover, it's faster to drop the trigger control group and bolt out of this rifle than it is to separate an AR-15 lower and upper. It's dead simple and speedy. While innovation is cool, not not all innovation is necessarily an improvement, especially if there are trade-offs. I got the Wildcat because of the intercompatibility with the 10/22 mag system + the new design features - but would it measure up overall?






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Old March 3rd, 2021, 11:00 PM #2
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Sun was bright today. I had a gap in my work. And the range beckoned. So I grabbed both 22LR rifles and few different boxes of ammo.

I didn't get a lot of rounds through both rifles. The Ruger has had maybe 500 rounds through it before today, and the Wildcat shot 50 rounds today. The only cleaning it had prior was a spray of Royal Purple gun oil down the bore followed by a bore snake. There was only minimal residue in the firearm from the factory test firing.

To abbreviate this report, I'll briefly touch on points of comparison below.

Overall weight, rifle balance
Wildcat 4 lbs
10/22 MBF 5lbs
For the Wildcat with the 18-inch barrel, it's been reported that it is imbalanced with more weight on the front. I didn't notice this with the model that I have (16.5-inch barrel). I checked the center of mass and it is perhaps 0.5-1.0 inch in front of the magazine well. For this 10/22 MBF model, the center of mass was 0.0-0.5 inches in front of the magazine well. So they're both very similar. Perhaps having a little more weight in the rear stock makes it feel more stable for some. I didn't notice any diminished stability. When shooting offhand, the rifle shouldered easily, quickly, and stably. No knocks on the 10/22 on this count either.

Barrel
Wildcat - 16.5-inch
10/22 MBF - 18.5-inch
The Ruger barrel has a glossy blue finish whereas the Wildcat has a matte finish. The Winchester sticker on the Wildcat left a mark, but hopefully this will easily clean. This model Wildcat has a threaded barrel and a steel thread protector (unlike my Tikka T1x, with a plastic thread protector).

Magazine system and operation
The 10-rd Wildcat mag has differences in design to the 10/22 mags. It has a rotary dial to aid in loading - but I found it unnecessary. It is semi-translucent, so like some 10/22 mags, you can see the rounds inside. It also has a bolt hold open feature that only works on the Wildcat. Nice, but also not necessary for me. Overall, it also feels flimsier than the 10/22 mags. I probably won't buy extras and will just stick to my 10/22 mags - which is possible because the Wildcat functioned flawlessly with 5 different 10/22 mags. Note, it was a minimal test, only 2 rounds loaded per mag after target shooting. Included in the test were 2 black 10/22 10-rd mags, 2 clear 10/22 10-rd mags, and 1 black 10/22 BX-25 mag. The Ruger clear mags are known to bind in some 10/22 platforms, but they were fine in the Wildcat. Similarly the Wildcat mag worked in the 10/22, although it didn't retain the bolt after last shot.

Important to also note that the Wildcat can drop mags using a convenient sliding release integrated in the forearm sides or through a tab under the forearm like the 10/22. For the flush fitting 10-rd mags, the sliding release is easy and fast. For longer mags, the tab drops mags fine.

Quality of sights and included rail
The Wildcat cleverly includes a sight adjustment tool in the drop out trigger control group. And today, I needed to adjust windage so was glad that it was there and easily accessible. The Wildcat front and rear sights are polymer, and they are minimalistic. I was worried that I would strip material on the rear sight when tightening when securing, and was reciprocally worried that if I didn't sufficiently tighten, it would drift. It seemed to hold, but it didn't inspire confidence. The front sight is also a simple post, but it is removable.

Although the 10/22 had an initial front sight problem, after Ruger fixed it, the iron sight system is quite functional. The rear sight is adjustable, and both front and rear sights are rugged.

Both rifles include rails to mount optics. The Wildcat has a hard polymer rail and the 10/22 has a steel an aluminum rail.

Sling mounts
Both rifles include swivel sling mounts. For the Wildcat, on the front of the forearm, the sling mount and a short bit of Picatinny rail is hidden by a cover. I haven't slinged either rifle, and thus didn't remove the cover. Not sure why they include it, but now that it's there, I of course worry about losing it, lol.

Trigger
Both rifles can be dry fired. For the Wildcat, one needs to dry fire before disassembly. Even if the manufacturer says it's fine, because I am not in the habit of dry-firing my rimfire guns, I only do it when necessary.

For sub $300 rimfire rifles, I found both triggers acceptable. I didn't measure breaks, but would estimate they are in the 5-lb range. The Wildcat has an 1/8 of an inch no resistance take-up, and then another 1/4-inch of mushy resistance before the break. Wasn't bad. The stock 10/22 trigger had about 1/8-inch take-up before resistance and then another 1/8-inch of steady resistance before a clean break. It was slightly more stageable for me.






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Old March 3rd, 2021, 11:00 PM #3
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Function and accuracy
Today, the Ruger had a few things going for it. It has a better iron sight system. I could more easily predict the trigger break on it. And I had more time shooting it. For the Wildcat, which I shot second, I ended up rushing this session because I spent too much time fiddling with the rear sight adjustment and had to be back home before 3pm. Yikes

All circled bunches in the pics below are 5-shot groups from a bench at 25 yards. Both rifles used their original factory magazines for the "accuracy" test.

