Gun Review: Ithaca Auto & Burglar 20 Gauge

In 1921 the Ithaca company created a smooth bore handgun from their standard model shotgun the Flues. These handy little handguns were christened the Auto & Burglar. That name came from the intended use for this double barrel. It was considered a gun for the good guys to take care of burglars and any other criminals that might run into the owner of this little dandy. With it’s small size it was also considered a fine gun for stowing in the owners automobile. The ad Ithaca put out stated it was perfect for automobile use, home protection, police officers, guards and couriers. Can you see a courier carrying a double barrel on his bike these days!

Auto-Burglerjpg

The first model came out in 1921 with a total run of 2500 made until 1925. The A&B was upgraded in 1925 to handle 2 ¾ inch shells. The first model could only be fired with 2 ½ inch shells. All stock models were chambered in 20 gauge. Barrels on the first model were all 10 inches in length with a saw handle type grip with a spur on top to cut down on felt recoil. The second model had between 10 and 12 inch barrels depending on what the buyer ordered. The grip on the second model was a straight pistol grip. Each handgun was supplied with a flap belt holster. Ithaca also offered to customize the A&B to the buyers preference. Some were even made in .410, 16 gauge and 28 gauge. The buyer could also choose the grip as well as the type of wood used for the stock. Very few of these were made prior to the end of production making these the rarest of the rare. A master engraver at the Ithaca plant engraved each model. Both sides are engraved with “Ithaca Auto & Burglar Gun”. Strangely enough they kept the bird hunting theme right above the name.

FAP 21T-3

autoburglar2

The total run of the second model was approximately 1500 before production ceased in 1934 with the passage of the National Firearms Act. With the financial situation of the world in 1934 nobody but the very rich could afford the $200 transfer tax. That transfer fee was changed to $5 in 1960. These very rare smooth bore handguns are highly prized by collectors. This is not only the case because of the limited numbers made but because of BATFE rules stating that this Ithaca is classified an AOW (any other weapon). If one of these old guns is found and has never been registered they are considered contraband by the ATF and destroyed. You don’t even want to know how I feel about that! Shooting the Ithaca Auto & Burglar I was fortunate enough to be able to shoot one of the first models in 20 gauge with 10 inch barrels. To say it was fun would be an understatement. A fellow officer found one of these for sale and quickly purchased it and paid the tax. No police aren’t that well paid but this officers family was well off.

ithaca-auto-burglar ATF

We shot this old smooth bore a good deal in spite of its rarity. The only thing we didn’t do was shoot slugs in it. To risky chancing a split barrel. The first thing you probably want too know is how bad did it kick? Well lets say it was stout but not painful. With those 10 inch barrels the shot spread would cover a B-27 targets torso from 10 yards. We enjoyed shooting it at night because of the fireball coming out of those barrels especially so when you fired both barrels at once.

AutoBurglar

This old Ithaca is certainly an important part of our shooting sports history. If you ever get to examine one I imagine you’ll appreciate it as much as we did. I feel very fortunate to have had the privilege of firing one.





Phil White

Retired police officer with 30 years of service. Firearms instructor and SRU team member. I still instruct with local agencies. My daily carry pistol is the tried and true 1911. I’m the Associate Editor and moderator at TFB. I really enjoy answering readers questions and comments. We can all learn from each other about our favorite hobby!


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  • floppyscience

    Great article, I’ve always liked those things. It’s a shame we’re still subject those archaic NFA laws.

    • JT

      States should Nullify. At least it would start a precedent to reverse the interpretaton of the commerce clause that has been used to justify everything and anything

      • Eric S

        You’d have to nullify the Supremacy Clause. States can have stricter laws than the feds, but not looser (curious to see how this whole not-so-illegal- marijuana thing will play out though). It’d just be easier if we could nullify the Hughes Amendment. Which will happen just as soon as I win the Mega Millions lotto.

        Until then, for every law, there is a loophole.

