1943 H&R Defender 38 Model 25

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by kettleer, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. kettleer

    kettleer New Member

    Jul 7, 2012
    My dad brought this 38 H&R Defender Model 25 back from WWII. It is in its original navy blue box with instruction sheet and inspection tag. The serial # is 9752 and the tag is dated June 3, 1943. My Dad was a Chief Petty Officer (RM). His story was that in the USN, Chiefs could not carry sidearms. When his ship rescued crew off a sinking British ship, he was ordered to confiscate the hand gun from a British NCO of equivalent rank. The 38 has most all of its bluing remaining. Any idea what it is worth?

    Attached Files:

  2. RJay

    RJay Well-Known Member

    Feb 22, 2004
    Goodyear, Arizona
    Nice story, Rescued from a sinking ship a British Chief Petty officer, went down to his flooded compartment and the only thing he saved was a American H&R ( still in the box. ). Didn't even get wet and it has no British markings. Sorry to say your father brought that at the local hardware store. But thats OK, my own role in my own war gets bigger and more important evry day as time goes by. You could proably get 200-250. Just my WAG
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012

  3. 3/2 STA SS

    3/2 STA SS Active Member

    Now you know as we get older stories get bigger...great pistol and nice condition...
  4. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    After I captured Hitler, Goering, Tojo and Bin Laden, I brought peace to the world and eliminated poverty, homelessness, and.... oops, sorry. I am reading from a political ad for the 2012 Presidental election.

    Actually, some of those guns were bought by the British and also by the U.S., the latter primarily for plant protection guards. Some H&R revolvers went to the Norwegian resistance, but any combat use would be conjectural.

  5. kettleer

    kettleer New Member

    Jul 7, 2012
    Are there any surviving H&R production records that could determine if serial #9752, dated 6/3/43 was sold overseas for wartime use?
  6. RJay

    RJay Well-Known Member

    Feb 22, 2004
    Goodyear, Arizona
    If it were sold oversea to Britain ( or sent ) there would be British acceptance marking including the Broad Arrow. The ones that did make it to England were issued to the Home Guard in case of Operation Sea Lion. to the best of my knowledge no H&R or Iver Johnson were issued to the Active Military force. They were desperate for weapons but not that desperate. I know of no reason a naval commander would disarm rescued allied sailors or soldiers. Again anything is possible in wartime, but I have never read nor heard of such a thing ever happening, there would be no reason to. What if the British ship had been carrying British soldiers, would the Captain have disarm them also. Also just because the so called British sailor was also a Petty officer, it did not require another Petty Officer to disarm him. A Seaman first rate nothing could have done it. US Navy enlisted are authorizes to carry sidearms if their duty status requires it. A Navy ship carries quite a arsenal in their arms room including rifles, pistols and machine guns. Now if the gun had been brought back in a British canvas holster and web belt it would make a better story. I'm sorry, there is no way to convince me that a almost new H&R, boxed with correct papers, no british markings of any type, could have come from a sinking Brisish warship. I don't mean to be rude but the story doesn't hold water. If any one else can come up with a convincing argument, please jump in.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
  7. Lanrezac

    Lanrezac Well-Known Member

    Sep 18, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI
    kettleer, in Europe, including Great Britain, there are laws that require that every gun manufactured be tested for safety by firing with cartridges of greater than normal pressure. This is called proof testing. If the gun passes, it is then stamped with an official mark, called a proof mark. This is done on every gun, even in wartime. For example, the Germans continued to do it right up to the last day of the war.

    The various European countries got organized to accept each other's proof marks long ago, but if a gun is imported from a country without proof tests - like the United States - it is always tested and marked by the country of import. In the case of guns imported by the British government, a variety of other marks were stamped on the gun, like the caliber, the proof test pressure, a government property stamp, and so on.

    Your gun has none of these marks. Also, although the British did buy a substantial quantity of H&R revolvers, they were not in 38 caliber as one would expect. They were apparently all in 32 S&W Long, for issue to the British police.

    There may be some chance that your father was correct about this gun, because they may have been issued as equipment on American built Liberty ships, which may have been crewed by the British Merchant Marine (not Marines like our Marine Corps - just merchant ship seamen). I don't know much about that subject, or whether the Brits would bother to proof a gun in merchant ship's arms locker. Especially if that ship was due to be returned to the US government at the end of the war, which may have been the case with Liberty ships. That's a lot of maybe, though.

