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No, I Don't Hate the Winchester 88

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March 05, 2007

No, I Don't Hate the Winchester 88

By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

I just got an indignant letter from a gentleman who lives on Staten Island, NY, taking exception to disparaging comments I made in a recent Rifles department about the accuracy of the Model 88 Winchester.  (An aside: My mail, after being checked for explosives and anthrax, is separated into categories ranging from “Mildly P****d Off” to “Call the FBI.” It saves me a lot of time, knowing what to expect.)

Anyway, this fellow owns a Model 88 in .284 that shoots pretty nicely, judging by the target he enclosed. He says in the letter that I didn’t mention the .284 and probably didn’t know it existed, to which I can only reply “yes,” and “no.”

 I get 750 to 900 words for the Rifles department, as compared to the 3,000 that Bob Brister and Warren Page used to have. This means I can’t cross every T and dot every I.  I didn’t mention the .284 Model 88 because not many were built in that caliber, and because for years a lot of the .284 brass that Winchester turned out was lousy (this has since changed) and if a .284 Model 88 didn’t shoot it might not have been the gun’s fault. Altogether, it was just too complicated to get into.

Also, when I say that Model 88s were not accurate, I don’t mean that every single 88 to leave New Haven was a dog. Some, undoubtedly, may have shot well. I base my statement on my own shooting, and that of others who have had considerable experience with the breed. In this case, it was John Wootters. Wootters’ favorite 88, a .308 he called “Jumper,” would group about 1 1/2 inches, which is plenty good for big-game hunting, but nothing exceptional.

The same with all other rifles. Somewhere, there may be a Mannlicher/Carcano carbine that could win the Wimbledon Cup, but what are the odds?

Comments (21)

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from Charlie wrote 5 years 28 weeks ago

HI I FOUND A HERTERS 22 RELVOLVER LR HANDGUN AT MY GRANDMAS HOUSE ANY IDEA WHAT THIS MIGHT BE WORTH ITS IN GREAT CONDITION THANKSPosted by: DAVE L | July 06, 2008 at 12:06 AMAround $300 if in great shape. I have one with a broken barrel rid and can't find the part.Charlie

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from DAVE L wrote 5 years 40 weeks ago

HI I FOUND A HERTERS 22 RELVOLVER LR HANDGUN AT MY GRANDMAS HOUSE ANY IDEA WHAT THIS MIGHT BE WORTH ITS IN GREAT CONDITION THANKS

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from B Madge wrote 6 years 12 weeks ago

My Dad left me his old 88 in .308. It's in near mint condition, save for 1 ding in the basketweave type stock.My Brother is trying to convince me to get a WSM in a new bolt gun, but I'm going to get a smith to sort out the horrible trigger, and use the crap out of it. I love that old rifle.

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from Rt Bell wrote 6 years 45 weeks ago

Well, I am an owner of the Win M88, in fact have own at least over 40 of them. I have one that is unfired first year with less than 300 serial # Beautiful rifle. The experiance that I have had, shooting these rifles is that the recoil block is not fitted properly and with a little work and releiving the barrel will inprove the accurascy. With a 150 Gr. Speer Boat tail and 43.5 gr. of Imr 4320 should put your 308 3/8 inch of the X at 100 yrds. Squeeze the trigger slowly don't pull. I have killed more deer and elk with an 88 than any other rifle I have used.and can shoot it faster than a semi with more accurascy. A good scope and scope mounts are very important as well, I suggest Loupold, Burris basemount and adj. rings will dial you in. RT Bell.

