Bourjaily Reviews the Ithaca Phoenix

This year sees not one but two totally made-in- the-USA O/Us hitting the market. One is the Connecticut Shotgun Mfg. Co. A-10, a high-end sidelock. The other is the gun in this picture, the Ithaca Phoenix. Since the last successfully introduced US-made O/U was the Ruger Red Label way back in 1977, the announcement of the Phoenix is significant.

"Phoenix" - named for the self-igniting and regenerating bird of ancient mythology - is a very appropriate name for a gun made by Ithaca. The company has folded and re-opened at least three times in the last ten years. It has also moved from Ithaca, New York, to Sandusky, OH. For several years Ithaca has offered only its classic Model 37 pump. The new group in charge - the second group of Ohio owners - arguably builds 37s that are the equal to any ever made. And, they have diversified their offerings: at the SHOT Show they showed 1911 pistols and the Phoenix, which I shot recently.

One of the things I like best about the Phoenix is that it is immediately recognizable as an Ithaca: it has the same receiver lines as the great old Ithaca single barrel trap guns. The new owners come from the precision machining industry, and their expertise shows in the metal to metal fit of the smooth, solid Phoenix action, and in the rib posts, which are milled as part of the upper barrel, not soldered on like other posts.

If you were hoping for an upland wand, say, an O/U equivalent of the 37 Featherlight pump, keep hoping. The Phoenix is very heavy piece of steel and walnut, weighing well over 8 pounds in 12 gauge. That makes it too heavy for a bird gun, and it's too nice to be a waterfowl gun. Target shooting as the best use for the Phoenix in its current form and I had no trouble at all busting clays with it. Moreover, it has the look of a gun built to take a lot of pounding.

Phoenix production is just now getting underway, and the gun I shot wasn't quite finished. The forearm was uncheckered, and it rattled (which I'm sure Ithaca will address), but in all other ways, the Phoenix was impressively put together. It came in a beautiful canvas-covered hard case and should sell for around $2,500.