View Full Version : Ithaca M37 vs Remington 870

November 18, 2008, 08:09 PM
I'm ready to buy a 12 gauge pump and thought I'd stomp on the hornet's nest here. Can anyone comment on the how the Ithaca Model 37 compares to a Remington 870? I'm looking at overall quality, reliability and lasting value over the years ahead. My brother has a great Ithaca 410 double, but I'm not familiar with the Model 37 just yet.

November 18, 2008, 08:19 PM
The M37 is a great old design but I have had problems w/two that I have owned, both feeding problems easily fixed. I have owned a BUNCH of 870's and have treated some the way i do the tires on my truck, never had a mechanical problem w/any of them.

Scattergun Bob
November 18, 2008, 09:53 PM
We normally have the Mossberg vrs Remington debate I call the Chevy vrs Ford debate. Nice to see the Dodge Vrs Ford one come around!:)

To compare and contrast the 37 vrs the 870;

Actually, in my opinion they are very close to the same.

Both guns are tanks and very well made. Steel receivers, easy take down, fixed mag tubes, the same safety and action release levers.

in contrast the 37 has a single action bar which can wear on the bolt guides. the 37 has a double lift bar shell elevator and and that helps with the rare double feed. The singe bottom port means if you do have a feeding problem EVERYTHING must be removed from the feed system before the the chamber can be addressed. The gun has a much longer production cycle that the 870, but had a production stop and now a new life.

The 870 starts life in 1951 and has run straight thru to today with about 170 different flavors of build ups, and countless minor variations. Basically if you have a need there has been a 870 to fill it. Having a separate ejection port and loading port has some advantage in the Martial activities. There is a huge advantage in parts availability and folks who know "how to" work on the gun.

so as far as overall quality, reliability in my opinion it is a dead even race, as far lasting value over the years ahead I pass on that one.

Presently I have have 1 M-37 in my inventory, and many 870's. I cared for and at times carried both the 37 and 870 in the military and shepherded many 870s thru their service life as a LE armorer. I would be happy with either one as long as it is well maintained and within factory tolerances. I guess I must like the Remington 870 best because I seem to carry that flavor of scattegun the most frequently.

Good Luck and Be Safe

November 18, 2008, 11:08 PM
I have an Ithaca 37 that my dad bought for me - I wasn't old enough to buy it for myself - back in 1974. It's seen thousands of rounds at the ranges and dove fields. Never had any problems and I appreciate that the 37 is over a pound lighter than the 870, and has so many fewer parts.

November 19, 2008, 01:35 AM
It depends on what you want to do with your shotgun.

If you want a black tacticool zombie blaster with rails and foldy bits and pistols grips and such, the 870 is probably a better choice.

There's not really much of that sort of thing availible for the the Ithaca. There is some, but not really all that much.

If you are just talking about have a 'regular' shotgun, then the Ithaca is a viable choice.

I personally lean towards the Ithaca.

It is a bit lighter than the 870.

I like the slide release on the Ithaca a lot more. On both shotguns, the slide release is on the very front of the trigger guard. On the Ithaca, it's within easy reach of the trigger finger on the righthand side. On the Remington, it's on the left side of the trigger guard, which is exactly where I can't hit it without taking my hand off the grip. It makes me wonder why it's on that side.

The Ithaca is probably smoother.

Both have similar crossbolt safeties.

A detailed cleaning requires a bit more work with the Ithaca.

Older Ithacas can slamfire. This means that if you hold the trigger down and pump it, the shotgun will fire as soon as it locks into battery. It can be a heck of a lot fun for rattling off bunch of shells in a hurry, but there's also some sad stories about a lack of proper gun safety and handling leading to negligent discharges and accidents.

Older Ithacas won't accept the interchangeable barrels unless you have the factory install an adaptor, and Ithaca barrels tend to be more expensive in general, sometimes absurdly so.

The engraving on the side of the Ithaca is super cool. These pictures are from Ithaca's website, which mentions it is now machined instead of roll stamped, so these pictures might be a little flattering, but my point still stands.



Notice the lack of the ejection port on the side of the reciever. Some people consider it an advantage since it's one less giant hole in the side of your gun for junk, dirt, and mud to get into.

