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Thread: Triple 7 In The .32 Long Rifle

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
    Bent Ramrod's Avatar
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    Apr 2005
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    Southern Arizona
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    Triple 7 In The .32 Long Rifle

    The accumulator of "affordable" antique and vintage firearms will encounter the .32 Long, whether rim- or centerfire, fairly frequently. Most often, they are kid's single-shot rifles or bureau-drawer revolvers, the rifles generally in pretty poor shape for shooting.

    Navy Arms imported .32 Short and Long rimfire from Brazil 25 years ago, but the supplies have dried up. The centerfire versions, in the form of the .32 Short and Long Colt, were available up to the same time frame, especially the Short Colt, but now, ammunition and empty shells are most often discovered at gun shows and auction sites.

    Both the Short and Long Colts were first loaded with outside-lubricated heeled bullets. But somewhere along the line, the heeled bullet was relegated to the Short, and a hollow-based, undersized, outside-lubricated bullet was loaded into the Long. There was also another obscure .32, the .32 Long Rifle, reportedly made for the Marlin 1892 rim- or centerfire lever-action rifle. This round had a slightly longer case than the heeled .32 Long, which took up the chamber space for the shank of the heeled bullet, and had the hollow-base bullet loaded into the shell for an identical overall length. This round apparently was not a success; I've never seen a box offered on any gunshow table I've looked over.

    However, the idea wasn't bad, in terms of offering a waterproof round that fills the chamber, without grease on the boolit to rub off and pick up dirt. It is easily reproduced from otherwise ruined .25-20 Single Shot cases which have suffered neck cracks. The shell is trimmed to 0.95" or so, instead of the 0.82" of the Long Colt, and sized in .32 Long Colt dies.

    My first rifle in .32 Long was a Ballard, with a slightly frosty, but still shootable bore. Assiduous scrounging got me RCBS dies, Ideal loading tools and a Winchester mould which covered both sizes of heeled boolits (Ideal 299152 and 299153), and an Ideal mould for the 299155 hollow-based boolit. Cases and ammunition for the .32 Long Colt were relatively easy to find back then, so I was able to shoot the Ballard .32 a lot. It proved a more interesting artifact of the Good Old Days, when the small game must have gathered in front of the hunter and perched on his shoulders (like a Disney movie), than an "interesting" rifle in the Townsend Whelen sense. It was good for tin cans at offhand plinking ranges, and probably would be good for shooting squirrels out of trees at heights of 30 feet. Both types of heeled boolits shot "OK," as did a lubed 0.311" round ball, but the 299155 hollow-base was notably less accurate than any of the others. This was irritating, as the hollow-based boolit could be sized, lubed and stored, while the outside-lubed examples were best dipped in molten lube after seating in the cartridges, a fair amount of extra preparation.

    I came across a bunch more .32 Long RF rifles in my souvenir collecting: a bunch of Stevens Favorites, a Stevens Tip-Up, a Stevens 44-1/2, all of which featured pitted, ringed bores. I dutifully checked all these out with my dwindling supply of Navy Arms .32 Long Rimfire; only the Tip-Up showed halfway decent plinking accuracy compared to the Ballard. I never found a complete rifle with a bore such that I could get a real idea of the round's capability, let alone making it worthwhile to convert to centerfire.

    Business picked up when I found a take-off Winchester Low-Wall barrel in .32 Long with a pristine bore. I mated it to a junker centerfire action, made a few small parts, stocked it with odds and ends, added sights and went out to find out "The Truth About The .32 Long!"

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    Alas, most loads with most smokeless powders, gave 3"-to-4" groups at 50 yards or so, comparable to the old Ballard. These used .32 Long Colt cases with the heeled boolits for the Short and Long. The .32 Long Rifles, with the undersized hollow-base boolits lubed in a 0.301" lubesizer die, gave pretty dismal accuracy at these ranges, with three or four shots in the 4" range and a shot or keyhole or two remote from the rest of the shots. Trials with black powder in hopes of the particulates expanding the skirt of the hollow base, were no better, as the fouling buildup deranged accuracy as badly as the lack of expansion with the smokeless propellants apparently did.

    A while back, I came across a couple bottles of Triple 7, in FFg and FFFg grades, and thought I'd give them a try. Started off at 25 yards, with 5.0, 5.5 and 6.0 gr of each, in shortened .25-20 Large Primer cases, using the Winchester Large Pistol primers. The boolits were lubed with a mixture of mutton tallow and beeswax, and I was surprised to find a semblance of accuracy coming out of the combination.

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    In the left target, top to bottom, using FFg, 5 gr gave a 1" group; 5.5 gr gave 2-5/8" with four in 1" and the remaining four with 6.0 gr was 2". 5 gr FFFg (on right) gave four in 4-5/8" with three in 2-1/4" (one wouldn't chamber); 5.5 gr gave 1" and 6.0 gr gave 2 in 1/2", with two not chambering. (These rounds were newly-made from cut-down .25-20 shells, and had not been resized before loading.)

    A load of 4.5 gr had earlier put 6 shots into 2-5/8" at 50 yards, with 5 in 1", but followup testing gave scattered shots and keyholes as usual. These latest tests were done with selected boolits, all weighed to 75 gr, and no keyholes revealed themselves.

    A look through my old notes showed the 299155 did its best work in the Ballard with Pyrodex. It appears that maybe there is a niche where a black powder substitute, with enough particulates to give the necessary blasting power to slug-up the boolit while not building up fouling in the bore, might be the best option for a few troublesome old black-powder calibers. Hollow-based .38 Longs, .41 Colts and maybe the .43 Spanish might benefit from these substitutes. The Triple 7 doesn't have the rust-causing chloride byproducts that the Pyrodex leaves. Maybe Blackhorn 209 would be an option as well.

    More research is still to be done, of course. Back out to 50 yards next time. I'll try the Triple 7 with the heeled boolits as well.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
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    The little 32s are so often overlooked. I have a #2 rolling block originally in .32 XL rimfire, now converted to centerfire. Using 25-20SS brass cut down to 1.085 for use with the Accurate 31-090S bullet or cut to 1.150" for use with the Ideal 299153, its a wonderful rifle. I also lathe turn heels on the Ideal 311008 (.32-20) bullet. It shoots very well too. While I've never used triple 7, I have been trying BH209 lately and really like it. In fact, I like it in many smaller BPCs. This target shows two groups. The upper one was fired first, then the sights adjusted to bring them into the black. It shoots very well, the limiting factor is my cataract ridden eyes.
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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