Single-shot firearms are not for everyone. There are many situations where you do not want to find yourself limited to a single shot before having to reload. Everyday plinkers and target shooters – as well as hunters who are not after dangerous game – can afford to take their time and reload, sure. But in many other cases, what you want is the ability to respond and follow up. You want that weapon to cycle, and fast. So, yeah, single-shot firearms are situational and a judgement call.
The New England Firearms company (a brand managed by Harrington and Richardson) is all about the single-shot action, whether in the form of a shotgun or rifle. But the difference is that now, the company imports them and does not manufacture them.
New England Firearms
The New England Firearms company has been around for nearly 150 years. Sort of. The original company was founded in 1871 by Frank Wesson (brother of Daniel Wesson of Smith & Wesson) and Nathan Harrington, but the partnership didn’t last too long. Harrington teamed up with William Richardson, and together they formed H&R. During the 20th century, the company shared the struggles and strife of participating in two World Wars, which had no doubt strengthened them, and elevated their prestige and perceived value in the eyes of their customers, and the firearm-enthusiast public at large.
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The original H&R (Harrington and Richardson) Firearms business went belly-up in 1986. Life happens. Their assets were liquidated and their building was torn down. In 1991, however, a new company by the name of ‘H&R 1871’ was formed, and – using the original H&R Firearms designs – the new business began to produce several different types of weapons under the H&R banner, which also included New England Firearms.
In the year 2000, H&R 1871 was purchased by Marlin Firearms, which effectively took over all New England Firearms and H&R brands and trademarks. In 2007, Remington Arms Company purchased Marlin Firearms, and made it – and its subsidiaries – part of the Remington Outdoor Company, formerly known as Freedom Group.
In February of 2015, Remington put a stopper to H&R 1871’s production lines, and it has not been renewed yet. At this time, the company is not producing firearms, but is importing them instead. Oldschool H&R firearms (and certainly the military ones) are considered to be something of a rare item, and their units are sold to enthusiasts and collectors who seek them out.
At this time, the company is only importing shotguns, and not manufacturing them. This change took place in 2015, when their parent company announced that the production line for H&R will be closing down. The only shotguns they are consistently importing are of the Pardner variety.
Single-shot shotguns are always in some demand, whether this comes from hunters or collectors. So, let’s go over the company’s stash.
Excell Auto, which included the Synthetic, Waterfowl, Turkey, Combo, and Walnut models. All of these were 12 gauge and included 4 screw-in chokes. The Turkey model also came in 10 gauge, and included an extra-full choke.
Topper, which included the Deluxe, Deluxe Classic, and Jr. models. These came in either 12 or 20 gauge, and .410 bore. They included a modified or full choke, depending on the gauge.
Topper Trap Gun, available only in 12 gauge, with a heavy-duty 30-inch barrel, and an improved modified choke.
Pardner, which included the Pardner, Pardner Compact (Youth), and Pardner Turkey models. This is a shotgun which has been on the scene ever since 1893, and because it has fewer moving parts it is easier to handle and operate. This line is offered in 12 gauge, 20 gauge, 28 gauge, and .410 bore, along with corresponding chokes.
Tracker II Slug Gun, which came in 12 or 20 gauge with a 24-inch barrel, and with a rifled bore choke.
Ultra Slug Hunter, produced in 12 or 20 gauge, 24-inch barrel, and the option of a scope on some models. The Compact version came with 22-inch barrel, and was available only in 20 gauge.
Handi-Rifle, which included the Synthetic, Stainless, Compact, Superlight Handi-Rifle Compact, and Handi-Grip HandiRifle models. There is also the combo version (see down), which utilized rifle and shotgun elements.
Buffalo Classic – This was called a classic for a reason, as it is modeled after the rifles built by Frank Wesson in the 1950s. It sports a 32-inch barrel and a 45/70 Gov’t caliber.
Sportster – This is a line which honors the 22 caliber, and offers this 20-inch barreled rifle which supports 22 S, L, and LR, as well as 22 Win.
Ultra Hunter / Ultra Varmint – For the hunter who has patience and the capacity to commit, this single-shot hunting rifle is up for the task. Available in several calibers and barrel sizes, it is a line which comes ready for scope-mounting.
This line included the Survivor and Survivor Blued. These came in different configurations and with a modified choke as standard. The Blued version came in either 223 Rem. or 308 Win., with a 22” barrel, while the Survivor came in 410 bore/45 Colt, and was available in blued or nickel finish, with a 20” barrel.
There is also the Handi-Rifle / Slug Gun Combo, available in 44 Mag/12 gauge, or 357 Mag/20 gauge. Choosing from 22, 24-inch barrels (12 Ga), or 22, 28-inch barrels (20 Ga), the operator could also fit other shotgun barrels on this system, but not different rifle barrels.
New England Firearms Accessories
There is a limited collection of accessories available from New England Firearms. Chokes of all sizes can be obtained for the 12 and 20 gauge shotguns. The Invector Choke System was also offered, which would fit most shotguns by NEF or H&R, save the Excell shotguns.
A set of Handi-Grip stock, grip, and forend was available, and this would fit most of the company’s rifles and shotguns. Other accessories included primer carriers and a spur and/or base for Hammers scopes.
Check out our picks for the best shotgun accessories
The story of New England Firearms and H&R 1871 is kind of a sad one, in my opinion. They were around for many years, did good business, went under, made a lively comeback in the 1990s, but then were shut down (pretty much for good) by their parent company. Far be it from me to judge the execs over at Remington Outdoor Company, but it seems that there are a lot of shooters out there who are not happy with that decision. Like I said, I am not judging, but the forums are still filled to the brim with people who are expressing their dissatisfaction with the way Remington is running things.
In their prime, New England Firearms and H&R were providing the world with top-of-the-line single-shot weapons. They were an integral part of the firearms industry, they helped to sustain and advance the world of single-shot firearms, and I feel that because of that, it is most definitely a company worth remembering.