Harrington & Richardson Self Loading .32 [ACP] Caliber Pistol

The Harrington & Richardson (H&R) ‘Self Loading 32 Caliber’ pistol was manufactured from 1914 (or 1916) to 1924. There were – according to one set of records – a total of 34,500 such pistols made in that period. These pistols were not designed by H&R, but were manufactured by license from Webley of England.

The pistols made by H&R were somewhat different from the Webley version. The most obvious difference is the concealed hammer; the Webley has an exposed hammer, while the H&R version has a striker fired ignition system. According to the Gun Digest Book of Automatic Pistols Assembly/Disassembly, the pistol was designed for Webley by William J. Whiting. No comment is made regarding the change from Webley to H&R design.

I have one of the H&R Self Loading 32 pistols now. In my constant prowling of various Gun Shows, this one showed up in Grand Island, Nebraska, near where I live. I am fascinated by early 20th Century .32 Automatic pistols and this one fits that description quite nicely.
My example is in the high 17xxx serial number range; about halfway through the serial number range. According to the Gun Digest book, this pistol weighs 22 ounces, is about 6 3/8 inches long, 4 ½ inches tall and carries eight rounds in the magazine. By my trigger weight device, the trigger pull is close to 11 pounds, with a bit of creep or slide which makes it feel a bit lighter. Dry firing, the trigger pull seems to break cleanly without disturbing the sights.

The sights are fixed – the standard for most of these types of pistols; the rear sight is a milled V notch in the backplate at the rear of the slide, the front sight is part of the barrel. The sights are a bit better than many sights of the era in terms of visibility. Shooting will determine how well they work.

Manufacture was a bit complicated. The slide has a separate breech block and backplate, which keeps the recoil and striker springs in place. The entire pistol is obviously machined from solid pieces of steel. Disassembly past the field strip level requires punches and such; I will not outline the process. The field strip procedure is much like the Walther PP or PPk; one pulls the trigger guard down to unlock the barrel. As far as I can tell, the H&R or Webley design is older than the Walther.

Grips are made from either gutta percha or hard plastic. They are black, checkered, and feature the H&R logo. The grips on my example screw on with a single slotted screw on either side.

There is a manual ‘thumb’ safety mounted on the frame on the left side of the pistol (presuming users are right handed). The manual safety disconnects the trigger from the sear mechanism. The pistol also has a magazine safety, which also disconnects the trigger from the sear mechanism. The safety is ‘odd’ in that the ‘up’ position is the ‘fire’ position and ‘down’ is ‘safe’. Most all modern designs tend to be ‘down’ to fire.

The frame, slide and barrel seem robust. The internal parts seem to be machined and with the exception of springs, seem to be stout and not likely to fail.

All in all, this is a solid feeling pistol. Of note, this pistol design was built in a larger frame size, incorporated a locked breech, and chambered for both the .380 Webley and the .455 Webley rounds. The .455 Webley version was adapted for use by the British Army.

Harrington & Richardson Self Loading Pistol, Colt Pocket Pistol and Walther PPK/s

It looks blocky. The grip angle is close to perpendicular to the slide; it is considerably less than the Colt Government Model. The barrel is exposed and fixed to the frame. In comparison to current semi-automatic pistol design, it is ‘odd’ looking. However, holding it in the hand is neither uncomfortable nor awkward. One also notes it is rather large for a modern .32 ACP semi-automatic pistol. It is about the same size as a Walther PP (not PPk). It was probably considered a pocket pistol when made; gentlemen’s trouser pockets were more generous in that era. It is about the same size as a Colt 1903 Pocket Pistol. The Colt seems more streamlined to the eye and is probably easier in and out of a pocket. It does share the ‘Art Deco’ look of the Walther PP – PPk, the Colt Pocket Pistol and the Savage semi-automatic pistol. Probably another reason I like these little pistols.

As always, shooting it turned up some interesting findings.

A full magazine is somewhat tricky to seat properly. As in all semi-automatic pistols, the top round in the magazine must ride against the bottom of the slide. If it did not, the cartridge would not be in position to be elevated into the path of the slide and then stripped from the magazine when the slide closes to chamber the next round. I do not know if this is endemic to the design, or just an idiosyncrasy of this particular pistol.

