Help Interpreting H&R Serial Number

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by davegran, Jun 11, 2008.

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  1. davegran

    davegran New Member

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    I have an H&R top break 32 cal. pistol in blue with the caliber marking on the left side of the barrel and the serial number on the butt. The serial # has six numbers, no letters. Would somebody please tell me the scheme for decoding the serial number?

    Am I correct in saying that this pistol can be used with modern ammunition?

    Thanks,
    Dave

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  2. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

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    Minn-eeee-sota, ya, sure, you bet!
    Hi Dave.....welcome to TFF. :)

    Keep checking back. Our resident expert on Harrington & Richardsons, Bill Goforth (he's literally writing the book on them), should be along shortly to tell you all you'd like to know about your H&R.




    *Shameless Plug*
    Books by Bill Goforth:
    Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works 1871-1993
    H&R Arms Company 1871-1986 (due fall of 2008)
    available from www.gunshowbooks.com
  3. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    decoding H&R serial numbers is not easy and it takes up quite a bit of the H&R book as different models usually have seperate serial number series. gererally speaking there were three types of serial number series.

    pre 1905 (1904 and before) which were more like batch numbers and usually ran from 1 to 99,999. on some models there was a different series every year.

    post 1904 (1905 to 1939) one single series starting at 1 and going into the middle 6 digits (some third model auto-ejecting revolvers have been observed with number in the 800,000 range.

    1940 and after letter codes used to denote year of manufacture. starting with A in 1940 and going to BC in 1986.

    caliber markings on the side of the barrel ALWAYS indicate 1905 or after manufacture. when H&R made the switch to smokeless powder in 1905 they started marking the caliber on the left side of the barrel of all their handguns. no caliber markings = black powder, caliber markings = smokeless powder.

    please keep in mind that H&R did not alway obey their own rules and there are exception to every rule. during 1890 though 1904 H&R was manufacturing so many top break revolvers they starting using a letter code after 100,000 had been reached. these letter code were stamped along with the serial number on the bottom of the top strap (the cylinder had to be removed to see this location).

    the revolver pictured is one of the limited production Hammerless Bicycle models (1899-1920). the caliber markings and 6 digit serial number indicate it is a second model and if in good shootaboe condition it should be safe with modern ammo. the bicycle hammerless (small frame, 2 inch barrel) is serial numbered in the same series as the regular small frame hammerless model.
    bill
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2008
  4. davegran

    davegran New Member

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    Thank you for the information, Mr. Goforth. Now at least I can Google on "Hammerless Bicycle model" to find more information. By the way, my serial number is in the form of 194XXX . Would this be a fairly early example of the second model?

    The pistol seems to be in good shape so I'll do some shooting with it this weekend. The cost of ammunition is surprisingly high; probably a condition of low demand causing higher production costs. Even reloading components are expensive.

    The small frame and hammerless design might lend itself to a deep cover backup gun. I wonder how hot a cartridge could be safely used in it?

    Thanks again,
    Dave
  5. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    the h&r bicycle hammerless model was only listed in the catalogs as a seperate model thru 1920. the 2 inch barrel remained an option on the regular H&R hammerless through the end of production in 1942. collectors to day refer to all 2 inch barrel versions as the bicycle model no matter when they were made. a serial number in the 194,000 range would be some time between 1915 and 1920.

    i would recommend firings only factory standard velocity ammo in this revolver and would not try any hot handloads in it.
    bill
  6. Forty-niner

    Forty-niner New Member

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    I need some info on my H&R 949. It was made in Gardner, Mass and the serial number starts with AR366.. It is the blued version but it doesn't have the model number on the barrel like it should and is nowhere on the gun. I tracked down the model number on the internet but can you tell me what the gun may be worth and when it was made. A gunsmith said it was in very good condition.
    Thanks,
    Forty-niner
  7. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    H&R used the AR letter codes in 1977. i do not have an explaination as to why it does not have the model number marked on the barrel.

    MODEL 949 FORTY-NINER----------------------------------1961-1972
    Solid Frame, Double Action, Rod, Ejection, Western Style Grip, 22 Long Rifle Caliber, 9 shot, Blue Finish, Barrel Length 5½ inches
    VALUE: 100%=$250 60%=$125

    MODEL 949 FORTY-NINER (TRANSFER BAR IGNITION)-----------1973-1986
    Solid Frame, Double Action, Rod, Ejection, Western Style Grip, 22 Long Rifle Caliber, 9 shot, Blue Finish, Barrel Length 5½ inches
    VALUE: 100%=$265 60%=$150

    bill
  8. walrusjax

    walrusjax New Member

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    I could use some help too. This is a 7 shot revolver (.22 Cal) that belonged to my wife's grandfather. The serial number is in the format of 476XXX. Any idea of when this was built and where?

    Thanks
  9. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    if this is a top break it is a H&R Premier model manufactured in the 1924 to 1930 era or one of its variations. if it is a solid frame model it is a model 1906 or one of its variations manufactured in the 1932 to 1937 era. without a picture or knowning the exact markings i can't give you an exact model.
    bill
  10. walrusjax

    walrusjax New Member

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    Let me see if I can post a picture or two.

    I'm trying to find out whatever I can about this gun. I was told that it belonged to my wife's grandfather who drove cattle one year. Apparently, his father bought it for him to wear while doing his job (as you can see in the pic, we have the holster too). I'm in the process of documenting as much as I can about all of my guns so that I have a history of them when they get passed on to my kids. Please review the pics and let me know whatever you can, and thank you very much for the help.

