.32 Smith & Wesson Long
Among the most enjoyable to use and accurate of all revolver cartridges is the .32 Smith & Wesson Long. When Smith & Wesson made the move from top-break, hinged-frame revolvers to solid-frame, swing-out-cylinder revolvers, they also designed more powerful cartridges with longer case length. That allowed a shooter to use a longer cartridge. Previously, cylinder length and the strength of the star ejector of top-break revolvers dictated the cartridge length and, in many cases, a longer cartridge was not ejected with ample force.
The .32 Smith & Wesson was a pip-squeak round although quite popular in small top-break revolvers. The Smith & Wesson Safety Hammerless revolver sometimes was called the “bicycle gun” because it was designed not to fire if dropped from a bicycle and to provide a measure of protection against dogs that assailed early bicycle riders—presumably, mastiffs not included.
The swing-out cylinder Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector in .32 S&W Long was a popular police service revolver. The New York City Police Department used the .32 Long Colt in the early years, and railroad police carried them for many years. The I-frame Smith & Wesson is accurate and easy to use well, and recoil is minimal. The 98-grain slug travels at about 700 fps. The bullet tends to deform to an extent.
It is less powerful than the .32 ACP automatic pistol cartridge, and practically any .32 ACP load outpaces the .32 Smith and Wesson Long. A handloader may considerably improve the .32 revolver’s performance, and Buffalo Bore offers a full wadcutter and SWC that are easily the most powerful factory loads available. The .32 ACP cannot jolt a 100-grain bullet to the level that the .32 Smith and Wesson revolver can.
.32 S&W Long Test Results
Firearm: Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector with 4-inch barrel
Accuracy Test: 25 yards; group in inches
|Fiocchi 98-Grain FMJ||789 fps||1.5 inches|
|Winchester 98-Grain||730 fps||2.0 inches|
|100-grain Magnus SWC||1050 fps||1.9 inches|
.32 Harrington and Richardson Magnum
The .32 Harrington & Richardson Magnum is a controversial cartridge. It is intended to give shooters a viable choice compared to the five-shot .38 Special, but some of the revolvers chambered for the cartridge are second-rate quality. At least, that is the excuse made by the factory for downloading the ammunition.
The cartridge hardly deserves to be called a magnum because including the term in the name gives the user a false sense of confidence. The bottom line is that it is a poor choice for personal defense. It would be better to deploy a .38 Special revolver with light loads than this cartridge if you are concerned with recoil.
The .38 Special with 148-grain wadcutter target loads is more desirable as a defensive handgun than a .32 H&R Magnum revolver with the JHP load. The .32 Magnum JHP does not reach 0.357 inches in expansion by any means, while the .38 Special begins at 0.357 inches.
This is an example of the sometimes absurd idea that we must have expansion over a solid bullet—even if it is a small-diameter bullet.
.32 H&R Magnum Test Results
Firearm: 4-inch-barrel .32 H&R
Accuracy Test: 7 yards
|Federal 85-Grain Lead SWC||880 fps||2 inches|
|Federal 85-Grain JHP||1,040 fps||1.8 inches|
The .327 Federal roundly outdistances the .32 H&R Magnum. The .327 is chambered in the frames normally used for .357 Magnum revolvers, often with a 7-shot cylinder. Having 8.357 Magnums in a .44-size revolver makes some sense because the .357 is a proven defensive cartridge, and the large-frame revolvers are controllable.
Giving up a proven stopper, the .357 Magnum, for a .32-caliber revolver does not make horse sense at all. Penetration is adequate, and expansion is far better than the .32 H&R Magnum, which may also be used in that revolver, along with the .32 Smith & Wesson Long and .32 Smith & Wesson.
I suppose that would make a fine target and small-game cartridge, although there is nothing it does that a 7.62mm Tokarev cannot do much cheaper as far as personal defense goes. If a shooter cannot handle a .357 Magnum, then the .38 Special is a more viable choice than a supercharged .32, in my opinion.
I could be wrong, then again, the cartridge is very interesting for its own merits.
.327 Federal Test Results
Firearm: Ruger GP 100 4-inch barrel
Accuracy Test: 25 yards
|Speer 115-Grain Gold Dot||1,351 fps||0.9 inches|
|Federal 85-Grain JHP||1,322 fps||1.0 inches|
What is your favorite .32 loading? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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