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H&r .32 revolver-how old & is it safe to fire?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by ROLANDOFGILEAD, Dec 13, 2009.

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  1. ROLANDOFGILEAD

    ROLANDOFGILEAD Member

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    Hello,all. I am a newbie to this site, just registered this morning. I have looked it over in search of answers, but have found only pieces. General internet searches have been less than satisfying.
    A few days ago I bought a Harrington/Richardson tip up revolver at a local gun shop for $70.00. Caliber is '32 s&w ctge' as stamped on left of barrel. 6 shot, auto eject. I don't see any model number.
    The top of the barrel says "Harrington & Richardson arms co. Worcester Massachusetts U.S.A." There are no patent dates, as I have seen in other posts. Serial number is 485xxx.
    Black plastic grips with 2 screws holding them on. Target design on top of grips. It's a nice looking old thing, other than the broken grips.
    My questions are: When was it made, and is it safe to shoot?
    The gun is double action. When the hammer is down, the cylinder can be rotated freely in either direction. When the hammer is cocked, the cylinder rotates clockwise. After cocking, the cylinder is more or less locked in place, but can be turned counterclockwise a tiny bit, maybe 1/16"-1/8". Will turn no further clockwise.
    It seems like it would be safe to shoot as long as you didn't touch the cylinder after cocking. Does any of this sound 'normal'? Am I asking for a life of disability if I try shooting it? Other than the questionable cylinder action, the gun seems to be tight & sturdy.
    One more thing--when I bought the gun, I also bought a box of 50 'Aguila' .32 s&w long cartridges, 98 grain. If I do try shooting, this is what I'll be shooting.
    The grips are broken; any thoughts on where to find replacements?
    Many thanks for any and all info anyone can provide.
     

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  2. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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    If the cylinder turns freely with the action closed and the hammer down, it is not safe to shoot IMO. The cylinder may turn out of index with the barrel as the hammer falls. The firing pin may miss the primer, or if it does manage to fire, you may get lead spitting/shaving or even damage/destruction with accompanying injury to your hand.

    Perhaps something is broken, gunked up with old grease/oil or rusted inside. There should be a bolt or stop that rises out of the frame to engage the notches on the rear of the cylinder. Try spraying in a penetrating oil like Aero-Kroil or soak it in a pan of automatic transmission fluid (this is a good penetrating/detergent agent) overnight and give it another try.
     
  3. w_houle

    w_houle Member

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    Sorry, but .32 S&W is not .32 S&W Long. Whoever sold you the gun should've known you were intending to use the ammunition with that gun, and should not have sold it to you as the ammunition you bought is not for the gun you bought. So even if the gun functioned perfectly, you still don't have ammunition for it, which by the sound of things, it doesn't.:uhoh:
     
  4. Claude Clay

    Claude Clay Member

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    last is gunfire.....

    alas, not till you get the proper ammo for your old shooter.

    32 S&W or 32 S&W Short is what you want.
    if you knew how to reload you could make some light 32acp's safely--
    if the indexing is corrected.

    ammo is generally non-returnable. however if the store is reputable they will exchange their mistake with the proper ammo; or order it for you.
     
  5. Ron James

    Ron James Member

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    The cylinder on that model H&R should turn freely with the hammer at rest. This is an inexpensive fire arm , not a Colt or S&W. :)
     
  6. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    The revolver dates from the late 19th or early 20th century. If the cylinder has 6 chambers it could be used with .32 S&W Long cartridges. If it has only 5 you will have to exchange the ones you have for a box of .32 S&W (no "Long," or "Short").

    Replacement stocks could be hard to find. They are copies of a style used by Smith & Wesson, but they won't likely interchange. They were usually found on a large frame (6 shot) rather then a small frame (5 shot) revolver. Finding the smaller size could be very difficult.

    They can be shot, but because the cylinder is not locked when the hammer drops, accuracy is usually poor - and at best the cartridges are expensive. Shooting costly rounds through a less-then-accurate revolver is seldom worth the time and money.

    A small frame with target stocks and long barrel is an uncommon combination. Most of these were sold with short barrels and small stocks as pocket pintols. Among some, there might be a little collector interest.
     
