Between 1932 and 1986 three model variations of the gun were created. The 1st model was made between 1932 and 1952. The 1st model guns featured a bird's head grip frame also known as the "Rice frame" after the designer Rienzi Rice.
The 1st model had eight variations.
First Variation; round heavy weight ribbed barrel with non-adjustable front sight blade - 1932 - to before April 18, 1933.
Second Variation; adjustable front sight - 1933 (after 4-18-1933)
Third Variation; firing pin moved to hammer - 1934
Fourth Variation; three inch barrel was offered - 1935
Fifth Variation; two patent dates marked on cylinder (before there was only one) - 1936 (after 3-17) - 1937
Sixth Variation; top of barrel markings moved to right side of barrel - 1937 - 1939
Seventh Variation; .22 WFR caliber dropped, 3 inch barrel dropped - 1940 - 1941
Eighth Variation; one piece over size plastic grips are standard, limited production during WWII Years - 19421 - 1952
In 1952 the second model arrived with a square butt grip frame and 2 piece grip panels. The gun was revised again in 1974 with the introduction of the transfer bar safety system.
The 1st year the 999 double action guns (they also made a single action variant called the 199) has a D prefix in the serial number. In 1940 H&R added a letter prefix to denote the year, 1940 was A, 1941 was B etc.
My gun was purchased at a gun store in Bothell for a whopping $125. The serial number puts its date of manufacture sometime around 1937. So my particular gun is a 1st model 6th variation.
Here is my gun
As you can see from the picture, something heinous happened to the blued finish at some point.
Here is a catalog page from 1938 (around the time my gun was sold). The price was $32.00
I had thoughts of restoring the finish and I still might, but the number of pins along with the stories I have read on line have provided me with plenty 'o trepidation.
Here is an diagram of one of the newer models.
The gun also came in a "custom" version that was nickel plated:
There was also a special edition "1 of 999" made that were factory engraved. Of course there were 999 of these model 999s made.
The foremost expert on these guns was a man named Bill Goforth, he literally wrote the book on H&R:
I will thank Bill for much of the information that was used for this post. Bill is no longer with us, but if they have internet in heaven I'll bet he is reading this....thanks Bill!
The book can be purchased online here
Here are some other model 999s that I found online: