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 Post subject: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:58 pm 
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Thanks to Mr 16 gauge, who kindly shipped me a broken bolt carrier for an Ithaca Model 51 for the price of the postage, along with some other parts he didn't charge enough for, I've learned something about Model 51's. I did not like what I learned.

The bolt on a Model 51 Ithaca rides on a carrier that required more complex machining than just about any one part of a modern shotgun. It's wonderfully made. God only knows how they could have afforded to make all those milling cuts on solid steel. It surely must be made out the finest grade of steel available, because,,,,

It's a lousy rotten design. Doomed to fail.

And it will fail on the left side, right in front of the bolt carrier plate, where that steel is so thin because of cuts required by the "long slide" design. It's just too thin there. This is where the bolt carrier plate is extended out as the left hand guide rail for the gas piston up front. They radiused the cut. They used the best steel. But the one that sent me has broken and the part looks like it was nearly new when it broke. This gun had two good recoil buffers in place,,,I know because they were sent along with this broken part.

About all you can do is keep good buffers in one, change out the recoil spring every two or three years, take up prayer, and carry a rabbit's foot. This shotgun is NOT for some kid that has no money to fix it if it breaks.

The bolt carrier costs about $118 if you can find one. It's going to be made the same bad way as the one that broke. I'll try to fix this one by welding and report. I don't know any machinists that could make that part for $118.


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2012 1:12 am 
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I've never shot a 51, but I have heard about the bolt carrier on them as long as I can remember. It is a shame that a shotgun that seems so wonderful in every other regard was brought down by this one little part.

Perhaps if the new Ithaca gun company would take up the model 51 they could correct this and make it the gun it should be.

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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:09 am 
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I had one welded for $20. The 51A dealt with this issue but not many of them around.


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:45 pm 
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This is all speculation, but the twin forged steel shell lifters on an Ithaca 37 look like they just can't work. They are too thin, and there's no damn way those things should work for very long without bending or breaking. And yet they work just fine, and I'll bet that you'll live to be a thousand and never find an Ithaca 37 with a problem with the shell lifters.

The high brass at Ithaca must have took a look at the Model 51 bolt carrier design and thought they could get away with that, too.

An LC Smith is cocked by two steel levers that are termed "cocking dogs". They simply cannot work. Yet they do work. They do not break, ever. An LC Smith can have several things go wrong with it, but the "cocking dogs" are going to work until Christ comes to call his faithful home.

But I'm stting here looking at this Model 51 bolt carrier and wondering how in the world they ever thought they could get away with it. They must have thought using the best forged steel would do the trick. Ithaca gave out a lifetime operational warranty on the Model 51.

I'd love to see a Model 51-A bolt carrier. How could they add any steel there without working a major change in the gun's tooling to make the slide rails wider?


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:13 pm 
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I have had problems with the trigger group on my 51, but never the bolt.


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:33 am 
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It's been a year now since I've been shooting my three Model 51's in light use rotation at the Wednesday night skeet shoots and I've not broken any bolt carriers yet, or had any trigger trouble.

When they work, they work so well that I rank them up right under the SX1 for being the second best gas operated target shotgun ever made in 12 gauge, and the best 20 gauge by default.

A friend of mine found somebody to weld up the broken carrier that I got, but I've not tried it yet. Les Hovencamp supplied fresh recoil springs and brand new production buffers for all three guns.

If you don't have one, you need one,,,,,especially the 20 gauge. The 20 gauge uses the same frame size as the 12, and the lack of recoil and "blast sensation" has to be experienced to be appreciated. The Ithaca 51 with new recoil springs and clean ports is a dead reliable shotgun that never once misses a beat, handles great, and is as light enough to actually carry all day hunting. They come apart for cleaning very easily, and you need no tools at all to completely strip them down.

But such a shame about that carrier rail, and the trigger problems on the first ones. You can get trigger parts and buy trigger groups on Ebay. But when one of those carrier rails breaks you have to find a welder.

The Remington M3200 had far, far worse problems, and people forgave them and had everything fixed and the gun is still popular today. The M51 has flaws, but it's worth messing with them. Once you get one, you'll want another one.:)

But they just are not for a beginner who has no shotgun and wants one. These are for the hard bitten shotgun addict. He's already got a bad case of gunneria, and we have no sympathy for him.;)


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:39 pm 
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Location: Ithaca, NY
Most of the Model 51's were built with action springs that were too short from day one. These guns may work fine for a few years, but that action spring will weaken, and break that slide most every time. I have welded, and refit over 50 Model 51 action slides, and overhauled the actions for about $200. I have not had one customer call, and tell me it broke again. Maybe they sold the gun, or not using anymore. I use a Model 51 every duck season... no problems

Les Hovencamp


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:55 pm 
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Les, when I was a young teen, my father gave me a Model 51. I was so very attached to it in my very rural Mississippi home. After he died when I was 16, it was the very good tool I used to keep meat on my mother's table. About ten years later, when I was in college, someone stole the gun. In recent years, I've wanted one and came to this board to learn where I might find one.

I saw your post, and figured that I'm not far from you(I'm near Syracuse). Where would you suggest I start out to find one -- and if I did, would you be willing to refit and upgrade the action?

I'll be grateful.

