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Thread: Thoughts on loading 32 S&W

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Thoughts on loading 32 S&W

    I just got an old (1893ish) S&W 5 shot top break pistol (32 DA 4th Model). I was showing it to my neighbor and he pulls out a set of old LEE carbide 32 S&W dies and hands them to me. I already have a Lyman 311252 double cavity mould (designed for the 32 S&W). I have a lot of fast pistol powders on hand so why not actually start shooting the thing. I'm thinking stay way down in the starting load range and go have fun with it. Revolver is in very good condition. Just need to find a bit of brass now.
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    Last edited by arlon; 03-15-2020 at 06:29 PM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    Keep your loads low.
    This is not a gun to hotrod at all.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hickory View Post
    Keep your loads low.
    This is not a gun to hotrod at all.
    Yep, I'd consider published starting loads as max for this one. Been around this game a long time and want to stay around it a bit longer!

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy Cheeto303's Avatar
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    This is why the old ideal handbooks are so valuable.Just enjoy it for what it is and shoot period correct ammo. That's what makes it all so very interesting. I personally love shooting the old 32 & 38 S&W Top breaks. I load & cast with the old Ideal tong tools .Beautiful little S&W you have there.
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  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Smallest rotor which comes with the RCBS Little Dandy is the #00 which meters 1.7 grains of Bullseye.

    This works OK in the .32 S&W topbreaks using a single 00 buckshot resized in a .314" size die, or with a light cast bullet of soft lead, weighing no heavier than 80 grains, but that is a max. load. To load heavier 87-88 grain bullets you want to insert a shim or spacer to reduce the capacity of the #00 Little Dandy rotor to 1.3-1.5 grains of Bullseye and that will closely approximate factory ammo.

    Otherwise use a .22 LR fired case as a dip measure and use either 3Fg Black or Trail Boss.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Outpost75 View Post
    Otherwise use a .22 LR fired case as a dip measure and use either 3Fg Black or Trail Boss.
    I have never used Trail Boss for anything before but in a case this small I was thinking about it. I'd just make a dipper from the 32 case cut off at the depth of a seated bullet. Weigh and see if it looks ok and adjust from there. I've never used it because of the cost in larger cases but in the 32 S&W I think I can afford it as long as the banks stay solvent.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Ive got one of those little S&W 4th models too. I don't have my loading notes in front of me, but I do have a nice mild load for it. I can check tonight.
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  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    I bought one recently. I fired it, using 1.1 grs Bullseye and .321 roundballs sized to .311 (flat on top and bottom). Fun gun.

    I bought the brass from Midway.
    https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1021324587?pid=785492
    Last edited by Battis; 03-16-2020 at 09:22 AM.

  9. #9
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    32 S&W

    I recently inquired at several LGSs regarding any 32 S&W or 32 Short colt cartridges they may have laying around. I ended up with several sample of 32 S&W of various makes of unknown vintage. The purpose for the acquisitions was to pressure test them. I pressure tested them a couple days ago and had interesting results. I also ended up with full box of Western 32 Short Colt which I’ve not tested yet.

    The test firearm was a Contender With a 10” barrel chambered in 32 H&R Magnum and a strain gauge affixed over the chamber at the prescribed SAAMI location for pressure measurement. The gauge was connected to the Oehler m43 and its attendant software in a laptop. I was able to measure the pressure and muzzle velocity of the assorted 32 S&W cartridges.

    As a reference:
    32 H&R Magnum
    Federal 32 H&R 85 gr LSWC factory ammunition ran 1217 fps (987 fps out of 6 ˝” Ruger SS) at 18,200 psi.
    A Lee TL 90 gr SWC over 3.2 gr Bullseye ran 1128 fps at 16,500 psi

    32 S&WL;
    Federal factory WCs; 12,000 psi
    Lee TL 90 gr SWC over 2.8 gr Bullseye ran 1060 fps at 16,800 psi (880 fps out of my M30 S&W with 3” barrel)
    Lee TL 90 gr SWC over 3.2 gr Bullseye ran 1165 fps at 19,300 psi.
    98 gr cast SWC over 2.5 gr Bullseye ran 944 fps at 15,000 psi.
    98 gr cast SWC over 4 gr Unique ran 1101 at 19,000 psi

    The results of the 32 S&W factory ammunition;

    Winchester Western 86 gr Lubaloy LRN; 786 fps at 18,900 psi
    Winchester W-W; 727 fps at 15,300 psi
    Winchester [WRA]; 729 fps at 16,300 psi
    Remington [R-P]; 676 fps at 14,200 psi
    Federal [F C] 86 gr FMJRN; 833 fps at 17,900 fps
    Winchester [WRA] 86 gr FMJRN; 780 fps at 14,000 psi

    The average pressures for the 32 S&W ran from a low of 14,000 psi to 18,900 psi. The 32 S&W is presumed to be a lower pressure cartridge than the 32 S&WL because it is the shorter cartridge. That presumption is probably based off similar cartridges such as the 38 SPL/357 Mag, the 44 SPL/44 Mag, etc. Thus that presumptions has always led to the belief that using the 32 S&W in the old H&R and Iver Johnson top break 32 S&WL chambered revolvers was “safer” because of the less psi of the 32 S&W cartridge…….we see from the actual psi of numerous 32 S&W factory loads that is not the case……..

