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Model 21 Skeet Grade #6,858
16-Gauge 26-Inch Barrels, Bored WS-1 & WS-2
Could it be a Lunch Box Gun?


Watertable of #6,858

Winchester's Rule of Proof

The more I study the Model 21, the more I learn that no Winchester 'rule', above right, is without exception. Winchester promoted the "WP" proof mark, in use during the entire Model 21 production period, as their symbol of quality and dependability. Winchester went to great length to explain their proofing process to their sales force for the Model 21 in the 1931 Sales Manual.   In it they state that no Winchester leaves the factory until it passes proof and is stamped with the 'WP' mark of quality.

Then I found #6,858, a 16 gauge Skeet gun with 26" barrels bored WS1 and WS2.  Before I acquired it six years ago, this little bird gun spent the previous 25 years in two private collections.  Prior to them the trail turns cold.

I contacted a former Custom Shop manager and he told me Winchester employees were allowed to build guns on their own time for their own use.  Management would turn a blind eye to such private production, realizing that most employee's could not afford the guns they built.  He told me production  records of such guns were kept in a seperate book, apart from the retail records.  I also discussed this record keeping with two employees of the Cody Firearms Museum.  They confirmed the existence of a second set of records, kept by the Custom Shop, and that #6,858 is not to be found in either.

Model 21 #6,858 has a number of features that I believe are evidence that it may be a lunch box gun.

  • First the configuration of the gun itself, a 16 gauge Skeet Gun is one of the rarest styles of cataloged configurations.  Certainly, production management would encourage employees to build guns from parts of slow moving inventory.

  • Andy Wojotivch believes the lacquer stock finish is original and has 'extra' coats.  Notice the well worn checkering but no thin or bare spots in the finish.  The maker certainly put more time into building the stock.

  • The small repairs to the forearm and the toe of the butt-stock suggest the well figured wood may be 'seconds' or even scrap.

  • The original serial number on the barrels is obliterated and over stamped in the customary manner.  Former factory employees say that, though unsightly, Winchester always obliterated the original barrel serial number to prevent the existence of barrels with two or more serial numbers.

  • Foremost is the complete lack of "WP" proof marks on either the barrels or receiver.  The barrels having only provisional proof marks of the early production period and the fact that only the proof house possessed either the WP or the VP proof stamp, support my contention that #6,858 left the factory without going to the Proof House.

One or two of the features of #6,858 are insufficient to support my contention, but in total I think they are strong evidence.  I wonder if there are others.

Cody letter - No Manufacturing Record


click the image for a larger view

Nicely Figured Butt and Forend - click for a larger view

Repairs to the Toe, Forearm - Inside and Out

No Proof Marks and Serial Number Changed

WS-1 Markings (bottom)

WS-2 Markings (top)

2010 M.C. Manges