World's First Review: Ithaca Turkeyslayer 12 Gauge Shotgun

By Randy Wakeman

Ithaca Model 37 Defense Pump Shotgun
Photo by Randy Wakeman.

Ithaca Gun Company of Upper Sandusky, Ohio ( set out to combine their new ultra-tough “Perma Guard” nitriding system with a production 50 yard turkey gun. The new Ithaca Turkeyslayer is the result. Ithaca's proprietary process, Ithaca Perma Guard, is very thin and addresses both corrosion resistance and wear resistance that conventional metal treatments cannot approach. By being very thin and even in its application, it does not affect the precise tolerances that the current Ithaca Gun Company is bringing to firearms manufacture. While metal corrosion resistance and wear resistance was Ithaca's goal, they had a very pleasant surprise in their testing. Far from interfering with function, Ithaca discovered that stick-slip was essentially eliminated and the Ithaca Perma-Guard made their super-slick, super-smooth actions even quicker and smoother. This offers the consumer buttery smooth, “shot-in” performance right out of the box. All this, with none of the problems found in various comparatively uneven, fragile, camo dippingor ridiculously cheap, ground up garbage can lid plasticy attempts you may have seen. Ithaca Perma Guard has been shown to withstand 90 hours of salt spray. Essentially the entire Turkeyslayer shotgun is Perma-Guard treated.


The Ithaca Turkeyslayer 12 gauge weighs right at seven pounds on the nose. We couldn't help but notice how blazingly fast it is to shoulder and how slick and smooth the action was right out of the box. The Turkeyslayer used the precision machined, ultra rigid fixed barrel assembly as employed on the Deerslayer models as well as their highly-rated HD shotgun.


The Turkeyslayer's barrel has an inside diameter of .729 inches as measured with my Skeet's bore gauges. The choke supplied is ported and extended, having an exit diameter of .675 inches, giving the Turkeyslayer an aggressive constriction of fifty-four thousandths of an inch. My understanding is that this Ithaca “Turkey Choke” was co-developed by Ithaca and Briley, with the goal of having as versatile and forgiving of a turkey choke as possible.


Aside from the buttery-smooth action, we noticed the sling studs right away. One is attached to the buttstock, the other permanently attached to the barrel itself to make the addition of a sling effortless with no parts added or taken away. The Ithaca's heavy trigger broke at just over five pounds, but has a glass-rod break feel to it. So far, so good.


The sights of the Ithaca are of the fiber optic variety, ramp on the barrel and red pipe at the muzzle. I'm happy to report that Ithaca got this right, putting the pair of green dots on the ramp closest to the eye and the red on the fixture near the muzzle. I liked the sights. They are, of course, adjustable for windage and elevation so you have the advantage of being able to move your pattern's point of impact if required. In addition, the Ithaca Turkey slayer is drilled and tapped for scope bases. The one-piece scope base, a Weaver #62, is included, so you can add a red dot or scope without hassle.

Off to the range with our patterning board set up at 42.5 yards. We were glad to have the ability to move patterns, as many shotguns tend to shoot a bit high. In this case, no adjustments were required, as the Ithaca shot right on just as supplied. We shot a very broad spectrum of shells. After the dust settled, it wasn't hard to pick our winner.

Though the Ithaca has three inch chambers, we liked the 2-3/4 inch Winchester 1-1/2 oz. Xtended Range HD load of #5 shot. Where copper-plated and nickel-plated lead didn't even begin to penetrate the 3 ply, 3/16ths thick plywood we were shooting into, the Winchester HD stuff blew right through, blowing our patterning board to bits in the process. It is a superb shell, having less pellets, payload and recoil than 1-3/4 oz.lead loads. However, it produced better patterns with strikingly superior penetration. Less recoil was a bonus. In fact, though the Winchester 12 gauge HD loads have always given us good results, the Turkeyslayer gave us the best patterns with this shell that we have seen.

We appreciated the fiber optic sights more with each shot. Not only did they give use fast and precise target acquisition, your face is held in a more upright position, so there is zero face slap. The Ithaca comes with a generic recoil pad. We would like to see a Limbsaver as standard equipment, but we were forced to admit that recoil was not an issue, even from the bench, with the Winchester HD loads.


This brings up a matter of versatility. Personally, I think Ithaca should include a cylinder choke along with a light modified. The basis is that this gun has far more utility than turkey hunting alone. With its fast handling and instant target acquisition, it is a competent home defense gun with buckshot and a cylinder choke. For those who typically deer hunt in thick cover and are required by law to use a shotgun, with the appropriate slugs you are good to go as a short range deer gun. All this, with an ammunition and choke change. The rugged durability of the all-steel action, standard five shot capacity, Perma Guard finish and the sight / scope versatility make this shotgun a firearm, if not for all seasons, for quite a few of them.


Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay to a reviewed firearm is to take it hunting out of state. That's exactly where the Ithaca Turkeyslayer is going in a few weeks, turkey hunting. For more info on this $699 retail price shotgun, see your local Ithaca dealer. It is a reliable, smooth working, fifty yard “slay anything” shotgun that is made right and made in the USA.

NOTE: There are full-length reviews of 20 and 28 gauge Ithaca hunting Model 37's on the Product Reviews page.

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Copyright 2010, 2012, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.