Ithaca Model 37

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A photo of the Ithaca Model 37 Featherlight chambered in 12 gauge.
An Ithaca Model 37 Featherlight chambered in 12 Gauge.

The Ithaca Model 37 is a pump-action shotgun made for the civilian, military, and police markets. It is based on a 1915 patent by firearms designer John Browning for a shotgun that was initially marketed as the Remington Model 17. It implements an innovative combination ejection/loading port on the bottom of the gun which leaves the sides closed to the elements. Since shotshells load and eject from the bottom, operation of the gun is ambidextrous, making the shotgun popular with left-handed and right-handed shooters alike.


Following World War I, Ithaca Gun Company sought to make a pump shotgun to compete with the popular Winchester Model 1912. They used the Remington Model 17 as their model and made some changes, such as simplifying and cost-saving alterations on the firing pin and ejection mechanism. This work was done by Ithaca designer Harry Howland in 1931—while waiting for related patents to expire. After readying for production of the new shotgun as the Ithaca Model 33 in 1933, Ithaca discovered a Pedersen patent that would not expire until 1937, and production had to be delayed. In 1937, it was finally released as the Ithaca 37.

With the depression dragging on and another war on the horizon, it was not the best time to introduce a new sporting firearm. Many sporting arms ceased production entirely during that same period. While Ithaca did produce some shotguns for military use during the war, they also made M1911 pistols and M3 submachine guns.

After World War II, Ithaca continued production of the Model 37. Made in many different models, the Ithaca 37 has the longest production run for a pump-action shotgun in history, surpassing that of the Winchester Model 12, the original inspiration for Ithaca's entry into the market. Ithaca has suffered many setbacks in its history and changed hands numerous times. At one time, the Ithaca 37 was renamed the Model 87, although it was soon changed back in one of many ownership changes. Production paused in 2005 when Ithaca once again changed hands. Production has resumed in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

According to an article by the Ithaca Times dated June 11th, 2003, the one-millionth Model 37 was produced in 1968; and as of 2003, more than 2,000,000 Model 37s have been produced. The Ithaca Model 37 is the only pre–World War II shotgun currently still in production.

Specifications And Other Info

Designers: John Browning and Harry Howland

Year Designed: 1933

Manufacturers: Ithaca Gun Company and Industrias Marcati (unlicensed clone from Argentina).

Years Made: 1937 to present.

Weight: Varies by model (see below for each variant).

Overall Length: About 30 to 40 inches (760mm to 1006mm) depending on model.

Barrel Length: 13 to 30 inches (330mm to 760mm) depending on model.

Caliber / Cartridge: 12 Gauge, 16 Gauge, 20 Gauge, 28 Gauge depending on model.

Barrel Types: Plain, Ribbed, Rifled

Action: Manually operated - Pump Action

Magazine / Feed System: 4, 5 or 7-round tube magazines, depending on version.


The Model 37 was used by the United States Armed Forces in World War II, the Korean War, and especially the Vietnam War, where it gained a great reputation for reliability in the jungles of Vietnam when generally used by special forces/special operations forces like the Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets. The largest single users outside the US Military were the New York City Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department. The New York City Police Department used 2 versions of the Model 37: one with a 13" barrel with forend hand-strap for its Emergency Service Unit and one with an 18" barrel for its Highway Patrol and solo patrol officers of designated low-crime precincts through a short-lived program spanning from the late 1970s to early 1980s. The Model 37 was issued by the LAPD beginning in the 1940s and remained in service until the late 1990s. Other users include the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and various military, police, and security agencies and prisons around the world. The Ithaca 37 remains a popular choice among civilians for both sport and personal protection. The Model 37 Featherlight has commonly been seen in the hands of farmers and hunters in the midwestern United States.


Loading the Ithaca 37 involves inserting shotshells of the proper gauge through the loading/ejection port in the bottom of the receiver and pushing them forward into the magazine until retained by the shell stop. The slide release is pressed and the slide retracted completely then pushed forward. Pulling the trigger fires the gun and releases the slide for reloading. On most models up to 1975, a second sear was installed that would drop the hammer as soon the gun went into battery if the trigger was in a depressed condition. Thus, holding the trigger down allowed the gun to fire the instant a new round is cycled into the chamber without requiring the trigger to be released; this feature was called "slam-fire." Otherwise, the Model 37 operates in much the same way as other pump-action shotguns.

Versions & Variants

  • S-prefix: were manufactured for a 1962 United States military contract. S-prefixed serial numbers ran from approximately 1,000 to 23,000 with "U.S." on the receiver and "P" proof markings on the barrel and receiver. The guns have a parkerized finish with a 20 inch barrel and plain stock with plastic butt plate and no sling swivels. A few later contracts produced smaller numbers of guns with sling swivels and serial numbers in the high 900,000 range. Some had "duckbill spreader" shot diverters for use by United States Navy SEALs. Others were fitted with a ventilated handguard and bayonet adapter. New bayonets were manufactured by General Cutlery, Inc. and Canada Arsenal, Ltd.
  • Ultralite: an aluminum receiver variation.
  • Deerslayer: a version with a shortened barrel and rifle-style sighting system.
  • DSPS: for Deerslayer Police Special. A military and police version
  • Stakeout: short version with a 13 inch barrel and pistol grip stock, which was notable for being the signature weapon for Ricardo Tubbs, Philip Michael Thomas' character on Miami Vice as well as being the secondary weapon of Corporal Hicks in Aliens (although it was technically a modified hunting variant) and Aliens: Colonial Marines, where it has the words "no fate" carved into the top, a reference to Michael Biehn's role in The Terminator. Because of its barrel length and overall length, this model is classified as a National Firearms Act 'any other weapon' and must be registered with the ATF.
  • 28 Gauge: 28 Gauge model built on traditional size 28 gauge receiver.
  • Defense: an affordable 12 or 20 gauge model built for home defense. Available in 18.5" barrel with 5-round capacity, or a 20" barrel with an 8-round capacity. Essentially the same as the Model 37's used by military and police for many years.

Later Revisions

Ithaca Model 87: Renaming of the original Ithaca 37 by new owners in 1987, following the original Ithaca company's bankruptcy. Many report that Model 87's cannot "slam fire", and others say that the relevant model 37 parts can be installed in a Model 87 receiver so that the gun can once again slam fire. Individual users' mileage may vary, depending on what specific parts their Model 87 came with from the factory, or had installed by a previous owner.

Argentine Copy / Clone

The Bataan Model 71, an unlicensed Ithaca Model 37 clone manufactured by Industrias Marcati SA in Argentina.

An unlicensed, near-identical clone called the Bataan Modelo 71 is manufactured by the Argentinian firm Industrias Marcati SA.