By Marshall Williams.
The Harrington and Richardson Company of Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, (H&R) made approximately 54,000 Handy-Guns from 1921 until the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) outlawed shotguns with barrels less that 18 inches long and an over all length of 26 inches.
The guns will be found in both .410 bore and 28 gauge. Some .410 bore barrels are choked, some are not, and no 28 gauge barrels are choked. All of the .410s had 2 Ĺ inch chambers except for the final 2000 which have three inch chambers.
In addition to the little shotguns, the gun also was offered .22 long rifle, .32-20 and possibly other calibers with rifled barrels.
The guns with rifled barrels do not come under the NFA.
While The Handy-Gun is quite similar in design and in appearance to the H&R Model 1915 (No. 5) single barrel shotgun which H&R made concurrently with the Handy-Gun, the Handy-Gun was always made as a pistol on its own unique frame. Some small parts will interchange, but not stocks, fore ends, or barrels. Standard barrel lengths were 8 inches, 12 1/4 inches, and after 1934, a few were made with 18 inch barrels. Guns were made in many variations and can be found fitted with detachable stocks, two common styles of pistol grip, two common types of trigger guards, and with blue, nickle, or color case hardened finishes. Guns may be found with virtually any combination of features.
As noted, the National Firearms Act of 1934 outlawed these guns in the US, possession of any which were not properly registered is a felony, and the guns are contraband. The Gun Control Act of 1968 also affects the status of the guns. I will not attempt to sort this out. I will belabor the obvious by noting that these laws only apply within the United States and its territories. The guns were exported to many other countries including Canada and many of Latin American countries.
If properly registered, the H&R Handy-Gun is very collectible; value will depend on condition and features. The rarest variations include any with 18 inch barrels, stocks, and rifled barrel calibers.
The detachable stock also violates the NFA if attached to a gun with a barrel less than 18 inches for shotguns or 16 inches for rifled barrel guns. The 18 inch barrel version of the Handy-Gun does not fall within the provisions which legalized the 18 inch barrel Marble's Game Getter.
The pre-eminent expert on the H&R Handy Gun is Eric Larsen, a collector who has written a number of articles on them. I shall notify him of these inquiries and invite him to respond. His information can be found in R. L Wilsonís Price Guide to Gun Collecting, Krause Publicationsí Standard Catalog of Firearms, Fjestedís Blue Book of Gun Values, and the 1996 Guns Illustrated. This last reference contains numerous photographs of Handy Gun variations and a very scholarly explanation of how the NFA and Gun Control Act of 1968 affect the guns.
I have responded to a number of inquiries on the Handy-Gun, Stevens Pocket Shotguns, and the Marbleís Game Getter. I always say this: If you possess one of these guns in the US with a barrel less than 18 inches long, and do not have registration papers for it, DO NOT RESPOND TO ME. I donít want to know about it. See a lawyer.