Rifle Roundup: Winchester Wildcat .22LR Rifle With A Holosun Optic

.22LR rifles are fun, and they're even more fun when shooting at a Champion steel target.

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posted on May 3, 2024

I have many friends who are high-ranking competitive shooters and others who are some of the best firearms trainers in the world. These sort of people take the business of firearms very seriously because it is their business, and being a better marksman is how they make their living.

The vast majority of American gun owners, though, understand that going to the range can and should be fun. Yes, we can work on stance, grip, sights and trigger, but we all know that at some visceral level, going shooting and turning ammo into noise is stupendous amounts of fun. So for this week’s Rifle Roundup, it’s all about having fun at the range.

Winchester Wildcat Sporter Rifle (MSRP $349)

Shooting a semi-automatic rifle chambered in .22LR is one of the easiest ways to have fun on the range. Your ammunition costs are low, they’ll shoot and shoot and shoot, and because there’s almost no recoil and very little muzzle flash, they won’t intimidate first time shooters.

The Winchester Wildcat may not be as well-known as other semi-automatic .22LR rifles, but in many ways, it’s set up better right out of the box than some of those other guns. The Wildcat uses the same magazines as another well-known .22LR rifle, but unlike that other rifle, the magazine can be easily inserted and released from the rifle without any contortions or need for a third hand. The Sporter model we’re shooting has a wooden stock and a Picatinny rail for mounting an optic. If an optic isn’t your thing, there is a peep sight at the rear of the receiver and a fiber-optic front sight to help you get rounds on-target.

The Wildcat Sporter is a no-nonsense rimfire rifle made by company that built its reputation as a rifle maker, and with a knurled wooden stock, easy to operate action and the ability to add an optic with the turn of a screw, it comes setup for a fun day of shooting, varmint control or any one of the myriad uses you could find for a .22LR rifle. 

Holosun 503C GR Green Dot (MSRP:$341.16)

We dug into the recesses of the gun safe and came out with a Holosun 503C to mount on top of the Wildcat. This optic has since been updated with “shake awake” technology which turns on the optic the instant you pick it up and shuts down when not in use, adding extra life to your batteries.

What’s common to both the older and newer models of this optic is the solar panel on top that extends the life of the internal, coin-sized battery, giving you more shots and more range time in between battery changes. The two optics are both available with either green or red reticles (we have the green reticle in this one) and both optics can switch between a 2-MOA dot, a 65-MOA crosshair circle or both the dot and the reticle together.

A Holosun red dot probably isn’t my first choice for an optic if I have to jump out of a helicopter into enemy territory with a rifle in my hands, but that’s not it’s job. Rather, Holosun optics provide excellent value, and a red dot sight simplifies the aiming process to “Put the dot on the target and keep it there as you press the trigger,” which is about as easy (and fun) as it gets. 

Champion .22 Diamond Pop-up Target (MSRP: $16.45)

If all you do is go into an indoor range and punch holes in paper targets, you are missing out on one of the great joys of the shooting sports. Many gun owners (including myself) started out shooting tin cans on an improvised range, and the visceral “ping” (or “thunk”) of a round impacting a solid object and the target movement afterwards is ridiculously satisfying.

Champion steel targets re-create that experience but with well-built, reusable targets in a wide variety of styles and shapes. The .22 Diamond Pop-Up target we shot is, unsurprisingly, designed for .22LR ammunition. More powerful ammunition will dent the target and make it dangerous and unusable. The target is about the same size as a gopher standing up on his hind legs, making it an excellent trainer for that sort of activity. There is a stiff spring in the back of the target which returns it to vertical after a hit, and there are four holes in the base to keep it upright. Best of all, for less than a sawbuck, you’ll have a fun way to get immediate feedback on your marksmanship ability.

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