Winchester Model 21 Shotgun History

Of all the American-made shotguns, there are those who are firmly convinced that the Winchester Model 21 is absolutely the best. One of the more famous writers on American guns, Jack O'Connor, spent many years extolling the virtues of the Winchester Model 21 in his monthly Outdoor Life column. O'Connor was most taken with the trigger-a single selective style, the breech face with no rib extensions and the forearm made in a beavertail design. O'Connor wrote stories regarding the Winchester Model 21, and actually owned four of these shotguns himself. John M. Olin actively promoted the design and production of the Winchester Model 21, considering it one of Winchester's finest models due to its strength, reliability and quality. The Model 21 is considered a production gun although each and every gun can be considered custom-made because of the intense attention to detail, the workmanship and the high quality.

Limited Production of the Winchester 21

Between 1931 and 1959, there were 30,000 units of the Winchester 21 Shotgun made. This double-barrel shotgun was highly attractive to buyers, even during the hard years of the Great Depression. Once World War II was over, the Model 21 Shotgun turned into a more custom-made-and quite lavishly decorated-shotgun, resulting in only about 1,000 Model 21's being produced from 1960 to 1993. Winchester subsequently sold the production rights to the Model 21 Winchester Shotgun. Many gunsmiths consider this Winchester shotgun to be the absolute best of the best. As you can see, there were only some 31,000 Model 21's made, therefore they are considered highly collectible today. Many avid gun collectors who are lucky enough to own one of these fine firearms have traced their particular gun's owners back in an attempt to find the original owner. Below is one such story.

Model Number 25684

The owner of model 25684 purchased the gun in 1994 after having a lifelong passion for this particular shotgun. He discovered after much research that his gun's frame was forged in 1949, when it was assembled with ventilated rib barrels-30"-and a beavertail forearm in a trap style. The trap grade Model 21 Winchester shotguns were not common, and it is believed that only 150 of this style were built. The 25684 was special ordered with non-standard sights, as well as the initials of the original owner, Henry Shirtcliff, prominently engraved on the trigger guard. The original specs on the gun, as ordered by Mr. Shirtcliff included a checkered stock pistol grip, trap grade gauge12, selective ejection with a safety that was non-automatic, a standard recoil pad made by Winchester and a pattern of 40 yards-6". The final inspection of the Model 25684 was started in early August, 1950, and completed nearly two months later.

Although Mr. Shirtcliff dabbled in dealing guns, he appeared to have ordered this particular model through Dunham-Carrigan & Hayden, and actually owned several Model 21's during his lifetime. Nearly fifty years later, the frame, forearm, forearm iron and barrel serial numbers match, although the stock, straight grip and trigger guard have the serial number 25081 stamped on them. It is believed that Shirtcliff's son changed out the stock of the 25684 with a straight hand stock. Once the stock was changed, it would have been necessary to also change the trigger guard, explaining why the H.M.S. initials no longer appear on 25684's trigger guard. What is the likelihood that Model 25081 now has Mr. Shirtcliff's initials on its trigger guard? The wood used on Model 25684 is high grade walnut, and this particular gun has an extensive checkering pattern on the butt stock and forearm. The Model 25684 appears to have had six owners throughout the years, although it stayed in the Shirtcliff family for nearly forty years. Other Model 21 Shotguns also have some pretty interesting histories, but needless to say, most gun enthusiasts would be thrilled to own a Winchester Shotgun, Model 21.