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from JA Demko wrote 7 years 2 weeks ago

I have some slight experience with the Model 88. My dad has one in .243 that he's been using for the last 40 years or so. Since he's always been bigger on hunting than he has on gun cleaning and such, it has always fallen to me to maintain the piece and develop reloads for it.Firstly, the resident self-actualized son of a bitch was correct about Model 88 triggers. Dad's specimen sports a trigger that is long, creepy, and has a mushy let-off. In its defence, it isn't heavy. I've found it important to keep the trigger mechanism almost completely free of lubricants for best results. Any slight gumming of oils or accumulation of dust makes the already poor trigger even worse.As for accuracy, dad's Model 88 will do quite well with the heavier bullets available for the .243. I developed a load for it back in the 80's that would group 100 grain slugs at just over an inch at 100 yards. With most factory loads, the gunh wouldn't do nearly that well. It has a thin, whippy barrel that heats up quickly too. After two or three quick shots it's best to let it cool or the groups start expanding.With all its faults, the 88 is a nice looking gun and does work quite well for its intended purpose. Dad has taken some insane number of deer with it. He also used it with great success on groundhohgs and other vermin until he discovered the .17HMR.So, Petzal was right in what he said about the Model 88 and its shortcomings; the gun having faults doesn't mean it's worthless, though.

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from Rod wrote 7 years 3 weeks ago

Not only were you ridiculously off base in your condemnation of the winchester 88's accuracy, you clearly haven't shopped for one in recent years, since you claimed that the model doesn't inspire much interest in the used market. Truth is, even the most common calibers now trade for $700-900 in good condition, and scarce calbers like the .284 and .358 will bring several thousand dollars. The 88 cost more than the Model 70 when it was introduced, and it often still brings more in the used gun rack. Stop schmoozing with the booth-babes at the SHOT show, and do some basic research.Your take on the Winchester 94 in the same article was almost as bad. If you only get 800 words, why waste 200 of them on Winchester commemorative model 94s? Sure, we all agree that they're grotesque, so why write about them to the exclusion of several million 94s in interesting sporting models?I've long felt that you are out of touch with the guns real shooters cherish, and this article proved it.

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from .308 MAN wrote 7 years 5 weeks ago

ALL OF YOU HAVE LOST SIGHT IN WHAT MOST SAINE PEOPLE CALL-THE FREEDOM OF YOUR OWN OPPINION. I JUST BOUGHT AN 88, HAVE NOT SHOT IT YET BUT I CAN TELL YOU THIS-- EVEN IF THE S.O.B. DOES NOT SHOOT WORTH A SHIT, I WILL STILL LOVE IT BECAUSE IT IS A PIECE OF AMERICAN HISTORY. PEOPLE LIKE YOU ARE THE DEMISE OF THIS COUNTRY'S ECONOMY. LONG HALE OLD WINCHESTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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from Father Zumbo wrote 7 years 5 weeks ago

The Model 88 is junk.

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from Matt wrote 7 years 5 weeks ago

Well, what did you expect from Staten Island? That little rock's only claim to fame is having a particularly high proportion of Russian mobsters living there and possessing the world's largest above-ground landfill. Woo-dee-friggin-do!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Roger E. Reeves, Sr. wrote 7 years 5 weeks ago

to my thinking and experience on the WSM craze is that the Gun mfgers wanted to sell more guns, and us idiots fell hook, line and sinker for it. I also bought a Wincheser 70 in 300 WSM. What a piece of junk at only 6 l/2 lbs, it would take your shoulder off.Even scoped, loaded no help.I added 2 l/2 lbs to the hollow plastic stock, little help. Found a guy in need of a BEAR gun so sold to him. Bought a Rem 700 CDL Walnut stock in 06 to replace it, now I;m happy and the guy who bought the WSM is looking for a buyer. A great friend of mine, another gun writer, told me to keep my old standard calibers, that the WSM's and the WSSM's was a fad that would pass fast. He was correct. The WSM's and WSSm's can be bought at a bargin now, if you think you must have one. Also, if ran out of ammo, try buying the WSM junk at a local country store about 50 miles from a large city when you out in the Rockies on a dream hunt. After you leave the standard ammo, out there you can forget the other junk stuff.So for my old weak bones, worn out in general,72 yrs old, will stick with my 9 l/2 lb Rem 06 CDL which can put 3 rounds in a silvr dollar at 200 yds all day long. And, for short shots in woods, still hunting ( more perfect still than moving) my un-scoped 30-30 Marlin works just fine, do want to try the new soft tip bullets this fall, glad they came out with a pointed tip for the 30-30, wish was in 100 grs as well as the l60's. If anyone has some oldies for sell, buzz me.

