Ammunition

.327 Federal Magnum – Good for Defense?

.327 Federal Magnum Ammo Box

Like many of you, I became a .45 believer some years ago. It was a combination of things: talking with some people who had been shot with various caliber handguns and studying the charts mostly. I figured I needed all the help I could get, and bigger bullets punch bigger holes. However, lately, I’ve become more attuned to the 9mm for the same reasons everyone else has.

The 9mm’s ballistics have improved, you can put more cartridges in the gun, and the rounds are not as expensive. You know all this stuff as it has been explained ad nauseum. But sometimes, I want to carry a revolver, and my wife always prefers to carry a revolver. Together we determined the .38 Special is kind of anemic, and the .357 Magnum is way too much for her to handle. So, what does the job?

Box of .327 Federal Magnum personal defense ammunition
Just at press time, Federal announced a 104-grain JHP cartridge in .327 Federal Magnum had been added to its HST line of defensive ammo.

Finding the Right Round

For my basic handgun classes, I worked up some charts comparing various calibers. The primary comparison point was muzzle energy. Muzzle energy, or kinetic energy, is a value derived from a formula many of us learned in high school physics and promptly forgot after the exam. Fortunately, these days, all you need to do is ask Google for the formula. I did.

Kinetic energy equals one-half the mass of an object times the square of its velocity. There are calculators all over the Internet, so that’s where I got my numbers. Plus, you can find them on the box of most ammunition.

Looking at one very popular brand of defensive ammunition as an example, I compared the published muzzle energy for Speer Gold Dot in the most popular JHP grain for the various calibers and got the following values:

  • .327 Federal Magnum – 568 ft/lbs
  • .38 Special – 222 ft/lbs
  • 9mm Luger – 376 ft/lbs
  • .357 Magnum – 535 ft/lbs
  • .40 S&W – 484 ft/lbs
  • .45 ACP – 404 ft/lbs

There are those who deny these numbers have anything to do with stopping bad guys. To me, the logic is sound. It’s a measure of how hard you get hit when one of those little bullets strikes you. It’s easy for us to understand that in the boxing ring it’s the hard punches rather than the jabs that knock a guy out. Same principle.

I’ve watched hanging paper targets get hit by a .327 Federal Magnum rounds go swishing up in the air behind where they were hung. Then, I watched a 9mm round hit the same target with no resulting motion in the paper.

Three boxes of .327 Federal Magnum ammunition
Ammo makers are on board with the .327 round, and the author has found it in stock throughout the shortages of other calibers.

.327 Federal Magnum Features

The .327 Federal Magnum is a powerful little cartridge. Yes, it’s small. However, because of the velocity with which it is flung from the .327 Magnum case, it packs a wallop! Especially, if you choose a cartridge such as the Speer Gold Dot with 568 ft/lbs of energy on target.

Before doing all of the muzzle energy calculations, one of the reasons I turned to the .327 Magnum when looking for a good self-defense revolver is that most of the guns built for that particular round hold six rounds of ammo, whereas the small .357 Magnums only hold five.

Another cool thing about revolvers chambered for the .327 Federal Magnum round is they allow you to shoot .32 S&W Short, .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Magnum, or .327 Federal Magnum cartridges. Some of these are pretty soft shooting for practice, whereas the H&R magnum or Federal magnum cartridges are serious self-defense rounds.

Taurus .327 revolver
Taurus recently reintroduced the .327 Federal Magnum snub-nosed revolver after dropping it from the lineup. The author had one of the earlier ones and is glad to see .327s are back.

.327 Fed Mag Firearms

This is a comeback round, and I’m glad to see manufacturers taking it seriously. My wife’s gun is a Taurus .327 Magnum. It fits in her purse or car’s center console quite handily. Taurus dropped that model from its lineup for several years, but it’s back.

I keep a Ruger .327 Federal Magnum SP101 with a 4-inch barrel handy as a pocket gun for a quick trip to the store or while taking our little dog for an adventure around our yard that is visited often by coyotes and bobcats. It’s just such a handy size that it presents a significant offering for defense against man or critters that may be lurking about. A revolver makes a good pocket gun for concealed carry or for backup of another concealed carry gun, and the .327 is my choice in caliber for that purpose as well.

