Blast From the Past: Ithaca Model 37 Ultralite

A reader shares a vintage shotgun—that’s now a modern-day safe queen

ithaca modle 37
This Model 37 Ultralight spends most of its time in the safe now.From John

The Ithaca Model 37 Ultralite represents a collaboration between John Browning, inventor of guns too numerous to mention, and John Pedersen, known for almost inventing the assault rifle with his “Pedersen device,” and for the Remington Model 51 pistol.

Pedersen refined John Browning’s bottom-load, bottom-eject pump gun, which eventually became the Remington Model 17. Once the 17’s patent expired, Ithaca copied the gun and created a classic, the Model 37, which is still made today. Already a light gun, the Model 37 was made even lighter with the introduction of an alloy-framed model in the late ’70s. The Ultralite was offered through the late ’80s, so it was made both as a Model 37 and a Model 87. (There’s no appreciable difference between the two; after one of Ithaca’s many bankruptcies, the gun was renamed the Model 87, then re-renamed Model the 37 later.) It is no longer sold today, which, as the owner of this week’s gun will tell you, is no great loss.

John's Model 37 Ultralite

In the deluded quest for a very light gun, I found an Ithaca 37 Ultralite 20 gauge. At 5 pounds, 6 ounces, it seemed ideal—until I shot it. Ordinary 7/8-ounce loads recoiled like turkey loads. I could shoot reduced recoil ¾-ounce loads, though, putting it in the 28-gauge class, so now I don’t shoot it at all. It does seem very happy sitting in my gun safe.

Keep those old gun pictures coming to