The Winchester Model 24 Shotgun
By Chuck Hawks and the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The Winchester Model 24 side-by-side shotgun went into production in 1939 and stayed in the line until 1958, by which time double gun sales in the U.S. was approaching its nadir. At the time that they introduced the Model 24, Winchester already had the Model 21 pretty well established as an American "best gun"; the Model 24 was intended to compete with the likes of the Stevens 311 and Savage/Fox Model B as an affordable, utility side-by-side. It was reasonably successful in the market place and a total of over 116,200 were manufactured.
Our test gun was made in 1942, shortly before the manufacture of civilian small arms was suspended to concentrate on war production. (Remember that the Second World War didn't begin for the U.S. until December 7, 1941.) Model 24 manufacturing resumed after Japan surrendered in August of 1945 with about 1,300 guns turned out by the end of that year. By 1946 Model 24 production was back in full swing with over 10,000 guns completed.
I have read descriptions of the Model 24 that called it the "poor man's Model 21," but this is definitely not the case. There is no similarity between the two guns in either appearance or design beyond the basic fact that both have two barrels.
The Model 24 is a true hammerless gun, as opposed to having concealed hammers like most double guns, since it is striker fired. It was produced only as a field grade gun with blued receiver and barrels, wide 7/16" raised solid rib, uncheckered black walnut stock with lacquer finish, semi-pistol grip (a straight hand stock could be ordered), double triggers, and spring powered extractors that elevated the shells when the gun was opened. Available gauges were 12, 16, and 20, with 12 gauge being the most common.
Barrel lengths of 26", 28" and 30" were offered in 12 gauge, while 16 and 20 gauge guns could be had with 26" or 28" tubes. The 12 gauge gun reviewed here, owned by Guns and Shooting Online Technical Advisor Gordon Landers, has 30" barrels with 2-3/4" chambers and is bored Mod./Full, which is typical of guns with 28" and 30" barrels. 26" barrels were choked IC/Mod.
The forged steel receiver body of the Model 24 is rounded. But, unlike more sophisticated round action guns, such those from Scotland and the Ruger Gold Label (see our Gold Label review on the Product Review Page) that tend to be exceptionally trim, the Model 24 is very broad across the action body. The barrel breeches of most double guns are considerably wider than (and overhang) the sides of the receiver, but the receiver of the Model 24 is actually slightly wider than, and encloses the lower half of, the barrels. This gives the gun a decidedly unusual appearance.
The Model 24 boasts a clean breech face and is held closed by a single underbolt that engages a notch in the double barrel lumps. That's right, double lumps. Instead of a single lump between the two barrels, the Model 24 was designed with two lumps, one centered beneath each barrel, leaving a tunnel of space between the two lumps. (Imagine a catamaran boat hull.) This is about as far from the British chopper-lump construction ideal as it is possible to get! In the area between the 24's dual lumps is a cocking slide and the extractor. The Model 24 is about as wide through the breech and receiver as a side-by-side gun can be. Its saving grace is that its action is not overly deep.
The semi-beavertail forend is simply held in place by spring tension, and the semi-pistol grip stock is rather amorphous in shape. Early models had a hard butt plate, later this was changed to a ventilated recoil pad. A single trigger, ejectors, engraving and other upscale options were never offered.
A 12 gauge with 30" barrels, our Model 24 weighs about 7-1/2 pounds. It measures 46-1/2" in overall length and has a 14-1/4" length of pull. Approximate drop is 1-1/2" at comb and 2-1/2" at heel.
A Model 24 is likely to attract some attention at your local gun club, as it is a rather odd looking double and only the old timers will be able to identify it. Because it is a fairly heavy gun the recoil, at least with the target loads that we used, is not bad.
On the other hand, shooting a Model 24 makes it apparent that the triggers are pretty close together and have very little curve. They are also creepy and too heavy. Both triggers required about 6 pounds of pull to release. Needless to say, the front trigger is not hinged to spare the knuckle of the trigger finger when the gun recoils after pulling the rear trigger. The heavy-gauge sheet metal trigger guard is as crudely shaped as the triggers. I don't think I'd like to fire this gun with Magnum loads. None of these flaws caused any serious problem when shooting the gun with target or field loads, however.
The sliding, tang mounted, automatic safety is conventional in operation and simple to use. It is conveniently placed for nearly effortless operation. Back is "safe," forward is "fire." Everything worked as it was supposed to on our test gun.
That was one of the real virtues of the Model 24; like the Stevens 311 and Savage/Fox Model B with which it competed, it worked. That gave these hardy American made utility doubles an advantage over inexpensive imported guns that, while often more stylish, were sometimes made of inferior steel and often suffered reliability problems.
We shot the Model 24 at the Cottage Grove - Eugene Sportsman's Club, basically a trap club, along with a Savage/Fox Model B double gun, which made for an interesting comparison of these old rivals. Gordon Landers, Bob Fleck, Jim Fleck, Rocky Hays, and I shot these guns and afterward compared notes over coffee.
The consensus was that the Model B is the better looking gun, although both designs are too wide across the breech. Personally, I thought that the Model B had a more attractively shaped stock, but the Model 24 maybe fit me a little better. Actually, I didn't find a lot of functional difference between the two.
Everyone shot the Model 24 well. It's heavy enough to dampen recoil, swings smoothly, and breaks targets with authority. The only problem that we encountered was with a reloaded shell that was oversize and stuck in the chamber after firing. This was basically not the gun's fault; never the less, the 24's spring operated extractor was not strong enough to remove the hull, when a positive mechanical extractor probably would have. We poked it free with a cleaning rod, so no harm was done.
Gordon summed up the Winchester Model 24's willing performance as being like taking an ugly date out to dinner. She is so grateful for the attention that she will do anything.
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