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Thread: 32-20 revolver loads

  1. #1
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    32-20 revolver loads

    Hey guys!

    I thought it would be a good idea to start a thread discussing some "pet loads" for the 32-20 (revolver) as most all the reloading info out there is for rifle pressures, and I've been extremely frustrated not to find any information that I could use in print.

    My pet load:

    85 gr Lyman 312 plain based bullet with WW alloy (drops at .311), sized and lubed in a .312 sizer with NRA formula.
    Swagged to final size as a round nosed wad cutter (.312") in homemade CH swag-o-matic dies and press. (Gets rid of improperly filled flaws and rounded bases!)
    Mixed brass head-stamp WW, RP
    CCI #200 Small rifle primers
    4 gr W231 powder
    Medium crimp at front crimp groove.
    Chronograph at 785-850 FPS.
    Point of aim was at 12 o'clock at a paper plate at 25 yards off a steady rest.
    Grouped inside the pie plate without anything missing.

    Fired from a 1925 era Colt new army special revolver with 5 inch barrel
    At 15-20 yards will knock down the 6-8" steel plates every time! (When aimed at 12 o'clock)

    Yes, I am extremely happy that I finally found a load for this light weight bullet!
    Recoil is almost non existent and similar to a light 38 Special.

    Please share any successes that you've had. Maybe they can add our data to the archives after some consensus has been reached.
    Many thanks to NoZombies for his help troubleshooting my issues!
    Check out my vendors section:
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/forumdisplay.php?231-Andy-s-Slow-Rust-Blue

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  2. #2
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    For a 1931 Colt Police Positive Special: An RCBS 98gr RN-FP ( or just about any other 90gr to 100gr soft lead bullet ) and 2.85gr of Trail Boss. It is no more powerful than factory lead bullet loads and the TB pretty much fills the case under the seated bullet. I have used small amounts of Red Dot, Bullseye, 231, and Unique in the past, but they only fill the case 1/4 to 1/3 full. I bent this gun with more powerful loads in the past so I am very careful about not exceeding factory pressures now.

    For a rechambered S&W NewModel 16 K-frame: A hard cast 115gr Lyman 311008 or a 100gr Hornady XTP with 6.0gr of SR4756. This is more powerful that factory loads and should not be used in older or smaller revolvers.

    For a Marlin 1894 made in the early 1990's: A hard cast 115gr Lyman 311316-GC or a 100gr Remington FN-SP with 12 gr of 2400. Again, this is way over factory 32-20 load pressures and should not be used in revolvers (other than maybe the Ruger Blackhawk).

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master leftiye's Avatar
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    Harry is verry right in pointing out that the gun is verry much the guiding factor in what to load in a 32-20. You can run 50,000 psi in a Buckeye special Blackhawg. Brass wont like it much probly, but probly safe (I've stuck cases in my .30 carbine black hawk). 28,000 psi. is a good upper limit in most modern guns IMO. The manuals make a real frustrating search for these hotter loads. Have you looked at Water's Pet Loads?
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  4. #4
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    My plinking load with a 5" S&W Hand Ejector is:

    100 grain SWC PB sized to .312
    Remington 1 1/2 primers
    R-P Cases with a moderate crimp
    2.8 gr Bullseye

    Average for 12 shots: Vel 714 fps, SD 17, ES 49
    Accurate enough with 12 shot groups holding the 8 ring on a 50' NRA slow fire target at 50.'

    I neck size until the cases start to split lengthwise, which they usually do after about five to six loads. Once the first cases of a lot start to split, I start over with a new lot of brass. I'm used to getting a lot more loads from straight wall revolver cases; but, as you all know, the 32/20 has pretty thin case walls. Fortunately, I laid in a large stock of cases when I bought the revolver many years ago.

    The load shoots without leading and shoots to the point of aim at 25 yards. Can't ask for more than that from a pistol made about the time your Dad was born.

    For some reason I've never been able to duplicate the ballistic uniformity with the 32/20 that I get with straight wall revolver calibres. Extreme spreads and the SD are always above what I consider good, but the bullets all seem to group well out to 50 yards or so. Unique seems to be the worst offender for extreme spreads. Next time I get the old gal out I want to try Tight Group powder as that has proven to be very consistent and virtually position insensitive.
    Last edited by Scharfschuetze; 08-05-2013 at 09:04 PM.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by andremajic View Post
    Hey guys!

    I thought it would be a good idea to start a thread discussing some "pet loads" for the 32-20 (revolver) as most all the reloading info out there is for rifle pressures, and I've been extremely frustrated not to find any information that I could use in print.

    My pet load:

    85 gr Lyman 312 plain based bullet with WW alloy (drops at .311), sized and lubed in a .312 sizer with NRA formula.
    Swagged to final size as a round nosed wad cutter (.312") in homemade CH swag-o-matic dies and press. (Gets rid of improperly filled flaws and rounded bases!)

    Mixed brass head-stamp WW, RP
    CCI #200 Small rifle primers
    4 gr W231 powder
    Medium crimp at front crimp groove.
    Chronograph at 785-850 FPS.
    Point of aim was at 12 o'clock at a paper plate at 25 yards off a steady rest.
    Grouped inside the pie plate without anything missing.

