march 23, 2021September 2, 2021Sean O'Hara 8 Comments12 gauge, broken, featherlight, fix, ithaca, jam, jams, design 51, repair, repaired, shotgun, welded, welding

Almost a year earlier to the day i traded some work for one Ithaca model 51 Featherlight autoloading shotgun. That rapidly came to be one of, if no my bald favorite, shotgun come bust clays with. It’s soft ~ above the shoulder, v a high comb, a pretty ventilated barrel, twin beaded sight, and a full barrel choke. Coupled v the tasteful sculpture from the factory and also a walnut share – it’s a good deal the shotgun because that the money. Though this gun is just one of those models that comes through a huge asterisk alongside the name.

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The model 51 was developed from the early 1970s to 1987. Together it turns out, it’s among the guns that I’m hopeful Ithaca us in their existing iteration would quite not need to think around again. Therefore why is that? let me explain.

The bad model 51 is the trouble child of two key contributing components I can see. The very first is the restricted materials/engineering of 1970’s level an innovation and the rather manifest us by means of some style flaws that marry up in the model 51 to make a perfect storm the frustration.

Let’s start with the previous issue. Ns going to give Ithaca a the majority of leeway below when ns say that parts, materials, and design/testing to be not as much as the level that a company can carry to be afflicted with today. If you look at most gas-operated shotguns of the 70’s era many, if no most, that them have actually some quite glaring faults the manufacturers to be trying to work-related through before the age of computer-aided design and also computer-controlled machining. The level the precision the is commonplace today just wasn’t possible 40 year ago.

The 2nd issue is much more the 51’s design. In short, the gun has a few things that can add to it not cycling properly or at every in part cases. There are three key failure points to the gun the you will hear about:

The very first is the nylon bushings (there space two) have tendency to fail ~ a while together the nylon indigenous the ’70s wasn’t great and good old-fashioned total oil would help to dissolve them over time. This can reason the gun no to cycle correctly.The second issue is the main activity spring will certainly compress over time and also cause the gun to not completely cycle on the ejection stroke and also “reload” a invested cartridge, or jam with the bolt open in a half-stroke state.The last issue is arguably the most serious and also the one that really leader to folks selling, parting out, or tossing their gun in a lake – it snaps its very own slide assembly bars. There space a number of places the stamped-mild-steel is notched and also because that the press exerted ~ above the rail once fired and also the relative top quality of the steel – the snaps.

In the attention of gift fair, I have replaced an ext than one spring and also nylon bushing in firearms over the years, and this issue is not isolated come the design 51. These are wear-and-tear parts that generally fail across the board and also many suppliers make replacement parts for a reason.

Returning come my details example the shotgunning excellence, under check I discovered my model 51 had actually all three problems. However, it’s for this reason soft to shoot and also I like it so lot that I wanted to watch what it would take to solve it. Together it transforms out – a lot.


The an initial issue was addressed pretty easily with a brand-new action spring from Numrich i m sorry was around $10. Simply judging indigenous the complete 2 customs that had been compressed on the old spring i couldn’t have actually been obtaining the complete return from the initial spring. As soon as I replaced it there to be a good deal much more snap in the bolt return stroke climate there had actually been.


The second is a new nylon bushing for the bolt. The old one to be crumbling and also I to be loathed not to replace it. A fast order from Jack first Gun parts and I had a brand-new bolt buffer bushing.

The third issue would be a small tougher. Together I quickly learned that no one sold the on slide assembly anymore and also finding an in-tact slide assembly from one more 51 that the male “only took the end for duck season and hardly ever before fired” would certainly still have the same worry mine had actually once I began rolling shells with it because that clays. So the was out.

Taking it come a gunsmith turned out to be an high value proposition together they wanted much more than the gun was worth and also months if no a year (because that the pandemic backlog) to repair it which to be really just a solder job and they i will not ~ guarantee the on slide wouldn’t rest the first time i cycled that under load.

A an equipment shop stated they might have the ability to do a suitable mig weld on it however they to be closed since of the pandemic. This was not looking promising. Due to the fact that Ithaca no longer made the gun ns was greatly stuck with a damaged gun. So it sat damaged for the better part that a year till the world turned a couple of times.

About a month back two things changed. My regional Harbor Freight started stocking the flux-core welder I needed to weld that myself and I sold one more gun that provided the money to buy it and all the accessories I essential to execute the job myself. So that’s just what i did.