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from Michael wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

Great Dave! Please keep tearing apart these old guns. I hope you also think the Winchester Models 12, 52, 71, pre-war 70's, and those old Savage 99s are real stinkers, too. And having to deal with those old rifles in obscure .35 calibers and shotguns with fixed chokes - just too much trouble. People should buy new rifles in modern super shorts and super light shotguns with interchangeable chokes. Just drop off these old stinkers at a local gun shop near me ... or better, yet - just call me. I'll see what I can scrounge up from my spare change jar.

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from Roger E. Reeves, Sr. wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

If the Winchestes were such great firearms in any caliber, why did they go out of business in the US? All shooters have their prefrence of firearms and ammo and some work better than others. For the past 40 ys I have used Remington firearms and what-ever ammo the firearm likes best. When I purchase a new firearm, in any caliber, I buy 4 to 6 different boxes of Ammo, made by the major companies. When I find the Ammo my gun likes best, then I adjust my 0 to that ammo and continue to use it as long as I own the weapon. The latest Ammo my 700 in 06 likes best is Remington Scricco l80 grs for Elk,Deer. My 700 in 25-06 likes Winchester Ballastic tip ll5 gr. for Antelopes . This past year, in WY for Lopes and MT for deer, l shot from each nailed the game on the spot.With quality Ammo and a good quality Scope, lots of pratice, most any firearm will find its nich. If not, trade the sucker off for one that will.

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from Smith Dewlen wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

Win. 88...Marlin 336...Browning BLR...Win. 94...Savage 99. HUMMM.I'll take the Savage 99. At least the trigger pull can be worked down to a reasonable poundage. The side round counter and the loaded chamber pin were nice touches. Those in several calibers were more than adequately accurate.The Win. 88 is still a good woods rifle, as are the rest. The one piece stock should have improved accuracy. Those I have shot had a heavy trigger pull, which took away from the accuracy potential. The sights on the 88 were rugged, but not really made for pin-point shooting.I polished all the trigger parts with jewlers rouge and a wool buffing pad to obtain a 5.5 pound trigger pull on an 88 several years ago. I added a bit of JB Weld to stop over travel, The creep, I could not improve. Adding a 1X4 Redfield scope and the .243 held under one inch with a Herter's 100 grain bullet. Usually it came in at about 3/4 of an inch.I found it really appreciated the Herter's 105 grain slug and I could count on just about every sand bag shot group making 1/2 inch at 100 yards.Alas, an 88 in .308 with the same improvements did not fair as well. The best grouping was with a slightly reduced loading and 155 grain Sierra Match King Palma and it produced only .8 at its best.

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from Dan Bothwell wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

That Winchester 88 is in a military caliber, .308 win (aka 7.62x51mm). It obviously has no purpose besides killing people and should be banned as an assault weapon, don't you think Mr. Petzal?All the Best,Sarah Brady

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from Dave Petzal wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

To PBHead: It damn well overwhelms me!

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from wfields wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

i guess its all in what you want if you whont a tack driver buy one if you whant a cheap rifle buy a 88 differnt strocks for differnt folks

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from PbHead wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

Often people make strong emotional attachments to their choice of firearm, caliber, breed of dog, or whatever. In our world the market place often determines success. If Winchester sold 20,000 Model 88s a year, they would still be in production.Dave, I found it interesting to learn how many words you get to use compared to previous columnists and editors. The amount of new products, calibers, guns and methods available today might overwhelm your predecessors.

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from Silvestris wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

Who would want an 88 in .284? Somebody, that is for sure, and if you do not hold it in as high esteem as that individual, you will hear about it. Why O’ why would anyone want to be a gun writer. You must have to be left handed (or right brained?) to understand.