    I'm not saying 32 S&W ammunition is unsafe in 32 S&WL chamber top break revolvers just saying there's not a lot of difference, in pressure, between the two cartridges as is thought.

    I'd suggest, with the 311252 cast bullet, a small dipper be made out of a 22 short or LR case and filed down to hold 1.0 gr Bullseye and use that. The pressure will be comparable or less than the original and latest production 32 S&W smokeless loads. A recent test of some latest R-P 32 S&W (Green Box) showed it had 1.0 gr of smokeless (very similar in appearance to 700X...not say it was just saying it was similar) powder under the 88 gr lead bullet. That gave a psi of 13,300. My suggested load should be similar.

    Actually, according to my older Lyman manuals, the 311252 was designed for the 32 Colt and 32 Savage auto pistols. The 87 gr 311259 was designed for use with the 32 S&W. In such a small capacity case seating depth is critical to pressure generated. The 311252 seated with both lube grooves covered will be seated much deep than the factory 88 gr or the 311259 bullet would be. Thus pressures with the same load may very well be higher with the lighter weight bullet seated deeper. With the 311252 bullet I'd suggest seating so the case mouth is just on top of the middle drive band.....maybe just to the front edge. No crimp is needed, just straighten out the case mouth flair.
    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 03-16-2020 at 10:51 AM.
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  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    Has anyone used Pyrodex P in 32 s&w /long or 38 s&w for the break top smiths ?

  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Thanks Larry! It would be interesting to take Euro-CIP .32 ACP cartridges from either Fiocchi, RWS or Geco and measure them similarly. I think that you could stretch a 5/16" O-ring around the base of the case to provide adequate "crush" to maintain correct headspace with the narrower semi-rim. Just a thought.
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  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Thanks for that detailed info Larry. I copied it to that revolvers file. I do have a LOT of 700x wish that was the load but I also have a bit of Bullseye too.

  13. #13
    Boolit Man
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    Had no idea that the "little" 32s were that high in pressure. Especially considering the pressure of the 32 H&R which is supposed to be in the range of the 38 Special +P.
    Good post, thanks.
    Interested in testing any other chamberings? Does the installation of the strain gauge cause any damage to the barrel?

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    I wonder how much difference there is in pressure between these light smokeless loads and some black powder loads.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by nhithaca View Post
    Had no idea that the "little" 32s were that high in pressure. Especially considering the pressure of the 32 H&R which is supposed to be in the range of the 38 Special +P.
    Good post, thanks.
    Interested in testing any other chamberings? Does the installation of the strain gauge cause any damage to the barrel?
    Yes, with the blue is removed in the area of the gauge and completely cleaned and degreased. The gauge is then permanently glued to the barrel with a high grade industrial glue. If removed the area's bare metal can be cold blued. I most often true to apply the gauge where it is hidden by the stock. However, with some guns, such as the Contender that is not possible. I also located the gauge at the SAAMI specified location over the chamber for transducer location. With many shorter cartridges that's not possible in some actions which is why I use Contender barrels for those.
    Larry Gibson

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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Larry I have to say you and outpost75 always have great information and I thank you guys for making it available here.
    I don't know if you have an answer for this but , does the length of time the combustion is at maximum pressure affect the the overall load on the firearm for example 32 s&w and 32 H&R loaded to the same pressure would the pressure spike on the H&R be longer and require a stronger gun than the 32 s&w ? I hope the question make since.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Yep, I have made a powder scoop out of a 22 case. No one mentioned that most reloading blocks don’t work. You have to set the little cases on the loading bench/ table and hope for the best.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Have to admit, I've seldom seen the need to load for 32 S&W (much as I love its longer siblings.) Most recently I did a test to load 32 S&W with an old set of S&W loading tools. One thing I found was that even with a good even charge of either black powder or the Bullseye I also used. I could hear a distinct difference in loudness (suggesting power) between rounds that should have been identical, but when your charge is 1.1 grains, a few granules can make a big difference! I think if I were going to load very much for the 32 S&W I would use BP. Also, I don't think I would expect stellar accuracy, regardless.

    Froggie
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  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Some years ago Midway sold nicely made hardwood 50-round loading blocks with smaller 10mm diameter holes which were cut 10mm deep and proved to be very well suited for .32 ACP, .32 S&W Long or H&R Mag., 32-20, .380 ACP and 9mm Luger. I bought several back then. Somebody should make them again.

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  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy
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    The 32 s&w should live on because baby mice need shooting.

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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