Ejected cases go straight up; when shooting two handed. The extractor is of the ‘top dead center’ persuasion, so it’s not a surprise. What was a surprise is, from the five shot groups I shot, nearly all were close to me, all in front, and typically no less than three empty cases were literally at my feet. This is even more a surprise as it happened on an indoor range with a concrete floor. My experience is brass cases tend to bounce on concrete. Not only do the cases eject straight up, they come pretty much straight down as well. One landed on top of my head. It makes a nice change from searching all over heckengone. When shooting one string of one handed rapid fire, the empties ejected up and forward, bearing to the left. This obviously was in reaction to my grip and hold; I hope I wasn’t overly moving the pistol while firing. The grouping of that string of fire might indicate I was so moving.

The sights, as expected (feared, perhaps?) are somewhat vague. Not when one can see them clearly and clearly silhouetted against the target, but when light changes or the sights blend into the target – which in the indoor range I use is common. I found sight pictures and groups much beyond seven yards to be vague.

The manual safety is prone to ‘bump’ on when handing and loading the pistol. I noted two or three times the safety had been moved by manipulating the pistol. Since this was an accuracy and function test, I did not use a holster. (Nor do I possess a holster fitting the pistol properly. I suppose I may have to make one.) For that reason, I saw no need to execute any ‘cocked and locked’, firing from holster drills. However, moving the safety from ‘safe’ to ‘fire’ can be done with the thumb of the firing hand. But it takes a little practice. Also, if the safety is up just a bit from the fully ‘fire’ position, the pistol will not fire.

Firing this pistol with Fiocchi ammunition gives snappy recoil. It isn’t terribly harsh or painful, but it is abrupt. The action of the pistol is firm and quick.

I fired twenty-three rounds in my evaluation. Three rounds did not fire on the first strike. Two of the three fired on the second strike. (The second strike required me to reload the same round back into the magazine and attempt to fire it a second time.) The third round would not fire during three attempts. At this point, I am unsure if the problem lies in the ammunition or the pistol. I suspect the pistol, as the ammunition works as expected in a Colt Pocket Model I have in my collection. My next venture will be to disassemble and clean the firing pin and striker spring. A bit of congealed oil will soften a striker fired pistol blow.

In addition to the misfires, I had two stoppages. One occurred when the round being fed into the chamber nosed up and the tip of the bullet proper was wedged against the hood of the barrel. With no slide hold open, the magazine is difficult to remove. The top – stuck – round is holding on to the magazine. It took me about a minute to clear the stoppage. Of course, I was being gentle, not wanting to damage the sole magazine I have for the pistol.

The second stoppage occurred on the last round of a string of shots. Similar to the first stoppage, the bullet nosed up, but instead of catching on the barrel hood, the round pointed straight up out of the ejection port. That one was easier to clear.

As for shooting: I fired strings of shots of mostly five rounds each. One string at seven yards aimed at X-ring, a string at ten yards aimed at X-ring, a string at twenty-five yards aimed at the head and finally a full eight round magazine fired high chest with one hand in rapid fire at seven yards.

Combined groups of seven and ten yard strings

Deliberate fire groups show a decent degree of accuracy. The groups at seven and ten yards – even with the barleycorn sights and rather heavy trigger pull – were nearly all in the ten ring of an NRA B27 target. One round at the ten yard line was in the nine and one in the eight ring. I will call those shots deficient due to my old eyes and the lighting conditions. (This is an evaluation of the pistol, not of me.) The sights are very light dependent; more so than modern patridge sights of larger size.

Four of five shots, aimed center head at twenty-five yards

I attempted five head shots at twenty-five yards with conditional success. The impacts were all high on the paper, over the silhouette head. Had I aimed center mass, all rounds would have been on target.

For a pistol design just over one hundred years old, and considering the pistol is over ninety years old, this is a pretty sound pistol. Not the most powerful of handguns, but much more effective than a hopeful smile. As nearly all the small, .32 ACP – or 7.65 Browning – pistols of the era, it is a fascinating example of design and machining. A bit of history one can hold in the hand. And fun in the bargain.


Slide Markings on left side of slide over trigger



Filed under Firearms and their use

25 responses to “Harrington & Richardson Self Loading .32 [ACP] Caliber Pistol

  1. Curious little gun… There’s something about it’s aesthetic that has always appealed to me for some reason. I may have to pick one up someday. Very nice overview. There really isn’t much information about it out there.

