Ithaca M37 Riot Shotgun Rides Again
Oleg Volk 02.25.16
Ithaca Model 37 came into being just as John Browning’s patent for the action expired and, coincidentally, as the Great Depression dragged on. The shotgun was saved from oblivion by the Army needs during WW2. Even though under 10 thousand were produced during the war, M37 eventually became a commercial success.
Of the three variants, trainer (long barrel), riot gun (13 inch barrel), and trench gun (20″ barrel with a bayonet mount), the latter is the most rare. It’s also the most visually charismatic of the three, and it’s no surprise that the newly reestablished Inland Manufacturing picked it as the third WW2 design to produce, right after M1911A1 and M1 carbine. In keeping with the tradition, the fit and finish are similar to the originals while the materials are better.
M37 uses a tipping bolt that locks into the massive steel receiver. The ejection port and the loading port are one and the same. That strengthens the receiver and reduces the number of paths for dirt to enter, but it also makes loading from the magazine mandatory; there’s no way to toss a shell into the ejection port. The bottom ejection makes it a comfortable gun for left-handers, at least for those whose hands are big enough to reach around the trigger guard to the distinctly right-hand friendly slide release.
In keeping with the tradition, M37 receiver shows the “flaming bomb” proof mark. The entire gun is made the old fashioned way, mainly from machined forgings. The higher quality of the materials is a plus when you consider that the chamber has been upgraded from 2.75″ to handle 3″ shells. Magazine capacity is 4 shells. The unexpectedly short tube make for very moderate spring pressure and easy loading.
The original M37 slamfired by design, meaning that cycling the slide with the trigger held back would shoot off the next chambered round. The new M37 does not, but a trigger pack to revert it to the original action will become available later this year. The 20-inch barrel has fixed improved cylinder choke.
Much of the distinctive visual appeal of this trench gun comes from the heat shield and strengthening collar for mounting and using the M1917 bayonet. The shotgun ships with a sling, but you’d have to source the sharp, pointy accessory separately.
The inclusion of the bayonet illustrates the other, less exciting purpose of military shotguns: guard duty. In the modern civilian environment, it can be a useful indicator of “means business!” in the event of a civil disturbance or a home invasion.
While most clay birds aren’t truly dangerous game, this shotgun would turn heads at the club, especially if paired up with proper period attire. As M37 was back in the service for the Vietnam war, you could get away with costumes from a wide variety of eras.
Although fairly light at 6.7 pounds, the shotgun kicks only moderately even with 1 1/8oz heavy game loads. The action is smooth and, even without slamfiring, quite rapid.
Looks like fun to me.
Bottom ejection works nicely for the southpaws. If you can justify paying a little extra for the timeless style and good workmanship, this shotgun will be available from Inland Mfg. in March of this year.