H&R Defender 38 S&W


dave cash
November 3, 2011, 01:36 AM
I have come to possess an H&R Defender 38S&W 5 shot revolver, serial # 8536. Can anyone give me some info on this piece? I got it because it looks like something you"d see in an old Edward G. Ribinson or Bogart movie.

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November 3, 2011, 11:29 AM
What do you want to know?

If you google Harrington Richardson Defender Serial Numbers, you get some links that may provide information.

November 3, 2011, 11:39 AM
Made from 1964-84. I suppose because it fit the external dimensions of their 9 shot .22's. They bear a passing resemblance to the Webley revolver. By the time they came out .38S&W was already pretty anemic proposition. None-the-less they captured a 20 year run.

32 Magnum
November 4, 2011, 02:04 PM
dave cash,
Your DEFENDER 38 is one of a series of .38 S&W (will also accept the British .380-200 cartridge) 5 shot, typically 4" flat sided, round bottom barrel (a very few are known with 6"), blue finish, DA/SA, auto ejecting, hinged frame revolvers with the "RICE" (bird's head shaped grip) frames. This series was derived from the large frame, .22 cal. SPORTSMAN series.
The earliest examples seem to derive from the 1938-'39 period, and are either "un-named" or will have DEFENDER stamped into the left side of the barrel. These will have the SPORTSMAN frame but non-adjustable front and rear sights (different from the SPORTSMAN). By 1940, the design of the DEFENDED 38 seems to have "jelled" into the form that the rest of the series (which ran at least into the 1946 period) will have and was catalogued as the MODEL 25.
This war-time series will have front adjustable for height sight blade, usually seen with a "gold" bead inset into the blade; rear windage adjustable sight and the ones after 1940 will have a trigger guard without the second finger rest extension. All these will have a pivoting firing pin slotted and pinned to the hammer nose. The 1940 (letter code 'A' and, possibly, the 1941 (letter code 'B') models will be equipped with checkered walnut monogrips. During the war years the monogrip was changed to brown or black Nylon platic material.
The DEFENDERS can be broken down into several variations depending upon outward configuration. The variations can be pretty complicated and I would need to see a pic of your gun to tell for sure, but most likely, from the serial number (these were all numbered in their own range), will be a 3rd Variation and made in early 1943. I have examples of the entire known series, including one that is NIB and came with a factory inspection slip dated May 8, 1944 - this one is serial number 13533. The total production number is not known, but it doesn't appear to have exceeded 20,000 units, at least from the serial number range known at this time.
H&R period advertising suggests that these guns were suitable for Civil Defense, Bank Guard, Security Guard, Plant Guard and auxilliary police use. My experience with the dozen or so that I own or have owned is that they are sturdy and well built, with "good" fit and 'war-time' finish.
After 1946, H&R made some adjustments to the design and eventually came up with a model that was called the 925 but had the 1880's style manual ejecting system, and a 4" or 6" barrel. This series was further changed and became the DEFENDER MODEL 925 2nd Model as a standard around 1964 and was offered with a 4" or a 2.5" barrel with modified, shorter grip frame. Some have been noted chambered in .22lr. The Model 926 came out in 1968 and this model was always equipped with a 4" barrel and chambered in .22lr or .38 S&W. At some point after that, the M925 was made exclusively in .38 S&W with the 2.5" barrel and rounded butt - while the M926 was made exlusively with a 4" barrel and both chamberings. Both these models, remember, are MANUAL ejecting - but retained the frame and barrel assembly of the SPORTSMAN with adjustable front and rear sights. After 1973 both models were offered with the then new H&R version of a "transfer bar/safety ignition system."
Here's some pics to go along with the narrative:




Discregard the following thumbnail attachment - I got it in here, but can't seem to get it out - it's not relevant to the DEFENDERS.

32 Magnum
November 4, 2011, 02:11 PM
A few more pics of the DEFENDER series:





November 5, 2011, 03:29 AM
For self defense purposes I would hand load it to at least basic .38 spl ballistics. The cartridge due to the many suicide specials out there is not very fast.

dave cash
November 5, 2011, 03:26 PM
Thanks, Magnum. You were very helpful. On another website, I read that the defender was a cheap piece of unreliable junk. I had a hard time believing that. Thanks for all the info. Dave

32 Magnum
November 5, 2011, 04:55 PM
You are welcome - glad to help out. There is a lot of 'misinformation' floating around the internet concerning H&R firearms. :mad: My mission is to bring forth the truth...it will probably take the rest of my life to do so. :D

November 5, 2011, 06:36 PM
H&R firearms were inexpensive, but they were NOT "junk". I have a nice H&R made M1 Garand that shoots like a champ, in fact, most of their rifles are known for the accuracy of their barrels. Their revolvers were made to be sturdy and reliable, without anything fancy, or requiring a lot of hand fitting. Quality of their materials and steel frames was fine, and there are a lot of their .22, .32, and .38 S&W revolvers still out there in use.

November 14, 2011, 11:04 AM
It's my understanding that some of these were issued as side arms to the U.S. Coast Guard during WWII.

32 Magnum
November 15, 2011, 12:07 PM
Thanks for that info. Do you have access to a source for that information? I would like to add it to the general research files. Thanks in advance.

November 15, 2011, 09:04 PM
Thanks for that info. Do you have access to a source for that information? I would like to add it to the general research files. Thanks in advance.

It's something I read in my dim past. I'll see what I can come up with to put some proof to the statement.:)

February 1, 2012, 05:44 PM
Charles Pates book: US Handguns of WW2 he mentions H&R Defenders being issued to Merchant Marine and I believe Coast Guard. I've seen one Defender with a ships name stamped on it and two with British broad-heads. The story about the British ones was that England bought some for secondary issue in 1940. Since their service ctg will work fine in these revolves it makes some sense.

32 Magnum
February 2, 2012, 01:26 PM
THANKS for that source and information. I'm going to include it in my H&R research files. I've never seen one as you describe and have not had a source for other info, previously. This is good stuff.
Here's a couple pics of the DEFENDER Model 25 dated to May of 1944 NIB.




April 4, 2012, 10:48 PM
Not to hijack, but I have an H&R revolver that I could use help in identifying. The High Road thread is located here


32 Magnum
April 5, 2012, 10:56 AM
Your DEFENDER SPECIAL seems to fall into a "special" run that was made sometime in the late 1940's - early '50's. It derived from the "NEW DEFENDER" the shortened barrel version of the SPORTSMAN .22. Apparently several Western European countries were looking for some "detective" type revolvers that could handle the .38 S&W and .380-200 Brit. I've only seen a very few like yours over the years and not come across one for sale. A short time back I received some pics of the twin of your gun that is plainly marked for the Dutch/Netherlands police. You have a scarce example - couldn't really put a "good" value on it as it has collectible value.

NOTE: these are not my photos, they are used with 162206


162208permission of owner.

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