Gun Review: Ithaca Model 3712-Gauge Pump-Action

The pump shotgun is far from dead, and possesses many advantages over the semi-auto shotgun or the double barrel shotgun (Vice President Biden’s vast firearms and tactical expertise aside) for defense of home, RV or property.

While there are good defense shotguns made by companies like Remington ®, Mossberg® and Wilson Combat®, the Ithaca Model 37 12 gauge Defense Gun is the one pump-gun that has turned out to be a real standout for me.

Alive and well in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, the new Ithaca Gun Company not only makes the venerable Model 37 pump shotgun in a wide variety of models and grades, but has also taken to producing an excellent 1911 with all the bells and whistles most folks could want.  The best part of Ithaca is the fact that all their products are made right here in the Ithaca plant.

What killed the original Ithaca gun company was the expense of machining and manufacturing, using early 20th Century methodology in combination with late 20th Century labor rates.  The new Ithaca solved that by investing in CNC machinery, combined with traditional care in terms of quality and production.  I toured their plant two years ago and was very impressed.  In the midst of the new CNC manufacturing process was a traditional hot bluing shed out back, and a drying kiln for their beautiful black walnut stocks obtained from the local Amish community.

But what makes the Model 37 itself great home defense choice?  For one thing, with AR15’s and other semi-auto rifles in short supply and subject to being banned in certain locales, pump shot guns like the five shot (4+1) Model 37 with Walnut stock and rust resistant matte finish, are currently off the radar in terms of the government and the many regular citizens seeking long guns for home defense.  Shotgun ammo is currently more readily available than 5.56mm ammo since it doesn’t appear that Homeland Security is currently interested in buying billions of rounds of shotgun ammo, so the new shotgun owner may be able to actually locate some.  The Ithaca digests any 2 ¾ inch or 3 inch loads (shot or slug).

My Model 37 is the basic model 12 gauge (20 gauge is available) with a 3 inch chamber sporting beautiful oil finished Black Walnut stocks, a fixed cylinder bore choke, and sling swivel mounts that are currently affixed with an OD green military canvas carry sling.  Although the receiver is machined from a solid block of steel, the Defense gun weighs in at an easy swinging seven pounds.  Many modern tactical shotguns have turned into gear-overburdened behemoths. Don’t get me wrong, mounting a light or laser sight on a defensive shotgun (and that can be done on the Ithaca) can be a plus, but it is not essential, especially for home or property defense situations.

The Model 37 is unique among pump guns (with the exception of a Turkish made copy) in that there is no side ejection port.  Ejection, loading and feeding take place through the port on the bottom of the receiver, thus ejection is straight down.  It also means only one entry point for dirt and gunk.

The Model 37, even in its least expensive Defense Gun guise, cycles as smoothly as a precision sewing machine.  It snaps to the shoulder and is very quick on target, something that cannot be said of its more portly modern relatives.  When I let some of my fellow deputies test mine a couple of years ago, they asked, “why can’t we have these?”  Unfortunately, shotgun choice was beyond my control. The safety is a pushbutton cross-bolt at the rear of the trigger guard which cannot be activated unless the gun is cocked.

If you don’t like the traditional walnut stocks, fixed or side folding black synthetic versions are available, as well as a 20.5 inch barrel option (I like the 18.5-inch version best for close quarter maneuvering).  If you want more precision than the bright brass bead sight offers, adjustable fiber optics sights are available as an option. Want more rounds on tap?  A 7+1 capacity tube can be had.

The basic Defense gun has an MSRP of $685.  While there are defensive shotguns that cost less, there are none that exude the quality and the effectiveness of design as this modern American success story.

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