Despite the Wildcat having larger groups, the very first 5 rounds of CCI Standard Velocity that I shot through it yielded a pretty decent group. However as I began to rush, and not liking the sights (it was hard to find that front post at times) and not knowing the trigger as well, the groups opened up. I think it will do better with an optic.

The Wildcat had no problem with the different ammo tested (shown in some of the pictures). By contrast, the 10/22 failed to cycle after one of the Norma Match-22 rounds. Might have been a light charge, but the bolt might also need a bit of cleaning (a bunch of scouts were the last to shoot this rifle).

Disassembly
No contest. The Wildcat requires one to close the bolt, pull the trigger (safety off), and push a big red button (in a narrow channel on the back of the receiver) with very little force to pull out the entire bolt system and trigger control group. I thought it would be tight initially, but easy peasy on the very first attempt. It is so cool.

Is it life-changing? Not really. I clean my 10/22 rifles by just spraying the internals and using a paper towel to blot out the cleaning agent and whatever it brings with it. I keep the bolt retracted when I clean the barrel and pull a bore snake from the open receiver from the bore to the muzzle. However, if choosing between both, I love the drop the internals trick. It is simpler.

Modularity (stock changes), sight upgrades, aftermarket
This header is somewhat self-answering. We know that the 10/22 is king in this realm for 22LR semi-automatic rifles. The Wildcat has potential. The barrel is also easily removed from the rifle. Let's hope that there are emerging options to do upgrades on the platform.

Long-term durability
Of course, the first trendsetter in the 22LR polymer rifle arena was from now more than a half century back, the Remington Nylon. And we know that these rifles proved to be durable. I suspect the polymer upper receiver which the steel bolt rides on in the Wildcat will hold up fine even after 10s of thousands of 22LR rounds. However some of the other parts that come with the Wildcat, the sights, the rail, and the magazine are points of concern for me. I don't have similar apprehension about the 10/22 MBF build.

Conclusion
In summary, I am happy with the Wildcat. Although a limited number of rounds were tested, it didn't have any hiccups. It also fed from 5 different Ruger 10/22 mags with no issue. The rapid disassembly is awesome - it is so easy to clean. I love how light it is.

At the same time, there is cost to the weight reduction with all the polymer parts. Both front and rear sights feel fragile. A minimal impact hit with a harder material may snap or shear them. But at least they are replaceable. More of a concern is the top rail which is a part of the upper receiver. I don't like polymer Picatinny rails. I have overtorqued aluminum mounts on them on other platforms and had the polymer give a little. If there is an aftermarket that develops for this rifle, I hope there will be options to replace the receiver or move the trigger control group/bolt and barrel into new stock. For the interim, I am going to put a red dot on this rifle and take care to not overtighten the mount.

If I had to pick one rifle to keep between the two, despite the innovation of the Wildcat, I would actually keep the 10/22. Ruger is standing behind it (I am sure that Olin/Winchester is likely pretty good - but I know Ruger is outstanding). The aftermarket is tremendous. The stock trigger is fine for me, but the inexpensive Ruger Bx trigger upgrade is out there. The front sight, now fixed, is rock-solid. The rail is steel metal. The rear sight is steel metal. I know that I can bang around this rifle and nothing will snap. And it's still relatively light, coming in at 5 lbs. Finally, it shoots inexpensive ammo (circa 2019 pricing) reasonably well. I haven't scoped it - and don't plan to - but I'm sure this would tighten the groups. However I like the iron sight system that it currently sports. I have horrible eyesight, but the three beefy blade through the aperture system works for me - easily minute of soda can at iron sight distances. If I want to shoot tight groups, my Tikka T1x that has a nice scope will do it all day long. But if I want to have fun, take a new shooter out, go plinking, I'll take out the 10/22, and yeah, maybe the Wildcat occasionally too.




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Last edited by fidelity; March 4th, 2021 at 01:41 PM.
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Old March 4th, 2021, 12:00 AM #4
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Nice review. I think the Wildcat is way too much plastic looking. If you are concerned about cleaning, the 10/22 takedown does make it easier to clean the barrel.
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Old March 4th, 2021, 12:06 AM #5
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Good point about the 10/22 Takedown and I agree ...
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Old March 4th, 2021, 06:44 AM #6
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Great thread and very much appreciated by a grandparent shopping early ahead of next Christmas!
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Old March 4th, 2021, 07:24 AM #7
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Thanks for the info. Very informative
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Old March 4th, 2021, 07:45 AM #8
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Excellent review and write up!
Very informative.
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Old March 4th, 2021, 10:49 AM #9
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Thanks, folks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by slsc98 View Post
Great thread and very much appreciated by a grandparent shopping early ahead of next Christmas!
I actually think the Wildcat will eventually be great for my youngest (who's almost 9 and currently uses youth single shot 22 bolt). The light weight is ideal and his young eyes will more easily pick up the front sight post. Just wish they had a model with a shorter length of pull.
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Old March 4th, 2021, 11:12 AM #10
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Very well-written and informative. Thanks!
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