Ruger SP101 revolver chamber in .327 Federal Magnum right profile stainless
Ruger’s SP101 is one of the seven models of Ruger revolvers chambered in .327 Federal Magnum.

In addition to the Taurus and the SP101, I have a Ruger Single Seven in .327 Federal Magnum and a Ruger Single Six in .32 H&R Magnum. The two .32 magnums are very pleasant shooters when using .32 S&W Long. They can also be used for harvesting squirrels or rabbits for a nice winter stew.

For a while, I thought I was alone in understanding the value of these cartridges. But now, Ruger is chambering seven different models in the caliber, Charter Arms has three models, and Smith & Wesson has two. And that’s not all.

Many of us have been waiting for a .327 Magnum rifle. The old Winchesters were chambered in .32-20 and the .327 Magnum is a similar, but more powerful, cartridge that is just asking for a rifle. Henry is the first rifle company (I know of) to build .327 Federal Magnum lever-action rifles. However, build them it did, and what a gorgeous rifle. There are four models of the Henry rifle available in .327 Federal Magnum.

Accuracy and Handling

The little Taurus revolver and Ruger SP101 are a bit snappy when shooting the .327 Magnum rounds, but they are primarily point-and-shoot defensive guns. In either gun, the double-action trigger pull maxes out my 12-pound trigger-pull gauge, but it doesn’t feel hard, and it is a smooth pull back to the break.

The single-action pull averages just over 6 pounds. There are holsters and off-body carry options galore for small revolvers. With the .327 Magnum round, you’re carrying something that will get the attention of any threat against you. Even the sound of the .327 Magnum is intimidating. It’s very loud, and it’s more of a boom than a crack.

Two targets showing the accuracy of the .327 Federal Magnum from a Ruger SP101 revolver
The left target was fired all single-action and the right one all double-action in the author’s .327 Federal Magnum SP101 offhand at 10 yards.

I find practicing double-action shots with S&W Long cartridges helps me develop the trigger feel without being all over the place. Like many double-action handguns, the Ruger SP101 and Taurus both stack when you’re pulling the trigger. You reach a breakpoint where it’s easy to stop and realign your sights, before pulling the last bit through the break. I do that when practicing, but if I’m fighting for my life, I doubt I’ll take time for that last alignment.

I’ve practiced without it. I can keep all six rounds in a 5-inch spread with some of them on target. With that .327 Magnum, there’s a good chance only that first one must be on target, but let’s not take any chances with our practicing.

.327 Magnum Ammo

Ammo for the .327 Federal Magnum seems to be in stock at most places you’d buy ammo online. Also, as I scan across the various manufacturers, I see a lot of the .327 revolver models marked “In Stock.” That means your gun store should be able to get one for you. It’s a good choice for self-defense if you want to carry a revolver.

The .327 Federal Magnum had lackluster acceptance in the beginning and nearly died off. However, there seems to have been a resurgence as of late with multiple manufacturers offering models chambered in .327 Federal Mag. Are you one of its fans? Does a .327 Federal Mag. have a spot in your safe? Share your reviews or opinions in the comment section.

  • Three boxes of .32 rimmed cartridge calibers ammunition
  • Ruger Single Seven revolver chambered in 327 Federal Magnum, right, profile, stainless steel
  • Box of .327 Federal Magnum personal defense ammunition
  • Two targets showing the accuracy of the .327 Federal Magnum from a Ruger SP101 revolver
  • Ruger SP101 revolver chamber in .327 Federal Magnum right profile stainless
  • Three boxes of .327 Federal Magnum ammunition
  • Taurus .327 revolver

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (26)

  1. I was very interested in the 327 cartridge and decided to purchase a new revolver to fire it. I visited my local gun shop to see what ammo costs would be and found zero 327 ammo available. Zero. Not a single box of any kind. They told me they had not received any 327 ammo from their suppliers in months.