        • Right on the money. This one is locked up tight.

        • blehtastic

          You wouldn’t have to nullify the Supremacy Clause, you’d have to validate the Supremacy Clause. An unconstitutional law, held up by unconstitutional supreme court judgements is not a valid law. The NFA is as unconstitutional as Obamacare, meaning very.

        • JT

          yup, that was my understanding. The supremacy clause would invalidate the NFA if the interpretation of the commerce clause was that items prohibited from interstate sale being NFA-classified items were made and owned by those within a state for those within a state only. Of course, the commerce clause has been so wildly interpreted that anything produced AFFECTS interstate commerce. So, say one state upholds firearms freedom. Well, they are affecting firearms pricing from other states, must be interstate commerce.I assume that this is what they would find. Theyve banned things like weed by saying that since it exists, it can be sold. So, if a prohibited and controlled item exists it can be sold too by their logic. I call BS

    • Eric S

      I believe most states allow AOWs. Or you know, you could throw a rifled barrel on it and call it good.

      • floppyscience

        That isn’t the point. I shouldn’t have to pay the federal government a tax and register my gun with them just because they want me to. The federal government doesn’t have any authority to regulate firearms as per the 10th Amendment. The states shouldn’t have to pass bills saying that firearms manufactured and kept in-state are not subject to the NFA, that should already be implied given the fed’s BS “interstate commerce” justification for their gun laws.

        Of course we don’t live in a “should” world, we live in a “f*** you we’re the government” world.

      • Most do allow them but one problem is a lot of these old guns have not been registered. If they haven’t been you can longer register them and they have to be turned in to ATF for destruction.

        • BobTrent

          “Have to?” Such unregistered (untaxed) guns have somehow survived for 80 years, since 1934 without being turned in for destruction.
          How do you know “a lot of?” How many were made? How many are registered (have tax stamps associated)? I’m not trying to be critical; I am curious as to what the state of things is concerning these guns, and the similarly-purposed single shot Harrington & Richardson Handy Gun.

      • Anonymoose

        If you put a rifled barrel in a 20 gauge pistol it would be a Destructive Device.

        • Eric S

          How so? Is there a caliber restriction on pistols like there is for rifles? It’d be a short barreled shotgun in Cali, but that’s Cali.

          • Eric S

            As an edit, there is an exemption in the DD category for shotshells. Which is how I believe Taurus was going to get away with the 28ga Judge, which was .55cal.

          • Thanks good to know

          • Anonymoose

            And then the ATF changed their mind so they weren’t really able to get away with it, unfortunately. :

          • BobTrent

            It isn’t for shotshells as such. Anything that has over 0.50″ (½”) bore has to meet the BATFE’s “sporting purposes” characteristics to avoid the DD classification.
            The “sporting purposes” rules also apply to imported handguns, which results in such silly things as target sights, thumb rest grips, extra “safety” catches, etc. on totally non-target-type pocket pistols to earn the “points” required for importation.
            The Handy Gun and the Auto & Burglar have been reclassified as “Curios & Relics” but still require registration and the $5 tax stamp.

        • Yea either way you would be in trouble. Regardless of the barrel ATF has them listed as AOW and that’s all they go by.

    • Thanks—I agree this gun is no more dangerous than a Governor!

  • Alex C.

    Great article! The name of these are awesome. Can you imagine a company today naming their gun “Anti-Thug” or something?

    • Cymond

      To me, the “Judge” has some rather grim implications.

      • Yea that’s true. In fact now that you mention it I saw something about anti-gun people objecting to that name as well as some of the other names for different models.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        You’re right — and Rossi’s “Circuit Judge” tends to give rise to connotations of the stern, no-nonsense “hanging” judges of the Old West as well, with equally grim implications.

      • Sable

        Ya’ll say “Grim Implications” like it’s a bad thing…

    • The liberals would go nuts:-) Thanks Alex.

