Ithaca Model 51

Dear Mr. Technoid,

I noticed in one of the Technoid Volumes that you mentioned using an Ithaca Model 51. My local dealer has a brand new, unfired Model 51 Magnum on the rack for $375. I’m currently dragging my beloved Beretta 686 Silver around in the duck marsh because I can’t bear to leave home without it.

Would the Ithaca 51 Mag be a good buy, so I could retire the 686 to clay birds and grouse?

This particular 51 has a fixed, full-choke barrel. If it won’t pattern as-is with steel, I figure I can get it drilled for tubes, and still be doing good money-wise. What do you think of this gun? I’ve never read a word about it, heard of it, nor can I find any info on the web about it. I e-mailed Ithaca, but they haven’t got back to me.

Thanks for any assistance.


Dear Bob,

I shot an Ithaca 51 at International Skeet for almost two years and knew a couple of others who shot them even longer than that. I even talked to the designer, an old German named Tollinger, a couple of times. I never did fool with the magnum model.

I felt that the Ithaca was superior to the 1100 (its most direct competition at the time) in every possible way except one- you had to carry a wheelbarrow full of parts to keep the Ithaca running. Remember, I am comparing it to an 1100 and you had to carry at least a satchel of parts to keep that running. You can keep the Beretta gas guns running with a shirt pocket full of parts. Get the drift?

Parts breakage was so bad on the 51s (the action bars were the weak point) that we would inventory broken parts and send them back in a batch to save shipping. At that time the 51s had a “lifetime” guarantee, so it was all free but the postage was killing us.

Hunters don’t put anything near the rounds through their guns that clay shooters do, but by the time you get that choke fooled with you will be well over $400 and still have an out-of-production gun with questionable parts supply. Since that gun was made the Ithaca Gun Company has gone through two reorganizations. While it is still up and running making the Model 37, I have no idea as to Model 51 parts. This is definitely one gun that you don’t want a parts supply problem with. Also, you would be stunned to find out what that action bar costs when you find one. A couple of those and any savings you realized from buying the 51 are out the window.

I am sure that there are tons of happy Ithaca 51 owners out there who have shot their guns for “100,000” rounds (the usual guesstimate from the twice a year hunter with an old gun) and “never had a malfunction”. They probably didn’t inhale either. That may be so and perhaps I and my friends just had bad luck with the guns, but we shot those suckers flat to death.

You never go wrong with a Remington 870 pump in the duck blind. With an 870 you carry no parts, just shells.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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