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Ithaca's Model 37 slide-action shotgun.

Among the American slide-action shotguns, there are only a few that deserve to be called classic. Perhaps the first to come to mind is the Winchester Model 12. Following right on its heels is another Winchester model, the justly famous 97. Many would argue that the Model 97 should be ranked before the Model 12, and, in many respects, who can dispute that? But after those two what other pump shotgun can be considered a classic...Remington's Model 870? Those of you who have read my articles about the 870 already know my feelings toward this particular shotgun. I believe that in a few short years it will carve its place as America's premier pumpgun; at this time, though, it is too new, comparatively speaking, to be ranked with the two Winchesters.

There is another shotgun, however, that deserves this lofty recognition, and has for quite some time. This gun? The Ithaca Model 37.

The Model 37 came into being, under the Ithaca name, in 1937--hence the model designation. Before that, however, Remington sold a slide-action gun called the Model 17 that was the forerunner of the Model 37 Ithaca. This particular Remington was originally designed by none other than John M. Browning, who granted the manufacturing rights to the Remington Arms Company. In 1933 they discontinued production of the Model 17, and when the patents ran out, Ithaca started producing the Model 37 with very few changes from the Remington. The Model 37 has been in continuous production from 1937, and it has served as the backbone of the Ithaca Gun Company since that time.

Through the years, the Model 37 has been offered in a variety of guises: trap and skeet versions, standard grades, a deluxe model with a ventilated rib, two different versions of the Deerslayer model (Deerslayer and Delux Deerslayer), a Supreme grade, Featherlight models, etc. Also, the Model 37 has been (and still is) available in both 12 and 20 gauge. All in all, it seems that the Model 37 had, and has, something to offer for anyone interested in a pump gun, including the Model 37 $3,000 Grade, a highly-engraved, gold inlaid version that features all hand-finished parts and select walnut on both the butt-stock and fore-end. This particular version was first made in 1937, and it was dropped from the line in 1967. If you can find one, keep your hands on it, because in excellent condition it's worth in the comfortable neighborhood of 5,000 big ones...not too shabby for a pump-action shotgun.

The Model 37 that Ithaca sells today is remarkably unchanged from the first versions produced in 1937. Of course, some manufacturing steps have been simplified, and there are stamped parts in place of some hand-fitted ones, but that's to be expected because the Model 37 has spanned the period of hand-fitted firearms to today's mass produced arms. Little has been lost, however, in the case of the Model 37. Like most pump guns, it takes a few hundred rounds to loosen up the action, and by the time 2,000 or 3,000 rounds have been run through it, is smoother still. Now I grant you, most hunters will take many years to fire 3,000 rounds, but for a trap-shooter that could be as short a period as four months of shooting, even less in some instances.

Down through the years, the one overriding feature of the Model 37 has been its inherent reliability. It is not uncommon to find a shooter who has kept records of how many rounds have gone through the gun and logged a total upwards of 100,000 rounds. It's this reliability that has caused so many police departments to opt for the Model 37 as their duty shotgun.

One major feature that appeals to left handers is that the Model 37 both loads and ejects through the underside of the receiver. Consequently, they can shoot it without an empty hull being ejected through their field of vision. It also only takes a few minutes to convert the through-bolt safety, located at the rear of the triggerguard, to left-hand operation.

An interesting area in the action that differs from almost all other pump guns is the Model 37's shell lifter, the part that carries the loaded shell from the magazine tube to the chamber. Most pump guns, and most semi-autos for that matter, have a solid piece of metal that lifts the loaded round. The 37, however, uses a two-piece lifter that cradles the round between two "fingers." After the shell has been lifted, and the breechbolt starts to chamber it, the fingers continue their upward travel to settle into two machined depressions located in the top of the receiver. Although the Ithaca fingers might look a bit frail, they have proven to be completely reliable.

Today's Model 37, as mentioned, is little different from the ones produced almost 50 years ago. There are some external changes of course; instead of being hand-checkered the modern gun has machine-impressed checkering in the pistol grip area. The standard model also comes without either a recoil pad or a rubber buttplate (in my opinion, something every shotgun should have). The engraving on the side of the receiver is roll stamped; but, other than these few differences, the gun is much the same as it has always been--with some notable improvements.

Last year it was offered with interchangeable choke tubes for the first time. An Old English version (a straight stock instead of a pistol grip) is offered, and of course the Featherlight model is still around. So is the 20-gauge Ultra Lightweight, a gun I had the opportunity to do some upland field hunting with a few years ago. What a delight to carry a 20 gauge that weighed just over 5 pounds. Toward the end of the day, that specific feature is greatly appreciated.

So although the Model 37 deserves its claim as a classic American shotgun, it isn't through writing its own history yet. Who knows, in another 50 years the Model 37 just might become the "all-time" American classic shotgun.

For more information, contact the Ithaca Gun Company, Gunshop Hill, Dept. GA, Ithaca, NY 14850.
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Hetzler, Dave
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Oct 1, 1985
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