Unblinking Eye
H&R Automatic Pistols
David Rachwal - Handguns of the World

The Harrington and Richardson
Automatic Pistols of 1912 and 1916

by Ed Buffaloe


H&R-Logo-T

H&R Trademark Logo

Stephen Cuthbertson relates that William Whiting of the Webley & Scott (W&S) company of Great Britain first visited the factory of the Harrington & Richardson (H&R) company in Worcester, Massachusetts in the Winter of 1905, where he met with the 28 year-old Edwin Harrington, president of H&R and son of the founder of the company. We can assume that Harrington must have conveyed to Whiting his company’s interest in the manufacture of automatic pistols, and Whiting must have conveyed to Harrington his desire to license his patents.

At this time, only Colt’s was producing automatic pistols in the United States. H&R was a well-known maker of economical shotguns and revolvers, and likely saw an opportunity to compete with Colt’s for the lower end of the market. Whiting had just filed his first patent for an unlocked-breech self-loading pistol on 4 August of that year, and limited production of the gun in .32 caliber had begun in late September 1905. We may presume that this early discussion with H&R was about the manufacture of a pistol in .32 caliber, since the .25 caliber cartridge was not yet on the market. We do not know if Whiting had an example of his new .32 pistol to show Harrington when they met, but it seems likely. In any case no agreement was reached during this first meeting. (Remling states that a preliminary agreement was signed, but I can find no further evidence for this.) According to Cuthbertson, “...contact was maintained between the two companies.”

Buy Worldwide Webley & the Harrington & Richardson Connection on AmazonWhiting made a second trip to the United States late in 1908 in an effort to negotiate distribution of Webley & Scott pistols in the Americas and to see if he could make some sort of satisfactory arrangement with H&R to license his patents. According to Gordon Bruce, he took with him several examples of pistols of a new design he had been working on, and I suspect he made the trip in late September, after filing the 1908 British patents for his new design (see below). The U.S. patent was filed on 14 September 1908, and it is possible that Whiting took the application with him and filed it while in the U.S.

According to Cuthbertson: “In late 1909, after the United states Patent Office had granted Whiting’s patent for the sear linkage [on 13 April 1909], Harrington & Richardson and Webley & Scott Ltd. signed a formal licensing agreement.” Not long after this, Webley & Scott built two prototype pistols based on Whiting’s 1908 patents; one of these prototypes may have gone to H&R (see below). However, production of the H&R .25 caliber automatic pistol did not begin until 1912.

Exactly which pistols Whiting took to the U.S. late in 1908 is open to question. I had assumed he took one or another of the prototype pistols discussed below, but Gordon Bruce states (on pages 154 and 282) that serial numbers 41307 and 41308 were manufactured in January 1910, so they were not taken to the U.S. in 1908, even though the patents upon which they are based were filed in September 1908. The unserialed prototype gun discussed below is of even later origin.

Bruce says of Whiting’s 1908 design: “Despite the advantages offered by the new layout, Webley & Scott did not adopt the design for mass production...” He does not say why. Possibly the cost of retooling the production line was too great. In any case, the design that Webley & Scott licensed to H&R for their .25 caliber pistol dates from 1908 and, while based on his earlier designs, differs in many particulars.


Patents and Prototypes

British Patent 1908-18567 and U.S. Patent 918,406

GB-1908-18567-pat-drwg-2-S

British Patent 1908-18567

In William Whiting’s 1908 design, the slide is essentially a reciprocating breech block that fits up against the back of the barrel with two arms extending forward on either side. There is no ejection port as such. The extractor is on top of the slide, and ejection takes place in the space opened up between barrel and breech block during recoil. Perhaps the most innovative part of the design is that the barrel , slide, and frame are held together with dovetailed connections. In the language of the U.S. patent: “...the body has interlocking engagement, by virtue of the dovetailed parts both with the barrel and the breech slide and its extensions...”;  “...the breech slide extensions are dovetailed to the body... and the body and barrel are also dovetail keyed to one another...”; “...it follows that all the parts mutually support one another and are thereby enabled to effectually resist the strains to which they are subjected on the pistol being discharged and during the recoiling and return movements of the breech slide following each discharge.”