  7. ROLANDOFGILEAD

    ROLANDOFGILEAD Member

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    Thank you,all. I bought the gun andcartridges from a dealer, he said cartridges were correct. The gun is 6 chambered. The stop rising from the frame mentioned above is working, but it only stops the cylinder from turning clockwise, and this seems to be due to the design of the fluting on the cylinder. There is nothing physical to prevent cylinder from turning counterclockwise a bit. I'll get it out to the local gunsmith for his opinion before shooting it. Thanks again............
     
  8. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    The secret to the revolver, which Sam Colt discovered is that the cylinder does not turn freely (except for loading.) The reason is the cylinder could turn backward and bring up an empty chamber or turn past a loaded chamber and so reduce your capacity. In addition, of course, as already mentioned, it could allow firing out of alignment, resulting in lead spitting, and possible damage to the gun and shooter.

    Never shoot a revolver if the cylinder turns freely in any configuration other than loading mode.
     
  9. woad_yurt

    woad_yurt Member

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    Lots of these old .32s were made with free-spinning cylinders. Once one fires a round, the hammer's point rests in the dent of the fired primer, preventing it from spinning freely anymore. It keeps it still pretty well, too.

    Most of them have a safety cock/notch for carry; it keeps the hammer from resting on an unfired round's primer. Personally, if I had to carry one of these, I'd use the old trick: Open the frame, let the hammer all the way down and close the frame with the hammer resting on the cylinder between 2 rounds. It can't spin and it won't fire no matter how hard you hit the hammer spur. The ratchet will pick it up just fine when one pulls the trigger. It's very safe this way.

    Modern-made .32 S&W ammo is loaded to lower pressure levels than were the oldies, for safety reasons. If your gun is sound, new ammo won't hurt it. I have a bunch of 'em and they do just fine with Mag-Tech and such.

    Note: Longs shouldn't work in your gun unless someone has drilled the chambers through. It was a very common alteration back when they introduced Longs. Lots of these guns have been altered as such, most very crudely. The chambers should have a noticeable stepped throat. If they don't, some clown 80 years ago probably drilled 'em out to use the new Longs. Cool gun; I'd like to have one myself. If it's a shooter, you got a decent deal for $70.

    Maybe it can be dated with the serial number. Is there one?
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2009
  10. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    Try posting over at the "thefirearmsforum.com" in the "Technical Questions and Information" section. A user there, screen name "b.goforth", is a national expert on these early DA guns from IJ, H&R, H&A, etc. You will see that he answers many, many obscure questions on a regular basis.

    Good Luck!
     
  11. woad_yurt

    woad_yurt Member

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    Yeah, I forgot about him. Bill Goforth is the source.
     
  12. Victor1Echo

    Victor1Echo Member

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    I have one--mine's a little newer, and all nickle(or some shiney metal) 32 sw long--hard to find, and expensive. A fun little gun. It's so small but weighs more than my glock,.
     
  13. knight0334

    knight0334 Member

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    Some revolvers were designed in a manner that allows them to turn in one direction no matter the mode. H&Rs and Iver Johnsons are just two of such. The lockup notches in the cylinders do not have a total catch, just a chamfer. Empty/expended chambers will not roll back, it will only advance.

    There are several makes that did that with their early guns.
     
  14. TEDDY

    TEDDY Member

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    H&R

    H&R was a very popular gun.they are safe to shoot.the gun works as it should
    I grew up with them and lived not far from the factory.if you dont know them dont post.you will confuse every one.I have had and shot many. and if the cylinders were drilled thru,I would like to know how you would use the gun as the cylinders are not long enuf. the 5s are 32 S&W but the 6s are 32 long.
    the cylinder should only turn one way.and the hand acts as a stop.my gun locks solid when cocked.
     
  15. woad_yurt

    woad_yurt Member

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    I've had to return two guns that were .32 S&W originally but had been crudely bored through. One of the cylinders was definitely long enough for Longs. I don't know why the one with the shorter cylinder had been altered but it was. You could see the crude drilling marks inside.
     
