Ithaca Model 37 DeerSlayer III Twenty Gauge Slug Gun

By Randy Wakeman

Ithaca Model 37 DeerSlayer III Twenty Gauge Slug Gun
Photo by Randy Wakeman.

 The advantages of the Ithaca DeerSlayer III are numerous in a slug gun platform. You have better magazine capacity and fast follow-up shot capability, compared to bolt actions. As the M37 DeerSlayer features a solid steel receiver and bottom eject with a reversible safety, it is a completely ambidextrous design. The steel receiver comes already drilled, tapped and with a Weaver-style one piece base installed, so mounting the optic of your choice is almost effortless. The Deerslayer III has an excellent trigger, far more suitable for rifle-like use than typical shotgun triggers. Whenever you have a barrel extension with a slip-fit, as per most pump guns, you cannot achieve the rigidity that the threaded and permanently attached Ithaca DeerSlayer barrel provides. By design, the M37 is a more accurate platform than slip-fit barrels can possibly be. Sooner or later, when a steel barrel extension pounds its way into a receiver, steel beats alloy. The unitized steel barrel and steel receiver of the M37 DeerSlayer eliminates that consideration. Here are the basic specifications:


·        Overall length: 46.625 inches

·        Drop At Raised Comb: 1.5 inches

·        Drop At Heel: 2.125 inches

·        Stock: Monte Carlo, American Black Walnut

·        Metal Finish: Blued 4140 Chrome-Moly Steel

·        Barrel Type: 26 inch fluted barrel

·        Recoil Pad: Pachmayr 752 Decelerator

·        2011 MSRP: $1189

·        Weight as tested: Approximately 9 lbs. with scope and rings


As you might imagine, the DeerSlayer III is soft-shooting in 20 gauge. The gun weighs around 7-3/4 pounds bare with its 26 inch heavy barrel; add a pound and a quarter for scope, base and rings. The trigger on this example breaks crisply at 4.5 lbs.


In this case, we topped of the DeerSlayer III with a Hawke Optics Panorama Extreme View 3-9 x 40mm illuminated reticle 1/2 Mil-Dot scope, a scope that did well and is covered in its own review. (See the Scopes and Sport Optics page.) We used EGW rings to mount the scope on the factory supplied, Weaver style base.


The 26 inch barrel gives the ballistics a bit of a lift, as the typical 22 inch barreled slug guns cannot produce the ammo manufacturer's stated velocity. Out at the range, the normal rendition of Federal, Winchester and Hornady 20 gauge saboted slug rounds were tested. We had a clear winner, in this individual rifled slug gun. It was the Hornady 20 Gauge SST #86232 2-3/4 inch rounds with 250 grain FTX slugs. The published velocity id 1800 fps at the muzzle. The Hornady load in this gun was able to touch holes with regularity, so it really is all than can be expected or hoped for in a factory slug round.


To get right to it, is this Ithaca more accurate than the M37 DeerSlayer II? This isn't an easy question to answer. We did get tighter groups with the Hornady rounds than we did get with the DeerSlayer II and the Winchester Dual Bond ammo it preferred, but the Hornady ammo was not tested in the DeerSlayer II. The DeerSlayer II was clearly the more accurate slug gun with Winchester Dual Bonds, which the DeerSlayer III didn't care for. There never will be any conclusive answer to something like this, as all rifles are ammunition-sensitive and all are individuals, as well. Suffice to say we were able to get more than adequate accuracy for deer hunting with both rifles. There is no tangible, real world difference in “minute of whitetail” performance that we can attest to.


You can expect a small, but measurable, velocity increase with the DeerSlayer III, due to its longer barrel. Without question, the DeerSlayer III is softer-shooting, due to its increased mass. You really can't go wrong with either model, as both a are great-looking, extremely well-made, have crisp triggers and super-slick actions. It is a nice problem to have, but in the end it is going to be personal preference. It is easy to recommend both Ithaca DeerSlayer models.


Personally, I'm invariably a bit disappointed when an evaluation of any product fails to reach a conclusion. My preference is the DeerSlayer II. It retains all the advantages of the slick and smooth Ithaca M37 action and gives you the versatility of iron sights. All Ithacas are built in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. The DeerSlayer II is lighter and easier to carry, yet is still more than sufficiently soft shooting. The DeerSlayer II, with a MSRP of $799, is a remarkably good value, now that blued steel and walnut slug guns have hit $1200 and more at retail. You can't go wrong with either DeerSlayer. Ithaca should sell a ton of them, they handily qualify as lifetime guns.

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Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.