Now let me do a disclaimer best here and also say that i am not telling you that this is what you must go out and also do. Ns am not the world’s most gifted welder. Ns am no a certified gunsmith. I am clearly stupid. I marketed a perfectly functioning Browning Auto A-5 so the I might buy a welder come cobble together a shotgun that is older 보다 I am in a bid to shot and repair a widely known catastrophic architecture flaw most people just take the ns on. In ~ this point, ns am really much on par with a male I knew in the ’90s the loved his Pontiac Fiero so much he preserved wrenching ~ above it and throwing money in ~ it until it became almost as trustworthy as other cars were naturally. So simply to it is in clear: THIS IS not A an excellent IDEA, i AM A MORON.

Ahem, now then, ns did that anyway.


As you can see the slide broke on mine gun precisely where everyone else’s breaks – best at the notch in the slide.


It’s a clean snap every the means through in ~ the weakest point.


So i filed a “V” follow me the cracked so I might do 2 things. 1. Make certain I could dial down the voltage top top the weld enough I didn’t just blow with the material and 2. Get an excellent enough penetration with the weld the it’s hopefully going to be stronger below when ns done.


Then ns did the deed. Ns figured the worst point I could do to be screw up and also still have a non-cycling old shotgun. It ain’t pretty and also I was cleaning flux and slag for 20 mins afterward however I did make two pieces earlier into one.


After a little of filing. Okay a the majority of filing, to acquire the profile right I found it looked quite okay and fit rather well inside the receiver. The activity felt smooth as soon as I functioned it by hand and also didn’t show any type of signs that cracking.

So, now all three worries I discovered were fixed and also it was time to go shoot the gun! I placed 125 rounds through my lover Ithaca and also was therefore happy to have actually it back. Over there were small cheers to see it the end at the ranch act its thing, and also for a time – it was good.


However, it would seem the old girl hadn’t perfect fighting me yet. As soon as I walk the takedown after shoot to clean that I discovered that in ~ some allude during the shoot one of the front hooks on the on slide had broken off and also fell clean out of the gun. I’m no going to recount the hate-fueled rant ns spewed in ~ the 51 (and the universe in general) once I uncovered out it had thwarted me again. Mostly due to the fact that I to be cussing so much I was unable to end up a thought various other than using one of the other ‘perfectly functioning’ shotguns I own to end the 51’s existence on this mortal plane.

After i calmed down, i beg your pardon admittedly took much longer than it must have, it occurred to me the my weld held fine. It didn’t fail in THAT place again the failed in the other spot the weakness along the exact same rail which ns guessing because the rear suggest held the shock just transferred to the next weakest place, the former notch (yes there is an ext than one weak spot on the rail, 3 in fact). Still, it to be a bit of a kick in the teeth.


So the welding gear came the end again. Since it wasn’t just a weld this time the piece had actually literally fallen the end of the gun in ~ some suggest I necessary to fashion a new front hook indigenous some level bar to do the assembly practical again. It take it a little bit and also a lot of cautious measuring and fitting had actually to walk down even after this photograph was taken yet it was earlier to being a practical gun through all the assorted parts working. From over there I made decision that the just thing for it to be to take it the gun out again and also see what we would see.

I to be happy to report after a few boxes the shells because that the 2nd time, the pistol is quiet functioning and also all parts are unbroken… at this time. I’d love to have actually run more through it but in these times that spartan covering availability, this is about the finest I can control at the moment.


So in conclusion, is this a good gun? Well, that would certainly depend significantly on what your definition of great is. I deserve to wholeheartedly to speak it’s good to shoot and also pretty to look at. But after that, I have to follow that statement up through – “When the up and running.” I fully understand why Ithaca didn’t desire to open this have the right to of worms when beginning back up in 2005. They had the version 37 and several other guns that they knew would certainly sell and sell well the didn’t have actually the worries that the 51 does.

That simply leaves those of us who choose the version 51 v a choice: roll up your sleeves and get to work-related OR give up it and also spend her money elsewhere on a an ext modern, more reliable gun. I’d provide you mine opinion yet I have actually pictorial evidence suggesting which way I lean.

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Author’s Note: i know. I recognize there space gunsmiths, progressed people of every shapes and backgrounds that are going to tell me what ns did not correct here. If I had only excellent this or that it would certainly be better, stronger, faster. That I’m chasing the dragon and it’s going come fail again due to the fact that of XYZ. Ns know. I’m no advocating that other human being do this, it’s just what ns did and also I think I extended the “I’m a moron” angle in the article above.