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!


    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


    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.


    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 retired as associate editor since December 14th 2017. My replacement is my friend Pete M email: [email protected] you can reach Pete for product reviews etc.