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from Visitor wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

I like the Model 88, and the one a friend of mine owns, in .308, shoots in the 2-3in group which isn't a tack driver, but good for killing Mr.Buck in our Michigan woods.Hey Dan Mc...chill out man!

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from Dan Mc wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

I see your ploy Dave. Just trying to impugn ANOTHER gun in hopes that they'll get em all banned. I'm on to you. I'm sure you'll get another 1500 posts calling for your head and your job. Seriously, I have an 88 in .308 that is a pretty decent gun, at least for a Fudd like me

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from Jack Bohm wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

While I don't own a Model 88, It was on my candidates when I was shopping for a rifle. The Few- less than 5 in the last 2 1/2 Years- that I have seen in a local gun shop tend to go quickly-I'll see it once, having just come in, and a week or two later it is sold. The last one I saw was gone within 10 days- a .308 with a Bushnell Elite 4000 Scope- price tag, $500.

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Post a Comment

from Charlie wrote 5 years 28 weeks ago

HI I FOUND A HERTERS 22 RELVOLVER LR HANDGUN AT MY GRANDMAS HOUSE ANY IDEA WHAT THIS MIGHT BE WORTH ITS IN GREAT CONDITION THANKSPosted by: DAVE L | July 06, 2008 at 12:06 AMAround $300 if in great shape. I have one with a broken barrel rid and can't find the part.Charlie

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DAVE L wrote 5 years 40 weeks ago

HI I FOUND A HERTERS 22 RELVOLVER LR HANDGUN AT MY GRANDMAS HOUSE ANY IDEA WHAT THIS MIGHT BE WORTH ITS IN GREAT CONDITION THANKS

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from B Madge wrote 6 years 12 weeks ago

My Dad left me his old 88 in .308. It's in near mint condition, save for 1 ding in the basketweave type stock.My Brother is trying to convince me to get a WSM in a new bolt gun, but I'm going to get a smith to sort out the horrible trigger, and use the crap out of it. I love that old rifle.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Rt Bell wrote 6 years 45 weeks ago

Well, I am an owner of the Win M88, in fact have own at least over 40 of them. I have one that is unfired first year with less than 300 serial # Beautiful rifle. The experiance that I have had, shooting these rifles is that the recoil block is not fitted properly and with a little work and releiving the barrel will inprove the accurascy. With a 150 Gr. Speer Boat tail and 43.5 gr. of Imr 4320 should put your 308 3/8 inch of the X at 100 yrds. Squeeze the trigger slowly don't pull. I have killed more deer and elk with an 88 than any other rifle I have used.and can shoot it faster than a semi with more accurascy. A good scope and scope mounts are very important as well, I suggest Loupold, Burris basemount and adj. rings will dial you in. RT Bell.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JA Demko wrote 7 years 2 weeks ago

I have some slight experience with the Model 88. My dad has one in .243 that he's been using for the last 40 years or so. Since he's always been bigger on hunting than he has on gun cleaning and such, it has always fallen to me to maintain the piece and develop reloads for it.Firstly, the resident self-actualized son of a bitch was correct about Model 88 triggers. Dad's specimen sports a trigger that is long, creepy, and has a mushy let-off. In its defence, it isn't heavy. I've found it important to keep the trigger mechanism almost completely free of lubricants for best results. Any slight gumming of oils or accumulation of dust makes the already poor trigger even worse.As for accuracy, dad's Model 88 will do quite well with the heavier bullets available for the .243. I developed a load for it back in the 80's that would group 100 grain slugs at just over an inch at 100 yards. With most factory loads, the gunh wouldn't do nearly that well. It has a thin, whippy barrel that heats up quickly too. After two or three quick shots it's best to let it cool or the groups start expanding.With all its faults, the 88 is a nice looking gun and does work quite well for its intended purpose. Dad has taken some insane number of deer with it. He also used it with great success on groundhohgs and other vermin until he discovered the .17HMR.So, Petzal was right in what he said about the Model 88 and its shortcomings; the gun having faults doesn't mean it's worthless, though.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Rod wrote 7 years 3 weeks ago