    Looking at https://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ammunition/handgun-ammo/ today I don’t see 327 listed in the filters. It isn’t even a choice. What is happening with this cartridge? On paper it sounds like a great idea. But if you can’t even buy ammo for a gun it’s just a paperweight.

    1. JB,

      Only the ammo we have in stock shows in the filters/menus. Because .327 is not one of the popular calibers, and the enormous demand for 9mm, .45 ACP, etc. over the last couple of years, manufacturers have been very reluctant to take any machines offline for a production run of caliber not in high-demand. Hopefully, with the demand slow down of late, manufacturers will pay attention to some of these neglected calibers… ~Dave

  2. I like this round as my every day carry, with a 100 grain XTP over 8.2 grains of Power Pistol powder. It hits 1256 fps out of a tiny J-frame sized Taurus 327 snubbie with a 2-inch barrel, and hits over 1500 from a Ruger GP100 with a six-inch tube. The .327 is not your grandfather’s .32 – it is a beast.

  3. The new 30 Carry appears to be a kissing cousin, at least ballistically, to the old French 30 Long (7.65×20 Longe).

  4. If you want anything other than an 85 gr. FMJ load in 7.62×25, you had to handload them. Found that the CZ-52 I had was very accurate, but cleaning it was worse than a RUGER MKII – .22LR pistol. Roller locking system was the worst! The semi PPs43 pistol could be converted to a SBR (with the proper paperwork) but thinking now is that the HENRY .327 rifle with a 4″ – 6″ revolver would be ideal for a “kit/backpacker” combo. As for a CCW, a new 3″ revolver would be a better choice than a surplus TOK, as it appears that new TOKs are no longer available. When new TOKs were available, almost all of them were in 9mm for US customers. As to the new .30 Super round, like to see a direct “shoot-off” between it and the .327. as they both use the same (.312″) bullets.

  5. In a carbine look at the 223 or 7.62×39[Ruger Mini 14 and Mini 30] or for s&g how about the 5.7 Johnson in a M1Carbine?30M1Carbinecartridge is of ZERO interest to me.If I WANT muzzleblast in a revolver,I can go for the 357Mag 110 or 125 gr loads;ditto -and even worse in a snubby. With the compact 9mm autos,I no longer see the value of 380 ACP either[or 22WMR]

  6. The Cz52 uses roller locks and it is very weak. Cracks are common. The Tokarev uses a variation of the Browning system and is very strong.

  7. I have a friend who has a Blackhawk in .30 Carbine (Super BH maybe?). It is a magnum cartridge in a handgun. I always wanted one of those long-slide oversized 1911’s in .30 Carbine made by AMT. What a handful of power! It is significantly more powerful than the little 7.62×25.

  8. Hey, Grumpy, I have a Tokarev pistol in 7.62×25. It’s a snappy little cartridge. The pistol seems to me to be a medium-frame with all-steel construction. If I recall, it has a unique roller cam lockup. I don’t regard it as any more robust than the modern autoloaders. I think the cartridge would make a fine caliber for a Glock, 1911, etc. jmo. God bless and stay safe.

  9. I had a Cz 52 and got rid of it. They have a tendency to crack. I still have a Tokarev clone in this caliber and it is snappy, but so is the 327, so I consider recoil a wash. If I were carrying concealed, I think the flatness of the Tok, its magazine capacity, and faster reload time would give it an edge over any type of 327 revolver. Mind you, I’d much rather see a modern pistol chambered in 7.62×25 rather than an old design like the Tok, which either comes with no safety or has been fitted with one of dubious capability.

    In a rifle the 30 Carbine will smoke the 7.62×25. I’ve run across some very hotly loaded 7.62×25 loads that come close to the carbine, but the bullet weight is still 85 grains, not 110. The few 30 carbine pistols I have encountered did not strike me as very practical due to the length of the cartridge. It makes a semi auto pistol uncomfortable to hold. It can work in a revolver or single shot, but you need to use a powder designed to burn in shorter barrels to maximize performance. With the advent of the 327, I think 30 carbine pistol has become a moot point. I haven’t tried it in a rifle yet, so I can’t comment, but presume it would be similar to a 30 Carbine.