    • Melba Young

      I have a harrington richardson 32cal 5 shot revolver. It has a break open
      barrel and does not have a hammer. serial no. on butt of hand grip is 86139 and has been in my family for over 80 years. Still shoot well.

      • Miss Young, anything in the family for over 80 years is worth keeping, just for the family connection value. I don’t collect revolvers of this type, but I know enough to know they are not strongly sought after in the collecting world. Yes, there are people who collect H & R revolvers, but the revolvers themselves are not expensive. (There were many made and sold.)

        I politely but strongly suggest you do not fire it a great deal. Replacement parts are no longer made and only available from specialized shops.

        Still, if it belonged to one of your ancestors, it means much.

  2. This is the only one I’ve seen for sale at a gun show. You’re right, there isn’t much information about them. But that’s the fun of collecting the somewhat odd category of ‘Art Deco .32 ACP pistols’. I am constantly amazed at the vast amount of history wrapped up in this category of pistol.

    And thanks for reading and commenting. Please feel free to return and comment when the spirit moves you – even if you disagree. And tell a friend, too.

  3. Sam

    ive got one of these too but its missing the grips. any idea on where i may find some and also the value of the gun?

    • Grips? There are two places – websites – that come to mind; one is ‘www.gunpartscorp.com’ and the other is Jack First, in South Dakota. They both deal in odd parts for old guns. Also, I think “Bob’s Gun Parts” (www.gun-parts.com) might have them as well.

      Value? Hard to say. Like many collectables, they are worth exactly what someone will pay for them. In firearms, the first consideration is demand; does anyone want one of these? Then the values are based on how rare is the item, then finish and ‘originalness’. In other words, how much of the original factory finish is left and how well preserved is the item? Since your pistol is lacking the original grips, the value goes down. However, the grips are not numbered to the individual pistol, so finding original grips will take care of that part. How much bluing (or nickel, or parkerizing) is left? Does one still have the original box, papers, instruction booklet and so forth? All those items add to the value.

      Without seeing your specific pistol, I could not guess. I paid just over $200 for mine, but there is some finish missing. A ‘perfect’ gun, still in the purchase box, would be far more, obviously. But I should think an entire pistol in functioning condition would be worth a minimum of $100 for the parts, if nothing else. In any event, I fear you will not be able to send the kids to college on the proceeds. UNLESS, one can show it belonged to some famous or infamous person. Good luck with that.

      So tell me, Sam, from where did this gripless pistol come to you? Sounds like a story.

      • Sam

        Sorry I’ve taken so long to respond, but thank you for all of your info, before sending you my ? I had checked a dew websites, so thank you for those the you suggested. As for the condition of my pistol, except for the missing grips it is actually in very good condition. As for the story behind it, it came from my father in law and him being a man of a few words all he said was “I bought it from a man for $5, it was in a bag.”

      • For being so brief, that’s a great story.

        Sounds like the beginning to a Philip Marlow story.

      • Sam

        I will try to “pry ” more of the story from him, since we both seem cut from the same cloth, I believe you and I would both be interested in a more detailed account.
        I found myself in total agreement with your advise to the man who is helping to take care of the retired Naval man. Even though I am ex-Army, I also have a mutual respect for all branches although I’ve been known to lob the occasional “jar-head” when appropriate. Haha!
        Hopefully I’ll be able to upload some before(grips) and after photos of the ol’ girl, and speaking of stories and interesting names, where and how did you end up with OldManMontgomery?
        It’s too bad you are so far away I would love to compare “collections” of guns and tales.
        Thank you,

      • I would be interesting in hearing more. “… it was in a bag …” I LOVE IT!

        Thanks for the kind words. I really do care about people, especially those who are brothers in arms; you included. (Which I may not admit to in public, you understand.) I also abhor the idea of ‘survivors’ being at a disadvantage when dealing with estate disposal. If you’ve read much of my blog, you know I have a strong Christian ethic which includes proper treatment of ‘widows and orphans’. Beside which, I have some knowledge and don’t want it to fade when I do, eventually.

        My self applied title is fairly easy. I’m the oldest surviving male in my Grandfather’s line; my surname being Montgomery. I’ve done a bit of genealogical investigation but haven’t been able to discover more ‘distant’ relatives, such as brothers of my Grandfather. Probably just lazy, I suppose.

