The Model 58 Winchester

Inexpensive simplicity
19

With a 3-lb. weight, 18” barrel and a 33" OAL, the little gumwood-stocked Model 58
was originally priced at five-and-a-half Depression Era dollars.

Generally, when shooters of a certain age regurgitate the old line, “They don’t make ’em like they used to,” they’re talking Golden Age Smith and Colt double-action revolvers or a pre-64 Winchester anything. I’m as guilty as the next guy in this regard, particularly for Colts and Winchesters — they will always be iconic brand names as far as I’m concerned.

But the only Winchester I grew up with as a kid was my Dad’s Model 58 .22 single shot. Still got it, still shoot it. And as cheap (okay, bad word, let’s go with “inexpensive”) as it was — even by Depression Era standards — it was a whole lot of rifle for not much dough. The patent date was August 29, 1898, and the designer was no less than John M. Browning. It was basically an “inexpensive-ized” version of Browning’s Model 1902, slightly re-jiggered in terms of production costs to fit in with the economic realities of the time. The actual production run of the M58 was 1928 to 1931 and they made just under 39,000 of the things. Winchester didn’t exactly dress them up — gumwood stock, no buttplate, no serial number and a tiny straight bol

One of the Model 58’s single-shot successors was the Model 67 (bottom) a beefier,
walnut-stocked item — in standard trim — featuring a 27" barrel.

Rimfire Memories

My first experience with the rifle was watching my Dad use it on a marauding skunk who’d busted into our pigeon coop in the mid-1950s. I was an awestruck 5-year-old at the time and the M58 seemed to me to be the Hammer of God. It decisively ended the skunk’s egg-sucking career although the entire backyard was eye-wateringly and uninhabitably fragrant for the next couple days. Dad generally used Shorts for this sort of thing, figuring low volume was preferable to whatever power boost he’d have gotten with a Long Rifle.

Dad had gotten the rifle in a swap with a childhood buddy sometime before the war. The original MSRP was $5.50. This figure may sound laughably low until you stop to consider the dollar’s actual buying power in the early ’30s (greenbacks were tough to come by back then). Five and a half bucks in 1930 dollars would roughly be the equivalent of around $84 today. Still, it’s a pretty good deal for a name-brand .22 with no alloys or plastics and sporting a barrel put together by real old-school pros. Once you factor in the collector aspect, it’s not too tough to understand why an M58 in excellent condition might bring upwards of $800 (or more) today.

I think it’s a stone classic — a gold-plated example of “bang for your buck,” All-American cool. So why do I like it so much? Well, it’s tough to be objective about the first .22 you ever shot. The fixed sights are tiny but the trigger is remarkable even now — a very crisp “just under” 3 lbs. In a remarkable show of synchronicity, the darn thing has a minuscule curb weight “just over” 3 lbs., about 9 oz. more than your basic GI 1911!

A dead-center hold in the center of the orange oval produced this 5-shot,
30-yard group with Winchester Power Point .22 LR ammo.

Accuracy

We’re talking a chubby 18″ straight-taper barrel (0.593 at the muzzle) and an overall length of 33″. Oddly enough, the rudimentary sights did simplify my search for the “right” load which every .22 has waiting somewhere. The critical thing with fixed sights is this — how tight the rifle groups with a given load is less important (within reason) than the closeness of the relationship between Point of Aim and Point of Impact. When I shot the rifle years ago, I found the sweetest compromise — in this case, 40-gr. Winchester Super-X Power Points — I pretty much stuck with it, although I did find a few “close enough for government work” alternatives.

Round Round-Up

With the exception of Winchester Super-X 29-gr. HV Shorts, everything I ran through the rifle recently was in the Long Rifle category. Unless I was to inherit a pallet of .22 Long ammo, I couldn’t see any earthly reason to justify using them. In terms of power and accuracy, they really don’t measure up to the Long Rifle and are pretty much an obsolescent 19th-Century holdover. True, the excellent Aguila Super Sniper 60-gr. subsonic employs a Long case but only to give the heavyweight concoction a manageable OAL.

A dead-center hold in the center of the orange oval produced this 5-shot, 30-yard
group (above) with Winchester Power Point .22 LR ammo. The bent bolt of the Model 67
(top) featured a “man-sized” bolt knob and dwarfs the Model 58 (bottom). Both have
a manual cocking feature.

Back Home On The Range

When shooting for groups at 30 yards, whatever challenges there are to accuracy are due solely to the M58’s barrel-mounted V-notch rear sight. Getting things aligned with the brass blade front and the target itself was easy when I was a teenager. Keeping everything in reasonable focus is something of a chore now. Winchester LR Power Points still grouped the tightest, but “tight” for me now isn’t what tight once was. The Winchester Shorts, incidentally, impacted a touch lower (see target photos).

Other loads I tried included Remington 40-gr. Subsonic and Aguila’s 60-gr. Super Sniper subsonic and very snappy (1,700 fps) 30-gr. Super Maximum. All would have been small-game getters at the distances I’d still have any business shooting at rabbits and squirrels at with those sights — which I’d estimate at 40 yards and under.

Since I’ve had decades of being spoiled by scoped or receiver-sighted .22s, I was a bit chagrined at the results. I then remembered all the critters my Dad had taken were all closer than 30 feet. In his eyes, the little rifle was a tool for eliminating pests, not a dedicated hunting arm. And speaking of eyes, when mine were good enough to actually hunt with the M58, I can’t recall having taken anything cottontail-sized or smaller at much over 30 yards anyway.

Making It Run

The “manual of arms” here is about as simple as it gets. Turn the bolt up, pull it back, thumb a round in the chamber, close the bolt, pull back the cocking knob and let fly. Rinse, repeat. The little rifle is even easier to take down and clean.

Back off the captured takedown screw on the forend and remove the barrel/action. Then pull out the little bolt and you can clean from the rear. I like to use a solvent soaked .22-caliber Bore Snake because I’d rather not submit the pristine 90-year-old bore to the tender mercies of a cleaning rod from either end.

I don’t shoot the little rifle as much as I should I suppose. But I’m keeping it clean and oiled for the appearance of any sharp-eyed grandkids in the future.

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