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. I figured I needed all the help I could get, and bigger bullets punch bigger holes — until I encountered the .327 Federal Magnum.
Lately, I’ve become more attuned to the 9mm for the same reasons everyone else has. The ballistics have improved, you can put more cartridges in the gun, and they’re 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 would do the job?
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 by 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 popular brand of defensive ammunition, 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 in foot-pounds:
- .327 Federal Magnum – 568
- .38 Special – 222
- 9mm – 376
- .357 Magnum – 535
- .40 S&W – 484
- .45 ACP – 404
There are those who deny these numbers have anything to do with stopping bad guys, but 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 knocks a guy out. Same principle.
I’ve watched hanging paper targets get hit by .327 Federal Magnum rounds go swishing up in the air behind where they’re hung. Then, I watched a 9mm round hit the same target with no resulting motion in the paper. The .327 Federal Magnum is a powerful little cartridge. Yes, it’s small, but 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 these muzzle energy calculations, one of the reasons I turned to the .327 Magnum was capacity. When looking for a good self-defense revolver. I noted that most guns built for .327 Magnum held six rounds of ammo. The small .357 Magnums only held 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 soft shooting for practice. By comparison, the H&R Magnum or Federal Magnum cartridges are pretty serious self-defense rounds.
.327 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 center console quite handily. Taurus dropped that model from its lineup for several years, but this year it’s back. I keep a Ruger .327 Federal Magnum SP101 with a 4-inch barrel handy as a pocket gun. I use it 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 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. The .327 is my choice in caliber for that purpose.
In addition to the Taurus and 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. That’s not all. Many of us have been waiting for a .327 Magnum rifle.
The old Winchesters were chambered in .32-20 and this is a similar, but more powerful, cartridge that is just asking for a rifle. Henry was the first rifle company I know of to build .327 Federal Magnum lever-action rifles. But build them they did, and what a gorgeous rifle. The Big Boy Classic rifle and Big Boy Classic carbine are chambered in .327 Federal Magnum.
.327 Mag Performance
The little Taurus revolver, as well as the 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 you face. Even the sound of the .327 Magnum is intimidating. It’s very loud, and it’s more of a boom! than a crack!
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, both the Ruger SP101 and Taurus stack when you’re pulling the trigger. They 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. However, when fighting for my life, I doubt I’d take time for that last alignment.
I’ve practiced without it, and I can keep all six rounds within a 5-inch spread with some of them on target. With the .327 Magnum, there’s a good chance only that first one must be on target, but let’s not take any chances with our practice.
Ammo for the .327 Federal Magnum is generally in stock. As far as carrying a small .327 revolver, any holster made for a J-Frame will work. I particularly like the DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster for J-Frames to carry my little Taurus .327. Glaco’s Stuckon pocket holster for small guns also works well for the Taurus or the Ruger SP101.