The Winchester Model 88 Is Just Pure Class
The Winchester firearms company in the 1950s came out with a new rifle called the Winchester model 88, which was introduced in 1955. It was a total new concept in the Winchester line. It was a high-powered lever action rifle in the new modern cartridges. This would be the rimless cartridges, like the 243, 308, 358, and eventually the 284 Winchester ammunition.
This was mainly for the short action line and it became very popular. It probably was designed and manufactured because they needed something to compete with the Savage lever firearms in the model 99 lever action rifle.
Its early advantage over the Savage firearms model 99 would be the new idea of a detachable magazine feed lever action rifle. Savage arms would also introduce the detachable magazine into the Savage 99 in the 1960s. Remington Firearms had already introduced the Remington 760 pump model and it also had a detachable magazine. It was also becoming very popular.
So the concept of a magazine in modern firearms was beginning to have an immediate impact in the hunting world. The hunters were probably the ones more interested in this because going into and out of the field became much easier and safer with the magazine. You could just pop it in or out very easily. So they designed the Winchester model 88 partially I believe, to compete in that market.
The Winchester model 88 was a very sleek and balanced rifle and was very well made, and its cartridges were also very desirable.
My favorite Winchester model 88 would be the 284 Winchester that was introduced in 1963.
It would be in that short cased 7mm styled cartridges that I like so well (more on the 7mm cartridges in other articles). Another favorite would be the 358 Winchester.
The 308 Winchester was the most popular but I did not like the kick. The 243 Winchester was also a nice cartridge as it was better for the young hunters and also those women that would be hunting.
By 1964 as we have already discussed, the Winchester Firearms Company would drastically change its gun line and suffered because of it. But one gun they did not seem to mess with very much was the model 88 and the primary change was to the stock.
They quit making the wood with cut checkering on it. They started using the basket weave design that would have been pressed into the wood. This made their manufacturing much easier and not as labor intense. This is one gun I am really glad they did not mess with, and actually the new stock design had a rather appealing look to it and was rather well liked by myself and others. I do like the basket weave style and if you are collecting the model 88 Winchester rifle, you now have two distinct variations to collect and they are both very desirable.
They did make the Winchester model 88 lever action rifle in a carbine. They only made the carbine rifle for 5 years and it is very desirable. (68-73) I do remember seeing one in our gunshop in the early 1980’s. It was in the original box with all paperwork. I do not remember what it sold for,but I wish I had that rifle now. (What a great investment that would have been). One of those rifles I fondly remember.
The Winchester model 88 was a little bit complicated in its design, and I had the privilege of working on many of those firearms in the 1980s and 90s when I was doing a lot of gunsmithing. This is a gun that can be removed from the wood fairly easily and can be cleaned pretty thoroughly at that point. But if it needs to be disassembled for extractor or firing pin or other internal problems it now becomes a much harder gun to work on.
Those that do not know how to disassemble or assemble the firing mechanism and trigger mechanism will have a very hard time with it. It does require slave pins to put it back together and a knack for aligning everything up. It can be a chore, and I was able to work on them and developed a good working knowledge of the gun. The Winchester model 88 did not have a lot of big issues but they did from time to time develop some problems.
I also reblued a number of these guns and had good success in doing that. The wood is another issue as it is very slim around the action and the back of the lever. So it can be a problem with cracks developing in those areas. I would suggest that when you buy one of those firearms for your collection or hunting use that you thoroughly look the wood over in those places as that is a very weak area in its gun design. That said it is still an excellent gun to own.
The Winchester model 88 rifles were manufactured with a butt plate only. Many would have had recoil pads installed later, especially in the 308 Winchester. They did not come from the factory with a recoil pad and this does hurt the gun considerably for its collecting value. That was probably one of the main issues with these firearms.
Two of the most notable Winchester firearms in the model 88 would be in the 284 Winchester and 358 Winchester cartridges as they are very desirable and were not produced in large numbers. So they have increased in price considerably.
This gun would be what I consider an excellent value in collecting if they are in great condition, and condition is everything with the Winchester model 88. The 284 Winchester cartridge and 358 Winchester cartridge are very desirable but demand a much higher price. I believe that even at the higher price, these cartridges in the Winchester model 88 are great investments.
These guns were produced until 1973, when they were discontinued. That was probably due to the amount of time and labor in the manufacturing process that the Winchester model 88 required.
It was and still is a fine rifle, and I consider it one of the finest levers ever produced by Winchester firearms in the lever action rifle.