  • Ripley

    Couriers carry Serbu Super-Shorty today 😉 Or Uzi ;P

    • Anonymoose

      I carry this when I ride my bike. lol

  • anton

    Part of sports history? I don’t think that’s a sporty gun in any way. :p

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Thanks for the well-written and informative article, Phil. Ithaca has always made excellent shotguns, but they tend to be overlooked by firearms enthusiasts and overshadowed in the market by the more prominent brand names, which is a real pity.

    At first recollection, I almost thought that the short-barreled shotgun used by Sean Connery’s character Jimmie Malone in “The Untouchables” ( 1987 ) was the Ithaca Auto & Burglar 20-Gauge, but then I reviewed the movie and realized it was a Rossi Overland 12-Gauge short-barreled shotgun. Based on your information, and taking into account the fact that the Rossi Overland did not exist during the 1920’s – 1930’s time period depicted by the movie, I’m guessing that it was meant to represent the Ithaca in the story line.

    • Thank you sir I’m glad you enjoyed it! You very well could be right. The time frame sure fits. It was very popular at that time.Heck any shotgun like that was popular with the good and bad guys. I believe the Italians called them Lupos. Oh the price, which I should have included, was $37.50.

      • Anonymoose

        Nowadays when most young people hear “Ithaca” they think of M37s in Vietnam or possibly their WWII contract M1911A1s, when the company’s been around for over a century and produced a ton of popular models.

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Good observation there, Anonymoose! You really hit the nail on the head.

          On a different note — and I’m sure you already know this, so this is strictly for the benefit of other readers who might not — the Ithaca M37 12-gauge pump-action shotgun was preferred by certain units ( such as the SEAL teams ) during the Vietnam War era because it could be cycled and fired simply by holding the trigger back and racking the forearm, thereby speeding up the effective rate of fire and delivering more lead against a target in a shorter amount of time, a critical factor in the sudden and highly-reactive battlefield encounters common in close country.

          • Rick_in_VA

            Didn’t the tunnel rats use something similar?

          • Not that I remember. It was all 1911’s or a revolver and a flashlight. Usually a knife also.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            The “Tunnel Rats” of the Vietnam War were initially issued with service Colt .45 pistols, which gradually gave way to lighter, more compact 9mm weapons such as Luger or Walther pistols ( usually acquired through private means ) with a lower noise and flash signature, vital in the dark, confined, creeping, silent, nerve-racking stealth warfare of the tunnels. When they could acquire them, the “Tunnel Rats” reportedly preferred Soviet-designed pistols such as the 7.62mm x 25 Tokarev TT-33 and 9mm x 18 Makarov PM. In addition, improvised suppressors were frequently used with varying degrees of success, and a modified, special-purpose quiet version of the Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver was adopted. Instead of the standard .44 Magnum cartridge, this weapon fired a special .410-gauge captive-piston cartridge which significantly reduced noise and flash ( perhaps this is where the notion of shotshells being used in the tunnels originated ).

            Interestingly, the Soviet 40th Army had its own “Tunnel Rats” during the protracted Soviet campaign in Afghanistan from 1979-1989. Although little has been published to date in the West about them, I hope that their story, and that of their adversaries, will one day be told.

            I have not personally heard of shotguns of any kind being used in modern subterranean warfare, but other contributors to this site may have more detailed information on this topic.

        • Oh no doubt there are many more. I just know the 37 would be one most readers of any age would recognize.
          They made M1 carbines in WWII also.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Thanks for the reply, Phil! As Anonymoose has pointed out, Ithaca has designed and manufactured a lot of high-quality firearms over the decades. It would be nice if more of their firearms could be reviewed on occasion at TFB’s discretion. I suspect it would prove quite interesting and open up new avenues for discussion and learning.

        • I’ll sure see what I can do. I really like to shoot the guns as well as just talk about the history and use of the old Ithacas.
          The gunshop I use now gets some older guns in. The local gunsmith does as well. That might be a start.
          I agree with your idea and I will work on it.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            Thanks so much for your time and consideration, Phil. Your efforts and interest are much appreciated. I’m looking forward to learning more from your articles. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to share some input that might prove useful to all.

