Thursday, September 19, 2013

Guns I Wish I Had: The .358 Winchester

I was perusing the Upland Journal classifieds recently and ran across this ad for this sweet and rare Ruger M77 in .358 Winchester...

Selling a great little rifle I no longer use. It's a Ruger model 77RLS carbine. Red pad, tang safety model. Topped with a Leupold VXlll 1.75-6 heavy duplex scope. Also comes with the box, (no manual) RCBS dies, 200 rounds of brass, and 2 boxes of factory ammo. Dies and brass are new, I never reloaded for this rifle. The rifle has a few hunting dings which I can photograph and email on request. Nothing major. Just a nice, accurate, all around good woods gun. I carried it for 20 years. Just not anymore. Can meet anyone in Central/Southern Maine to look it over, or ship from/to FFL for others. Asking $1250


I think if I had some disposable income, that gun would be on its way to me right now...

The .358 Winchester is one of those calibers that has been around for a long time, but for whatever reason has never caught on with the American shooting public and is now essentially dead, at least popularly, but remains somewhat in favor with reloaders and iconoclastic gun cranks.

There are precious few factory loads for it these days, and with the exception of the Browning BLR (any others?), I'm not sure there are any gunmakers offering rifles chambered for it, which is a shame. I've always been intrigued by the .35s, and of the lot the .358, which is basically just a necked-up .308 case, seems just about perfect. It has a good range of bullet choices and weights for the reloader, entirely adequate but somewhat modest velocities, a big bore, (relatively) modest recoil, it performs well in shorter barrels, has adequate range (if you're a hunter and not one of those play-acting wannabe tactical sniper dipshits), a tendency toward accuracy, and a reputation for terminal performance way out of proportion to its numbers.

In fact, it sounds much like a big-bore version of my beloved 6.5x55s. I'd love to find a nice vintage Savage 99 or Winchester 88 in 358, but the lever guns are pretty rare (other than that ass-ugly BLR, which I've never shot, but have been told is a damn fine and accurate gun). If I ever get the chance to go on an elk hunt, or if I ever finally make it to Montana, I think I'll either buy one (used, obviously) or have one built on a nice commercial Mauser action. 

Put on a 3x straight-tube scope from the Leupold custom shop (Yes, Leupold does offer a modern version of the legendary, long-discontinued M8 3x through its custom shop. I have one on a vintage .30-06 FN Mauser, and it's awesome) or maybe find a used specimen of the sadly-discontinued fixed 4x Zeiss Conquest, and I think that would make a damn fine gun for an unfashionable rube like myself.  

11 comments:

  1. A cult gun. Had I any ready money I would buy it and lend it to you, since I am rather over- carbined-- you know I love little powerful carbines!

    BLR's are just too rectangular. Hold one up beside a Winchester or even a Marlin-- naah...

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  2. "play-acting, wannabe, tactical sniper dipshits."

    Great description! I'm still laughing.

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  3. Ya'll talking so much smack about BLRs... but I sure love mine! Not a .358, though. Just a measly little, deer killing, .243.

    Call it ugly if you like, but when it comes to butt ugly, I'll point you to the Marlin 336 and the Savage M99 all day long. Good, functional leverguns... but FUGLY.

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    1. Phillip, I have no room at all to talk smack about ugly guns. I hunt ducks with a spray-painted (poorly) Browning A-5. It looks horrible, truly horrible. And despite my BLR aesthetic bias, I've been told by numerous people that they shoot lights out. And that makes up for a helluva lot of ugly.

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  4. Now, now...nothing ugly about a Savage 99, and mine in .250-3000 shoots right where you point it.

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    1. I'd love to have a 99, but truth be told, that thing's aesthetics had to have been the product of a blind man with fat fingers and an ugly mother.

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    2. Eye of the beholder I guess. The BLR's always reminded me of something a shade tree smith slapped together from spare parts.

