Most everyone has experienced buyer’s remorse with the purchase of an expensive item such as a vehicle or real estate, or perhaps any item. Buyer's remorse can happen when one must make a difficult decision about a purchase.
Those of us who are firearms enthusiasts may have experienced just the reverse when not making a purchase we now regret. I have several times, but not buying a Winchester Model 88 in .358 Winchester forever haunts my mind.
Back in 1966 I had a summer job, and my supervisor knew I was interested in firearms and he had a relative who wanted to sell a .358 Model 88. He gave me the opportunity to take the rifle for a range test, and a box of 200-grain Winchester shells came with the offer. I knew nothing about the rifle or the caliber, but the classic looks of the 88’s lever action intrigued me. I already had a Remington 700 in .270 Winchester and had begun reloading with a simple Lee Loader.
My Saturday venture to the range went well, accuracy was fine, and I liked shooting over the open sights, knowing well this was a short-range hunting rifle. I weighed the pros and cons, and the main con was the price of $100. Being in college and making about $2 an hour on my summer job, I decided to pass on the purchase. Bad mistake!
Afterward, and especially when I began hunting elk, the remorse really set in. I always kept an eye out for other 88s and I found one in .243 Winchester at a 1999 auction in Jefferson City, MO. I was able to get a look at the rifle beforehand, and an open action in the sun showed the bore had been neglected and was pitted. I thought about offering a bid, but when the price hit $600, that was too rich for me. The rifle finally sold for $750.
There is abundant historical information on the 88s. An article in the American Rifleman in 2016 provides a great rundown on the rifle and calibers offered. First offered in .308 Winchester in 1955, “The Model 88 was a completely new design in lever actions. It had no visible hammer; the bolt rotated when operated by the lever, locking up with three lugs just aft of the chamber similar to a bolt action. It fed from a 4-shot detachable box magazine.
“Its 22" barrel—a 19" carbine was available as well—had a featherweight profile leading to the rifle’s 7 1/4-lb. weight. Cartridges ejected from the side, allowing a scope to be mounted center over the bore. To cap it off the one-piece walnut stock with a pistol grip borrowed much of its lines from the bolt-action rifles of the day, sleek and fast handling.
“A year after its initial introduction Winchester included chamberings in .243 and .358 Win. —a year before including them in the Model 70. In 1963 the .284 Win. chambering was included in an effort to provide the flat trajectory of the .270 Win. in a short-action cartridge.”
Remorse really sets in when one considers the price the 88s fetch today, with prices between $500 and $1,000 with quality models trading much higher. Take a look at WINCHESTER 88 New and Used Price, Value, & Trends 2021 to get an idea of current pricing on some calibers. And I sure have not found a .358 since my 1966 missed chance.
There is comprehensive Model 88 production information and caliber dates at Winchester Model 88 and there were 256,022 rifles manufactured. Data on the .358 shows that in 1962 the .358 was discontinued.
“There were approximately 35,636 in .358s produced between 1956 through 1962. All .358s had hand cut checkered stocks.” The production information adds that in “1965 – 473 Winchester 358s were manufactured as parts clean up with impressed basket weave stocks and shipped to Canada and are uncatalogued and extremely rare.” Buyer’s remorse hit even harder when I saw that data and small total of .358s produced.
The Rifleman article notes that “In some ways the Winchester Model 88 was ahead of its time. There is no doubt it was an innovative design that melded power, accuracy, aesthetics and firepower into an almost ideal single rifle. Unfortunately, though, it was nearly twice the price of a Model 94 and about even with a bolt-action Model 70. Those things brought the death knell to the Model 88.”
For another take on the Model 88, look at WINCHESTER MODEL 88 that notes Winchester perhaps saw the need to compete with the Savage 99, another classic lever action. Detachable magazines also were becoming popular, and not offered then on the 99.
I have no doubt others share remorse on the firearms front when remembering what “I should have bought,” or “Why did I sell that gun?’ Those memories are what help us appreciate what we have, what we missed and are a key part of enjoying firearms.
Stay safe, be prepared. ~ Mike
Mike now calls Northwestern Arkansas home, but has lived and worked in several states and internationally. He has been an independent contractor and consultant since 2006 specializing in risk management, emergency management and training. In addition to work as a law-enforcement planner and technical writer with the Boise, Idaho, Police Department, he has experience in journalism, crop and animal agriculture, dryland farming for 20 years in western Kansas, plant and animal diseases, pandemic influenza, agroterrorism, bioterrorism, food safety and healthcare marketing.