Not only were you ridiculously off base in your condemnation of the winchester 88's accuracy, you clearly haven't shopped for one in recent years, since you claimed that the model doesn't inspire much interest in the used market. Truth is, even the most common calibers now trade for $700-900 in good condition, and scarce calbers like the .284 and .358 will bring several thousand dollars. The 88 cost more than the Model 70 when it was introduced, and it often still brings more in the used gun rack. Stop schmoozing with the booth-babes at the SHOT show, and do some basic research.Your take on the Winchester 94 in the same article was almost as bad. If you only get 800 words, why waste 200 of them on Winchester commemorative model 94s? Sure, we all agree that they're grotesque, so why write about them to the exclusion of several million 94s in interesting sporting models?I've long felt that you are out of touch with the guns real shooters cherish, and this article proved it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from .308 MAN wrote 7 years 5 weeks ago

ALL OF YOU HAVE LOST SIGHT IN WHAT MOST SAINE PEOPLE CALL-THE FREEDOM OF YOUR OWN OPPINION. I JUST BOUGHT AN 88, HAVE NOT SHOT IT YET BUT I CAN TELL YOU THIS-- EVEN IF THE S.O.B. DOES NOT SHOOT WORTH A SHIT, I WILL STILL LOVE IT BECAUSE IT IS A PIECE OF AMERICAN HISTORY. PEOPLE LIKE YOU ARE THE DEMISE OF THIS COUNTRY'S ECONOMY. LONG HALE OLD WINCHESTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Father Zumbo wrote 7 years 5 weeks ago

The Model 88 is junk.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Matt wrote 7 years 5 weeks ago

Well, what did you expect from Staten Island? That little rock's only claim to fame is having a particularly high proportion of Russian mobsters living there and possessing the world's largest above-ground landfill. Woo-dee-friggin-do!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Roger E. Reeves, Sr. wrote 7 years 5 weeks ago

to my thinking and experience on the WSM craze is that the Gun mfgers wanted to sell more guns, and us idiots fell hook, line and sinker for it. I also bought a Wincheser 70 in 300 WSM. What a piece of junk at only 6 l/2 lbs, it would take your shoulder off.Even scoped, loaded no help.I added 2 l/2 lbs to the hollow plastic stock, little help. Found a guy in need of a BEAR gun so sold to him. Bought a Rem 700 CDL Walnut stock in 06 to replace it, now I;m happy and the guy who bought the WSM is looking for a buyer. A great friend of mine, another gun writer, told me to keep my old standard calibers, that the WSM's and the WSSM's was a fad that would pass fast. He was correct. The WSM's and WSSm's can be bought at a bargin now, if you think you must have one. Also, if ran out of ammo, try buying the WSM junk at a local country store about 50 miles from a large city when you out in the Rockies on a dream hunt. After you leave the standard ammo, out there you can forget the other junk stuff.So for my old weak bones, worn out in general,72 yrs old, will stick with my 9 l/2 lb Rem 06 CDL which can put 3 rounds in a silvr dollar at 200 yds all day long. And, for short shots in woods, still hunting ( more perfect still than moving) my un-scoped 30-30 Marlin works just fine, do want to try the new soft tip bullets this fall, glad they came out with a pointed tip for the 30-30, wish was in 100 grs as well as the l60's. If anyone has some oldies for sell, buzz me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michael wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

Great Dave! Please keep tearing apart these old guns. I hope you also think the Winchester Models 12, 52, 71, pre-war 70's, and those old Savage 99s are real stinkers, too. And having to deal with those old rifles in obscure .35 calibers and shotguns with fixed chokes - just too much trouble. People should buy new rifles in modern super shorts and super light shotguns with interchangeable chokes. Just drop off these old stinkers at a local gun shop near me ... or better, yet - just call me. I'll see what I can scrounge up from my spare change jar.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Roger E. Reeves, Sr. wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