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  5. Late responding to your blog post, forgive me, but I simply had to reply to all the BLR dissing I'm reading here. I love lever guns. Their svelte, trim lines, light weights, fast handling traits, their designers, their history intertwined with America's. There is no rifle design that "fits" our culture like the lever gun. I own about a dozen different specimens, Marlin 39's, '94's, '95's, Savage '99's, Win 94's, 64's, '92's, '95's and '86's, and yes, I own a (gasp) BLR. Apart from my Savage 99 in 308 Win, there is not a rifle scope to be found on any of my lever guns, except my BLR.
    I own half a dozen semi custom bolt guns that I use for long range mule deer, long range elk, etc. but I make it a point, as often as I practically can to go after game with a lever gun. As to my BLR? Caliber 358 Win, straight stocked, 1982 steel receiver. Topped with a Leupold VXIII 1.75-6 and with four shells in the mag it weighs right at 7 lbs and is as quick and natural to bring to shoulder as any lever gun I own. Beauty is obviously in the eye of the beholder but the BLR is pure Browning in the quality of its fit, finish and workmanship.
    The best part of my 358 Win BLR is that it rocks 225 grain, 35 caliber, 400 b.c. spitzer bullets at 2500 fps. Zeroed at 240 yards, it has a PBR of 280 yards, is down 7" at 300 and 16" at 350, where it hits with nearly a ton of residual energy. The 358 Win is no medium range rifle in a configuration that allows spitzer bullets, and in the hands of a rifleman capable of understanding his trajectories. My BLR is the slickest elk rifle I have ever owned, and I have some experience in chasing elk..
    One may not like the BLR's "lines", that's ok, I think most folks have pretty questionable taste in matters of importance, but I for one am very glad that Browning has seen fit to keep us 35 caliber whack jobs happy.
    As a side note, I owned a Ruger synthetic stock Hawkeye in 358 Win for a while, and was able to compare it side by side with my BLR. Ruger makes good guns, but as far as recoil management goes, it was brutal compared to the felt recoil with the BLR. You might want to put that away in a dark corner for future reference. BLR and 358 Win, deadly elk combo!

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  6. I paid $325 out the door for my Ruger 77RL in .250...in 1983. I've had 3 77R's since, two kept for my two son's, a third traded off because I came down with a case of the 'hot running wants' for another rifle, a 77 Mark II in .350 Rem Mag in fact.
    My personal 250 Savage Improved is a 77 Mark II blue/walnut with a Shilen barrel that shoots better than I can or know how to.
    Here is my confession: I found a Winchester FWT in 358 Win in a local 'high end' gun shop. Priced at $1,250. Told store owner I thought it was under priced so he said 'take it, fill out the paperwork'. So I did and bought it for the price on the tag. Sold it a bit later for.....$1,550.....and thought I had done good. Just looked at one listed in Cabela's Library.....$4,900. I think I screwed up by selling it anyway, and surely left a LOT of $$ on the table. D'oh!
    Love .250's and .358 Wins. Oh, found and enjoyed immensely a Ruger 77R in .358 Win, for 12 years. So neat to simply run a .308 case into a FL die with tapered expander rod and out pops a .358 case : )

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    1. PS- I'm looking for a Ruger Hawkeye .358 Win now....really miss my old 77R but a new Mark II or Hawkeye should scratch the itch.

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  7. The 358 Winchester is a really solid caliber. Perfect for deer, hogs, and other medium size game. It also is effective on larger game like elk, black bear, and moose at short to moderate ranges. Factory ammo can be in short supply, but the reloader is blessed the common 308 case can be used to make rounds.

    As far as rifles go, I do like the Browning BLR in 358 Winchester. It is a light and quick handling rifle that is surprisingly accurate. I have taken many deer with this excellent rifle. I have always been a fan of the bolt action. I own Ruger 77s in 7mms Rem Magnum, 350 Rem Magnum, and 338 Federal. They all are good shooters and serve their purpose. However, my favorite rifle with no exception, is my Ruger 77RS in 358 Winchester. It has everything I love about a rifle. Great looks, excellent all around caliber, bolt action, accuracy, and quick handling carbine length barrel.

    The only bad thing about the Ruger 77 RS 358 Winchester was the cost. I paid $1200 for it (It was unfired, in original box, and had all paperwork). Although it felt like a lot, I kept telling myself it was worth every penny. With only one year of production (1989) and only a limited run (758 total rifles), it is a rare gun. I was tempted not to shoot it, but couldn't help myself. Took it to the range and put it through its paces. It performed as I hoped it would and soon found itself out in the deer woods. I was fortunate enough to take a decent buck and the caliber and rifle did it's job.

    I own and have owned many rifles. Some come and go, and some I will never part with. My Ruger 77RS will be one that never gets away.

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