However, some people scream and shout about how this makes it way too difficult to load a shell directly into the chamber when it's so easily done through the ejection port on the 870. Some even falsely claim that it's impossible with the Ithaca. One poster even mentioned that some people were specifically milling such holes into their Ithacas solely for this purpose, although I am extremely skeptical about this.

I've never tried loading a shell directly into the chamber of an 870. I have done it with my Ithaca. It's really not all that difficult and I don't see what the heck the big deal is. Downright easy, even. If I can figure it out, it can't possibly be that tricky.

Bottom ejection is super cool, and the Ithaca really kicks them out of there. The only potential problems with bottom ejection would be a fired casing not clearing the gun correctly when fired from the prone position :confused: or possibly from a bench.

Both shotguns are very well known for durability and reliability. However, the SEALS used the Ithaca during Vietnam. My Ithaca was built sometime around 1957, and is still going strong.

Oh, and the Ithaca was designed mostly by John Browning and John Pedersen.

November 19, 2008, 07:46 AM
I was in the same situation you were a five years ago. So, I bought both. Now I have an 870 Police Magnum with bead sight and an Ithaca DS Police Special with rifle sight. Both are great guns, and I would trust my life as well as my family's on either if needed. Pricewise, they are about the same on the used market. If buying new, the Ithaca will cost way more than the 870 of similar grade.

A few points of difference: The pre-'87 Ithaca's cannot chamber 3" rounds. The Ithaca has a steel receiver and the 870 has an aluminum but the Ithaca is lighter. The Ithaca does not have a disconnector. You can hold the trigger down and keep pumping until you are out of ammo. Very fun.

Scattergun Bob
November 19, 2008, 12:43 PM
A few points to clear up;

1st - 870 Remingtons have always had Steel receivers, maybe you were thinking Mossberg or Winchester.

2nd - Ithaca early guns through the mid 70s did not have disconnectors and slam fire was possible. However, this has changed and current guns DO have disconnectors.

Good Luck and be safe

November 19, 2008, 01:07 PM
I stand corrected.

November 19, 2008, 01:52 PM
Gun Tests Magazine came in the mail today. They did comparison tests of the 870 Wingmaster and the 37.

They gave the Wingmaster a less than honorable grade due to quality control issues. It lists for $773 MSRP. The wood on the forearm and the stock didn't match in color. The finish had flaws in it. The center bead was so large that the front bead couldn't be seen. Their question was: Where has Remington's quality control gone to? Direct quote: "In our opinion, Remington let Express-type thinking leak through and contaminate the Wingmaster".

They also gave the Ithaca 37 a less than honorable grade due to the gun not shooting to point of aim and rough edges. It's MSRP is $859. Direct quote: "We think Itahca has the potential---but you are only as good as your last effort and we thin Ithaca needs to turn a critical eye to what they are doing right now". The chokes didn't fit properly and the trigger was defective. The gun was returned to Ithaca and I quote: Ithaca did not get it right the first time for us, nor did they get it right on the second attempt either.

They also tested a Browning BPS. MSRP: $566. As hard as they tried, they could find nothing wrong with it. Yet, it was the cheapest of the three tested. The factory chokes didn't pattern as well as some of the aftermarket chokes they tried.


870 Wingmaster: MSRP: $773. Marred by quality control issues.
Ithaca 37: MSRP: $859. Point of aim off and rough edges issues.
Browning BPS: MSRP: $566. A quality and performance standout by a large margin. Best performance and build quality by a large margin.

Now you have it, FWIW.

November 19, 2008, 06:29 PM
The pre-'87 Ithaca's cannot chamber 3" rounds.

Actually, Ithaca made Model 37s chambered for three inch shells as early as 1977.

November 19, 2008, 07:30 PM
For 12ga use the Remington 870 is a great gun. Many options for it. But If you want a outstanding upland game gun then the Ithaca 37 in 16 ga is the way to go. Yes many will say the 16 is not as popular, but it's a excellant gauge. And when walking all day the Ithaca will win hands down. Very light shotgun, and the lightness makes the difference.

You may have to buy two shotguns. And thats not all bad.


Scattergun Bob
November 19, 2008, 08:53 PM
You said: Actually, Ithaca made Model 37s chambered for three inch shells as early as 1977.

Wow, I did not know that, It is good to learn something new every day, thanks.:)

Good Luck & Be safe

November 20, 2008, 07:30 AM
Guess I don't know my Ithaca 37 history as well as I thought. Always good to learn more.