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  1. #1
    kg333's Avatar
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    Ithaca Model 37 and Lee-Enfield

    Hey everyone,

    My dad recently received two guns from my grandmother that she no longer wanted around, and I thought I'd look for a little advice and info on them, since they're rather old.

    The first is an Ithaca Model 37 Featherlight in 12 gauge. My grandmother bought it for my great-grandfather back in 1957. The second is a Lee-Enfield.

    Both guns came with some ammunition. Some of the Lee-Enfield cartridges are corroded, but most of the rest and the 12 gauge shells appear to be fine. We've never dealt with anything this old before, and were wondering how to properly dispose of the bad cartridges, and whether the rest of it is safe to use.

    Any advice and comments would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance for the help!

    KG






    Thanks in advance for the help!

    KG

  2. #2
    DJ Niner's Avatar
    DJ Niner is online now HGF Forum Moderator
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    Hello,

    I have an Ithaca model 37 from the same era (looks exactly like yours, right down to the front bead), and strangely enough, I also received it from my grandmother (after my grandfather had passed away). M37s are pretty cool guns. They are all-steel, but very lightweight. The action ejects empty shells downward, which made them very popular with left-handed shooters. Because they have no side ejection port, the only way to load a shell into the chamber is to put it into the magazine and pump the action (other guns usually allow a shell to be dropped into the open side ejection port and the action closed to load one round).

    An electronic version of the manual can be found here (if the site is up and not over their bandwidth):
    http://stevespages.com/pdf/ithaca_37featherlight.pdf

    Please note that disassembly is different than most other pump shotguns in that you screw the magazine tube cap TIGHTER onto the tube initially, so the cap's tab clears a slot in the the barrel lug allowing you to turn the barrel a quarter-turn and pull it off; then you can unscrew the cap and remove it. Always have the action open (pump handle to the rear) when removing or installing the barrel.



    I'm not quite as chock-full of info on the SMLE. I know they cock on closing the bolt, instead of on opening as most modern bolt actions do. I usually recommend folks take any old guns (especially old military guns) to a gunsmith for a safety inspection before shooting them. The 'Smith can also give you a quick overview on safe operating procedures.

    An electronic version of the manual can be found here (if the site is up and not over their bandwidth):
    http://stevespages.com/pdf/leeenfield.pdf

    I definitely wouldn't shoot any corroded ammo, and I'd look at every round very closely, especially around the bullet/case and primer/case junctions. Sometimes the local police or fire departments can help with disposal of unwanted or unsafe ammunition; I'd recommend giving them a call or talking to a officer in person. If you have any military bases nearby, they might have folks who would be able to help with disposal, too.

  3. #3
    kg333's Avatar
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    Thanks very much for the info and advice, DJ, those manuals should be a huge help.

    KG

  4. #4
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    Here's some info on your No. 4 MK 1 Enfield

    http://www.surplusrifle.com/no4/index.asp

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMLE

    I have a No.4 MK 2 which I (unfortunately) haven't fired yet. Picked it up a few years ago for $60, when I had my Class 3 license. It's about 95 percent, an arsenal refinish job probably.

    I 've read some articles on your Ithaca and it sounds like a very nice shotgun. Yours looks like a real beauty.

  5. #5
    chathcock's Avatar
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    I went through the same thing with bad ammo. I suggest you take the really bad looking stuff to the local firehouse in a box clearly labeled, and try to shoot the rest of the ammo.
    When I did shoot the old ammo I questioned the range personnel about what they thought and what to do if I get some FTF rounds, and they brought up a good point. Just because the ammo sat, it doesn't mean it will make your gun explode like in some cartoon, the worst that could happen is to have a hang fire. So they instructed me to take extra precaution if I got a FTF and to dispose of the cartridge in accordance to their range rules.

    Good luck sorting it out.

  6. #6
    kg333's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chathcock View Post
    I went through the same thing with bad ammo. I suggest you take the really bad looking stuff to the local firehouse in a box clearly labeled, and try to shoot the rest of the ammo.
    When I did shoot the old ammo I questioned the range personnel about what they thought and what to do if I get some FTF rounds, and they brought up a good point. Just because the ammo sat, it doesn't mean it will make your gun explode like in some cartoon, the worst that could happen is to have a hang fire. So they instructed me to take extra precaution if I got a FTF and to dispose of the cartridge in accordance to their range rules.

    Good luck sorting it out.
    A friend of mine recommended the same thing, so we wiped down most of the ammo today, and boxed up the stuff that looked like the primers had corroded. Dad should be taking the Enfield up to a range with a more gun-knowledgeable friend of his later this week, so hopefully everything should go smoothly.

    KG

  7. #7
    DevilsJohnson is offline Senior Member
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    Those both are nice weapons. Getting to keep a piece of family history is a real neat thing. I have an old Triumph single shot 12 gauge that was my Dad's. I really don't know anything at all about who actually made it but I believe mine was a catalog gun at one time. From back in the 30's-40's. It's the oly safe queen I have..heh

  8. #8
    kg333's Avatar
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    Got an update:

    I was able to take the Ithaca out trap shooting with a friend of mine earlier this year, which went beautifully. She did warn me that it was a field gun and not a range gun before we started, which in hindsight was quite correct...it kicks like a mule. All in all quite happy with it though.

    We also finally got a chance to shoot the Lee-Enfield today, and noted a couple issues. As expected, there were a few FTFs which were disposed of. The rifle appeared to shoot decently, although we didn't have a bench rest handy to check how accurate the barrel still is on it.

    What did cause some concern was the condition of a few of the cartridges after firing. Several of them appeared to have splits around the neck, like the ones below. Is this batch of ammo dangerous to shoot, or is it normal for some brass to fail, especially considering it's likely very old? Out of 45, 14 showed some kind of split or hole like this afterwards.

    KG



  9. #9
    DevilsJohnson is offline Senior Member
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    Chamber might be a little loose. If it's older ammo though it might have more to do with the age. Maybe try some more recent made ammo? Then compare cases.

  10. #10
    DJ Niner's Avatar
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    Pretty common ammo problem, especially with older military ammo stored under unknown conditions. The brass at the case mouth becomes brittle, and instead of stretching when it is fired, the brass cracks.

    Brass that cracks on firing is not a good thing, because if it cracks too far down the case, it can leak high-pressure gasses into the action which can follow the bolt/receiver junction and spit debris back into the shooter's face. I'd retire this ammo, and follow DevilsJohnson's advice, above, to get some new ammunition.
    "Placement is power" -- seen in an article by Stephen A. Camp
    (RIP, Mr. Camp; you will be remembered, and missed)

  11. #11
    DevilsJohnson is offline Senior Member
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    Ya know? I knew if I just kept talking I'd say something right at some point. Sun shines on every dogs rear now and then Man I think I need a nap or some coffee.

  12. #12
    kg333's Avatar
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    Yeah, sounds like we'll be retiring the batch that came with the rifle then, and hunting around for new .303 British. Thanks for all the advice guys!

    KG

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