H&R Defender 38 (& relatives) Research

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by Lanrezac, Sep 20, 2011.

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  1. Lanrezac

    Lanrezac Active Member

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    Mr. Hauff,
    This spring, I bought an H&R Defender 38 (stamped as such on the right side of the barrel). The details are as follows:

    The H&R Defender 38's serial number is 6407. This number is both on the front of the grip frame, and on the side of it, underneath the black plastic grips. The number on the side has the letters M H stamped under it. I have still been unable to remove the cylinder to look under the top strap. The number 16 is stamped in small characters on the left side of the frame, near what I take to be the hammer pivot screw.

    The company name and address is stamped on the top of the barrel. The back sight is adjustable for windage, and the front sight, which has a brass bead, is adjustable for elevation.

    Thanks again, and let me know if there is anything else I can tell you about this gun. I am glad to see there are people interested in them.
  2. Jim Hauff

    Jim Hauff New Member

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    Lanrezac,
    Funny you should post that question, I was just thinking about the DEFENDER 38 Models and their relatives. Here's the scoop.
    Circa 1935 H&R decided to expand the utility and appeal of the SPORTSMAN series of large, hinged frame revolvers. One of the first "moves" was to cut the barrel down from 6" to 2.5" (NEW DEFENDER) and 3" - keeping the caliber at .22 rimfire. Neither of these seems to have "taken off" - the NEW DEFENDER is, today, somewhat scarce and the 3" barreled SPORTSMAN are down right RARE.
    Another tack, involved increasing the caliber to the "threshold" of power for the hinged frame guns which was, then, the .38 S&W smokeless powder cartridge. The first examples were equipped with 2" barrels (extremely rare - if actually existent) and 4" barrels (very scarce) and called the "DEFENDER SPECIAL" Model 299. Equipped with the same adjustable front and rear sights as the SPORTSMAN parent.
    Some refinements were made to the "DEFENDER SPECIAL" between its inception circa 1935 and 1939, resulting in a couple different looks or variations, on the base platform.
    Then in or around 1938 - 39 period, recognizing that a European war was imminent, H&R began developing another version of the DEFENDER, based upon the SPORTSMAN lower frame, but with a modified upper frame which has features of the AUTO EJECTING series - i.e. it had a fixed, semi-cicular front sight and for the rear sight, two small projections arising from the barrel latch. This crude sighting system is identical to that on the AUTO EJECTING series of this era - and seems to be a throw back - when compared with the DEFENDER SPECIAL sights - this sight system was probably a cost containment measure. This "DEFENDER" series doesn't seem to have been very popular although widely advertised at the time. There is no record of a model number having been assigned to this variant - 4" and 6" barreled pieces are known, both of these are NOT marked on the barrel with a model name or number, but match pictures found in a period advertisement. This variant appears to be very rare, although serial numbers indicate several thousand may have been produced.
    The need for a "secondary" police/security side arm became apparent as the Eurpean war picked up intensity and many in the US arms industry realized the opportunity to provide firearms to fit the needs of the belligerents and also for use by the USofA, who just about everybody realized would eventually be "sucked" into participation. So, from that, H&R made some further changes and refinements to the "DEFENDER", adding the fully adjustable front and rear sighting system as well as a pinned, replaceable firing pin on the nose of the hammer, added a "gold" sighting dot to the front Patridge type sight blade and the "DEFENDER 38" series was born. This series was labeled as the Model 25.
    The Model 25 was made through out the war years and probably as late as 1947, when it morphed into a manual ejecting model, which H&R labeled as the model 925. The re-issue of the Model 925/926 manual ejecting models in the 1960s is another story.
    The basic Defender 38 will have a four inch barrel (5" and 6" were catalogued but I've not seen an example of either), have blued finish (early examples are highly polished, later examples will show a deep bluing but the finish is slightly striated and not as highly polished), trigger guard will not have the finger rest, front sight is height adjustable with gold bead insert, rear sight is windage adjustable, all WERE DA/SA and came with molded, checkered black (some are seen with dark brown) Nylon derivative, one piece mono-grip on the RICE type frame.

    Your DEFENDER 38 with s/n 6407 is, most likely of 1943 manufacture - there is only one, currently known, definitive date associated with a serial number for the model. I have a NIB, unissued Model 25 DEFENDER 38 that came with an inspection tag, serialed to the gun (13533) and dated May 8, 1944. Production of these handguns during the war does not seem to have been in very high numbers probably less than 15,000. H&R was concentrating on production of other goods and weapons during the war as directed by the Defense Procurement agencies, and handgun production of all types was severly curtailed. It is not known if any of the DEFENDER 38s were supplied to allied nations or employed for military use - although, H&R did provide numbers of other models to the US Gov't for special uses as well as a variant of the Auto Ejecting series to England for use by the London/Metropolitan police (over 23,000 pieces) - these are called the "Bobbie" model and some are seen that were intended for domestic use, as well.
    Your gun is a bona fide example of a WW2 "secondary" revolver, mainly intended for domestic, civilian security and para-police use.

    Edit: The letters stamped into the grip frame, under the grip, seem to be internal H&R inspectors' marks - they show up on many of the guns from that era and a variety of letters are used. I have no idea what the numerals '16' indicate, other than it is possibly a rack or inventory number applied by an agency or company that secured a number of these (as well as other weapons) for security personnel.
    Here's a bunch of pics to illustrate the above narative (NOTE: the dates on some pictures do not reflect current "thought", also, the STAG grips on the 3rd Var. piece are not original to that gun - they were used in the late '40s and early '50s on other models.)

