A pump-action shotgun is one of those firearms that can quickly become an old friend. It has so many uses that memories are easily made. Some of them are plain-Janes—completely serviceable yet not much to look at—while others can be ornately bedecked with fancy scroll engraving and top-shelf walnut.
The Ithaca Model 37 is a gun that falls in the middle of those two descriptions. It was released in 1937, being largely influenced by the John M. Browning-designed Remington Model 17. It features a single slide bar to work the action, the bar found on the left side of the gun, and a cross-bolt safety located at the rear of the trigger guard. A svelte, compact fore-end nestles nicely in your hand, and working the action back and forth is almost effortless.
On the surface, the Ithaca Model 37 seems rather plain, but spending a bit of time with it, one begins to see the beauty of the design. For one, it ejects the shotshells out of the bottom of the receiver, rather than the side, so that the gun can be used by both left- and right-handed shooters. Lacking an ejection port on the side of the firearm also helps to keep things inside clean by preventing most debris from entering the chamber. A tubular magazine located under the barrel is also loaded through the underside of the receiver.
The action release button is located on the right side of the trigger guard, toward the front. It is easily depressed with the trigger finger of right-hand shooters to allow the action to be worked, and only a little trickier for lefties.
The Model 37 is, generally speaking, a lightweight shotgun and it balances nicely. Those that I’ve spent time with fit me well, so the felt recoil was more than manageable.
Many of the Ithaca Model 37s featured some degree of engraving, from simple, single-lined bird hunting scenes to rather spectacular scenarios that cover the entire receiver. It is a shotgun that is entirely useable, yet can be proudly displayed.
The Model 37 was initially offered in 12-, 16- and 20-gauge, though the 16-gauge has since been dropped. It has also now manufactured in the petite 28-gauge, making for a nice choice as a lightweight repeating bird gun for sub-gauge skeet or quail hunting. Ithaca also produces the Model 37 Deer Slayer, which has quite the following among those hunters who are required to pursue their deer with a shotgun and slugs. Newer models feature a fully rifled slug barrel and provide surprisingly good accuracy. Indeed, while I was at my local gun shop recently, I met a young man who proudly showed me his photos of a pair of deer he’d recently taken with his Model 37 Deer Slayer, a 20-gauge affair that he explained would print three slugs into a group of 2½ inches at 100 yards. The 37 still puts meat on the tables of many hunters, almost 80 years after it first saw the light of day.
The Model 37 isn’t just a tool for hunters and clay bird shooters. Several law enforcement agencies, notably the New York Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, have at one time or another embraced the Model 37 as an issue weapon. The U.S. military had, as well, once adopted the Model 37, dubbing it a “trench gun.” More than 1,400 Ithacas were issued during the Second World War alone.
One of the beauties of the Ithaca Model 37 is that there is a grade of shotgun within everyone’s price range. I’ve seen some very clean base models for sale in the local shop for as little as $250, and that’s a lot of shotgun for the money. Given its simplicity in functionality and its inherent reliability, if you’re beginning to explore the shotgun sports, this is one shotgun model well worth your consideration.
|The Model 37 is most popular in its 12-gauge version. They’re also available in 20-gauge and 28-gauge.|