I love shotguns, and I love historic firearms. You mix the two, and I’m a fan. I’m quite fond of ‘Trench’ guns and ‘Riot’ guns from a historic and shotgun appreciation perspective. Most actual historic shotguns are quite pricey, and they aren’t guns I’d torture and enjoy. This is why modern replicas like the Rock Island Armory TPAS are guns that I can’t help but love.
What does TPAS stand for? I have no earthly idea. Uhm, maybe Trench Pump Action Shotgun? That’s all I got. The TPAS replicates the Ithaca 37, specifically the old school riot or trench gun version. Well, it does lack a bayonet lug, which is disappointing, but I can get over it. Rock Island’s website might be confused as the description lists it as the T1897 pump gun. It’s very clearly an old-school Ithaca 37 clone. (Although, I hope this means Armscor might be importing an 1897 clone, and someone just got the description wrong.)
Anyway, it’s a Turkish-made shotgun from Derya Arms. I’m really picky about my imported shotguns, and I know nothing about Derya Arms, but I trust Rock Island Armory. They’ve imported a ton of great shotguns. I’ve shot their VR series a ton and enjoyed them immensely. I had high hopes for the TPAS.
The TPAS – An Ithaca by Another Name
The Ithaca 37 is just “one of those guns.” It saw widespread use by the military and numerous police forces and is one of the hall of fame combat shotguns. Like a lot of shotguns, the Remington 870 came on in and replaced it with dual-action bars, a slick action, and a fairly affordable price point.
Even so, the ability to own a classic without breaking the bank and to enjoy it without babying it is fairly attractive. The MSRP is just $599, but they seem to be sold for less than 500 dollars on a good day. The TPAS is an attractive gun overall. The stock and pump are both wood. The wood features a shiny clear coat.
The pump is a classic corncob-style design. It’s small but fairly accurate for the guns at the time. The wood stock has nice checkering along the pistol grip that’s tough to hate. We get sling swivels and even a sling, but the sling seems rather dainty. Across the barrel, we get a fixed metal heat shield for those trench gun vibes.
The TPAS gives us a shiny black finish that’s not quite blued, but it looks like a classic gun. My only real complaint is the paragraph worth of text on the absolutely huge receiver. We have tons of text that takes away from the gun’s appearance.
The TPAS clones the Ithaca 37 down to the controls. This includes the larger pump release forward of the trigger guard and a safety that sits behind the trigger. It’s a simple and effective layout. Ergonomically the controls are easy to run either left- or right-handed, with little advantage for shooters of either stripe.
You’ll also notice a lack of a side ejection port. The Ithaca loads and ejects out of the bottom of the gun. It’s not throwing shotgun hulls anywhere but downwards. The lack of an ejection port means an emergency reload isn’t easy, and a slug select drill requires a different manual of arms than most guns.
At the end of the TPAS barrel sits a rifle-style Ithaca sight. It’s not exactly a replica of the Ithaca deer slayer sight, but fairly close. There are no rifle rear sights, which would have been an amazing touch if Rock Island Armory went that route. Even so, the height of the sight makes it just perfect for putting buckshot where you want it.
At the Range
Oh man, one of the most impressive things about these affordable, imported shotguns is the action. It’s abnormally smooth. I didn’t expect a gun imported from Turkey to be this slick. The TPAS action glides rearward, and you’ll feel the pressure when the action meets the hammer, but it’s still super smooth.
Color me impressed. The ejection is positive, reliable, and consistent. The front sight has a white color applied to the ‘bead-like’ portion that’s easy to see. I ran a series of snap drills with clay pigeons, which, as you’ll note, are relatively small. Against a timer, I started with an empty chamber, with the hammer down, so it was cruiser ready. I landed plenty of sub-second shots on the clay pigeon at 10 and 15 yards with a standard load of 9 pellet buckshot.
I fired two rounds on two targets in 1.35 seconds. The sights work, and the action is slick and smooth, which makes those follow-up shots easy. The pump is very small but allows me to tight grip the gun and work the action without it slipping from my hand. I tried the snap drills with the chamber loaded and safety on and did find the small safety tougher to hit and engage.
The gun is a little hefty at 8.10 pounds unloaded, but the weight helps with recoil. What also helps with recoil is a good push/pull technique. The downside of the TPAS is the length of pull. Like a real Ithaca 37, it’s fairly long at 14 inches.
The TPAS keeps things close to the real Ithaca 37 and only chambers 2.75-inch shotshells. That’s mostly okay. In terms of practical application, there aren’t any issues with using 2.75-inch shells. The only real downside is how small the loading port is. You can barely get your thumb behind the shell to shove it in. Doing fast reloads isn’t as easy as a gun that chambers 3-inch shells.
Like most imported shotguns, you are limited to a five-round magazine tube. The nature of the TPAS design means adding a magazine extension isn’t possible.
RIA delivers another nice surprise with a crisp and short trigger pull that’s too good for most shotguns.
The older 37s could slamfire, but the TPAS can’t. Slamfire isn’t really useful, but it’s fun. The first thing I did with the TPAS was load two rounds, go outside, and see if it slam fired. Sadly no, it does not.
I used a mix of 100 rounds of Fiocchi birdshot sent by RIA, 100 rounds of birdshot from Federal, 25 rounds of buckshot from Monarch, and 100 rounds of buckshot from Sterling. Inside of all of those rounds, I only had one small issue.
One round of Monarch seemed to do something to the action after the round was fired. It became heavier and took some effort to eject. Upon inspection, I couldn’t see any reason why. The shell looked fine. Monarch ammo is fairly cheap and not always the most reliable or consistent ammo.
Patterning was predictable from a shotgun with a cylinder bore. With standard buckshot, it patterned nine pellets within a 10.5-inch circle. Not bad, not super awesome. With Federal FliteControl, it punched a golf ball-sized hole into a target at 15 yards.
I’m curious how compatible the TPAS would be with Ithaca stocks and accessories, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any on hand to test. I’m picturing this being a good way to make the Ithaca 37 Stakeout I’ve always wanted.
Specifications: TPAS Pump Shotgun
Barrel Length – 18.5 inches
Overall Length – 40 inches
Capacity – 5 rounds
Caliber – 12 gauge – 2.75 inches
Weight – 8 pounds 10 ounces
MSRP – $599 (about $499 retail)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy * * * * *
Not only is the gun easy to shoot accurately, but it’s also easy to shoot accurately and quickly. The big blade sight works, especially at shotgun ranges. I know that it’s an Ithaca 37, but I wish I could toss a red dot on.
Reliability * * * * *
While one round gave me a tougher action, it didn’t shut the gun down or even cause a malfunction. The TPAS is plenty reliable and does the Ithaca 37 well.
Ergonomics * * * *
My main complaints are the small safety and a long length of pull. Honestly, these are accurate replicas of the real 37.
Overall * * * * ½
The TPAS gives us an affordable, easy-to-shoot, accurate weapon. It’s not modern by any means, but it’s not trying to be. The TPAS is a fantastic shotgun, and it’s an impressive import.