British Patent 1908-23200

GB-1908-23200-pat-drwg-composite-S2

British Patent 1908-23200 Composite

This patent covers the lockwork for the pistol in the previous patent--the unique design of the trigger, the sear, and the transfer bar that connects the two. This patent and the previous British patent were filed on the same day, 4 September 1908. Both specifications were included in the single U.S. patent 918,406 which was filed only ten days later, on 14 September 1908. The sear and transfer bar form a unit designed in such a way that when the hammer is not cocked the transfer bar is tilted down and cannot connect with the trigger at all. When the hammer is cocked the transfer bar tilts upward and sits directly behind a stud on the left rear side of the trigger. When the trigger is pulled, this stud pushes on the transfer bar and trips the hammer; simultaneously, the stud moves upward, disconnecting from the transfer bar. When the hammer falls, the transfer bar moves downward, but upon recoil of the slide and the automatic cocking of the hammer the transfer bar moves back into its position behind the trigger. However, the trigger stud cannot reconnect with the transfer bar until the shooter releases the trigger.
GB-1910-20367-pat-drwg-3-S

British Patent 1910-20367

British Patent 1910-20367

This patent covers the design of a gun with twin recoil springs and guide rods, and a slide end-piece which retains the springs and guide rods, so the slide, springs, and rods can be removed as a unit. The previous two patents omit any description or depiction of recoil absorption. The closure piece at the end of the slide also serves as the rear sight. The patent drawing shows a small, vest-pocket sized handgun nearly identical to the “hammerless” Webley & Scott 6.35mm M1912. There is no corresponding U.S. patent. The .25 caliber H&R pistol utilized the twin-recoil spring and guide rod concept but not the closure piece, opting instead for a round plug pinned in the end of the slide. The H&R pistol did not use the guide rods as ejectors.

British Patent 1914-6954

This patent covers a spring steel trigger guard for a self-loading pistol with a lug at the front that locks the barrel to the frame and which also serves as a recoil buffer. Whiting refers to his earlier British patent 15,982 of 1905 for a similar trigger guard which was completely removable and which had a lug at either end, each of which fitted into recesses in the bottom of the barrel to retain it in the frame. The unforeseen problem with the fully removable trigger guard was that people sometimes misplaced it and also tended to try to put it in backward. The new patent has the trigger guard hinged at the rear, with a single lug at the front.

British Patent 1914-6955

This patent covers a true hammerless pistol design with a single recoil spring in the upper portion of the slide, which also contains a spring-loaded striker which serves as the ejector. The patent drawing shows a pistol with a grip-safety, which is specified in the following patent. The previous and subsequent patents were all submitted together on 19 March 1914, prior to the advent of World War I later that year, and all three patents were apparently intended to be licensed to H&R for their .32 caliber pistol.
British Patent 1914-6956 - patent drawing

British Patent 1914-6956.
This Webley & Scott patent drawing can virtually serve as a schematic for the H&R .32.

British Patent 1914-6956

This patent covers the grip safety which also serves as a magazine safety. The upper portion of the grip safety lever curves backward and forms the release mechanism for the sear. When the magazine is withdrawn, the entire grip safety lever tilts forward and away from the sear. Additionally, if the magazine is inserted but the grip safety lever is not squeezed, the transfer bar tilts down so that it cannot engage the stud on the back of the trigger. When the grip safety is squeezed, the transfer bar is tilted upward to engage the trigger stud. There is no corresponding U.S. patent.

U.S. Patent 1,119,124

This patent, filed by Frederick Smith and assigned to Harrington & Richardson, covers a magazine safety that locks the trigger when the magazine is withdrawn. It was filed on 21 November 1913 and was granted on 1 December 1914. Judging by the patent drawing, it was clearly intended for use in the .25 caliber H&R pistol, but as far as I can determine it was never implemented in a production pistol.


Webley & Scott Prototype SN 41307

W-S-32-Proto-SN41307-L-S

Webley & Scott Prototype SN 41307
Photo courtesy Bob Maze.