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  11. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    it does not look like there are any markings on the left side of the barrel other than the caliber so this would be the premier model fitted with extra cost oversize grips and 6 inch barrel. during the same time (1925-1934)frame H&R offered this revolver as the H&R TARGET (aka model 766) the only difference was H&R Target was marked on the barrel. by the time the premier model was fitted with a longer barrel and oversize grips the cost was about the same for the two models. the offering of the H&R Target model was just another way to try to sell more revolver. factory serial numbers are not available for this model so i believe this revolver was manufactured before the H&R Target was introduced in 1924 (most likely 1920 to 1923)

    below is information of both models.

    H&R PREMER SECOND MODEL SMALL FRAME TOP BREAK R.F. & C.F. ----------1905-1941
    Small fame double action top break revolver with double top post barrel latch; calibers and cylinder capacity, 22 rimfire-7 rounds, 32 S&W, 5 rounds; automatic cylinder stop; standard finish Nickel with case harden hammer and barrel latch; standard barrel length 3 inches, with 2, 4, 5 and 6 inches available as optional; HAS CALIBER MARKINGS ON LEFT SIDE OF BARREL WAS MANUFACTURED FOR SMOKELESS POWDER CARTRIDGE PRESSURES.
    There has not been enough data gathered on serial number to try to come up with a serial number range for the different variations.
    First Variation, model name & caliber marked on left side of barrel, patent dates 5-14-89, 4-2-95, 4-7-96---------------1905-Only
    Second Variation, model name & caliber marked on left side of barrel, patent dates 4-2-95, 4-7-96-------------------1906-1908
    Third Variation, caliber only marked on left side of barrel, patent date 10-8-95-------1909-1913
    Fourth Variation, caliber only marked on left side of barrel, no patent date, state not spelled out in address (MASS)---------1914-1915
    Fifth Variation, caliber only marked on left side of barrel same as 4th except different font used in barrel markings----------1914-1915
    Sixth Variation, caliber only marked on left side of barrel. State name in barrel marking spelled out (MASSACHUSETTS)-----1916-1924
    Seventh Variation, new grip frame, there is no step down for the grip panels to fit into-----1925-1942
    After 1930 listed in catalogs as; PREMIER No. 30 .22 Rimfire 7 shot & PREMIER No. 35.32 S&W 5 shot
    VALUE: 100%=$265 60%=$75 Add 10% premium for blue finish; 20% premium 4”, 5” or 6” barrel; 20% premium for 22 rimfire caliber; 10% premium for 7th variation

    H&R TARGET SMALL FRAME TOP BREAK --------------1925-1934
    Small fame double action top break revolver with double top post barrel latch; 22 rimfire caliber only, 7 shot cylinder capacity, blue finish 6 inch barrel length only, over size two piece walnut grips, marked on left side of barrel “H&R TARGET” 22 rimfire on the right side of the barrel and company name and address on the top of the barrel rib. After 1930 listed in the catalogs as; MODEL 766 TARGET SMALL FRAME TOP BREAK REVOLVER 7 SHOT
    VALUE: 100%=$325 60%=$115

    bill
  12. walrusjax

    walrusjax New Member

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    Thanks for your help. It looks to me like this is the 6th variation (per your description). I'm posting pictures of the writing on the gun (serial number is inside the grip).

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  13. localnet

    localnet New Member

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    I just picked up a Young America Double Action at an auction. It is nickel with blued triger guard, Appears to be .22 Short 7 shot. H&R Arms Company, Worcester Mass USA on the 2" octagon barrel No caliber specification. Serial number under grip is 7XXX. Since there is no caliber designation on the barrel, I believe it to be the Young America Double Action First Model, Third Variation (Black Powder). Although I guess it could be the Second Model (Smokeless Powder). Could someone tell me which model I have and the exact year it was made? The gun is probably 90%+ condition and only cost me $23 so I know I didn't get hurt, I would just like to know I am being accurate with my record keeping.
  14. b.goforth

    b.goforth New Member

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    localnet,
    i believe you have come to the correct conclusion on this revolver it is a first model 3rd variation manufactured between 1897 and 1904.

    the serial number are a major problem as durng the production of the first model there was at least two different serial numbers series and the possibility of more. with out any factory serial number records we will never know.

    YOUNG AMERICA DOUBLE ACTION FIRST MODEL
    (BLACK POWDER) ---------------------------------------------1884-1904
    pull pin cylinder release, nickel finish standard, blue considered rare, marking on top strap only “YOUNG AMERICA DOUBLE ACTION” or “YOUNG AMERICAN DOUBLE ACTION” two frame sizes
    SMALL SOLID FRAME .22 RIMFIRE 7 SHOT, octagon barrel, lengths of 2, 4½ and 6 inches
    MEDIUM FRAME .32 S&W CALIBER 5 SHOT, octagon barrel, lengths of 2, 4½ and 6 inches
    First Variation will have a round barrel & nickel trigger guard --1884-1887
    Second Variation will have a octagon barrel & nickel trigger guard --1888-1897
    Third Variation will have a octagon barrel , blue trigger guard and company name and address on left side of barrel ---------------1897-1904
    VALUE: First Variation 100%-$275 60%=$100 Others 100%=$225 60%=$65
    For all Young America Double Action variations and variants add 15% premium for blue finish and 10% premium for 4½” or 6” barrels.
  15. localnet

    localnet New Member

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    b.goforth:

    Thanks for the quick reply. I am happy to hear I was correct in my identification from what internet research I was able to do. Is your H&R book out yet? Is it available in digital format? I went to the link you had posted and could not find it. I would very much like the book since I encounter H&R's at auctions frequently and have difficulty narrowing them down to a specific model/variation with any ease.

    Thanks again.

    --localnet
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