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Not unusual at all. Not as noisy as an M-22, but some do make some noise. I had an M-20 (Close ratio) that had a really odd noise in 1st. Never caused any problems but did have a very pronounced whine in 1st. Change the oil and look for any trash. If it comes out clean don't worry.
 

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I don't remember much whine outta my old Muncie...2.5x first gear, m21,22,20?? whatever...

anyway, I changed out the oil for straight 30W synthetic engine oil....everyone said not to, but when finding out later trannies used ATF, I figgered :WTF give it a shot.....made that thing shift so slick it was amazing, ran smoother, cooler, HUGE improvement to the car overall...

in there for 2 years daily driven, tranny fine when sold, going automatic o/drive ten years ago...
 

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M21 noise

I have c/r M21 in my '68 427. I does whine a little in first, but to be perfectly honest I struggle to let it bother me too much what with all the other noises such as rattles, squeaks, exhaust noise and my 18" Toyo's crashing over bumps and road imperfections!
 
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