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Harrington & Richardson Premier Revolver
Harrington & Richardson, located in Worcester, Massachusetts, was founded in 1871 by Gilbert H. Harrington, the inventor of the top-break revolver, and William A. Richardson. By 1876, H&R had become sufficiently established to be represented at the National Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where the company exhibited 24 of its pistols.
In 1880, H&R achieved another significant milestone in becoming the sole American licensee for the manufacturer of quality English Anson & Deely double-barrel hammerless shotguns, and in 1900, the company introduced its own top-break single barrel shotgun. In the years prior to the First World War, Harrington & Richardson's product line expanded to include other shotguns and revolvers. In addition, H&R produced an improved semi-automatic pistol patterned after British Webley & Scott, as well as the Handy Gun, a top break single-shot pistol that was available in various calibers and small-bore shotgun gauges.
During the First World War, the company received a contract for shoulder-type flare guns. This was the first of many military contracts that H&R would receive from the U.S. government, marking the beginning of a long association of arms production in support of American troops. After the war, Harrington & Richardson redesigned its handgun line. Among the arms introduced during this period was the U.S.R.A. single-shot target pistol, which featured a short hammer fall and crisp trigger pull. The U.S.R.A. pistol became the standard of the U.S. Army pistol team and was used to set a new U.S. pistol record in 1932. Prior to the Second World War, the company manufactured .38 caliber revolvers for British police use. These pistols, which were also available on the U.S. commercial market, were the first firearms ever carried by British "Bobbies".
In addition to these revolvers, H&R also produced handcuffs and leg irons for police use. When the United States went to war again in 1941, H&R produced the Reising .45 caliber submachine gun under contract with Eugene Reising, the gun's inventor. These delayed blowback arms, which fired from closed bolt, were more accurate than conventional "slam fire" submachine guns such as the Thompson, but Army acceptance tests showed that the Reising's close tolerances caused function problems when not cleaned regularly or when operated in dirty conditions. With Thompson production earmarked for Army and Lend-Lease purchases, the Marine Corps adopted the Reising, in both conventional wood stock and folding metal stock models, to supplement its insufficient submachine gun inventory. Reisings saw action on Guadacanal, where their performance was problematic due to the near impossibility of keeping them clean under jungle combat conditions.
The Marines received their last Reisings in 1943, after which they were withdrawn from front line use as additional Thompsons and M1 carbines became available. Approximately 100,000 Reisings were manufactured, including some for Lend-Lease sales to the Soviet Union. A semi-automatic civilian version was also produced for use by defense plant and prison guards. After the war, H&R discontinued production after attempts to sell Reisings to police departments failed due to the ready availability of surplus military arms. During the Korean War, Harrington & Richardson once again turned its production lines to the manufacture of military arms.
On April 3, 1952, H&R received an order for 100,000 M1 rifles plus spare parts, and the first deliveries were made a year later. The company's experience as producer of firearms enabled it to begin production without the start-up problems experienced by other military contract arms producers, including International Harvester. Unlike other M1 manufacturers, H&R also made extensive use of subcontractor-produced parts and components in their rifles. The end of hostilities in July 1953 meant that most H&R-produced rifles were added to postwar inventories. The company continued to receive additional contracts for the M1, and by the time production ceased in 1956, H&R had produced 428,600 rifles. The end of production did not mark the end of the company's association with John Garand's rifle, as H&R later received a contract to rebuild 50,000 M1 rifles in 7.62mm NATO caliber for the U.S. Navy.
In late 1954, Harrington & Richardson received an additional contract to conduct an engineering study aimed at production of 500 T48 rifles, an American version of the Belgian FN FAL .30 caliber rifle which was under consideration as a possible successor to the M1 as the U.S. military's standard battle rifle.
In 1957, the Army adopted the Springfield Armory-developed M14, which was based on John Garand's original M1 design. These rifles becamethe first multi-purpose American infantry rifle, replacing the M1 rifle, M1 carbine, Browning Automatic Rifle, and M3 submachine gun. As with the M1, the Army issued contracts for the M14 to Winchester and H&R to supplement production at Springfield Armory. H&R's tool-up and manufacture began quickly, with the company utilizing machinery left over from M1 production, but problems arose with subcontracted parts. To further complicate manufacturing efforts, inspectors discovered cracks in some receivers. H&R's M14 production came to a halt as the Army changed both metallurgical and heat treatment specifications for these rifles. With problems now corrected, H&R was able to make up for lost production time and get back on schedule by August 1961.
By the time production ceased, Harrington & Richardson had manufactured over 500,000 M14s, making the company the largest manufacture of these rifles. H&R also produced the M16 "black rifle" under contract with the Department of Defense, as well as the M4 survival rifle, a .22 Hornet/.410 combination gun manufactured for use by U.S. Air Force flight crews. Harrington & Richardson exists today, but under a new name, the New England Firearms/H&R 1871. In addition to producing a complete line of pistols, rifles, and shotguns based on their earlier designs and ranging from inexpensive to presentation-grade models, the company is a U.S. distributor for British-made Webley & Scott shotguns.