Ithaca Model 37 Review: An Oldie But A Goodie

by Travis Pike

October 24, 2023

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The Ithaca 37 is one of the legends of American pump action shotguns. It’s remained in production longer than any other pump action, and we’ve got one in the classic Deer Slayer configuration for review. 

A John Moses Browning pump action shotgun design from 1937 that is still going to this day with the unique bottom ejection.

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Ithaca Model 37 Specs

  • Caliber 12 gauge
  • Action Pump Action
  • Capacity 5
  • Barrel Length 20 in
  • Overall Length 39 in
  • Weight 7.5 lbs

Ithaca Model 37 Background – A Long Time Coming

Ithaca wanted to get into the shotgun business, but they didn’t have a shotgun. They wanted to compete with Winchester. They saw some potential in the Remington Model 17. The problem was, the Remington 17 was still under patent protection. Ithaca had to wait for the patents to expire to jump into the production of the gun. 

This gave them from 1931 to 1937 to improve the design, and they did just that. They began making improvements to the design, making it cheaper to produce and easier to mass produce. In 1937, they released the design, which was a pretty poor time to release a sporting shotgun. World War 2 was on the horizon, and the United States was in the midst of a depression. 

Even with that rough start, the Ithaca brand exploded in popularity after the war. It became well known and appreciated amongst hunters of all types. The Ithaca 37 also provided numerous tactical models for police and military forces. They used the gun in World War 2, Korea, and Vietnam. 

There are many variants and in several calibers. These variations include guns designed for hunting birds, defensive models, and, of course, the Deer Slayer we have here. The Deer Slayer, as the name implies, is for hunting medium game. There are various models of the Deer Slayer, including rifled slug variants and smooth bore models. This is a smooth-bore model capable of firing buckshot and slugs. 

The Deer Slayer variant is famed for its shorter barrel and rifle sights. It’s a handy firearm that works perfectly in dense forests, especially in the South Eastern United States. Let’s take it for a spin. 

Ithaca Model 37 Features

Ithaca Model 37 Features
1 Receiver Engravings

Stylish inscriptions give the gun an old-school appeal in a world of plain shotguns.

2 Bottom Ejection

This ambidextrous ejection ejects the round downward and out of your way. It also ensures the gun is sealed up tight and limits debris access in the action.

3 Rifle Sights

A pair of front and rear sights mounted to the barrel allows for speed and awesome accuracy.

4 Pump Action

Smooth pump action, with a small pump grip.

Blasting Away With the Ithaca 37 

Ithaca Model 37 Hero

The Ithaca 37 Deer Slayer is fairly famous for its short barrel and rifle sights. Enough so that several police forces preferred it to their dedicated tactical models. Ithaca even produced a Deer Slayer for tactical applications. Rifle sights on shotguns have faded from existence, but they are still my favorite for terrestrial game. With all that said, the Ithaca 37 Deer Slayer is a very accurate shotgun. 

Those rifle sights make it very easy to put slugs on target and to hit targets from up to 100 yards away. Anything further than that might benefit from a rifled barrel and optic. With modern buckshot loads like Federal FliteControl, you can really get the most out of the extra distance this round offers. The trigger is also very nice for a shotgun, but this model is older and likely well-loved and honed 

Ithaca Model 37 Front Sight

While the gun is plenty accurate, the Ithaca 37 still shoots like a 12-gauge shotgun. You get all the recoil we know, love, and expect with these guns. The Ithaca 37 is fairly lightweight, so you get it all. The Ithaca 37 also has a small pump handle design. Luckily, that small pump is well-textured. The same goes for the stock. You can easily conduct a push/pull form of recoil mitigation that allows you to cut that recoil fairly well. 

One thing I walked away with was an appreciation for smooth actions. The Ithaca 37 has a very smooth action that feels like the pump is running backward on ball bearings. It’s crazy smooth and not something we see often when it comes to modern shotguns. A smooth action is an enjoyable one, and it’s a fast action. 

