.327 Federal Magnum: My ‘Second Most’ Favorite

Three boxes of .327 Federal Magnum ammunition

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?

104-grain JHP ammunition in .327 Federal Magnum
Federal recently announced a 104-grain JHP cartridge in .327 Federal Magnum has been added to its HST line of defensive ammo.

Physics Class

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.

Taurus 327 Federal Magnum snub-nosed revolver, right quartering to
Taurus recently reintroduced the 327 Federal Magnum snub-nosed revolver after dropping it from the lineup for a while. The author had one of the earlier ones and is glad to see they are back.

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.

Other Advantages

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.

Various .32 caliber ammunition boxes
In addition to .327 Federal Magnum, multiple .32 rimmed cartridge calibers can be fired in the gun — including .32 S&W Long and .32 H&R Magnum.

.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.

Ruger Single Seven cowboy-style revolver chambered in .327 Federal Magnum
The Ruger Single Seven is a fun cowboy-style gun chambered in .327 Federal Magnum.

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.

Two targets comparing single action fire to double action
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’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.

There is no shortage of .327 Federal Magnum fans, so let’s hear from them! What’s your reason for choosing the .327 Federal Magnum over other handgun calibers? Share your answers in the Comment section.

  • Ruger SP101 revolver chambered in .327 Federal Magnum
  • 104-grain JHP ammunition in .327 Federal Magnum
  • Two targets comparing single action fire to double action
  • Ruger Single Seven cowboy-style revolver chambered in .327 Federal Magnum
  • Various .32 caliber ammunition boxes
  • Three boxes of .327 Federal Magnum ammunition
  • Taurus 327 Federal Magnum snub-nosed revolver, right quartering to

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 (28)

  1. I’ve had a Ruger SP-101 4″ on order for a year now … Only recently to learn that its not available. Seems its not worth their time to manufacture.

  2. I recently bought a Ruger Single Six in .32 H&R mag w/9.5″ barrel. I discovered that a 327 federal mag will fit in the chamber!!? Knowing that .327 Fed. is loaded to a much higher chamber pressure I won’t shot it as I don’t want a cracked chamber, or worse. I probably will never find another cylinder.
    However the 32 H&R is fun to shoot, it is a tack-driver

  3. How did I feel comfortable carrying a Smith 15 in .38 for years, not knowing it was ineffective. Even carrying 158 grain round nose ammo! I saw a number of cases when that combo did the job, both by other cops or bad guys. With modern ammo, I would, and do, feel confident carrying on a daily basis. 327? Not so much.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with you David! I absolutely LOVE my SP-101 in .327mag. I have yet to find a round it doesn’t like! My little wheel gun shoot point of aim on .32S&W (S&L), .32 H&R mag, and .327 mag ammo at 5-10 yards off-hand (single action). And, I think you’ll find that the velocity and energy are consistently good at 10, 25 and 50 yards!
    When I’m not carrying my .45acp, my .327mag is my second choice. And, on my ranch – where there are critters like rattlesnakes, coyotes, feral hogs and even a mountain lion – it is #2 only to my full size Ruger Security Six .357mag!
    My only wish for the .327 line would be a CCI snake-shot loading similar to the .22, 9mm, or .38/.357 loads!

  5. David, loved your article on the .327 Federal magnum cartridge. I bought a Ruger GP-100 in .327 mag. when they first came out in that configuration and have always loved shooting it. As others have alluded to initial availability of ammo was a problem, however I stocked up at every opportunity so I have plenty in reserve, but I also have the die’s to reload when I have to. I worked at our local gun range for a number of years and had numerous guys try to buy my gun from me but I’ll never sell that one. The .327 Fed mag is a very impressive round with excellent ballistics. Thanks for a great article and keep up the goo work.

  6. I’ve owned 2 revolvers in 327 Fed Mag, the somewhat rare stainless 8 shot Blackhawk from Ruger and a custom stainless S&W based on a Model 66. I save factory ammo for very serious use and reload, using my own cast bullets, several loads from pussy cat level to fire breathing Earth Shakers! With the variety of case lengths it accepts as well, this could be my favorite handgun chambering.

  7. At MADMAX3.6, they did. It’s the 30 Super Carry. It’s really not a 30. Used the same bullets as the .327/32H&R. ballistics are about the same.