    IMG_0117.jpg

    IMG_0119_2.jpg

    IMG_0124.jpg

    IMG_0125.jpg
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2011
  3. Jim Hauff

    Jim Hauff New Member

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    More pics. 1st set shows the "unmarked" pre Defender 38 variant with the fixed sighting system.
    IMG_4654_2.jpg

    defender38-2.jpg

    defender38.jpg

    IMG_4649.jpg
  4. Jim Hauff

    Jim Hauff New Member

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    2nd Set shows late '40s example of 925 manual ejecting and:
    NIB Model 25 with inspection tag:

    IMG_0137.jpg

    IMG_0123.jpg

    IMG_4741_2.jpg

    IMG_4737.jpg
  5. Lanrezac

    Lanrezac Active Member

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    That's a magnificent display, Mr. Hauff! During this period, H&R was turning out really beautiful guns, at least in its better models.

    My Defender 38 is most like the one that is captioned as a "2nd Variation", with the brown plastic grips. Mine differs mainly in having black plastic grips. It does have the thin hammer and the concave thumb pieces on the top-latch. Yours seems to have odd cuts in the frame at the front edges of the cylinder - are those unusual?

    The only other point of note is that the "16" stamp seems to be under the bluing rather than through it. I will try to put up pictures of the gun if I can take some decent ones.

    Just as a side note - years ago, when I had a Webley Mk IV 38, the only ammunition I could get for it was 146 grain 38 S&W. Now that I have this Defender, the only ammunition for it that does not cost like a moon shot is FN 178 grain 38 Enfield! Murphy's Law, I guess.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2011
  6. Old Gun Guy

    Old Gun Guy Member

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    Jim,
    I just came on the site and saw this thread concerning the H&R Defender 38. I picked one up yesterday, and I will post pics of it tomorrow. Also, I stumbled upon a "manual-eject" H&R that I now have soaking in solvent. I will post info about that revolver when I fish it out of its soaking tub. It may add some info to the H&R book.
    Old Gun Guy
  7. Jim Hauff

    Jim Hauff New Member

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    Lanrezac,
    Thanks for the compliment - not many folks find "beauty" in the H&Rs, much to my continuous dismay.:rolleyes:
    As to grip differences - the mono-grip was totally "portable" - one will fit (almost) any other gun - so they are often switched or H&R made use of what ever they had on hand until older stock was gone. Thus, you can find wooden grip on guns made in the mid '40s that should have plastic grip - or as with the one I pictured with the "stag" grip, have a 1950s grip on a 1940s gun.
    The "strange" cuts were a carry over from the black powder and semi-smokeless powder days - the "relief" cuts were made to help blow firing residue and gunk away from the forcing cone-cylinder interface, where a heavy build up could inhibit the cylinder from revolving. H&R got away from making those extra cost cuts at some point during the war years. If you look at that area on the Manual Ejecting Model 925 (mis marked as a M25 on the pic) you'll see that the relief cuts are missing and the forcing cone is now flat faced. You can do that with low residue, smokeless powder that doesn't foul the areas around the flash gap.
    Still don't have any idea about the '16' stamp - never saw one marked in that way. Any chance of pics?????? I'd really appreciate seeing your DEFENDER 38.
    I included the pic of the case color hardened extractor simply because I've not seen one in that condition on any of hundreds of H&R revolvers that I've owned or examinied. I image the case coloring would be worn off or reduced by usage - that gun being NIB - allowed the rather thin top layer to remain behind.
    BTW, my first name is JIM not Mr. ;)
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2011
  8. Jim Hauff

    Jim Hauff New Member

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    Old Gun,
    Looking forward to info on and pics of your two H&Rs. Maybe something NEW?
  9. jamesjo

    jamesjo New Member

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    Jim,
    The inspection slip you have for your defender is the same slip that came with that set of handcuffs I just bought.
    Dated June 14th 1944.
    About a month or so apart,, kind of interesting I thought.
    jim

    A question about the serial # of the Defender.
    I notice you don't list a letter prefix, and neither does the inspection slip. Being a 1944 model, I would think it should have a "D" prefix?
    Thanks!
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2011
  10. Jim Hauff

    Jim Hauff New Member

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    Jim,
    The only DEFENDER I've see with a letter prefix is that DEFENDER SPECIAL with an 'A'.
    None of the others that I have, have had, or have seen had a prefix. Why? Hell, I just don't know.
    Interesting about those handcuffs and the inspection slip, eh?
  11. jamesjo

    jamesjo New Member

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    Every time I think I'm starting to get something figured out, you throw some new info at me!
    I'll scan that inspection sheet, and send you a copy.
    They would be a neat pair to display together, The finest equipment available for the well prepared cop of 1944!:D
  12. Jim Hauff

    Jim Hauff New Member

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    Sounds good, Jim - scan away! The last stuff you scanned for me came out great at my end is safely ensconsed in my research files.
  13. Old Gun Guy

    Old Gun Guy Member

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    Here are some pics of the H&R Defender that I picked up a couple of days ago. I need to install the rear sight blade, but other than that it's complete and functions well. The grip serial # matches the top-strap serial #, but the cylinder has the serial # 8000, and was replaced. However, I wonder why they put all four digits on the cylinder and ratchet when there is usually just three digits of the serial number? Notice the "M" and the "H" stamped into the grip strap below the serial #. I wonder what those are there for?
    Thanks for looking!
    Old Gun Guy
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  14. Lanrezac

    Lanrezac Active Member

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    This is the best I could do for pictures of my H&R Defender 38, SN 6407. I could not get a good close of of the markings. Thanks!

    Attached Files:

  15. Jim Hauff

    Jim Hauff New Member

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    Lanrezac,
    ANOTHER good looking H&R and the pics are just fine for display. Looks to be a "standard" 2nd Variation DEFENDER, down to the "gold" bead in the front sight.
    Thanks for posting.
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