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I have a small frame 7 shot 22 Cal. break top H&R revolver. I was told my grandfather carried it in WWI. Serial# 371177. I would like to know the manufacture date and if it was an Army issue.

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  • Steve Cox
    Steve Cox Jan 02, 2019

    The US Military has never issued a .22 LR caliber weapon of any kind. The reason for this is simply that this caliber is insufficient to effect bringing down the opposition which poses more of a hazard to the person wielding it when faced with someone with a large caliber military sidearm. Sorry, but unless he carried it as a privately owned sidearm it is unlikely he used it on the battlefield in WWI. He might have had it on his person but the Army did not issue this gun. Another widespread myth is that soldiers got to keep GI weapons after the cessation of hostilities. This was never lawful or military policy. You were issued a weapon with serial XXXX, and when you were done you had better have the same one to turn in. Theft of a weapon is what the military calls it and they are serious about it. I'm not saying this did not ever happen, but to get away with it you have to prove it lost or destroyed in battle then you would be issued a replacement.


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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.
Ift here does not look like there are any markings on the left side of the barrel other than the caliber 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.

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
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.
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 always 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).
Hammerless Bicycle models (1899-1920). the caliber markings and 6 digit serial number indicate it is a second model and if in good 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.


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