  8. I love the 327! I have the little 6 shot jframe Taurus that I carry almost daily over any of my autos! I also have the ruger gp 100 in 7 shot with 4” barrel that I carry as a back up while deer or bear hunting ! Will purchase a Henry in this caliber when I can find one in stock. Not a lot of options for bullets in handloads but I found the 85 to work well in the tauras and 100s work in the Ruger. Both hornady xtp. Great article thanks for giving this cartridge the credit it deserves!

  9. You speak well of the .327 Magnum. I am sure there are many fans of the .32 caliber who would love the chance to shoot one. The problem is we can’t.

    You speak highly of Ruger who has variously chambers their GP-100, SP101, Single Six/Seven and LCR for the shell. The problem is that none of these pistols, except the LCR, has been made in most of a decade. There simply are no revolvers for sale anywhere with anything other than a snub nose configuration. I have reached out to Ruger. No answer. I have reached out to Lipsey’s. No answer. I have reached out to Davidson’s. No answer. So unless you want a plastic snubby, you have no options and haven’t since at least 2019 or earlier. The GP100!has t been made in .327 since probably 2015?

    Lacking any new production for the last decade, the used prices of these formerly $500 or less revolvers now trade on gun sales sites for four figures. But alt least ammo isn’t available.

    Glad that you have your pistols. None of the rest of us will ever see one.

  10. Interesting article. I read it and then went to the Cheaper Than Dirt website to see the 327 federal magnum handguns.
    There aren’t any.

    1. There was at the beginning of the weekend! Sorry, please check back soon. ~Dave

  11. I bought the pistol couple years ago and only place I’ve found Ammo is when traveling through Wyoming. I live in Az

  12. You’ve been talking with some people who had been shot with various caliber handguns and studying the charts?
    I think I would be embarrassed to admit I’ve been shot with various caliber handguns! How do you get to be a member of that missing gene pool club?

  13. I remember when the .327 first came out.It was on the cover of a magazine spouting 1400 ft/sec. It peaked my interest and Ruger chambered for it in their sp101. I was all set to get one,much like the one pictured in the article,however,at that time,I discovered that the hot little round could not be had. I eventually gave up on it and thought it had gone the way of other one shot wonders. At any rate,glad to see that it’s making a comeback.

  14. 327 mag is the cartridge that the 32 H&R should have tried to be. A 327 “lite” or .32 H&R +P handload appears to be the sweet spot for general use. Look at the new 30 Super Carry as a prime example of trying to hit that sweet spot. But, in the current world, a 3″ “J” frame size revolver and a short barreled rifle (HENRY X Model?) is the modern version of a companion set-up for all around self-defense. The rifle would be used with full load 327 mag rounds. and the revolver loaded with 32 H&R rounds. In the late 1800’s. the 44/40 was the Cowboy rifle/revolver combo, but by late 1900’s the .357 became the next (truck) combo. With the Hornady Critical Defense 327/32 H&R loads, thus could be the combo of the 2020’s.

  15. As far as trigger pull in a double-action revolver goes, I have to give credit where credit is due to Ruger with the LCR series. A person who dislikes double-action triggers will have to try it out to see if s/he likes it, but “out of the box” it is mighty good.

    I’d counsel the LCR in .357 mag, because it is heavier than the .38, which will help tame recoil regardless of cartridge used. You might prefer the .327 Fed. Mag, which offers an extra shot in the cylinder, but it’ll be mighty loud and snappier than a .38, but less obnoxious than the .357, for rapid follow-up shots. I’d check the LCR in .327 and the LCR in .357, but mostly shoot .38s in it.

  16. I’m always looking for a good, effective small revolver. But have had to return several because trigger pull was too heavy for my wife. She can hold the guns, but hard trigger pull makes it too uncomfortable to practice and too jittery. So: Which small effective revolver has the lightest weight, cleanest trigger? (Or can be modified to a light trigger…… which I’ve not had luck with either)

  17. You can count me among the .32 cal. aficionados. I became immediately enamored with the .32 H&R Magnum upon it’s introduction in 1984 and bought my first one in 1990. A Ruger New Model Single Six sporting a 9-1/2 in. Barrel. Even before my waiting period was over I had a full compliment of Dies, Powders, Projectiles and some 500 pcs of Starline Brass. Needless to say I have experimented with everything from 115 Gr. LSWC bullets meant for 32-20 rounds to 60 Gr Gold Dots intended for .32 ACP.
    None have disappointed me with their Velocity or Downrange Expansion in Ballistics Media.
    My latest endeavor will be to find if my Single Six is suitable for fitting with a .327 Fed. Cylinder.
    I also acquired a Charter Arms “Undercoverette” in 32 Mag with my Covid Money.