        From what part of the world are you? At least currently?

      • Sam

        I’m currently living in the northern panhandle of WV, within 2miles of the Ohio and Pennsylvania state borders. I’m actually born and raised about 30 miles into the Ohio countryside from here.
        I also cringe at the thought of how a certain group of people swoop in and take advantage of grieving or uninformed people and then “brag” about the great deals that they’ve made. Anyway, off the soapbox I go.

      • My Grandfather lived in West Virginia for some time – before my father was born. He sold a property there in 1903 as a marker.

        Keep in touch here at least. Or my email is OldManMontgomery@Yahoo.com if you feel so inclined. I’m always interested in hearing from other collectors and shooters.

  4. Excellent blog here! Also your website loads up
    fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

    • I use the services of Word Press (www.wordpress.com) and it takes care of all the vulgar details of how to get my deathless prose from my input to the published format you see. It is pretty much user friendly and explains the process when one ‘signs up’. To date, there is no cost to me; Bless Their Hearts! There is a subscribed service to which I may have to join – I suppose it is better.

      Interesting user name you have there. I checked it on a French to English translator. Interesting.

  5. risktaker53

    I have been helping a close family friend caring for her husband with hospice at home. He is retired Navy and had numerous hobbies, so she will need more than just my help in disposing of some of his “stuff” when the time comes, which will be very soon. I just came across one of his pistols and found this site through my first web search. I know very little about guns, but this particular one looked interesting. I am pretty sure this is exactly the same gun (serial #11548). Any ideas as to where to start looking for more information would be helpful.

  6. First, may I salute your assistance and concern for your friends and my thanks to the man who honorably served the nation, and his Lady Wife (a married man does not serve alone). I held the title of Sergeant in the U. S. Marine Corps, and contrary to custom and popular belief, have a great deal of respect and love for my brothers in arms who have served in the U. S. Navy.

    These pistols are ‘interesting’. They are interesting from a historical perspective more than a modern, practical application. Which is to say, this sort of pistol will not bring – probably – great amounts of money selling on the open market. However, to an interested collector a good example would be more valuable.

    Do NOT offer the gun to an ordinary pawn shop. A pawn shop would probably buy it, but only after telling you it is old, underpowered and ‘hard to move’. All of which are somewhat true. The same warning applies to the ordinary gun shop. These are typically honorable people, but must make a profit on purchases and subsequent sales.

    Having offended all the pawn and gun shop owners…

    First: Positively identify the pistol. The Harrington & Richardson (H&R) pistols are proudly and obviously marked on the left side of the pistol. I have added a photo to the original post showing the slide markings. (I can’t seem to add a picture to this reply.) As far as I know, there were two ‘models’ marketed by H&R, an ‘early’ and a ‘later’. They had the same model name. (Please don’t be offended; I assume you can read. Just covering the basics.

    The primary criteria for value is that of ‘original condition’, especially the outer finish. A collector wants an example in perfect condition; the bluing is fully intact, no serious blemishes, grips intact, all markings readable, all parts attached and so on. Obviously when specimens are nearly 100 years old, few are ‘perfect’ and so one looks at how much of the originality is left. The original box and any instruction sheets are prized, but not absolutely required. (Don’t throw away the box, even if worn.) Do NOT attempt any repairs, other than basic, gentle cleaning.

    I think Wikipedia has a basic article on the pistol. There are also several websites hosting discussion forums on the subject of collectable guns. Assistance from a research perspective are various firearms sales websites.


    (This listing shows a page from one of several ‘value’ books. Please note collectable pistols are worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay, somewhat modified by what one is willing to accept. Negotiation – ‘haggling’ or ‘horse-trading’ is not only accepted, but expected by most collectors. The prices shown on the excerpt are NOT carved in stone.)




    These offers for sale give you an idea of what the various seller EXPECT to get for the examples. Also of note are the comments on condition.

    The percentages shown are the percentage of original bluing on the specimen in question. A “100%” firearm has the original finish in perfect condition, with no scratches, nicks, dings, or discoloration. Most pistols carried in a holster for instance, have some loss of bluing (finish) at the forward ends of the barrel or slide. Others appear to have been dragged down a gravel road for extended periods of time.

    Determining ‘condition’ is best done in person. Pictures are the next best indicator.