Paul Newsom

lecky56 wrote:
Most of the Model 51's were built with action springs that were too short from day one. These guns may work fine for a few years, but that action spring will weaken, and break that slide most every time. I have welded, and refit over 50 Model 51 action slides, and overhauled the actions for about $200. I have not had one customer call, and tell me it broke again. Maybe they sold the gun, or not using anymore. I use a Model 51 every duck season... no problems

Les Hovencamp


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:17 am 
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Location: Ithaca, NY
I see them on Gunbroker alot. Try there

LES


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:58 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2008 10:10 pm
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Thank you Les, for making the parts for the 51 available. i just installed new buffers and springs in both of mine, a 12 and a 20. i have owned a number of 51s over the years, and have also seen the broken carriers. i think that some guys just dont understand the simple fact that these guns need to be maintained. buffers get old and break apart, and springs compress with usage and time. the guys at the range always kid me about bringing out 40 and 50 year old ithacas to bust clays with. but when i let them shoot a few with a 51 or a nice old 37, they understand my fondness for these guns. For what its worth, i have put hundreds of rounds down any one of my 51s. as long as the buffers and spring are in good shape, they are just fine.


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:51 am 
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Location: Birmingham, AL
Hi Les

I have Model 51 Featherlight 12 Gauge that needs the bolt carrier repair. Are you still doing these repairs? If so, what do I need to do to have you service my 51?

Thanks
Rick


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:59 pm 
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Location: Ithaca, NY
Send it for a quote

LES


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 8:27 pm 
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Hi, I have an Ithaca 51 with broken slide. It is the left side. It worked very well rabbit and grouse hunting. I think the problems started when my dad began shooting at deer in New York with slugs.
There is a 30" vent rib full choke 3" chamber barrel and the improved cyl. barrel on it currently. I'd like to get it fixed but cannot justify too much cost.
Any suggestions for a newcomer?


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 1:37 pm 
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Les can probably exchange your old slide for a reworked slide, and install new buffers and a new spring. But he must charge you for it, and you cannot do it yourself.

That slide that I had a friend weld up? The thing won't work. I might be able to get it to work by filing on it some, but the notch in the left side where they break was there in the first place to allow the factory to put the slide in a jig and make it straight, and while mine looks straight,,,,it's not straight and won't work.

The moral is, if you are going to shoot a Model 51 and it breaks a slide, send it to Les and pay him his reasonable charge for his work and parts, and get on with it.:)


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:24 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:31 pm
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Location: phila
it is possible to weld them up , but great care must be taken
its a precision part ,you just can't slop weld over it

i've welded 3 up so far ,2 are in use 1 is an extra ,i also have one that somebody slop welded and is basicly useless now.not everyone will take the time to prep it , align it and finish it properly

basicly if you can't do a quality job yourself,send it to diamondgunsmithing,its worth the money to eliminate the chance of ruining a hard to come by part


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:38 pm 
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Sounds like I need to talk with Les

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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:05 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:31 pm
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Location: phila
ya know the m51s are not looked highly upon
compared to other semi autos of thier period they never were the hottest seller.
they also got a bad rap because of broken parts aka"slide" mostly because people didn't maintain them properly.
all in retrospect

but because of these very things i can see in the future these cheap relativly unknown ithacas are going to be some of the more unusual rare ithacas to be found.

so if you have one get it tuned up , and keep it so because they will only get more and more rare.


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Sat May 04, 2013 1:11 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 12:34 pm
Posts: 40
My dad had a model 37, and the first gun I bought was a Model 51, new in the 1970's.
I loved the looks of it and the balance but I had nothing but problems with it. It jammed about every third round the whole time I owned it. The model 51's came with a lifetime warrenty and i sent it back once the the factory, but they sent it back to me after a few months and it was the same issue as before. I ended up buying a used 900XL, and wow what a differance. The 900 worked flawlessly. I have owned about 10 of the ithaca/skb 300's and 900's over the years, both the gas and recoil models.
I ended up selling my slightly used model 51 to a guy back around 1990. He was aware of it's problems and i never heard if he got them corrected.
I suggest passing on the model 51 and buying a 300xl or 900xl, they came in a number of differant configurations. The 20 gauge recoil model 300/900 are great guns to but the 12 gauge version is a little ruff on the shoulder.


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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Sun May 05, 2013 8:36 am 
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you know, you could also utilize the services of the shop that did that lazer welding for me on that 37 I am restoring.

The guy that did it, his main business is fixing industrial components (dies, injection moulds, other stuff) that cost 10's if not 100's (or more) thousands of $$ more than our guns are worth. (not taking anything away from Les, the guy that welds is not a gunsmith, he is a high precision welder, no more, no less, and he says so). He is able to afford the welding equipment that being his business.

if you want his contact information just say.

dave

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 Post subject: Re: Beware the Model 51 Ithaca
PostPosted: Sun May 05, 2013 11:56 am 
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I will say this for the Model 51. The only fault it really has is that slide that breaks. It has the best looking, best machined aluminum trigger group I've seen on a modern shotgun. All the rest of those parts are good steel or good walnut, and they will shoot until Christ comes if you only exercise constant prayer, keep good springs and buffers in them, and have a good welder such as Les Hovencamp waiting to fix the slide when it breaks.:)


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