I was 16 years old, a serious small game hunter with a killer beagle and lots of great briar and grass fields near home, but until then, I was using a borrowed shotgun.
My Dad, no pushover for easy money, suggest that if I really wanted a shotgun of my own, that he would pay half. He was always that way, willing to help only if I honestly earned my share.
Dad never hunted, never wanted to, and never would try it. But he encouraged me to hunt, if I enjoyed it. Besides that, he wasn’t shy about enjoying a squirrel stew or fried rabbit.
My first gun
I don’t remember how I came up with nearly $50, not an easy task in 1960, but Dad matched my stash and I soon cradled a shiny new Ithaca Model 37, a repeating shotgun, something new to me in more ways than one.
The Model 37 was new in the box, but not new in design. It was first introduced in 1937 and its claim to fame was its lightweight and bottom ejection, a feature that found a dedicated following by both righties and lefties.
Still in use
My Model 37 was, and still is, a plain Jane, if ever there was one. But it has earned the spot it keeps in my safe over and over again.
At one point, as Ohio’s deer herd grew, I fitted the trusty shotgun with a smooth-bore, slug-style barrel and in the ensuing years, the 37 took its share of whitetails.
Each winter as the deer gun season approaches, the 37 gets a dusting and a few drops of oil before going afield. That’s all she requires, just like a quality firearm ought to.
Made in America. Ithaca is a standard, very recognizable name in the world of guns and it continues to be one of the firearm builders that proudly claims to be all American from butt stock to front sight.
But to be sure, the company has followed a twisted, and sometimes bumpy, path.
A fellow named W.H. Baker created the first Ithaca Gun Company in the New York town of the same name, in 1883. At the time, the best shoguns were side-by-side double barrel guns and Baker followed the crowd — and why not.
But he did recognized that a lighter shotgun would be a hit, especially after he dressed it in good wood and some artistic pressed “engraving.”
Things went well for the Ithaca Gun Company for decades and in 1937, owner John Browning introduced an all-new, repeating shotgun that he dubbed the Model 37, basically the same gun it is today.
The company was sold in 1967 and some bad choices by the new ownership nearly did Ithaca in. The company moved to Kings Ferry, New York, and changed the name of the 37 to the 87. Another group came to the rescue in 1996 and returned the 37 to its proper place as the company’s mainstay.
Finally, in 2005, production moved to Upper Sandusky, Ohio, and remains there today.
Interestingly, the company is again looking at some new things.
Unknown to most, Ithaca produced nearly 400,00 .45 caliber handguns for the military in the years 1942-1945.
The style was that of the 1911, a large frame pistol that never seems to loose its popularity.
Now, Ithaca offers its 1911 with several great improvements and it also offers long range rifle shooters a series of three modernistic-looking center-fire rifles.
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