    Fired from a 1925 era Colt new army special revolver with 5 inch barrel
    At 15-20 yards will knock down the 6-8" steel plates every time! (When aimed at 12 o'clock)

    Yes, I am extremely happy that I finally found a load for this light weight bullet!
    Recoil is almost non existent and similar to a light 38 Special.

    Please share any successes that you've had. Maybe they can add our data to the archives after some consensus has been reached.
    Many thanks to NoZombies for his help troubleshooting my issues!
    OK, how does your lube/sizer size the bullet UP by .001"? I see you put in the word "swagged" which implies that maybe you are swaging the bullet, but that wasn't what you said. Clarification, please. I've got a couple moulds for heavier bullets (between 95 and 110 grains) that I like to use. I haven't developed any new loads for a recently acquired 1920s vintage S&W MP in 32-20, but I'll come back with results when I do.

    Froggie

  6. #6
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    My 1927 Colt Police Positive likes the the 98 Grain RCBS Wadcutter over 3.0 grains of Unique. In my older S&W M&P, I use a 95 grain round nose SAECO boolit over 4.3 grains of Unique. I have used boolits as light as the 77 grain (my alloy) Ranch Dog boolit, and as heavy as the 311-465 122 grain Lyman, but to get POI and POA somewhere close together, I find the middle of the road the best.
    Last edited by rintinglen; 11-21-2013 at 07:18 PM. Reason: Wrong powder charge--always double check internet loads
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Green Frog View Post
    OK, how does your lube/sizer size the bullet UP by .001"? I see you put in the word "swagged" which implies that maybe you are swaging the bullet, but that wasn't what you said. Clarification, please. I've got a couple moulds for heavier bullets (between 95 and 110 grains) that I like to use. I haven't developed any new loads for a recently acquired 1920s vintage S&W MP in 32-20, but I'll come back with results when I do.

    Froggie
    Froggie, the CH Swage-O-Matic is a swage press. It is the half jacket swage press that can be used to swage boolits, too. Best way to do this is to lube them first, then you keep the lube grooves. I would love to find a set of .32 dies for my Herter's copy. Rick (Buckshot) currently has my .38 set to make a set of nose punches for a .401 and .452 set of dies I got Dave to make from some of the old CH blanks he had.
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  8. #8
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    Glad you got the 32-20 going the way you like Andy!
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    Collecting .32 molds. Please let me know if you have one you don't need, cause I might "need" it!

  9. #9
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    I'm still trying to figure out a load for this one. I tried 3.0 red dot and stuck a 100 gr rainer in it. It's a back burner project to say the least.
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  10. #10
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    For 32-20 revolver (Colt SAA)- 2.2 gr Trailboss under 76 gr plain base or 115 gr GC.

    For carbine or rifle (Win 92, Win 73)- 11.5 gr Rel 7 under 115 gr GC.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Smith View Post
    Froggie, the CH Swage-O-Matic is a swage press. It is the half jacket swage press that can be used to swage boolits, too. Best way to do this is to lube them first, then you keep the lube grooves. I would love to find a set of .32 dies for my Herter's copy. Rick (Buckshot) currently has my .38 set to make a set of nose punches for a .401 and .452 set of dies I got Dave to make from some of the old CH blanks he had.
    Yep, sorry it took so long. I'd forgot about the thread I started!
    Wayne is absolutely correct. I used a light duty swaging press.

    I made the swage die body out of a barrel stub cutoff and bored it out to 1/2" then pressed in a 5/16" hardened drill bushing with an outside diameter of 1/2".
    The ejector pin was made out of another piece of mystery metal that I turned down to rough size and polished with sandpaper until I got it to .311" diameter.
    I didn't put a bleed hole in the die, but you don't need one as long as you have it set to the correct height. Too much squeezing will cause the lead to seep between the top punch and die body.

    The swaging die is mainly used to just "bump up" the diameter of the boolit and not to do any heavy duty swaging.
    Check out my vendors section:
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/forumdisplay.php?231-Andy-s-Slow-Rust-Blue

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  12. #12
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    I've been using Ideal 3118 since 1956 in several single action and DA Colts. The newest is a 1925 PPS. Since Trail Boss hit the market I have been using it. Accuracy and consistancy are dramatically improved with TB. I use what the book would call a max charge judging by powder level just at base of bullet.

  13. #13
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    A post WW1 Colt army special in 32-20 is no weak gun. Lots of meat between chambers and the forcing cone is thick as it was originally considered a 41 frame. I am not currently loading 32-20 but was for a friend with a SAA 20 some years ago. We did fire some early Lyman loads for revolvers that sounded about like any magnum. We did back the loads down for pleasure shooting and so it wouldn't ring our ears even with ear plugs. Watch out for lead build up in the forcing cone especially if switching to jacketed loads.

  14. #14
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    Attachment 88213
    I bought this several years ago for my son.
    It's an Army 32-20 Colt, I haven't shot it very much
    and to be honest I don't know how it shoots.
    But it is a good strong gun.
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  15. #15
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    OOOOOOO!!! 32-20 gun PORN! I'm getting all flustered!!!!!

    I'm still happy with the very first mould I ever bought, a Lyman 311316 sized .313 in my Colt Army Special. I forget the latest powder charge I used, which is proof I need to start shooting more! Used 10.0 grs 2400 for decades, hence, I'm deaf. It's a bit rough on brass anyway. I think I went with Ken Waters advice from Pet Loads last time and was well pleased.

    Dang man, I got to stop working and get some trigger time in........

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    Ken Waters' "Pet Load" for the 32-20 WCF revolvers was 115 grain cast bullets atop 6.0 grains of SR-4756. I've run that load a little in my S&W M&P and Colt Bisley, but 90% of the time I use 5.5 grains of the same fuel. Mr. Waters noted--and I've seen similar outcomes--that the SR-4756 loads don't show the wide swings in velocity often seen in revolvers and loads in this caliber. I recently ran the 5.5 grain load under a 120 grain casting that I scrawled together on Mountain Molds' software in a new-to-me Colt Army Special x 5", and the loads ran right to the sights at 25 and 50 yards. It does similar work in the BisColt and the M&P. No real need to turn wrenches on this load that i can see, but the results using Trail Boss are intriguing enough that I'll back-fill some portion of my empties from the Colt A/S shooting trip with that fuel just for drill.
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  17. #17
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    32-20 in handguns

    Quote Originally Posted by 9.3X62AL View Post
    Ken Waters' "Pet Load" for the 32-20 WCF revolvers was 115 grain cast bullets atop 6.0 grains of SR-4756.
    That is where I got my S&W K-frame load. He was right. It is the best load I have tried for a 32-20 handgun, as long as the gun is heavy enough to take it. I shoot more of that powder in the 32-20 than I do with Trail Boss or 2400.

    I believe (from memory) he was using a S&W K-frame in his tests. As has been mentioned, the Colt Army Special is another beefy 32-20. I do NOT believe he tried a Colt PPS, though. That one is a lot smaller and considerably more delicate. I am speaking from experience here. I would never use that load (or even a 5.5gr load) in my PPS.

    Interestingly enough, I have tried SR-4756 in the .32 Magnum. The results were not bad, but not nearly as good as with the 32-20. I have also tried it in a .357 Magnum and a .30 Carbine. So far, I have not found another cartridge that it works as well as it does for the 32-20. I have also found that if you reduce the load it does not work as well. I got down to 5.0gr in tests and the results were mediocre to poor.

  18. #18
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    For a time, I had a Colt PPS x 4" in 32-20. I used 5.0 x SR-4756 in it with the RCBS 98 SWC, and it shot pretty well for me. I was always REAL CAUTIOUS about that little D-frame, or any others for that matter. One of my friends at work COULD NOT LIVE without that odd-caliber PPS, so off it went--and he still has it and shoots it with light loadings of some kind. I had the BisColt, and the M&P came along fairly soon after the PPS departed. I use the 10% download most of the time, out of an abundance of caution with my out-of-print war toys......for which parts and competent mechanics are few and far between.
    I don't paint bullets. I like Black Rifle Coffee. Sacred cows are always fair game. California is to the United States what Syria is to Russia and North Korea is to China/South Korea/Japan--a Hermit Kingdom detached from the real world and led by delusional maniacs, an economic and social basket case sustained by "foreign" aid so as to not lose military bases.

  19. #19
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    Thought I would dust off this old thread and see if there are any new lurkers out there who like the .32-20 revolvers.

    Mine is a Colt Police Positive Special with 5" barrel, made in 1924. Cylinder throats are .314" diameter, cylinder gap is pass 0.005", hold 0.006", barrel groove diameter .313". Gun shoots to the sights with Remington factory 100-grain lead loads, which can be very closely approximated with the Accurate 31-105T bullet and 3.1-3.2 grains of Bullseye, which is a safe, standard-pressure load for the pre-WW2 revolvers.

    This bullet is a double-crimp-groove design optimized for dual-use in the .32 S&W Long and .32-20 revolvers. For use in the .32 S&W Long you crimp in the rear crimp groove, seating the bullet out and load 2.4-2.5 grains of Bullseye. For the .32-20 to fit within the cylinder length of the S&W M1905 Hand Ejector and Colt Police Positive use the front crimp groove. Do not exceed this charge in the pre-WW2 S&W and Colt revolvers.

    I cast bullets of 1:30 tin-lead from Roto Metals, lubricate bullets with Lee Liquid Alox and load as-cast and unsized at .314".

    Attachment 201219Attachment 201220
    Last edited by Outpost75; 08-06-2017 at 12:07 PM.
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  20. #20
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    Thanks, Outpost75... this will give me a little more incentive to dust off the S&W M&P in 32-20 as well as the Navy Arms/Uberti SAA in the same caliber. Unfortunately the S&W predates the improved heat treating so I don't want to push it quite so hard.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check