32ACP Gets Serious

20 rounds fired at 7 yards
Kel-tec P32 with Laserlyte side-mounted laser
Kel-tec P32 pistol with Laserlyte side-mounted laser

(P32 | Laserlyte)

When the 32ACP cartridge was designed by Browning in 1899, it was intended for small and medium handguns. The round was a substantial improvement on all counts over the .320 rimmed previously used in small frame revolvers. Loaded with smokeless powder and jacketed bullets, 32ACP has much better performance than the .320. Being semi-rimmed, it also fit autoloaders as well as revolvers. Initially popular with police and other private users, 32ACP was extensively used during World War One due to the overall scarcity of service handguns for officers. As more powerful calibers replaced it, 32ACP use was relegated to pocket pistols. In the United States, it was given a second lease on life by the introduction by Kel-tec of P32 pistol. Tiny and lightweight, this locked breech handgun allowed the use of 32ACP in the niche where only 25ACP or .22LR were previously possible.

vz61 Scorpion machine pistol mid-burst
vz61 Scorpion Machine Pistol Mid-burst

One unusual weapons chambered for 32ACP is the vz.61 Scorpion machine pistol designed in Czechoslovakia. Adopted in 1961, it used the same cartridge as the CZ50 pistols carried by the Czech security officers. It was eventually adopted by support troops and special forces of about twenty countries. The standard load was 50 rounds in two 20-round and one 10-round magazines. Thanks to a rate reducer incorporated in the design, the cyclic rate is low for a machine pistol, only 850 rounds per minute. As you can see from the photo taken mid-burst, vz61 can be controlled with only one hand. Since automatic weapons are hard to come by, I tried out the next best thing — the Scorpion pistol.

Scorpion pistol with two 20rd and one 10rd magazines
Scorpion pistol with two 20rd and one 10rd magazines

At first glance, vz61 is overbuilt for 32ACP. Loaded with 20 rounds, it weighs as much as a Browning Hi-Power. I viewed it as a mere curiosity until the first range trip. At the range, I discovered the two major uses for the Scorpion. The first one is “fun” — it has been consistently the most popular pistol among my friends of the many I brought to share. The reasons for the popularity are obvious: vz61 is easy to shoot well. The gun is stone-cold reliable: I ran over 400 rounds of ball and hollow point ammunition of several brands through it and have yet to see a malfunction. Dan Brown, the owner of vz61 importer Czechpoint, said that his select-fire Scorpion is at 4000 rounds now and he has yet to see a glitch. The trigger, after a lengthy take-up, is light and crisp. The sight radius of full 6 inches and the fixed barrel provide surprising accuracy. Recoil is very light, closer to a rimfire pistol than to a centerfire gun.

20 rounds fired at 7 yards
20 rounds fired at 7 yards

Considering the machine pistol origins of this gun, the accuracy has been quite surprising. The group above represents a full 20-shot magazine emptied fairly briskly, without support. The A-zone full-size silhouette target can be reliably hit out to 20 yards, the silhouette itself out to 50.

Gun Tote'n Mamas holster purse can hold a lot of gun
Gun Tote’n Mamas holster purse can hold a lot of gun

This exceptionally low recoil and the light-weight recoil spring make this gun idea for the second use, self-defense for recoil-sensitive people.While 32ACP is generally considered a poor stopper, vz61 makes the most of that cartridge. Muzzle velocity from the 4.5″ barrel is about 1050fps with ball (70-100fps greater than from pocket pistols) and higher with hollow points. And the full 20+1 rounds can be delivered rapidly and accurately. The gun can be fired as any other pistol, with one or two hands on the pistol grip, or by holding the magazine with the weak hand and using a stretched lanyard as an additional support point. Although shipped by Czechpoint with a belt/leg convertible holster, this gun is probably more suited for off-body carry, such as with this Gun Tote’n Mamas holster purse.

About the Author:

Oleg Volk

Oleg Volk is a creative director working mainly in firearms advertising. A great fan of America and the right to bear arms, he uses his photography to support the right of every individual to self-determination and independence. To that end, he is also a big fan of firearms.
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 (7)

  1. I fall in love with .32ACP when i buy Skorpion. Now i’m looking for pistol. At this moment Mauser HSC, but there is so many beautiful guns in this caliber. At 100m shooting to torso almost every shot hit. From free hand. In my country we have normal stocks in this type of weapon.

  2. Nice review, Oleg. The .32ACP is often scoffed at as being a mere “mousegun” caliber. The mousegun you have with you, however, is infinitely more effective than the Desert Eagle .50 at home in your safe. In the mousegun spectrum, there is often a choice between a .32 and a .380, the .32 often giving you at least one more round in capacity compared to the same size gun in .380 (the Kel-Tec P32 vs the P3AT is such an example). Scientific analysis (in contrast to gun shop bravado) shows that the terminal ballistics performance of the two calibers is virtually the same. See:

  3. I’ve talked to a couple of people who have this as their bedside pistol for just those reasons: light recoil and a lot of shots on target fast.

  4. As I understand, this gun was well liked by a number of Cold War era Eastern European special forces units for one major reason: the low recoil of the 7.65 Browning made the gun very controllable on full auto. A solder could but a burst of fire into a man size target at extended ranges. Compared to a 9mm or 7.62×25 sub-gun, where a burst might start on target but very quickly end up shooting over the target. What the 7.65 might lack in single shot performance it makes up for by putting more rounds into the target.

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