Equipping for disaster

Review: Ithaca Model 37 Defender

By Blaise Uriarte

The Basics:

Ithaca Gun Company introduced this shotgun in 1937. It is an improved version of the Remington Model 17 a john browning design. The Ithaca model 37 is one of the longest produced pump action shotguns still made, and  has earned a reputation for sturdiness and reliability. Sportsman, military and police have all used this model in one configuration or another for the better part of a century.

One of the unique features of the Ithaca 37 is that it loads and ejects from the same port in the bottom. This makes it an ideal choice for left hand shooters. Since there is only one port in the receiver for feeding and ejecting, there is also less chance of dirt or debris getting in the receiver.

Ithaca 37 shotguns come with either 4 round, or 7 round fixed tubular magazines. This is the Defender model, and it features a wood stock, 7 round tube, rubber recoil pad, bead sight and blued finish.

The Ammo

The Ithaca 37 can be had in 12, 20, 16 or 28 gauge. This example is a 12 gauge with a 3 inch chamber. 12 gauge ammunition is the most plentiful and versatile of the shotgun rounds. This is in large part due to use by Law Enforcement and military. For defensive or close range hunting purposes it is one of the best options available.

For the sake of this test we fired Sellier and Bellot 2 ¾ inch buckshot loads, and Hornady Zombie Max 2 ¾ 00 buckshot loads.

The Range Test

This shotgun has to have the smoothest action I have ever felt. Older Ithaca 37s were capable of “slam firing”. Essentially you hold down the trigger and work the action and the gun will continue to fire. This was done away with in the late 70’s for safety reasons. This gun is not a slam fire model; however the action being so smooth I feel I can work the pump and be back on target quicker than with a Mossberg or Remington.

Ithacas are far more expensive than Mossbergs, or Remingtons, and after shooting this gun I understand why. The fit and finish is superb, and it feels first-rate in the hand. Recoil is well mitigated by the rubber pad. All things considered this gun is a joy to shoot.

At ten yards a 12 gauge in a cylinder bore choke will shred the target. This gun fired with about a ten inch spread at that distance. Since this gun is meant for short range defense, that is more than satisfactory.

The Pluses

The Ithaca 37 Defender is a superb shotgun. It is rugged, well made, and very easy to maintain. It shoots well, and is relatively light for a shotgun.

The Minuses

The main detractions for this gun would be that it has limited capacity, and limited range. These are al normal conditions for a defense/tactical shotgun. One other issue is loading. Since there is no ejection port on the side, you cannot “combat load” or feed rounds directly into the chamber. You have to feed rounds into the magazine, and work the action.


Overall this is a great weapon. For defense or for use on the undead, this gun will serve you well. I believe a shotgun is the best defensive firearm. A shotgun in the right hands is a force multiplier, and is extremely versatile. This gun is a premium gun, and I doubt you could find a better factory pump action shotgun.  

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