In 1871 Frank Wesson joined Gilbert Harrington in establishing a firearms manufacturing company, Wesson & Harrington. In 1874 Gilbert bought Frank out, and Harrington and Richardson was established. They made their fame in the 19th C. by producing an extensive line of top-break revolvers. These guns were not of the highest quality, but they were inexpensive and generally good, serviceable weapons.
By the dawn of the 20th C. they had expanded into shotguns, and then into semi-automatic pistols and solid-frame revolvers. In the post-WW2 period they became best known for their single-shot shotguns, single shot rifles and solid-frame revolvers. All of these weapons were basic, inexpensive and robust, and put meat on the table in many a rural home.
In the latter half of the 20th C. their solid-frame revolvers in .22LR, .22 Magnum and .32 S&W Long were the quintessential ‘Truck’ or ‘Tackle-box’ gun. Good enough to do the job, cheap enough you didn’t so much mind if you lost them. Double-action triggers were rather famously heavy, but for casual use and plinking most people thumb-cocked them anyway, so that wasn’t much of an issue for most people..
The economically-priced .32s were a popular choice for self defense among the financially challenged, though I knew at least one police officer that carried a Sidekick as a back-up. .32 S&W Long is a mild-shooting and very accurate round, and the longer-barreled .32s were sometimes used as an entry-level target pistols, for small game hunting or, of course, home defense.
These guns have yet to get any real interest from collectors and remain affordable to this day, with decent examples available from $120-$200. I’ve wanted one for some time, but there was always a higher priority. When one came across the counter at McCallen Defense Chris knew just who to call, and in fact he made me a very nice deal on it. When I went in to pick it up I brought a box of target wadcutters to try it out at the attached indoor range. We’ll get to that shortly.
The Guardian has a 4″ Barrel, a rear sight that is adjustable for windage, a solid frame with a swing-out cylinder and a square butt with black plastic grips. There is no removable side-plate; all the internals are inserted into the frame through the hammer-slot or from underneath after the trigger guard is removed. The gun may be fired either single or double action. The small lever at the back of the trigger guard is actually the single-action trigger; when the gun is fully cocked the trigger rests against the lever, and pulling the trigger rotates the lever to release the hammer from the full-cocked position. Earlier guns (like this one) are equipped with a rebounding hammer. When the trigger is released the hammer is held back about 0.10″, preventing it from striking the firing pin if the gun is dropped. Later models were equipped with a transfer-bar safety. The cylinder is opened by pulling the cylinder pin forward, and once the cylinder has swung out this also serves to push out the ejector star. The back of the cylinder is relieved to accommodate the cartridge rims.
The left side of the barrel is marked ‘Model 732′ and ’32 S&W,’ though the gun is actually chambered in .32 S&W Long. The left side of the frame is marked simple ‘H&R INC. U.S.A.’ The serial number is located at the bottom of the grip-frame.
The grip provides a secure two-finger grip; I have large hands and my pinky finger does not fit on the grip, but it’s actually comfortable. The sights are square and give a good sight picture. The trigger pull is heavy, but decently smooth and breaks cleanly. The single action trigger is decently crisp and clean, though again it is not light.
These were a low-priced gun, and the finish reflects that. They are not without flaws, either; the plastic seat for the mainspring is prone to breakage. They are readily available and fairly simple to replace. I haven’t checked this one yet; if it has the plastic seat I will probably fabricate a new one from aluminum, after which the gun will certainly outlast me by a significant margin.
If abused they can go out of time, and internal springs can break. They are not hard to disassemble, but reassembly is a right pain in the posterior. Ask me how I know… then duck.
This gun is in remarkably good condition, with only a small amount of rust pitting on the bottom of the grip frame. Other than that it could be showroom new; the cylinder is unlined and there is no holster wear. Quite remarkable, given that this particular gun was manufactured in 1965!
Shooting the Model 732
As I stated above I went straight to the indoor range at Champion Arms (which shares a building with McCallen Tactical) to try the gun out. I had some 90gr. HBWCs loaded over 2.5gr. of Unique, a fairly typical target load, which gets around 780 fps. from this gun’s 4″ barrel. Recoil was very mild, and the gun was quite pleasant to fire. While the double-action trigger is heavy it was smooth enough to make it easy to shoot good groups at seven yards.
I rolled a target out to 25 yards and, mindful that the gun was shooting high at seven yards, used a 6-o’clock hold, essentially setting the paper on top of the front sight. The results were gratifying- firing single-action, standing/unsupported produced a 1.9″ group (measured edge-to-edge.)
This is a straight-shooting little gun, capable of very respectable accuracy. Overall I’m quite delighted with it; it’s a solid, honest little revolver, and never mind if the finish and looks are a bit rough. It does what it needs to do, and does it well. I expect this gun to get a lot of range time, and might well put some bunnies in the bag as well.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 30 August 2020
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