Barrel Lengths And Weights

Dear Sir:

I am going to buy a replacement barrel for my Ithica model 37 12 gauge shotgun to use for duck and goose hunting, and upland bird hunting, including pheasant, dove, and grouse. One friend has recommended I get a 28″ barrel, but another has suggested a 26″ barrel would be handier. Do you have a recommendation as to barrel length for such purposes?

Thank you very much.


Dear Mark,

This is like asking me what color necktie to wear. It’s really up to you. The longer barrel will be smoother and slower, the shorter one will be handier. Generally, I would lean towards the 26″ if I were to do more upland and the 28″ if I did more waterfowl. Then again, you also have to factor in the fact that Ithaca and all the rest have changed their barrel weights over time. The old light barrels have all picked up weight with the addition of factory screw chokes.

For example, the Remington 870s used to have delightfully balanced barrels before they went to screw chokes. The first Remington screw choke barrels were sewer pipes and gained a huge amount of road hugging weight because Remington put the chokes in the cheap way, they just made the entire barrel thicker to accommodate the threads at the muzzle. Some of the Remington pumps/autos are still made that way. Others, the Light Contour barrels, today are nicely balanced and feel more like the pre-screw choke barrels. The Light Contour barrels are more expensive to produce because they are jugged at the end to accommodate the screw chokes, but they are better balanced too. So, if you asked me the same question about the 870 as the M37, I’d go with the 26″ bbls on the heavy untapered screw choke bbls and 28 on the Light Contour ones. Though this applies to Remington, not Ithaca, you get my point. Gun makers change things, so you have to stay current- which I am not on Ithaca.

There is no meaningful ballistic difference in the lengths. It’s mostly a question of balance and somewhat a question of sighting plane. Remember, your M37 has a good 3-1/2″ inches of receiver, so a 26″ barreled auto/pump is the equivalent in length to a 29-1/2″ O/U or SxS. Something to think about.

The only real way to do it right is to try both barrel lengths on your gun in a side by side test and pick the one that feels best. I realize that this isn’t always possible, but there it is. Like tasting food, there is just so much that you can write about it.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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