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Posted: 1/5/2003 8:37:09 AM EST
Howdy. I've inherited my Father's Ithaca Model 37 12ga recently. From my youth I remember this as being a very reliable firearm. However, due to it's rest (or rust) period, it has looked better. I've cleaned it up pretty good and the only problem area is the end of the barrel near the front sight is very rusted.
Since it is a 1963 pre 855,000 serial number and has no vent rib, I thought it would make a great home defense project for shortening the barrel to 18.5 inches to keep it legal and a little extra for margin of error.
I would like to do this myself and I'm looking for any advice/tips from anyone who has done this. I was thinking of using a HIVIZ MPB sight www.shooterssafetyproducts.com/sightcatalog.asp (picture) for ease of installation.
Also, what do you think of porting a barrel in this configuration? Does it have a benefit?
Thanks in advance for any ideas/comments.
Link Posted: 1/7/2003 5:04:50 AM EST
Dog, The model 37 is a great gun. That being said there are almost no after market products made for the gun. You would be better off buying a Mossberg 500 or a Remington 870 new than altering the 37. MIKE.
Link Posted: 1/9/2003 9:37:53 AM EST
I concur. I went to a sporting goods store and picked up an 870 Wingmaster 12 ga. for $125. The bluing was shot but it still functions flawlessly. There are so many accesories for it. I have never seen much for a Winchester 1300, so I am sure that there is little to none for your Ithaca. Go with the 870.
Link Posted: 1/9/2003 9:56:53 AM EST
Doggie,

Looked at my local smith's price sheet, and he charges $25 to cut and refinish a non-ribbed barrel. Just have the thing cut and be happy with it. Thats the nice thing about the guage, it doesn't need a lot of accessorizing to be an effective tool.
Link Posted: 1/9/2003 10:13:22 AM EST
The M37 is a refinement of an original Remington design. In many ways it is a very nice shotgun, but like any design it has some weak points. LAPD used them as issue weapons for years as did many other agencies, and, while they can still do what is needed for home defense, I agree you would probably be better off with a good 870. If you decide you want to go with the Ithaca, however, a few points that might help:

They had weak springs all-round. Having only a single shell stop, when the shell stop spring got weak, and the gun was stood on its' butt in the older vehicle racks, it would unload itself from the vibration. Find a "Police" spring pack and have all springs replaced (probably Wolff offers something).

They have no disconnector, and can thus be "slam-fired" (yeah, I know, but that's the popular term). This is way cool on a range with birdshot...totally uncool inside a house with Buckshot.

They cannot be fitted with mag extensions as other guns can because of the way the barrel attaches. When Ithaca decided to build an extended mag 37, they had to use a totally different barrel and mag tube.

Due to the lack of a separate ejection port, you must unload the rounds in the magazine before you can unload the chamber...not vice-versa like the 870. However, you can more easily take a round directly from the magazine and replace it with something different if desired. There is also no way short of drilling/tapping the receiver, to add a sidesaddle or other gingerbread if you want it. (I'm not positive you could do it even then)

These facts are not necessarily "good" or "bad", just facts you should know. The trigger mechanism on the 37 is the definition of simple and strong, and the ejector is actually just a slot milled into the steel frame...nothing to break.

If it was me, I'd give this one an honorable retirement, shoot it occasionally at the range, and get something else for serious use.
Link Posted: 1/9/2003 12:08:14 PM EST
[Last Edit: 1/9/2003 12:10:28 PM EST by doggie]
Thanks all for the feedback. If I were to purchase a new/used gun for home defense, there is no doubt it would be the 870. I chose the Ithaca because I did not have to invest anything into it other than some shells to be sure it functions properly, and I would want the short barrel which this gun is a prime candidate for cutting down. Because of the role intended for this gun, I am not concerned with the lack of accessories available.

ikor, thanks for the heads up on the spring issue. I was intending this to be an honorable retirement by assigning it to home defense.
Link Posted: 1/9/2003 12:25:28 PM EST
Dog, There is one thing that Ikor forgot in his well thought out post and that is "choke". When you cut down this barrel you will remove the choke from the end of the bore. Choke is to shotguns what rifling is to, well you get it. When you cut the barrel down you will have a cylinger bore, good for about 20 yards. Good enough for across the bedroom, but you will not know what type of pattern it throws until its too late. If the pattern sucks, your stuck. With a new shotgun you have screw in chokes. If you plan on shooting birdshot this is most likly not a problem but buckshot can be fussy. Not trying to cost you money, just trying to point out possible problems. MIKE.
Link Posted: 1/9/2003 5:30:48 PM EST
mike, isnt across the bedroom what home defense is all about, if the neighbor calls to tell me they are coming from down the road, I will prepare myself accordingly, but even then, my riot gun will hang on my shoulder. cylinder bore guarantees better odds when shooting from the hip, as 80% of all gunfights occur eight feet apart, i love full choke for squirrel hunting, but i sleep well with a cyl. bore 12ga at my side. the monster
Link Posted: 1/9/2003 5:55:56 PM EST
Mike, my biggest concern is the pattern after cutting the barrel. But since the gun is currently in cylinder bore without a screw in choke, I figure it's worth a try. I would like to do a before and after pattern comparison just to see the differences.

So if the pattern is not acceptable, can the barrel be threaded or would I then have to break down and buy a barrel with a screw in choke?
Link Posted: 1/10/2003 6:07:35 AM EST
Barrel probably could not be threaded due to lack of material (too thin). Even if it could, it would defeat the cost issue here. The rough...very rough...rule of thumb for shotguns using buckshot is "about" 1in. of pellet-spread per yard of distance. Across a 30ft. room, "about" a 10in. pattern, 15ft. / 5in., etc. I stress this is not a guarantee, just a rough approximation. It does mean that you must AIM the shotgun to get good hits. Do not buy into the "one-shot-stop" myth either...the guy you are facing may not know he is supposed to fall dead instantly from a single buckshat hit!

Shotguns are notorious for being somewhat finicky about how they pattern loadings from different makers, and even different ammo lots. The new reduced power buckshot loads usually shoot tighter patterns than standard loads. Federal uses 4% antimony in their pellets for extra hardness, and plates them as well in the reduced ammo, so you will get both better patterns and more penetration generally. W/W and Remington may also do this now, but did not with their original reduced loads. This is because they originally perceived them as training loads, while Federal built theirs as a duty load from the beginning. Bigger shot generally gives tighter patterns.

I would not worry much about choke inside the house, but I would obtain a selection of loads and try several at "house defense" ranges. Many barrels tend to throw donut-shaped patterns with a hole in the center. You want shot fairly evenly dispursed. For inside, I might well look at #4 Buck for my first round or two, even though it sucks as a general-purpose load. (W/W used to make a "Q" load...stock # has a "Q" prefix...#4 for LE use with hardened pellets...came in 25rd. boxes and was the Secret Service issue load. Don't have the faintest where you might find some now, though)

One thing I would do is to check and make sure the gun has the interchangible barrel design. I seem to recall that the very early models did not, but my first was purchased in 1965 or 66 and it did, so probably you are OK there. If you whack the snout off of a non-interchangible barrel, that is what you have forever. Replace the sight with something BIG and white, or light-colored...the tendency is to shoot high with shotguns in low-light conditions. Charlie Askins tied a white rag around the end of one of his social shotguns for night fights on the border and said it worked real well...'course he was known to exaggerate once in a while.

Good luck
Link Posted: 1/11/2003 1:12:40 PM EST
ikor, good point on the cost issue and thanks again for all the info.
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