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Gear Review: Ithaca Model 37 Shotgun

Gear Review: Ithaca Model 37 Shotgun

An Ithaca shotgun held by a bird hunter

A reliable, antique shotgun holds generations of memories in the duck blind

In preparation for the upcoming duck season, I spent part of my afternoon cleaning my old Ithaca Model 37 shotgun. I went to work removing the barrel and spraying down the cold steel. I repeated my routine a few times and gently laid the pieces back onto the cleaning mat. For a solid ten minutes I stared at the shotgun in quiet contemplation. Two previous generations of duck hunters owned and used this very shotgun. My grandfather used this shotgun a few years after World War II ended, then passed it along to my father, who shot his first turkey with the Ithaca M37. Now, years later, I am the keeper of future hunts and forthcoming memories of this vintage pump shotgun.

Discovering the Ithaca M37

We humans are visual creatures, drawn to the beauty of our surroundings. The same holds true for our love of our shotguns. They rest side by side in the safe, lined up like soldiers awaiting orders from their drill instructor, destined for glory in the waterfowl marsh and cut corn fields. The Ithaca Model 37 is no exception; it oozes beauty. The walnut stock is rich with tightly laid grain patterns. The pump-style forend is deeply grooved and often affectionately dubbed a “corn cob” by hunters. Adding to the aesthetic charm, detail was given to the receiver with an engraved hunting scene on each side. The left side features three greenheads flying into a pond while the right side has a pointing dog afield with flying quail.

The Ithaca Model 37 Featherlight is chambered in three gauges: 12, 16, 20, and 28 gauge. The 12 gauge, which is the model I carry, comes in at a hearty seven pounds. In comparison, the modern Ithaca Ultra Featherlight 20 gauge weighs a mere 5.75 pounds, which is a noticeable difference.

Modern Ithaca M37 models offer barrel lengths of 24, 26, and 30 inches with a vented rib. In contrast, my 1940s model has a solid rib with a barrel length of 26 inches.

Unique features of the Ithaca Model 37

Perhaps the most unique feature of Ithaca shotguns is the bottom ejection port. The ejection port works double duty for the shotgun. Here the hunter may load either 2-3/4 inch or 3 inch shells. When the shotgun action is cycled, the spent shells will discharge from this same port.

The bottom ejection and loading port helps to maintain a clean barrel by protecting it from the weather and reducing the likelihood of rust. Snow, rain, and ice may be well-known companions in the duck blinds, but this feature helps to maintain a properly functioning firearm for many years to come. Our southpaw friends will appreciate the bottom ejection port on Ithaca shotguns because the spent shells will kick down and out, not across and into the face of a left-handed shooter.

Reliability of the Ithaca M37

Being new to duck hunting, it’s important to me to have reliable tools that function properly with each use. I’m still focusing on how to get ducks, so I need everything else to work as it should. My aging Ithaca fits the model of reliability. The care that was used to produce the Ithaca has withstood the test of time. Slight cracks have emerged in the stock near the receiver; a sign of use, or perhaps a sign of the love and devotion the old “corn-cob shotgun” has received through the years. Regardless, I know that eventually the old walnut stock will need to be replaced. Old memories will be replaced with new, giving the fourth generation of hunters an opportunity to create their own with this old gun.

Cost of the Ithaca M37

We all appreciate free things, and I am eternally grateful to have been gifted my Ithaca shotgun. A diligent shopper will find old Model 37s on the secondhand market in a range of prices from $230 to $500 or more. Gun shops and pawn shops can be great places for treasure hunters and adventure seekers. I would encourage you to start here if you are at all curious about using old pump shotguns for waterfowl hunting. The cautious buyer must carefully consider condition prior to purchase.

On the other hand, new Model 37 Featherlight shotguns range from approximately $900 to $1500. While the prices may be steep, the advantages of a new gun are worth factoring in when you are in the market for a workhorse shotgun. It’s a blank slate for creating memories for years or even generations to come.

Parting Shot

Today’s firearms market contains an array of beautiful antiques and modern-day shotguns, each wonderful in different ways. Niche shotguns such as old Ithacas are begging to be used out in the field and in the duck blind. Don’t hesitate to venture out into the market and see what you can find.

Soon I will slip the Model 37 from its case and feel the sting of cold steel in the palm of my hand in the too-early, pre-dawn hours in the marshy blind. I will once again recall the history ingrained within the old walnut stock, remembering the stories shared from generation to generation. Faded memories give way to new ones. I will then look to my youngest child and smile, for soon a fourth generation will take hold of this old “corn-cob” shotgun and create new memories with each hunt.

View Comments (16)
  • I’m a fan of the 37 also, over the years I’ve been able acquire a few of them. My favorite is 16 gauge choked in IC, it’s my go to 37.

    • David,
      Thanks for taking time to read the article. Sounds like you are building a nice collection of old Ithaca shotguns! Happy Hunting.

  • Thank for highlighting a great gun! I learned to shoot on a Model 37 and still miss it (especially the weight compared to my current gun). I do think that the article needs a little clarification though: Not all Model 37s, (especially not older ones), can take a 3 inch shell . I think it’s maybe in the 60s that they started chambering in three inch, but not quite sure on the date there. In addition, it’s also chambered in 16 gauge.

    • Kristofer,
      I am happy to read that you enjoyed the pleasure of shooting a Model 37. My apologies on not being more clear, in regards to shell length. Thank you again for reading. I hope one day you are able to pick up an old Ithaca for a hunt. Happy Hunting.

  • I have the ’37’s ancestor the Remington 17, 20 gauge which was my grandfathers. Used many years for quail, dove and ducks in CA and AZ.

    • I too have a Remington model 17. Mine was a gift for graduating high school from my grandfather. He had all new wood put on it and it has a Briley’s screw in choke system added so it has a lot of “do it all” features. It is so nice and light that I just can’t imagine swapping it for a 12 gauge. It was my favorite gun for many years….then I was given a family heirloom L.C. Smith side by side…..

  • I can relate with this article. My dad gave me an Ithaca Model 37 12 gauge for my 13th birthday. That was 40 years ago!
    I love the memories I have of hunting with my dad when I was a kid.
    I still have the Model 37 in my safe.

  • I have a model 37 20 gauge and I love the feel. I have a problem with the pump cycling a new shell… jams
    Have you heard this? I heard it is a consistent problem with this gun.
    Would love to fix.

  • My first Shotgun ever! Proud to have two of them in 16’s. One from each of my Grandfather’s. Still use both religiously

  • I have both the deerslayer and 30″ full choke barrels, the week before Christmas. I went to bowie Texas hog hunting. I took my 50cal. Muzzleloader, my 1942 British Enfield and my 12ga. Ithaca. I opted to use the 37 with slugs. One shot one hog dropped it in its tracks. Love this old gun . I has never let me down.

  • Erin

    I bought my Ithaca Model 37 as my first shotgun if I remember correctly in 1964. I still have it, and I will keep it forever. I used it mostly for bird hunting, but it did go deer hunting a few times. We won’t discuss that. (Lol). I told my son it’s his when the time comes.

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