Apr 16, 2015


I actually can't remember the last time I participated in Buy A Gun Day. I never actually plan for it - when I've saved up the pennies for the next gun I want, I go get it.

This year, it happened to work out. I have a soft spot (in my head, according to some) for Ithaca-Ithaca firearms. (I say Ithaca-Ithaca because "Ithaca Gun" has worked out of at least three locations in its history: Ithaca, NY; King Ferry, NY; and now under new ownership in Sandusky, OH.)

I troll through classifieds and auctions, and occasionally throw a stupidly low bid at a gun. In this case, it happened to pan out for me. I snagged this little darling:

... Er, the one in the middle. The other two were already in the safe. It's what I describe as "project-grade", although that may not be quite fair.

It started life in 1956, according to serial number records, as a 12ga, 2-3/4", fixed "full" choke, likely with a 28" barrel. Great field gun for long birds or waterfowl. An early owner had installed either a PolyChoke or Cutts Compensator on it, and that had been hacksawed off at a later date - removing the bead and leaving it choked roughly at cylinder bore.

The finish is nearly gone on the back six or eight inches of the barrel, the trigger is worn smooth, and the stock shows years of time in the field with dings and small scratches. But it also shows love. There is not a spot of rust on the gun. The bore is clean and bright.

As it sits, it'd be a great gun for close shots on field game, and probably be OK shooting skeet singles. The lack of a bead might deter some shooters, but it's not the end of the world. Adding a bead is an inexpensive proposition for any competent gunsmith. For a bit more versatility, two hundred bucks and a trip to Briley would thread it for chokes in any flavor desired.

But me? I've been looking for a 37 in this kind of condition for my own project. When I've saved up a few more pennies, the barrel is going off to York Arms for shortening (to around 14", right at the front of the barrel lug), a tritium bead, and perhaps threading for chokes. I'm still kicking around ideas and timing with the Wizard.

These old Ithacas are a treat for shooters - nothing handles or points quite like one, and the bottom-eject makes it a great gun for southpaws. The field-grade 12-gauges like I have can usually be had in the $200-250 range, and 16- or 20-gauge scatterguns don't run much higher. (I'm keeping an eye out for a fair price on a 16; those are just sweet little guns.)

A word of caution, though: these older Ithacas don't have a sear disconnect, so they can be "slam-fired". Just hold the trigger back and pump, and it will go bang every time until the tube is empty. For a new shooter, that can be a safety issue, so be aware.

(The other two Ithacas pictured date to 1947 (116xxx), and 1957 (667xxx). The BAG version is 622xxx.)