According to Gordon Bruce two .32 caliber internal hammer prototypes were made in January of 1910. The first prototype, serial number 41307, was purchased from Webley & Scott by the well-known American collector Sid Aberman in the mid- to late- 1950’s. It is illustrated on page 285 of Gordon Bruce's book, but he gives no details about it. Despite its internal hammer, the gun retains more or less the traditional form of the Webley & Scott .32, with the exception that it has the ejection port on top of the slide and a top-mounted ejector that serves as a loaded chamber indicator.

The gun has twin recoil springs in the lower portion of the slide, retained by a plate dovetailed into its rear, as shown in British patent 1910-20367. The open top of the slide serves as the ejection port. Ejection is accomplished by the guide rods
W-S-32-Proto-SN41307-L-FS-S

Webley & Scott Prototype Field Stripped
Photo courtesy Bob Maze.

for the recoil springs, which are pointed on the front and protrude through holes on either side of the breech block, as described in the patent.

Other aspects of this gun are identical with the existing Webley & Scott standard .32 caliber Model 1908 pistol, including the design of the trigger guard which serves to lock the barrel in the slide, the design of the trigger, transfer bar and sear, the manual safety lever that acts on the transfer bar, and the magazine capacity of 8 rounds.

As we will see below, this gun is actually quite different from the Harrington & Richardson .32 caliber auto pistol, despite its external resemblance. Not only does it not have a grip safety, but its recoil absorption method is different, its lockwork is different, and its trigger guard pulls out at the bottom rather than the front to release the barrel and does not serve to buffer recoil.

Webley & Scott Prototype SN 41307

Weight

558 g

19.7 oz

Height

110.4 mm

4.352 in

Length

154 mm

6.14 in

Barrel Length

86.94 mm

3.422 in


Webley & Scott Prototype SN 41308

W-S-1908-Proto-41308-L1-S1

Webley & Scott Prototype - SN 41308
Courtesy of David Rachwal, Handguns of the World

Slide & barrel from the W&S prototype SN 41308

Slide and Barrel from the Bottom

Ejector rods in W&S prototype for the H&R .25

Guide-rod Ejectors

This gun is very much like the one shown in Whiting’s 1908 patents (British patents 1908-18567 and 1908-23200) except that it has an internal rather than an external hammer; it clearly served as the prototype for the H&R .25 caliber pistol, as the two guns match almost feature for feature, except this gun is in .32 caliber. It is discussed by Gordon Bruce on pages 282-285 of his book.

The upper portion of the slide is drilled to hold two recoil springs and guide rods. The slide serves as a cover for the internal hammer, holds the breech block with its integral firing pin, and has two arms that reach out toward the front of the gun on either side of the barrel. Unlike other designs with “open-top” slides, there is no crosspiece at the front to connect the two arms either above, in front of, or beneath the barrel. The two arms of the slide are thick, to prevent deformation, and the barrel, slide, and frame are connected via dovetail grooves, so the various components mutually support one another as the gun cycles.

There is no need for an ejection port. The breech block butts right up against the rear of the barrel, and ejection is out the top in the space opened up when the slide recoils. Ejection is accomplished by the guide rods for the recoil springs, which are pointed on the front and protrude through holes on either side of the breech block. The extractor sits on top of the slide and also serves as a loaded chamber indicator, its rear end protruding from the slide on an empty chamber but sitting flush when it engages a cartridge.

As described in British patent 1908-23200, the transfer bar is a part of the sear that extends forward to engage a stud on the back of the trigger when the hammer is cocked. When the hammer is not cocked, the transfer bar is held in a lower position and cannot contact the trigger stud. The manual safety lever locks the trigger. When the trigger is pulled, the trigger stud pushes past the transfer bar and cannot re-engage it until the trigger is released.

Webley & Scott Prototype SN 41308

Weight

632 g

22.3 oz

Height

110.74 mm

4.36 in

Length

140.2 mm

5.52 in

Barrel Length

76.2 mm

3 in


Unserialed Webley & Scott Prototype

Webley & Scott Unserialed Prototype

Webley & Scott Unserialed Prototype
Photo courtesy Jim Frank.