    I’m in Hastings, Nebraska. If you are somewhere near – and trusting enough – I could arrange to come and look at the pistol and any other firearms to assist you.

    My email is ‘OldManMontgomery@Yahoo.com’ if that will assist correspondence. Please feel free.

    Helping out a brother in arms is part of my writ.

  7. jkm

    What kind of value would this gun bring in good condition with original box and lierature in excellent condition and proof that it came from a famous ganster?


    • For the part about “…value would this gun bring in good condition with original box and lierature in excellent condition…” I will refer to the post immediately prior. I’m not trying to be rude, but it is essentially the same information.

      For the part about “…proof that it came from a famous ganster?” (I presume you mean ‘gangster’, as in well known crime figure.) That, sir, would no doubt raise the price substantially. Bonnie Parker’s revolver was lately sold at auction for $264,000.00. Clyde Barrow’s .45 Colt went for only $240,000.00. So it depends on how famous was the criminal and how substantial the documentation showing the connection.

      Good luck in that.

  8. chase

    does anyone have a diagram breakdown for this weapon of choice if so please email me at chosier21285@yahoo.com thanks

  9. Quint Hankel

    I inherited one of these from my stepfather. I don’t know where he got it, I discovered it after he passed. He was a Navy man in WWII and had an eye for unique stuff, the other gun I got was a Husqvarna 1907 which was a precursor to the beloved 1911. I love the fit and finish of it as well as the fit of it in my hand. I had a custom holster made for it by J.C. Rankin Sr out of Savage MT. I had to carve a blank out of oak as he did not have one to make it for me (imagine that!) and I didn’t want to send my pistol in the mail. I had him keep it so I could have him make me a pancake holster in the future. So if any of you all want a holster he’s the man. This pistol has a James Bond kind of feel to it! Mr. Bond had a liking for low caliber pistols cause he could hit what he was aiming at. And it probably didn’t show so much in his suit coat 🙂

    • Thank you, Mr. Hankel. These pistols – and category of pistol – were more common in the past. Your honored Step Father being a Navy man was no doubt in some of the ‘Navy towns’ of the United States during his service. No doubt many of this category of device appeared in pawn shops and gun shops of the era. Hard to say.

      Just a quick comment on the Husqvarna (I always have to check to make sure I spelled that correctly): It is indeed a John Browning design, through the auspices of Fabrique Nationale (known to most of us as ‘FN’) of Belgium. It is probably closer in ‘kin’ to the 1903 Colt Pocket Pistol than the Government Model; but is certainly in that line of designs. I would think of the Husqvarna pistol as more of an ‘uncle’ than a grandfather; but the point is debatable.

      I have yet to make a holster for this pistol. I don’t intend to carry it, but I like to have ‘period’ looking accouterments for the items in my collection. I’ll come up with something, someday.

      Yes, there is a ‘James Bond’ sort of feeling in this. In fact, Ian Fleming served in the British Military intelligence services during the Second World War. I have read Mr. Fleming armed himself with a .25 ACP pistol for his service. I also read he never had occasion to shoot anyone. (Just as well on several levels, I think.) However, the .32 ACP cartridge – 7.65 mm in Europe – was considered suitable for both military and police use. The German Army of WWII issued 7.65mm pistols to officers and provided ammunition, but did not normally issue or stock pistols in 380 ACP.

      However, I humbly suggest not depending on popular fiction (books, movies or television) for serious advice on nearly any subject.

      Enjoy your Self-Loader, sir.

  10. Paul I. Roberts

    I have recently purchased a H & R Self loader in reasonably good condition and I am fascinated by the history of old hand guns. What makes this gun of particular interest is the letter attached. The letter is from the Treasury Dept. and permits the holder to bring back the gun as a “War Souvenir” . The letter is dated Aug 29, 1946. The serial number of the gun is 32**. I know when they were produced, but cannot help wonder when this particular gun was made.

    • I think – it has been a while – I did an on line search for “Harrington & Richardson pistols” or some such. A bit of looking should give you a close estimate at least. I believe there’s at least one ‘Self Loader’ website as well. As I recall the pistols were only made from 1914 to 1924 or thereabouts.

      Yes. A letter authorizing the pistol as a “War Souvenir” is interesting. They were made in the United States, so how did it get into a war zone? Unless it was carried by a U. S. serviceman.

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