Tracking Down the 356 Winchester
Let’s see if we can clear the air and come to an understanding as to just what the heck a 356 Winchester is. It’s a long, winding ride that’ll take us past famous lever actions and bolt actions and long actions and short actions and even glance at the 338 Winchester Magnum. Hang on…
The year is 1952. War is raging in Korea. Truman is in the Whitehouse, but in November Eisenhower wins in a landslide over Adlai Stevenson. The first commercial airline flight crosses over the North Pole takes passengers from Los Angeles to Copenhagen. Wernher von Braun predicts humans will soon travel to the moon. Meanwhile, Earthbound, Winchester takes to market a shortened version of the 30-06 they christened the 308 Winchester. It had emerged from the military’s T65 program aimed at finding a smaller replacement for the 30-06. The ink had barely dried on the 308 ad campaign when, in 1955, Winchester stretched their new 308’s neck to fit a .358” bullet. They called it, easily enough, the 358 Winchester. So far so good.
This new, short-action cartridge wasn’t necessarily created to replace the aging, rimmed 348 Winchester, then still available in the Model 71 lever action rifle (the only rifle ever sold in 348 Winchester,) but ballistically it did. Not surprisingly, the brand new, fully modern, hammerless, Model 88 lever action rifle with vertical-stack magazine was also unveiled in 1955. The very next year it was chambered for the 358 Winchester.
While the 348 Win. shoved a 250-grain bullet 2,350 fps, the 358 Win. could drive the same weight slug 2,400 fps. A lighter recoiling 200-grain from each would hit about 2,500 and 2,700 fps respectively. But this is just the beginning of the ballistic story.
The 358 Winchester/356 Winchester Confusion — Ron Spomer Outdoors is written by Ron Spomer for www.ronspomeroutdoors.com