The precise date of this prototype is unknown, but based on the date of British patents 6954, 6955, and 6956 in March of 1914, we may guess that the earliest possible date for it is early 1914. It has all the features described in the patents, including the trigger guard that pulls down from the front, the single recoil spring mounted in the slide above the striker, the striker that serves as an ejector, the extractor with a pin on top that serves as a loaded chamber indicator, and the grip safety that also serves as a magazine safety. It is clearly a prototype for the .32 caliber Harrington & Richardson pistol. It is nearly identical in size and conformation to the H&R .32, the trigger and lockwork being shaped differently, but functioning identically. The magazines for the prototype and the H&R are nearly identical, except for the follower; unlike the H&R, the prototype follower holds the slide open when the magazine is empty. The only feature this gun does not posses that the H&R possesses is a manual safety lever. This gun remained in the Webley & Scott collection until it was purchased by Sid Aberman in the mid- to late- 1950’s. It has no serial number, and the barrel is not rifled. The gun is unblued, “in the white,” but is otherwise functional.


Unserialed Webley & Scott Prototype

Weight

578.33 g

20.4 oz

Height

114.3 mm

4.5 in

Length

165.1 mm

6.5 in

Barrel Length

88.9 mm

3.5 in


The Harrington & Richardson .25 Caliber Self-Loading Pistol

I had always thought that H&R took the basic Webley & Scott design and improved it with their superior engineering talent, but nothing could be further from the truth. H&R had no expertise in automatic pistol design. The H&R self-loading pistols are based entirely on designs by William Whiting licensed to them by W&S. H&R made only minor or cosmetic changes to the designs proffered by Whiting. An H&R employee, Frederick Smith, designed a magazine safety for the H&R .25, but it was never implemented in a production pistol.

H&R .25 Caliber Self-Loading Pistol, SN 520

H&R .25 Caliber Self-Loading Pistol

The first patent referenced on the H&R .25 is U.S. Patent 863,770, which was granted to William Whiting on 20 August 1907. This patent presents the basic design of the 1905 Webley & Scott .32 caliber pistol, but specifies in particular the design of the hammer safety which was not used on the H&R pistol; hence reference to this patent is a red herring. It was a common practice among American gunmakers to claim multiple patents, some or all of which had only tenuous connection to the actual pistol, in order to discourage copies by competitors. No doubt H&R licensed this patent from W&S, but it is not relevant to the H&R .25.

The second patent referenced on the H&R .25 is U.S. Patent 918,406, which was granted to William Whiting on 13 April 1909. This is the legitimate patent which actually describes the H&R .25--a gun with an unlocked breech, an internal hammer, a transfer bar that is part of the sear and can only engage the trigger stud when the hammer is cocked, and interlocking dovetail connections between barrel, slide, and frame.

The patent does not show the manual safety, which only serves to lock the trigger, though a safety of this type appears on the Webley & Scott prototype, serial number 41308, which was made in 1908 and which served as the prototype for the H&R .25 caliber pistol. Disconnection is accomplished at the trigger, when the trigger stud passes up past the transfer bar and cannot reconnect until the trigger is released. However, there is no mechanism to disconnect when the slide is out of battery.

The closest thing that Webley & Scott ever made to the H&R .25 was the Model 1912 “hammerless”; both guns have an internal hammer, share a similar disassembly method, a magazine release, and have twin recoil springs. But the slide and lockwork are quite different, and the W&S lacks the interlocking dovetail grooves that hold the H&R together. Also, the W&S “hammerless” .25 uses the guide rods as ejectors, whereas the H&R uses its firing pin as the ejector. According to Gordon Bruce, the reason the lockwork on the H&R differs from the standard W&S lockwork is that Whiting was concerned that Colt’s might find his original design to infringe on one of its patents (see Bruce, page 286).

Earliest Known H&R Prototype

H-R-25-SN48-L-S

H&R .25 Serial Number 48
Courtesy of David Rachwal, Handguns of the World

There may be other H&R prototypes, but serial number 48 is the only one I have examined. It was apparently in the H&R collection when the company was sold in 1986. This gun is a scaled-down copy of the Webley & Scott .32 caliber prototype, serial number 41308. It retains the squared-off rear of the W&S prototype, distinguishing it from the production H&R. Interestingly, as on the W&S prototype, the rear stop is a separate part that is dovetailed into the frame, whereas on the production H&R the entire frame is milled from a single piece of steel. The gun has the same barrel length as the production H&R .25, but the frame is .15 inches (3.8 mm) shorter and it weighs 5 grams less than the production pistol. There are no inscriptions or markings on the gun, the grips are of plain bakelite or plastic, and the serial number is internal. It differs slightly from production guns in details of machining.


