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Thread: Handloading 32 S&W (Short) with Black Powder

  1. #1
    Boolit Mold
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    Handloading 32 S&W (Short) with Black Powder

    Hello All!
    I will preface this post by saying I have never owned, nor shot any black powder guns. Additionally, I have never reloaded, so I am very green when it comes to all of this.

    Recently, I acquired a Smith and Wesson "Lemon Squeezer" and I would like to handload black powder rounds for it. Based on my research thus far, the only load I have seen published is 4.5 grains of 3fg powder with an 85gr LRN bullet. I have not been able to find any 85gr 32 cal. LRN bullets for sale, however I have found 78 gr coated bullets at a good price. I was thinking about loading these with 4.8 grains of 3fg as this is the quantity dispensed by a .3cc Lee dipper. Additionally, if I understand correctly the coated bullets remove the need for lubrication at these velocities.

    My main question is about the tooling necessary to produce these rounds. .32 S&W dies seem to be very difficult to find and I have heard about loading with a combination of .32 S&W Long and 32 ACP dies. If anyone could clarify this for me, or point me somewhere where I could purchase dies I would be very grateful.

    Additionally, if anyone has .32 S&W brass, dies, or hand loaders (as space is at a premium for me) such as the Lyman 310, or Lee Handloader for a reasonable price I would be more than happy to purchase these items.
    If anything I have said in this post seems egregiously wrong please let me know, I am always happy to learn.

    Thanks in advance,
    Dave

  2. #2
    Boolit Master




    Tar Heel's Avatar
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    I believe you are referring to "powder coated" bullets in your post. I personally would avoid them when using black powder since the secondary purpose of the correct black powder bullet lubricant is to keep the black powder fouling soft. When loading black powder into cartridges, there can be NO AIRSPACE between the bullet and the powder. If 4.5gr of FFFG leaves an airspace, you are headed for trouble. Simply determine where the fully seated bullet base will be in the case and load BLACK POWDER to that point. When loading with smokeless powder, an airspace is OK but please follow a recommended load from a recognized loading manual.

    Regarding loading components, we are all suffering. Supplies of brass, bullets, primers, etc have all dried up and there is no relief in sight for the foreseeable future. Patience is called for. Please do not get impatient and do something you will regret later.

    Bottom line is that black powder cartridges (BPCR) work best with lubricated lead alloy bullets. I have never shot a jacketed or "coated" bullet out of my BPCR loads nor will I ever do so. By coated I mean powder coated as well as the Denny's copper coated bullets. These BPCR loads need the bullet lube to soften residue and a lead alloy bullet to obturate properly.

    Good luck with your Lemon Squeezer and welcome to the forum!
    Woe betide a nation in need of heroes.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    A .32 S&W long sizing die will work. Next you need an expander, and there you will need one that expands enough for cast bullets. A 32 ACP expander won't, it's for metal patched bullet. Best bet would be to get a Lee "Universal Expander" (which it isn't) die and go the NOE moulds website to buy the correct expander mandrel. After that, a .32 ACP seater will work. OR if you have a lathe you can make a seater insert for the Lee die body. (I've done a couple, and it ain't rocket science.) A lathe will also make your expander.

    I have a couple of old .32 S&W Short revolvers myself. I don't shoot 'em enough to need to reload for 'em, but the above is how I'd do it.

    I'd go ahead and buy a Lee hand press. 32 Short dies for a 310 nutcracker tool are scarce. As would be the old Ideal tools.

    Tar Heel is right about not shooting powder-coated bullets with black powder.
    Last edited by uscra112; 09-22-2021 at 05:17 PM.
    Eleutheromaniac

  4. #4
    Boolit Master


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    I have My Grandmother's Lemon Squeezer,
    And I load the same round My Dad did.
    The #311252 over Bullseye, right out of the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook #2. The starting load ONLY.

    Why bother with the mess of cleaning after shooting black powder. These Revolvers have Tiny parts. And the Factory loads are safe to use in Good Condition revolvers;
    Lockup tight with NO looseness at All.

    If ya squint just right ya can see the bullet as it exits the bbl and watch it all the way to the 7yd line.
    I HATE auto-correct


    Happiness is a Warm GUN & more ammo to shoot in it.

    My Experience and My Opinion, are just that, Mine.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    What do you use for dies?

    Do you cast those bullets? Maybe you can send him some.
    Eleutheromaniac

  6. #6
    Boolit Mold
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    I've heard all kinds of things about using smokeless in an old top break; everything ranging from you'll lose your fingers to nothing will happen. Keep in mind mine is a first model and was made before .32 S&W loads became smokeless (S&W only warrantied smokeless starting with I believe 1909). Given the enclosed hammer design I don't think any corrosive substances will get into the internals and I have taken off the side plate and cleaned/lubricated everything liberally with Ballistol which should keep it free of corrosion. Besides, I already have the black powder and getting rid of it now would be a pain.