    The 7.5 FK is a bit of a puzzlement to me. The gun scribes rave about its power level, but I bet if you recommended a M1 carbine to them for hunting or defense, they would scoff at the notion. Go figure.

  10. Like to read comments on posts like this one, and was surprised that the 7.62×25 cartridge came up. Had own a CZ-52, and reloaded 7.62×25 with 110 grain SP Carbine bullets. Agree that when using SP bullets, the 7.62×25 is a much better cartridge that most people would realize. But the recoil of the 7.62×25, and the size pistol required to handle this cartridge, is much greater than a .32 H&R or .327. The 7.62×25 should be considered equal to a .30 Carbine handgun. Likewise, the “new” 7.5 cartridge is too off the scope of any consideration. Too bad most people that have any idea of what the 7.62×25 cartridge is, only know about FMJ rounds, or think it is the older & lower pressure 7.63 Mauser (same size cartridge size). As for me. wish I purchased a semi auto PPs43 when I had the chance. Other than surplus Cold War era handguns, the PPs43 semi is the only “new” firearm made for the 7.62×25. Could have an interesting forum on the 7.62×25 cartridge, if another “new” US made handgun was available.

  11. I can only think of a couple of reasons. The 7.62×25 is a bottleneck case of the same diameter as the 9mm Parabellum, which means the capacity of pistols chambered in the new 30 French Long, er, I mean the new 30 Super Carry, is slightly greater. The other reason is pure gimmickry. S&W and Federal hope to cash in on this new fangle cartridge.

  12. .327 Fed Mag is almost the perfect medium bore cartridge… high energy(way better than the .30 Federal auto round) …accurate… especially in the Henry lever gun ….312 bullet , straight wall case (easily reloadable) … available cases(Starline) & bullets(Hornady)

  13. RE: Colonal K, I have also wondered why the 7.62×25 would have to be supplanted by a .327 FM or a .30 Carry (That’s the new Federal round, right?). Why reinvent the wheel when a very potent .312 cal 80 plus year-old round is available for chambering?

  14. I like the idea of using the 327 as a small game cartridge in a carbine or 7 1/2″ Ruger Single Seven. In shorter handguns I’ve discovered it produces a noticeable amount of recoil, comparable to that of a 38+P load. I am amused by the fact that few people seem to be using a 7.62 Tokarev caliber pistol for defense, yet, ballistically and tactically, it would appear to be a superior choice to the 327. This may have more to do with the current offerings (mostly old Tokarev style pistols) or the lack of suitable HP loads. Perhaps the 327 will breath new life into the 7.62×25 concept.

  15. I have the original Taurus snubbie in .327FM. I don’t carry it because it has a steel frame and it’s kind of heavy compared to an alloy J-frame .38. Still, it is a worthy caliber, and if I was expecting trouble, the extra weight would not be a factor. Then again, if I was expecting trouble, I would grab my G40 in 10mm (or a 12ga or an AR). jmo

  16. Bought a Ruger SP 101with the 4.2-inch barrel a few years ago. If you want to get the most out of both the .327 and the .32 H&R Magnum, don’t look to the snubbies to deliver the performance you’re looking for. Purchased mine for home defense. And I think it’s an excellent tool in that configuration for that purpose. I just turned 70. My wife is slightly younger. For us, a revolver makes a lot of sense. But even if you’re 25 and in great shape, you should consider this caliber for home defense, small game hunting (more on that in a bit) and just plain fun plinking time.
    Here’s a huge plus for the .327, you can shoot, practice and even stockpile for your gun with many different configurations. If you buy the magnum, you can fire those rounds, .32 H&R Magnum, .32 Long, .32 Short and even…though I haven’t tried this one and can’t verify via experience, .32 ACP. Which leads me to some thoughts about those calibers.
    Actually, I’ll stick to the .327 Federal Magnum and the .32 H&R Magnum. Starting with the .327, know this; it’s a real ‘zippy’ round. No matter what the load, your shooting experience won’t be all that different from firing a similarly built .357. That’s actually a good thing. You’re going to get stopping power, six shots and the confidence that comes along with it. But, like the .357, its not all that much fun to shoot which can lead to less practice time than we all need. Here’s where the /32 H&R comes in.
    .32 H&R rounds are, for the most part, far more manageable than the .327’s. And the shooter doesn’t sacrifice much when it comes to downrange affectedness. So, sure, run 12 rounds of personal defense .327 through your revolver, but then follow up with the H&R (or other .32 cartridges) to your heart’s content. And, if you enjoy that, here’s an added bonus (both the .327 and .32 H&R rounds are excellent varmint stopping rounds, so you can hunt with them too! Not a handgun hunter? No problem. Henry makes a couple of beautiful and very accurate lever rifles that will take both calibers.