H&R Serial Number 48

Weight

345 g

12.15 oz

Height

107.95 mm

4.25 in

Length

78.74 mm

3.1 in

Barrel Length

53.34 mm

2.1 in

H&R .25 Caliber Self-Loading Variants

There were no major changes to the .25 design throughout production; there were only very minor changes to inscriptions on both sides of the gun. On the left side of the slide, beneath the barrel, in small capital sans-serif characters, is the following inscription:

H&R SELF-LOADING
CALIBER 25

This same inscription was made with slightly larger lettering somewhere near serial number 8000. Toward the end of production, the position of this larger inscription was moved slightly to the rear. If you have a very early or very late H&R .25, please contact me.*

On the right side of the slide are the company name and the patent dates. Gordon Bruce states, on page 289 of his book, that the very earliest guns had an incorrect patent date, which was later omitted. He does not state when the error was corrected, but I own serial number 246, which has the corrected dates. Please contact me if you have an early gun with a third patent date.* In any case, the earliest inscription is said to read, in all capital sans-serif characters:

HARRINGTON & RICHARDSON ARMS CO.
WORCESTER, MASS., U.S.A.
PAT. AUG. 20:07. APRIL 9. 13, 1909

This was quickly corrected to omit the incorrect date, leaving a space that was to remain in the inscription for quite a long time:

HARRINGTON & RICHARDSON ARMS CO.
WORCESTER, MASS., U.S.A.
PAT. AUG. 20:07. APRIL      13, 1909

Bruce’s explanation for the error is that the date used, April 9, was that of the patent application rather than the date the patent was granted. The patent in question would have been U.S. patent 936,967, which was Whiting’s patent for the trigger guard barrel lock mechanism, filed on 9 April 1909 and granted 12 October 1909. Apparently, rather than have a new roll stamp cut, H&R simply ground away the incorrect date and continued using the stamp. Somewhere around serial number 8000* the company had a new roll stamp made, as follows:

HARRINGTON & RICHARDSON ARMS CO.
WORCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS, U.S.A.
PAT.  AUG.  20, 1907.   APRIL  13,  1909.

H&R .25 Caliber Self-Loading Pistol - SN 520

H&R .25 Caliber Self-Loading Pistol

The letters were spaced out so that each line took up the same amount of space. The patent date for the trigger guard was again omitted. Cuthbertson states that this change took place in 1914.

Bruce states that: “It is also understood that the triggerguard on early models had been blued, rather than a polished metal finish.” The wording leads one to believe that he had not seen such a blued trigger guard himself, nor have I. Since the trigger guard is made of spring steel it may be that it did not hold bluing well, so the company resorted to polishing it instead; or perhaps the early trigger guards were heat treated to a blue color. The trigger guards on serial numbers 48 and 246 do not appear to have ever been blued by any method.

The serial number is stamped on the left side of the frame behind the grip, and on the bottom of the barrel and slide.

Cuthbertson states that production ended in 1916, with the last serial number being 16630. Goforth states that the gun remained in the H&R catalog “...until at least 1918.” Goforth believes that production ended because the gun was too expensive compared to the economical H&R revolvers; H&R revolvers sold for about half what the self-loading pistol cost. Still, H&R was undercutting Colt’s: In 1916 the 1908 Colt .25 was selling for $16.50, whereas in 1918 the H&R .25 was selling for $11.50, so they were certainly competitive with the Colt.

H&R .25 Caliber Self-Loading Pistol

Weight

350 g

12.35 oz

Height

77.47 mm

3.05 in

Length

111.76 mm

4.4 in

Barrel Length

53.34 mm

2.1 in


Field Stripping the H&R .25 Caliber Pistol

  1. Harrington & Richardson .25 Caliber Self-Loading Pistol - Serial number 520 - Field StrippedEngage the safety - i.e., turn the lever down.
  2. Make certain the chamber is empty and remove the magazine.
  3. Pull down and out on the bottom of the trigger guard.
  4. With the trigger guard tilted down, remove the barrel and slide from the front of the gun.