  7. #7
    Boolit Mold
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    Also, I ordered 500 lubed, cast bullets from a company called Bang and Clang, LLC in New Mexico. I was told the lube they use is compatible with black powder. Will the lube contained in the one lube groove be sufficient, or should I apply more to the nose of the bullet. I've heard of people rubbing the tips of their bullets in Crisco before inserting them into the cylinder.
    These are the bullets I ordered:
    https://bangandclangllc.com/products...313-lubed.html

  8. #8
    Boolit Master




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    Dave, that bullet lube is generally way to hard for Black Powder use BUT it is what is available so use it. When we load BPCR cartridges, we typically use a softer lube. BP01 and SPG are commercial BP lubes that work well as do homemade lubricants. The commercial lube like on the bullets you ordered is exceptionally hard lube designed to stay on the bullets while being shipped in UPS trucks in the senora desert.

    Don't sweat it though, it will work, just not as efficiently. Eventually you may get yourself set up with all the cooters you need to load for this gun. Be careful though. Once you start loading BP cartridges, you get hooked. Currently I load .32-20, 38 S&W, 38 Short Colt, 38 Long Colt, 38 Special, 30-30, 32 WSP, 44 SPL, 38-40, 44-40, 45 Colt, 45-70, 45-90, and probably a few others I didn't think of when typing. It is a lot of fun and a whole adjunct loading hobby. The principles are the same but there are some distinct differences. Cap & Ball revolvers and pistols are just as fun!

    Use the waiting time to do as much research as you can regarding the cartridge and BP loading in general.
    Woe betide a nation in need of heroes.
    Bertolt Brecht

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I load for two 32 S&W BP breaktop revolvers, both from the black powder era. When using BP, I use 6.0 gr of FFF, which fills the case nicely. I use a 77gr cast bullet in one revolver, and a 90 gr heeled bullet in the other, which has no cylinder throats, as it is bored straight through. As as far as smokeless goes, 1.1 gr of 231 does it for me, as I dare not go any hotter, as those break frames do stretch and spring, and can fly open when fired. Hodgdon has this load under pocket pistol in their Cowboy Loading Manual. HP38 is 231 powder. It delivers a suprisingly high velocity for so light of charge. Ironicly the BP loadings, seem to shoot more accurately in these revolvers, than the smokeless, but are so much messier.

    You do need a special soft lubricant for BP loaded bullets. This lube keeps the fouling soft. Pan lubing, or just plain smearing some in the bullet grooves, before loading works. Cleanup is sort of messy. BP cleans up differently than smokeless does. I fill a dishpan with hot soapy water, remove and immerse the cylinder, break open the barrel and immerse it, while keeping the lockwork out of the water. After sloshing the parts around for a bit, run a brush and a dry patch through. The heat of the hot water, will speed the drying of the parts. Then run an oily patch through, and you are done.

    I do have 32 S&W Long dies and 32 acp dies, and between them I can load the 32 S&W.
    Last edited by GBertolet; 09-22-2021 at 07:32 PM. Reason: spelling

  10. #10
    Boolit Master bedbugbilly's Avatar
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    nepadave - I reload but I have never done 32 S & W (Short) is I am kind of where you are right now as I recently purchased a Howell 32 S & W conversion cylinder for the Uberti 1849 Pocket models. I am going to use the conversion cylinder on a "Wells Fargo" model.

    As far as dies go, I just ordered a set of Lee dies for the 32 S & W (Short) today from Titan Reloading. They are sponsors here and if you go to the top of the page here and click on their banner, it will take you to their site. I also ordered a sore shell holder for the press (a universal shell holder for your press is included with the die set) and a shell holder for my hand primer. The correct Lee shell holders for the 32 S & W (Short), Long, H & R, etc. is the "Lee R4).

    For a mold, I ordered a 2 cavity Lee 311-93-1R. I am going to try that boolit first and will also play with a round ball "gallery load" using a round ball of an appropriate size run through a push thru sizer - probably will start with a .319 round ball.

    I am going to use both smokeless - Bulls Eye and Black Powder - 3F Goes. Just remember that if you use Black Powder that you need to make it a lightly compressed load - and use a BP lube to help keep fouling soft.

    I am putting a link to an article about the conversion cylinder I am going to use - not your S & W "Lemonsqueezer" - but I think you will find his discussion on his loading helpful.

    https://americanshootingjournal.com/...sion-cylinder/

    Good luck - nice that you have the revolver and want to shoot it.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    He can melt that blue lube off in a sacrificial frying pan, and then use a better BP lube.
    Eleutheromaniac

  12. #12
    Boolit Mold
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    Thank you for that article bedbugbilly, it was very informative. I think that a slightly heaping Lee .3cc powder dipper will get me to right about 5 grains of 3F as they stated. I will get the dies from Titan Reloading, I've been having a hard time finding them listed for sale. Good luck with your conversion as well.

