Inland Manufacturing 12-Gauge M37 Trench Shotgun: A Historic Reproduction Ready for Duty

Tactical pump shotguns are still quite popular, despite law enforcement’s shift away from the shotgun to the AR-15. But, like AR-15s, there are so many of these matte black metal shotguns with synthetic black stocks out there that they all sort of run together. Every once in a while, though, a combat/tactical shotgun emerges that stands out from the rest. One such shotgun is Inland Manufacturing’s 12-gauge M37 Trench Shotgun.

Manufactured by the Ithaca Gun Company in partnership with Inland Manufacturing, the M37 is an exacting reproduction of the famed M37 Ithaca Trench Shotgun that saw fairly extensive use during the Vietnam War. Today’s modern reincarnation of this classic combat weapon is not only a great shotgun from a historic standpoint, but is also a great shotgun from a practical standpoint.

Thanks to CNC machining techniques, Ithaca has been able to recreate their famed Model 37 pump shotgun in a variety of iterations, including the 18-inch barreled Defense Gun—in my book the finest combat pump shotgun available today. The Defense Gun, in its standard format, features a Parkerized 18-inch Cylinder Bore barrel with a brass bead front sight, Parkerized steel receiver, 4 + 1 magazine capacity, and a nicely figured oiled walnut butt stock and fore end. Like all Model 37s, feeding and ejection is via the single port at the bottom of the receiver; there is no side port. Having no additional side ejection port cuts entry of dirt and debris into the action by 50%—a decided advantage over competing designs when used in tough conditions. It is the starting point for the Inland M37 Trench Shotgun.

In order to turn the Model 37 into the M37 Trench Shotgun, three modifications are needed: first, a 20-inch Cylinder Bore (3-inch magnum-capable) barrel with a bead sight is substituted for the 18-inch version to recreate the original military barrel length. (Don’t worry, the 20-inch length is easy to handle—it worked in Vietnam’s jungles.) The second modification is a 15-inch-long barrel heat shield/bayonet mount, made by Inland, which is added at the Ithaca factory. The bayonet mount for the long M1917 Bayonet (available in reproduction versions) is quite substantial, and includes a very hefty front sling mount. A rear sling swivel is mounted on the buttstock. Even without a bayonet, the addition of the mount and heat shield imparts a more formidable look to the entire package. The third modification is the use of a thin polymer military-style horizontally grooved buttplate, which replaces the Defense Gun’s rubber recoil pad. These exacting modifications keep the Inland M37 a reproduction rather than a retro-style firearm.

The sample I received was unbelievably cool. The photos on the Inland website don’t do it justice. The extra two inches of barrel and the weight of the heat shield and bayonet mount impart more weight up front, which helps keep the muzzle locked on target for rapid-fire shooting. The select oil-finished walnut stocks were deeply figured, in a way you rarely see on even more expensive guns today. Ithaca obtains their stocks from Amish sources in Ohio and seasons the wood at their factory, which makes their company a great combination of old school craftsmanship and modern CNC manufacturing techniques. Inland Manufacturing has a great line of reproduction M1 Carbines, and the M37 Trench Shotgun is a great addition to their line. Both companies have combined their resources to make a great looking shotgun…but how did it shoot?

My friend Mike Skeen, a retired probation officer and military firearms collector, ran the M37 Trench Shotgun through some basic testing, and we were very well pleased. The Inland M37 cycled flawlessly and smoothly with three different types of shotgun ammo and shot directly to the point of aim. We used Remington (www.remington.com) 2¾-inch 8-pellet Managed Recoil 00 Buckshot loads, Managed Recoil Rifled Slugs, and some Federal 2¾-inch Target Loads (www.federalpremium.com). The 8-pellet Managed Recoil buckshot loads maintained their reputation as tight patterning, keeping all 8 pellets in a fist-sized group at 30 feet. Both it and the Managed Recoil rifled slug produced only marginally heavier felt recoil than the Federal Target loads. For indoor defense or at close range outdoors, the Federal Target loads, with their lightweight shot, are the way to go since over-penetration is reduced.

The price of a finely crafted historic recreation is not cheap. MSRP of the Inland M37 Trench Shotgun is $1259. But if you want a piece of Vietnam Era history that still has practical use and stands out from the crowd, the M37 is the way to go. I talked with Ithaca President Joe Orians at the Ithaca Gun factory where I observed the production of the M37 Trench Shotgun. He told me about a Vietnam combat veteran who stopped by his booth at this year’s NRA convention. This man was with his daughter and was telling her he wanted to buy a higher-end Ithaca shotgun, as it was like the one he carried in Vietnam. He was unaware of the new Trench Gun. Joe pulled out a prototype sample from its case and asked, “Was it like this one?” The veteran’s eyes opened wide, nearly tearing up. In an immediate change of mind he said, “That’s the one I carried. THAT is the one I want!” That’s pretty convincing testimony as to the quality of this reproduction. I am sure that by now he has one.

Sources:
www.inland-mfg.com
www.ithacagun.com