Note: You will encounter resistance as you push the slide over the top of the hammer. When reinserting the barrel and slide, if you encounter resistance when the slide gets to the safety lever, press in on the safety lever. To remove the left grip plate, turn the safety lever up and take great care not to break off the thin section of grip plate beneath or in front of it.


The Harrington & Richardson .32 Caliber Self-Loading Pistol

H-R-32-3833-L-S

H&R .32 Serial Number 3833

Many sources indicate that H&R made improvements to the Webley & Scott Design. For example, J. B. Wood states: “I view the H&R as a definite improvement on Whiting’s original design, a combination of old-world skill and American innovation.” But I must emphasize that the entirety of the design should be credited to Whiting. H&R made only cosmetic changes or changes that would speed production.

According to Cuthbertson, prototypes were made by Webley & Scott in 1914, and production began in April 1916. Presumably, this also marked the end of .25 caliber production.

The H&R .32 is an unlocked-breech gun with the slide cut away on top to serve as an ejection port. A single coil spring with guide rod is mounted in the upper portion of the slide to dampen recoil and return the slide. Unlike the H&R .25 and all Webley & Scott auto pistols, this gun is striker -fired; it is a true hammerless pistol with an unusually large and heavy striker. The barrel and slide are held in place by a lug on the front of the trigger guard, which fits into a cut in the bottom of the barrel. Disassembly is accomplished by pulling down on the front of the trigger guard. The spring steel trigger guard also serves as a recoil buffer. The barrel moves a short distance, buffered by the trigger guard, before the slide recoils.

H&R .32 Transfer Bar & Grip Safety Mechanism

H&R .32 Transfer Bar & Grip Safety

The gun has a grip safety, a magazine safety, and a manual safety lever that locks the trigger. As described above, when the magazine is withdrawn, the entire grip safety lever tilts forward and away from the sear. If the magazine is inserted but the grip safety lever is not squeezed, the transfer bar tilts down so that it cannot engage the trigger stud. An internal extractor is mounted above the barrel and incorporates a pin that protrudes through the top of the slide when a cartridge is chambered . The striker also serves as the ejector. The conventional box magazine holds eight rounds.

As with the H&R .25, the transfer bar is attached to the sear mechanism rather than to the trigger, and is activated by a stud on the back of the trigger. However, unlike the .25, disconnection on the .32 is accomplished when the recoiling slide depresses a raised area at the rear of the transfer bar, forcing the transfer bar out of alignment with the trigger stud.

The breech block is pinned into the slide. The rear support block for the recoil spring and its guide rod and for the striker spring and its guide rod, is slotted into the back of the slide and held in place with an end plate secured with a spring and plunger.

The left side of the slide is marked in all-capital sans-serif characters:

H&R SELF-LOADING
CALIBER 32

The right side of the slide is marked:

HARRINGTON & RICHARDSON ARMS CO.
WORCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS, U.S.A.
PAT. AUG.20,1907. APRIL  13. NOV.9,1909.

The serial number is stamped on the left side of the slide, on the grip frame beneath the left grip, and on the bottom of the barrel. The finish is blue with a nickeled magazine. Grip plates are of checkered hard rubber with the H&R Arms Co. logo in the center. The magazine release mechanism is identical to that on the Webley & Scott pistols, with the minor exception that the pin that holds it in place extends out from the frame on either side in order to fix the position of the grip plates.

H&R .32 Caliber Self-Loading Variants

Early Serrations
Late Serrations

Early & Late
Slide Serrations

Variants are few and minor. Approximately the first 750 guns have not only a loaded chamber indicator but also a cocking indicator located just in front of the rear sight. It consists of a small cutout in which one can see the rear of the striker spring guide rod when the striker is cocked. According to Cuthbertson, when the cutout was eliminated the guide rod was duly shortened and later guide rods are not interchangeable with early ones. At the same time, a change was made to the frame which Cuthbertson describes as follows: “...the frame recess in front of the loading ramp was shortened. This shortening increased the frame’s integrity by placing more metal in front of the ramp.”