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master


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    FYI:

    I came across a few old WRA and Remington 32 S&Ws that were loaded with BP under 98 gr LRN bullets. They appeared to have FFFFg in them at about 7 gr worth. I pressure tested then and the psi(M43) ran 14 to 16,000 averaging 729 fps (10" test barrel). I then pressure tested a Lee TL314-90-SWC seated to the same depth as the factory over 7 gr of GOEX FFFFg in the WRA cases with CCI 500s. The psi(M43) ran 11-12,000 psi at 725 fps.

    I've been using a set of Hornady 32L/32 H&R New dimension dies I got 25-30 years ago. They have a sliding collar in the seating die that does the crimping. When crimping the short 32 S&W I unscrew the adjustment stem and insert a 230 gr 45 ACP jacketed bullet (not cartridge but the bullet) base first on top of the seating stem and the sliding collar. Then adjust as normal to seat and crimp the bullet in the shorter 32 S&W cases.
    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 09-25-2021 at 11:19 AM.
    Larry Gibson

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  14. #14
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    Interesting results, Larry. Kinda bends the conventional wisdom about "black powder pressures" a little. How much more data have you from pressure testing old blackpowder loads?
    Eleutheromaniac

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by uscra112 View Post
    Interesting results, Larry. Kinda bends the conventional wisdom about "black powder pressures" a little. How much more data have you from pressure testing old blackpowder loads?
    None in the 32 S&W. I seldom shoot that cartridge and only tested the above to somewhat duplicate the older BP loads. I've been looking at an old S&W revolver chambered in it though. As to other cartridges I have tested some on an "as requested" basis.
    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  16. #16
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    Not just in the .32. In the .38s, .45 Colt, .45-70, anything. Personally I'm interested in the .25-20 but I don't expect you've ever had reason to test that one.
    Last edited by uscra112; 09-27-2021 at 10:35 AM.
    Eleutheromaniac

  17. #17
    Boolit Master bedbugbilly's Avatar
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    Larry - Do you have a COAL of your 32 S & W using the Lee TL 314-90 SWC. I have that mold but haven't cast any soft lead up yet. I'm using a Howell Conversion cylinder in a Uberti 1849 "Wells Fargo" model and I know I'm going to have to cast some up to see if they will chamber in the cylinder. Just wasn't sure how far down to seat them.

    Appreciate the data you provided. I'm not looking to push then hard. I have 4F Goes but figured that might be a bit stiff so was planning on using 3F Goes - 5 grains.

    I'm looking for the proper mold (Ideal/Lyman) but until I run across one, I was going to cast up some .330 )) buckshot with soft lead and put it through a .314 Lee push through sizer and see how they shoot? Won't know until I do it but I am assuming that once through the sizer, out of soft lead, they will at least resemble a RN >314 slug.

    I'mnot expecting outstanding accuracy - this is just a "play project" and hopefully will at least be able to hit a can at 20 feet.

    Thanks for the COAL you used with the Lee TL 314 90 SWC if you have it. My Lyman 3rd edition CBHB shows a COAL of .860 so once I get some cast up, I was going to start there and see just how much was seated in the case and what 5 gr. of 3F looked like with the case volume left over. I'm guessing that with 5 gr. it may need to be seated deeper in order to get a compressed load?

  18. #18
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by uscra112 View Post
    Not just in the .32. In the .38s, .45 Colt, .45-70, anything. Personally I'm interested in the .25-20 but I don't expect you've ever had reason to test that one.
    RE the 25-20; my 25-20 is a Savage 23 so I haven't tested BP in it as I use smokeless in it. Might consider testing BP?. Have tested fffg and ffffg in the 45 Colt under the 454190 bullet. Can test the 45 Cowboy and 45 Schofield/Government if need be? Can also test the 38 S&W if need be? Have numerous testing with BP in the 45-70 with 405 - 500 gr bullets.
    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master


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    bedbugbilly

    With 7 gr ffffg in the WRA balloon head cases the OAL of the loaded cartridges was .948". My TL314-90-SWC bullets have 5 lube grooves and that OAL puts the case mouth crimped in the middle groove. That seats the 90 gr SWC a tad deeper than the factory 88 gr RNL bullets are seated.

    I cast the bullets out of 40-1 or 30-1 alloy and lube with my BP lube [beeswax/olive oil at 5/4 (parts) mix]. In solid head cases 5 gr of fffg would probably be slightly compressed(?).
    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  20. #20
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    What kind of pressures are you getting in the cartridges you have tested?

    n.b. My .25-20 is the old Stevens cartridge, which was invented in the black powder era. I don't load it with black, but wonder what pressures black might have generated in it.
    Eleutheromaniac

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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