Old School Ergonomics 

The Ithaca 37 has some very old-school ergonomics. It’s not quite ambidextrous, but a left-handed user will certainly get away with using the Ithaca 37. The pump action is quite small, and the length of pull is also fairly long. It’s a hunting shotgun and not one designed with tactical use in mind. The texturing on both the pump and stock is nice and provides a very solid grip on the gun. 

Ithaca Model 37 Pump Patch

The safety is a push-button design that’s not quite revolutionary. It’s easy to press and located in an easy-to-reach position. The pump release is small and tucked up by the trigger guard, but usable. The Ithaca 37 is easy to handle, but it’s certainly an old-school design. It works. The lack of an ejection port on the side prevents port loading but also makes it very left hand friendly. 

Going Boom 

The Ithaca 37 is a very reliable pump-action shotgun. It’s made to last and to be used extensively by hunters. In terms of feeding and function, the gun performs flawlessly. The lack of a traditional ejection port keeps gunk and debris out of the gun, which was why the SEAL teams reportedly liked it in Vietnam. 

I only have a slight problem with the Ithaca 37. The old guns would slamfire. Slamfire is silly, useless, and basically, it’s the bump fire of pump shotguns. They removed this ‘feature’ from late production models. This gun doesn’t slam fire. However, you do have an issue if you like to ride the trigger. If you hold the trigger and run the pump backward and then forwards, you’ll end up with a dead trigger. You’ll have to pump the action again and eject a live round to make it work once more. 

Ithaca Model 37 On Ground

Ithaca Model 37 Pros and Cons 

  • Smooth action – The action on the Model 37 is smooth and feels like it is on ball bearings.
  • Bottom ejection – The bottom ejection is not common, but makes the gun easier for lefties to shoot.
  • Timeless Design – John Moses Browning designed this shotgun.
  • Slamfire – The slamfire feature has been removed on current guns, but it can still be an issue with dead triggers.

Report Card

Shootability

With a smooth action and a nice trigger, the shootabilty of this older design is good.

B+
Reliability

Pump guns tend to work well as long as you feed them good ammo and run the pump with authority.

A-
Ergonomics

The ergonomics are of an older gun design mentality.

B-
Accuracy

Good accuracy for a smooth bore shotgun with slugs.

B+
Value

This is more of a collectors item, your money will go further on a newer designed shotgun.

B
Ithaca Model 37 Final Grade

Our Grade

B+

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 3 Reviews

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Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

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Ithaca Model 37 Starter Pack

These items are must haves for all firearms owners and range trips:

Ithaca Model 37 Gun Deals

The Ithaca Model 37 might be hard to find. You may need to track one down on the used market.

Best Ammo for Your Ithaca Model 37

Here are some good buckshot and slug rounds for your 12 gauge.

Slugs

Federal Premium Vital-Shok 12 Gauge 2-34 1 oz TruBall Hollow Point Rifled Slug

Federal Premium Vital-Shok 12 Gauge 2-3/4″ 1 oz TruBall Hollow Point Rifled Slug

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Gun Deals $0.87
Firearms Depot $1.03
Guns.com $1.19
Target Sports USA $1.29

Buckshot

Federal Premium 12 Gauge 2-34 Reduced Recoil 00 Buck 9 Pellets Flitecontrol (1)

Federal Premium 12 Gauge 2-3/4″ Reduced Recoil 00 Buck 9 Pellets Flitecontrol

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Gun Deals $1.79
Firearms Depot $1.79
Gritr Sports $1.21
Guns.com $1.99

Other Shotguns of its Class to Check Out

If you want to learn more about our favorite shotguns, read our best shotguns for hunting article.

Remington 870 Express

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  • Reliability A
  • Accuracy A
  • Customization A+
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A+

Reader’s Grade

F-

Based on 3 Reviews

Your Grade

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Added To Our Reader’s Score

How to Care for Your Ithaca Model 37

I had trouble finding a good disassembly video of the Model 37. This breakdown is different than more modern firearms design, but you need to know how to take apart your shotgun for maintenance.

Check out the links below for the manufacturer’s website and owner’s manual.

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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