Early guns, up to about serial number 2500 have twelve relatively coarse triangular-cut slide serrations. After this, slides with sixteen finer triangular-cut serrations were introduced. However, for an interim of up to 2000 pistols one may find both coarse and fine serrations intermixed. For instance, serial number 3190 has coarse serrations, 3237 has fine serrations, and 3833 has coarse serrations. Please write to me if you have a gun in this range to share photographs and information about your gun.*

The earliest magazine followers were perfectly flat, though the vast majority of followers have a rear section sloped gently toward the back. Gordon Bruce states that later magazine followers “...were shaped to project about .062” (1.57mm) higher...to serve as a hold-open stop for the breechslide...after the last cartridge had been fired.” However, I have found no evidence that this is true. Cuthbertson clearly states: “No magazines platforms [sic] have been noted which held the pistol open after the last shot had been fired.” Though this was a feature of the prototypes that signals an empty magazine, I believe H&R chose not to implement it because it makes the magazine difficult to remove and, since the slide does not remain open once the magazine is removed, it is more of an impediment to reloading than a useful feature.

Cuthbertson says: “Early sales of the .32 calibre H&R Self-Loading pistol were quite brisk. As Webley & Scott could not supply its buyers after 1914 due to its war-time commitments, H&R acquired some of its customers.” Indeed, a gentleman on the British Great War forum owns serial number 276, which he believes was likely a British officer’s private purchase sidearm. They also sold well during the war in Australia and Canada. According to Cuthbertson, production ended on 30 June 1924, with the final serial number being 34500. He also mentions a Siamese contract in the 1920’s for 500 pistols which were in a separate number sequence, S1 to S500. Cuthbertson relates that the H&R .32 was only a half-dollar cheaper than the 1903 Colt and ultimately did not sell well. According to Goforth, H&R continued selling guns from its remaining stock until 1940.

H&R .32 Caliber Self-Loading Pistol

Weight

616 g

21.75 oz

Height

114.3 mm

4.5 in

Length

165.1 mm

6.5 in

Barrel Length

81.28 mm

3.2 in


Field Stripping the H&R .32 Caliber Pistol

  1. H&R .32 Field Stripped & Left Grip Plate Removed - SN 32288

    H&R .32 Field Stripped & Left Grip Plate Removed

    Make certain the chamber and the magazine are empty.
  2. With the empty magazine inserted, pull the trigger to make sure the striker is not cocked.
  3. Pull back and down on the front of the trigger guard. Alternatively, the magazine baseplate may be used to pry the trigger guard back and down by inserting it into a small step where the front of the trigger guard meets the frame.
  4. Remove the barrel and slide from the front of the pistol.

Note: Should you need to remove the slide end plate, great care should be taken not to lose the spring and plunger that hold it in place, as they tend to launch from the rear of the gun as soon as the end plate is removed. To remove the left grip plate, turn the safety lever up and take care not to break off the thin section of grip plate beneath it.


* Write to edbuffaloe@unblinkingeye.com.


References

  • Boothroyd, Geoffrey. The Handgun. Bonanza Books, New York: 1970.
  • Bruce, Gordon. Webley & Scott Automatic Pistols. Verlag Stocker Schmid, Zurich: 1992.
  • Cuthbertson, Stephen. Worldwide Webley and the Harrington and Richardson Connection. Ballista Publishing, Gabriola Island, British Columbia: 1999.
  • Goforth, W. E. “Bill”. H&R Arms Co. 1871-1986: A Historical Reference for the Modern Collector. Gun Show Books, Hudson, Wisconsin: 2014.
  • Remling, John. “The Missing Link,” American Rifleman, April 1983.
  • Wood, J. B.  Troubleshooting Your Handgun. Follett, Chicago: 1978.

Special thanks to David Rachwal for allowing me access to his Webley and H&R prototypes,
and thanks to Jim Frank and Bob Maze for photographs of prototypes they own.
 

Copyright 2020 by Ed Buffaloe.  All rights reserved.
Click on the pictures to open a larger version in a new window.

Return to Gun Pages Home

 

 

E-mail Ed Buffaloe