Re: H&R Defender 38 (& relatives) Research
Somehow I missed your response and photos - anyway, am I seeing your s/n correctly? Is it 7893?
Those letter stamps on the grip frame are found on almost all of the guns from that era and are apparently internal H&R inspection marks.
As you surmise - I'll bet that the cylinder was replaced at some point. As to the 4 digits stamped into the cylinder and "star" - probably all four because of the number ending with three zeros???
I have seen several cylinders with 6 digits stamped into them and on the star, while the vast majority have only 3 (rarely 4) - but SIX seems a bit of overkill - maybe the assembler had some spare time?
Jim Hauff ~ H&R Collector In Memory of Bill Goforth and Jim Ritchie