Blast From the Past: Winchester Model 88

A reader shares his family’s classic lever action that still sees action during deer season

model 88 winchester
The moose on the sling on this Winchester Model 88 is a tribute to the owner’s dad, who shot a bull with the rifle in 1997.From Wyatt

Winchester, the company most closely associated with lever action rifles, introduced a new, thoroughly modern lever gun in 1955. The Model 88 had a once-piece stock like a bolt-action rifle and, in fact, a three-lug bolt inside its receiver. The box magazine-fed action was strong enough to chamber the .308—the initial offering in the 88—and other .308-length cartridges, such as the .243, .284, and .358 Winchester. The trigger group traveled with the short-throw lever to prevent finger-pinching, and ejected shells flew out an angle to facilitate scope use.

The Model 88 was made until 1973. You can tell the more desirable pre-1964 guns from the later models by the checkering pattern. Pre-1964 guns have conventional, cut-checkering panels while the later guns have pressed basket-weave and acorn checkering. The rifle was made in both a 22-inch barreled standard version or a 19-inch barreled carbine model.

Although the Model 88 is no longer made, some of its features live on in Browning’s BLR, another lever gun chambered for high intensity cartridges, with a box magazine and a trigger-group that travels with the lever.

Wyatt's Model 88

This is my old Winchester Model 88 in .308. This rifle was made in 1956. My grandfather had a Model 88 carbine, and I always wanted one. This one belonged to my father. I made a deal with him as a young guy that if I bought a plow for the ATV, he would give me the rifle.

Dad killed his New Hampshire moose back in 1997 with this rifle, and I shot my first deer with it. Hopefully my 2-year-old son will do the same. I refinished the stock years ago and, being young, I didn't care to re-checker it, so it remains plain. I found an old 2-7 Redfield to put on it and complete the process of bringing dad’s rifle back to its glory days (I hate new scopes on old rifles). The sling sports a bull moose in memory of dad's dream hunt from long ago. It might not be fancy—the trigger pull is godawful—but it's my go-to for the final days of deer season.

Thanks, Wyatt, for sending the picture. The rest of you, keep sending your old-gun pictures to fsgunnuts@gmail.com.