    Sorry not to be of much help. Your gun looks minty, and there is increasing collector interest in these older H&R revolver. It looks like the plastic grips may be deteriorating. I think these grips were made of an early plastic called cellulose acetate (aka Tenite) and it has an odd tendency to go bad in enclosed spaces, such as the gun's own box. Apparently the volatile chemicals in the plastic gradually produce a gas, and that gas accelerates the plastic's decomposition. Film collectors call this "vinegar syndrome", since cellulose acetate was also used for making positive prints of movies, and tightly sealed film cans exacerbate the problem. (The gas is said to smell like vinegar.)

    I don't have any answers to your specific questions about serial numbers. The man here who would know that, Jim Hauff, has been absent for some weeks after having health problems, and we are worried about him.

    PS - thanks for putting up excellent pictures of your gun. When Jim returns, he will be glad to seem them and interested in what you have said about it.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
  8. 3/2 STA SS

    3/2 STA SS Active Member

    I took a Colt Lawman MKIII .357 magnum with me to OP Desert Shield/OPDesert Storm so private weapons being in a wartime environment are nothing new....
  9. kettleer

    kettleer New Member

    Jul 7, 2012
    Thank you Lanrezac for your informative reply. My dad died 20 years ago so I can't get any new info. When I was a boy and he taught how to shoot the H&R, I asked how he got it. He related the story I described that happened, he said, while his ship was on convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic. He told me the name of the torpedoed British ship but that name is lost to me now. Thanks again.
  10. bobkraft1

    bobkraft1 New Member

    Mar 20, 2013
    I also have inherited a revolver exactly like yours. Serial #11954. I see from your pictures that you have an instruction sheet. Is there any chance you would be willing to scan this and email it to me along with any other literature you might have. I have dug deep in the Internet and what you have is the only thing I have been able to find. Any help would be appreciated. I am new to this site so let me know how I send you my email address if you are willing to help.

    Thanks a lot!!!
  11. WHSmithIV

    WHSmithIV Well-Known Member

    May 3, 2012
    Moore, Idaho
    If the pistol was sold in a convoy port city then there would be no reason that a British petty officer might not buy one to take home. However, A British Petty Officer bringing the pistol with him to Britain that he purchased in America even in wartime would have been effectively smuggling it ashore in his seabag. Once he was rescued and on the American ship, the captain had to have it confiscated to prevent problems in England for sure since he couldn't knowingly let the British PO take it ashore from the American ship.

    So, yes, it is very plausible that the pistol was confiscated on the US ship since it was not a service firearm issued to the Brit and had quite obviously been purchased in the US.
  12. SARGE7402

    SARGE7402 Member

    Dec 26, 2009
    Depending on the year of manufacture quite a number of these fine little revolvers were purchased to arm night watchmen at quite a number of defense plants. There's a story going around my family that my grandfather carried one like it at the textile plant where he worked during the war. I had one several years ago and sold it for about $270. Course no box. And no really great story. After the war H&R brought out a similar model with out the autoejection feature called the 925 Defender
  13. jondar

    jondar New Member

    Mar 2, 2009
    The Brits bought Iver Johnsons also. Here's a pic of a .32 Third Model with all sorts of proofs on it. The story goes that when war started in Europe Britain almost cleaned out the Iver Johnson Sporting Goods Co. in (?) Philadelphia of handguns, including 1400 Government Model .45 ACP's.

    Attached Files:

  14. kettleer

    kettleer New Member

    Jul 7, 2012
    To bobkraft1: I haven't been on this site in quite some time and didn't realize there had been a number of posts including your own.

    I tried to send you a private message with my email address so I could forward the H&R instruction sheet as an attachment but the forum won't allow it because I haven't reached the 15 minimum posts required.

    I'll dig out the info and try to post a scan of it here on this thread.

    Thanks also to jondar, SARGE7402 & WHSmithIV for their informative replies.
  15. kettleer

    kettleer New Member

    Jul 7, 2012
    Here is a photo of the H&R instruction sheet. It should be readable. The only word lost is the at the end of the top line, left column which is "hand."

    Attached Files:

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