In 1874 Gilbert Harrington and William Richardson established a company to produce firearms in Worcester, Massachusetts. The post-Civil War era saw skyrocketing demand for firearms, and the gun makers located in the Connecticut River valley rushed to meet it. The westward migration had created an insatiable demand for arms by homesteaders, cowboys, and merchants who were attempting to civilize a wild, lawless land. And even in the “civilized” eastern United States, many citizens went about their daily labors carrying arms as protection against muggers and footpads. This resulted in a large demand for small, concealable handguns–a market that H&R hoped to capture a share of.
H&R’s first revolvers were called the Model 1½ through Model 4½ and were chambered for the .22, .32, and .38 rimfire cartridges. These handguns were extremely simple designs, so much so that to eject spent rounds you had to remove the cylinder center pin and punch them out one at a time. But they were rugged and of better quality than many similar revolvers on the market, earning H&R a good reputation.
In 1884 the American Double Action was added to the line and was chambered for the .32 S&W (six-shot cylinder), .38 S&W, and .44 Webley centerfire cartridges. Additional models of the American Double Action were the Safety Hammerless Double Action (a spurless hammer design) and the H&R Bulldog (rimfire cartridges only). The Young American Double Action came in two frame sizes for .22 and .32 cartridges.
The Safety Hammerless proved to be very popular and was offered in .22 Short (seven shots), .32 rimfire, and .32 S&W (both five shots) with barrels of 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 inches. All had round-butt grip frames with hard rubber grips.
While H&R began producing hinged-frame revolvers in 1885, the company continued to promote its solid-frame guns on twin merits of simplicity and inexpensiveness. They were extremely popular with trappers, farmers, woodsmen, and younger shooters.
Between 1905 and 1907, H&R introduced five new solid-frame designs, including the Model 4 in .32 and .38 S&W, the Model 1905 in .32 S&W Long, and the Model 1906 in .22 LR. All of these came with a choice of 2½-, 4½-, and 6-inch octagonal barrels and full-sized grips.
The solid-frame Victor in .22 LR, .32, and .38 S&W was introduced in 1913, and while its unfluted cylinder; 2½-, 4½-, and 6-inch barrels; and small grip made it an ungainly looking handgun, it was quite popular and remained in production until 1942. The Trapper–a nine-shot .22 with 6-inch octagonal barrel–was introduced in 1924. H&R revolvers remained steady sellers during the interwar years because their inexpensive prices made them attractive to Depression-era customers.
When the U.S. became involved in World War II, the government purchased 3,000 .22- and .32-caliber H&R revolvers for training purposes and for issue to couriers, undercover operatives, and the OSS. The London Metro Police bought 23,000 .32-caliber Auto Eject revolvers.
The Sidekick Joins The Line
After the war, handgun production resumed, and 1956 saw the introduction of the Model 929 Sidekick, the first H&R solid-frame revolver to use a swing-out cylinder.
Early 929s locked the cylinder in place by the use of a spring-loaded ball detent in the front of the frame that mated to a notch in the cylinder crane and helped to hold the cylinder crane in the frame.
Beginning in 1958 the “Two Point” locking system was introduced. Pulling the ejector rod forward released it from a recess on the front of the frame, and pulling the cylinder center pin at the same time allowed the cylinder to be swung out. The cylinder crane was held in place by a simple screw, allowing the cylinder to be removed from the frame very easily for cleaning.
The Model 929 Sidekick was available with a 2½-, 4-, or 6-inch barrel. The short-barreled gun came with round butt and plastic grips, while the latter pair had full-sized grips and adjustable rear sights.
The 929 was produced from machined steel, and the 2½-inch gun weighed a hefty 23.5 ounces. The nine-round cylinder had a “safety rim” around its rear circumference to protect the shooter or bystanders in case of head separations of the rimfire cartridges.
According to Bill Goforth’s soon-to-be-released book on H&R revolvers, collectors recognize Early and Second Models of the 929. There are four variations of the Early Model with various combinations of square or round grip frame; grip material; round, tapered, or flat-sided barrels; barrel lengths of 2½, 4, 6, and 10 (very rare) inches; and adjustable rear sights on the 4-, 6-, and 10-inch guns.
With the introduction of the Second Model 929 in 1974, H&R began using transfer bar ignition on many of its revolvers. This placed a trigger-activated steel bar between the face of the hammer and the rear of a spring-loaded firing pin in the frame. The bar does not move into place until a complete trigger stroke pulls it all the way to the rear. At rest the hammer face rests directly against the frame, making no contact with the firing pin and thus reducing the possibility of an accidental discharge.
A companion to the 929 was the Model 930, which was dimensionally and mechanically identical but came with a chrome finish. Manufacture ended in 1986, although the brand was briefly reintroduced in 1996 by New England Firearms with a larger frame, heavier barrel, wooden grips, and fixed sights. Production ceased in 2000.
Shooting A Sidekick
A friend lent me a Model 929 to evaluate. It was a solid-feeling little wheelgun that, according to its serial number, was manufactured in 1983. Thus, it is a Second Model. Unfortunately, it had what I would describe as a “squeeze and grunt” trigger pull.
When I made my way to the gun club to see what the little H&R could do, I tested it by firing two cylinders full of each of three brands of .22 LR ammunition over a sandbag rest at a moderate 10 yards. While all of the groups were well centered, they all tended to print low. But considering the plebeian tasks such a revolver would most likely be called upon to perform, I believe this type of accuracy is more than adequate.
I then set up a D-1 target and ran the 929 through a few offhand drills at, considering the revolver’s intended purpose in life and the heavy trigger pull, a practical distance of 5 yards. While the trigger slowed down my rate of fire, I was pleased to see that most of the bullets I sent downrange impacted in the center of the target and produced a fairly compact group.
While this particular Model 929 lacked the accuracy necessary for hunting small game, it would have proven capable of serving as a close-range, self-defense gun (I know, .22 rimfires aren’t the best choices for defensive guns) and a plinker. And, as I have said before, plinking is the primary role of any .22 rimfire.