  16. ROLANDOFGILEAD

    ROLANDOFGILEAD Member

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    thanks to you all for the input.
    The cylinder does not seem to be drilled through. .32 longs fit into it perfectly. I'm hoping to shoot it eventually, but will have my gunsmith check it first. Also considering building some sort of contraption so i can shoot it from afar the first time. I'm figuring on a string to pull the trigger. Any suggestions on holding the gun firmly without damaging it?
    I have no intention of carrying it, loaded or not. Hopefully during the winter i can build a new set of grips for it.
    Serial number is 485080. Both the interior of cylinder and the barrel seem to be in excellant shape. The cylinder stop does seem to have a bit of wear on the right side. There is a 'partial cock' position of the hammer that keeps the firing pin off the primer. Thanks again.........
     
  17. woad_yurt

    woad_yurt Member

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    .32 S&W Long owners: Chamber throat question....

    ROLANDOFGILEAD:
    If it was originally chambered for longs, the chamber should be throated as well, just further inside than with the shorts. In your posted pictures, one can see the barrel marked ".32 S&W CTGE," the slang term for which is .32 shorts. There should be a throat. Those originally chambered for Longs would be marked as such. The bullet diameter is smaller than the case diameter in both shorts and Longs, necessitating a chamber throat.

    PS: I lived in Orland, Maine for a year when I was younger. Familiar? Gorgeous place.

    Question to .32 S&W Long revolver owners:
    Do your .32 S&W Long revolvers have a chamber throat or are they bored straight through?
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009
  18. ROLANDOFGILEAD

    ROLANDOFGILEAD Member

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    orland??? My best friend was born in orland, and now lives in penobscot, right next door. I'm down there 3-4 times a year. We metal detect in the blueberry barrens. We find some outrageous stuff........
    As for the gun--there are distinct "ridges" maybe 1/4" from the muzzle end of the cylinder. I assume this is the 'throating' you speak of. When I put these 'long' cartridges into the cylinder, the lead tip of the bullet is almostto the outfeed end of the cylinder (within maybe 1/32"). Running a finger over the end of the cylinder, I can't feel the bullet. Using a toothpick to measure the depth of the throating shows that the throat depth is identical to the length of the cartridge case. The longs seem to fit the cylinder perfectly; I can't imagine using anything shorter.
    And while checking this, I've noticed something new: With a round in the chamber, the cylinder no longer turns freely as it did when the gun was empty. The firing pin prevents it from turning by catching on the side of the cartridge base, even at half-cock, so it will only move the distance between cartridges. I don't dare try putting six cartridges in until I can be outside. I'll try that this weekend and see how it acts fully cocked.i'll keep you updated.......Thank you.
     
  19. rmfnla

    rmfnla Member

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    So many posts concerning the lock-up but only TEDDY gets the cee-gar!

    The hand acts as the second part of the cylinder lock. When the gun is cocked the cylinder lock holds it from rotating forward and the hand from rotating backward. The tiny bit of counter-clockwise play is the play between the hand and the ratchet .

    There might be a bit of lead shaving but I'd bet the gun is fine to shoot.
     
  20. ROLANDOFGILEAD

    ROLANDOFGILEAD Member

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    At the risk of sounding like a moron, what is "the hand"? Is it my hand, or part of the gun?
    Also, concerning the gun's age, when did h & r stop stamping patent dates on top of the barrel?
    Thank you
     
  21. w_houle

    w_houle Member

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    The part that pushes the bullets out of the cylinder as you open the action
     
  22. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    No, that would be the extractor.

    The hand is a lever-like part that pushes on the ratchet (in the center of the extractor star) and causes the cylinder to revolve. If you open the barrel and cock the hammer you can see the hand coming out of a slot in the breech face. BE SURE TO LOWER THE HAMMER BEFORE YOU TRY TO CLOSE AND LATCH THE BARREL!
     
  23. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Top-break H&R revolvers are roughly divided between Old and New Models. The New Models were introduced around 1907, and had a positive cylinder lock and coil rather then leaf mainsprings. Your revolver is an Old Model, likely made between 1880 and 1908.
     
  24. woad_yurt

    woad_yurt Member

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    Randolf:
    You don't need to leave a chamber empty. Let the hammer rest in between two shells/chambers. It can't turn or fire if dropped.
     
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