  17. Lost me at a 4” barreled sp101 as a pocket gun.
    If 38 Special is anemic go to +p.
    If 5 shots isn’t enough, learn to shoot

  18. Let’s not forget that the lowly, light, 32 ACP was practically the worldwide military & police cartridge before WWII. Maybe closer to WWI. It did the job. Of course, there’s always a faster bullet. I don’t think people have become harder to kill. .327 Federal blows away the 32 ACP.

  19. I handload the 32-20 Winchester for a S&W Model 1905 revolver, & 1150-1200 FPS. It’s a fast little cartridge, fast enough. There’s never been a day that a 90 grain projectile traveling in excess of 1000 FPS wasn’t deadly. The 327 Federal is around 1400 FPS. I would definitely vote YES on the .327 Federal being sufficient for self defense. If not, I can’t think of anything that is. The 32-20 Winchester cuts long ditches in the grass like a magnum, so I’m sure the .327 is awesome.

  20. I own a number of S&W “J” frame revolvers, along with a number of 9mm, .380. and .45 autos. After ~50 years of shooting, I now believe that a revolver is a better choice for those of us cursed with arthritis. Racking a 9mm or a .45 slide can be an issue, and a “blow back” action .380 is not much better. Even an “air weight” S&W “J” frame can be an issue, with most ,38 rounds. (So far, a 3″ model 60 is my best option.) Personal opinion is that a revolver with a weight of about 24 ounces is “heavy” enough to be shot with minimum recoil issues when using .38 rounds. Therefore, with a sixth round, and slightly less recoil, the .327 appears to be the next logical choice. Now, when will a 3″ barrel model be available?

  21. I purchased a Ruger LCR in .327 mag for my wife several years ago. She tried an assortment of revolvers and semi-auto pistols and she liked the handling and trigger of this little Ruger the best. She will carry loaded with .32 Colt Police because .32 mag and the .327 mag are a little much for her. I actually carry this gun more than she does now, loaded with the Federal .327 load designed for short barreled revolvers. My seven year old grandson can handle this gun loaded with the standard .32 rounds. Guns chambered in this round prove versatle for various tasks from recreational shooting to personal protection.

    Having a short barreled revolver that you can run 50 rounds through for practice, then load with some serious fire power, plus one or two rounds over a .357 mag, are the best selling points for the .327 mag revolver

  22. Interesting article, I have thought of using .327 mag and good to read good stuff about it. I did enjoy the ammo photo showing a $21.99 price tag, good luck with that these days. For grins and giggles, I shopped.327 mag at CTD and they had none. So I tried ammoseek, and found none even if I allowed reman and steel case. So I googled it and found 20 rounds of Speer Gold Dot for $39.99. The point is, .327 mag is very hard to find right now. On another subject, I have a Ruger GP100 with a 4″ barrel and find the description of a .327 mag 4″ barrel as a ‘pocket gun’ to be quite interesting. Ruger’s spec sheet for the 4.2″ barrel says it’s 9.12″ long and weighs 29.5 oz empty. Friend, that’s a hoss of a pocket gun. Nevertheless, appreciate the good article on the .327 mag round.

  23. Yawn,I guess I’ll rain on your parade.38Spec+P[in a 357Mag 4″]-easier to find/load for,45Colt/44Spec in a snubbie,

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