  18. Thanks for the interesting article. I wondered about this round, (but then realized I already had one in the .357 SIG! 😉.). I can see it being a smoking hunting round in a revolver, not to mention a good small caliber defense round in a snubby revolver, and .32’s certainly have a proud history. I don’t think I’d get one in a full sized revolver.

    I see you ran the .40 S&W at 1100 FPS to get the 484 ft lbs. That might be +P, but the regular 180 grain load is right around 1000 FPS to give you 400 ft lbs. Lots of people ignore lbs ft as a good indicator of stopping power, but I’ve always relied on it. Thanks again for a good first look at a new caliber to me. 👍

  19. I have a Ruger SP101 in .327 magnum [.318] stainless steel revolver with the 3-in. barrel. It fell from my crummy holster on a rock climb in the back woods and clattered down the boulders. Broke the rear sight and scuffed it up a bit. I sent it back to Ruger, and they replaced the cylinder, the hammer, and the rear sight. Nice customer service. I have since bobbed the hammer for DAO and put a pair of Crimson Trace grips on it that mimic the old Uncle Mike boot grip to be found on many J-frame revolvers. I carry it now, lesson learned, in a horsehide Simply Rugged pancake holster OWB. At home, I keep it loaded with .32 H&R magnum Hornady Critical Defense cartridges. Afield, it has 100-gr. bullets loaded, although I’m eager to try the new Federal HST 104gr. cartridges.

    Mostly I carry an all-steel .357 magnum/ .38 +P concealed-hammer Smith and Wesson “Bodyguard” with the true 2-in. barrel/ 2.125″ five-shot revolver in a kydex scabbard in the front pocket, or IWB in a so-called “sticky holster.” It’s simply just a bit more compact and simple to carry and to “dress around” and I like having the ability to cock the hammer for a single-action shot if my hands and fingers were injured or something like that. I miss the sixth round, however.

    I find that the .327 Fed. Mag. is an incredibly loud cartridge. Kicks way harder than any .38, but less than any .357, and delivers mighty impressive ballistics with the full-power loads. As to the versitility of using any straight-walled .32 cartridge, I’ve been frankly disappointed. The H&R mag and Federal Magnum cartridges work great. The .32 S&W long not so much. Something about the cases and primers starts to gum up the works and it becomes difficult to pull the double-action-only trigger to fire subsequent shots in the cylinder. The .32 short accuracy is really mediocre after the long travel into the forcing cone and barrel, in my experience. Maybe if I had a single-action capability I might feel better about it and have improved shooting with those older cartridges. I’ve not ever tried the semi-rimmed .32 acp in it.

  20. I had one of the original Taraus 327’s. OMG this thing was loud! I did not keep it; it was sent back to Taraus twice.
    The cylinder would shoot loose and twice fell off the gin. The round was just too powerful for the small frame.

  21. Where do you evaluate where the bullet stops?
    Living on a farm, then then town, law-in-force: Need to keep in mind.

  22. I am also a fan of the.32’s. You left out another cartridge that can be used: the.32ACP. It has a rim, albeit a small one, and is good for practice as you do, but it is also good for teaching smaller shooters to shoot without scaring them with recoil. I use them in my Single Six with no problem.

  23. I am a fan of the .32 cartridges, and have been shooting and carrying the H&R magnum for 20 years; and the Federal since it was released.

    I will say your energy numbers for .327 and .40 S&W seem high.

  24. Hi I’m Alan and I am addicted to the 327 magnum as well.
    I have one of the early Taurus ultra light and I installed a laser Lyte grip. It is great to have a variety of ammunition options

  25. I have a Ruger Single Six in .32 H&R Magnum and absolutely love it. Your article was great, except you left out another cartridge that can be used: the.32 ACP. The ACP has a rim, albeit a small one, that makes it acceptable in the H&R or Federal. I use them, like you do, to practice or to teach smaller shooters to shoot without a lot of recoil to scare them. Try it, you’ll like it!

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