          • I appreciate that. I’m always glad to hear ideas from readers and learn from them as well. Many times it’s an exchange of knowledge that serves us both.

        • Michael

          Ithaca has some nice shotguns on their website, their defense guns look great. But I have never seen one in the flesh

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            They are well-made guns with a very good fit and finish, and a crisp, medium-light trigger pull. For those who hunt deer with slug guns, the Monte Carlo stock that comes standard with models such as the Deerslayer II and III is an added bonus for comfort and accuracy ( for most — though not all — users, anyway ). The bottom-ejection feature is nice as it is friendly to both right- and left-handed shooters. I also happen to like the balance and general feel of the Ithacas. For me, at least, an Ithaca simply falls to hand quite naturally and comfortably.

            The downside? For those who like to upgrade and “dress out” their guns, it is much harder to find a wide range of accessories for an Ithaca compared to a Mossberg or Remington. Some models are also more expensive than the competition’s products, which may help explain why they are less popular.

  • James

    The grammar used by the authors on this site is dreadful.

    • James I disagree but then we all have our opinions right or wrong.

      • Anon Ymos

        Yeah, and they don’t like it when people leave comments that are more intelligent than what the authors write either!

        • After doing some checking this is the first and only post you’ve made on TFB so how would you know?
          Second you sure have a lot of names and from the comments you’ve made on other websites you’re just a troll

  • Al Shults

    If anyone is looking for more great old antique and collector firearms that are interesting and similar to this one, take a look at http://www.lockstockbarrelny.com

    They update their site regularly and find some interesting things that they post on the website.

    Their staff is friendly and helpful, and they have over 40 years of experience in the business.

    The name of their shop is Lock, Stock & Barrel Sporting Supply, LLC., and their shop is really something to see as well, they have some great stuff in there.

    I’ve done some business with them in the past and have been more than happy.

    If you like interesting antique and collector firearms, it’s worth checking their website out regularly, because they put some interesting items on there.

    • Al this sounds a lot like an advertisement. Do you work there by chance. We don’t allow ads.
      If you don’t have any connection with them my apologies.

      • Al

        No Phil, just thought that some of the folks checking out this article might be interested in checking out the website I mentioned, they occasionally have antique and collector firearms similar to the auto burglar. Sorry for the confusion, I didn’t mean to sound like a spammer! – Al

  • Michael

    Could we have one in 410 with rifled barrels, along the lines of the Judge?
    It would be the nearest we could get

  • Zius Patagus

    Cobray, Leinad or one of those companies made single and double barrel .410 pistols for awhile. They had minimal rifling and were horribly made. They had one that had 11″ bbls.

  • Zius Patagus

    Here’s a photo of the Cobray/Leinad 410 pistol

    • floppyscience

      I just watched a video on those things, they are terrible indeed. I especially love the tiny awkward selector and the total lack of any ejectors. Prying each shell out with a pocket knife sure looks fun and efficient.

      Apparently they still make them, or at least they’re still in some stores. The video I watched stated they were $200-$250 locally… which is absurd because that’s about as much as a new Mossberg.

      • Eric S

        You can still buy the kits for $100 I believe. Look up Excalibur LLC. Then you can build then as durable as you wish. Saw a build from a guy using 1/4in plates to build one, I think it was quite durable.

    • I’ll agree just by the photos. Looks cheap—very cheap!

  • Jack

    So this is where they got the idea for the Judge…

  • Information for readers: You’ll see several comments that have been deleted about half way through the comments. One was critical of the authors grammar and another named person backing him up. Another was the post that sounded like an ad. It was an ad which has also been deleted. These instances were all under fake names.
    I felt you should all be advised why these comments were deleted. Unfortunately trolls do get in for a short time.