If the Winchestes were such great firearms in any caliber, why did they go out of business in the US? All shooters have their prefrence of firearms and ammo and some work better than others. For the past 40 ys I have used Remington firearms and what-ever ammo the firearm likes best. When I purchase a new firearm, in any caliber, I buy 4 to 6 different boxes of Ammo, made by the major companies. When I find the Ammo my gun likes best, then I adjust my 0 to that ammo and continue to use it as long as I own the weapon. The latest Ammo my 700 in 06 likes best is Remington Scricco l80 grs for Elk,Deer. My 700 in 25-06 likes Winchester Ballastic tip ll5 gr. for Antelopes . This past year, in WY for Lopes and MT for deer, l shot from each nailed the game on the spot.With quality Ammo and a good quality Scope, lots of pratice, most any firearm will find its nich. If not, trade the sucker off for one that will.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Smith Dewlen wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

Win. 88...Marlin 336...Browning BLR...Win. 94...Savage 99. HUMMM.I'll take the Savage 99. At least the trigger pull can be worked down to a reasonable poundage. The side round counter and the loaded chamber pin were nice touches. Those in several calibers were more than adequately accurate.The Win. 88 is still a good woods rifle, as are the rest. The one piece stock should have improved accuracy. Those I have shot had a heavy trigger pull, which took away from the accuracy potential. The sights on the 88 were rugged, but not really made for pin-point shooting.I polished all the trigger parts with jewlers rouge and a wool buffing pad to obtain a 5.5 pound trigger pull on an 88 several years ago. I added a bit of JB Weld to stop over travel, The creep, I could not improve. Adding a 1X4 Redfield scope and the .243 held under one inch with a Herter's 100 grain bullet. Usually it came in at about 3/4 of an inch.I found it really appreciated the Herter's 105 grain slug and I could count on just about every sand bag shot group making 1/2 inch at 100 yards.Alas, an 88 in .308 with the same improvements did not fair as well. The best grouping was with a slightly reduced loading and 155 grain Sierra Match King Palma and it produced only .8 at its best.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dan Bothwell wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

That Winchester 88 is in a military caliber, .308 win (aka 7.62x51mm). It obviously has no purpose besides killing people and should be banned as an assault weapon, don't you think Mr. Petzal?All the Best,Sarah Brady

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Petzal wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

To PBHead: It damn well overwhelms me!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wfields wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

i guess its all in what you want if you whont a tack driver buy one if you whant a cheap rifle buy a 88 differnt strocks for differnt folks

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from PbHead wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

Often people make strong emotional attachments to their choice of firearm, caliber, breed of dog, or whatever. In our world the market place often determines success. If Winchester sold 20,000 Model 88s a year, they would still be in production.Dave, I found it interesting to learn how many words you get to use compared to previous columnists and editors. The amount of new products, calibers, guns and methods available today might overwhelm your predecessors.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Silvestris wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

Who would want an 88 in .284? Somebody, that is for sure, and if you do not hold it in as high esteem as that individual, you will hear about it. Why O’ why would anyone want to be a gun writer. You must have to be left handed (or right brained?) to understand.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Visitor wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

I like the Model 88, and the one a friend of mine owns, in .308, shoots in the 2-3in group which isn't a tack driver, but good for killing Mr.Buck in our Michigan woods.Hey Dan Mc...chill out man!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dan Mc wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

I see your ploy Dave. Just trying to impugn ANOTHER gun in hopes that they'll get em all banned. I'm on to you. I'm sure you'll get another 1500 posts calling for your head and your job. Seriously, I have an 88 in .308 that is a pretty decent gun, at least for a Fudd like me

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jack Bohm wrote 7 years 6 weeks ago

While I don't own a Model 88, It was on my candidates when I was shopping for a rifle. The Few- less than 5 in the last 2 1/2 Years- that I have seen in a local gun shop tend to go quickly-I'll see it once, having just come in, and a week or two later it is sold. The last one I saw was gone within 10 days- a .308 with a Bushnell Elite 4000 Scope- price tag, $500.

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