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Old November 16, 2008, 09:52 AM   #1
rhouseteam
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32 / 20 Revolver

Good morning. I am hoping someone might be able to help me out. I received a S & W 32 / 20 ctg 6 shot revolver that belonged to my aunt. My uncle owned it when he died in 1948.

The serial # is 119xxx. It also has a # 4502 engraved on it where the cylinder meets the frame on the inside. It uses a 32 / 20 centerfire rifle cartridge.

I am interested in knowing the approximate age or year this gun could have been made.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you,

Ray
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Old November 16, 2008, 10:32 AM   #2
carguychris
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Your gun is what's known as a .32-20 Hand Ejector Model of 1905, 4th Change. On the Net, enthusiasts often abbreviate this to .32-20HE.

Your aunt's gun was made near the end of .32-20 production in the 1930s, before it ended in 1940 to accomodate greater Victory revolver production for the U.S. and British militaries in WWII. However, it's hard to nail down a precise date because S&W assembled guns out of serial number order during the 1930s; they had stockpiled tens of thousands of extra frames during the 1920s before handgun sales tanked during the Great Depression. The best way to find a production date is to request a factory letter. Be aware that there's a huge backlog at S&W right now, so you might not get it for quite a while! Here's the link:

http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/w...ectionId=10504

The .32-20HE was not reintroduced after the war because it had never sold particularly well.

These guns have become quite valuable in the higher condition grades due to their rarity. The particularly rare .32-20 Target model with an adjustable rear sight is worth well into 4 figures in high condition. You should post pictures!

Important note: Be careful buying ammunition for this gun! Modern .32-20 hunting ammo is usually tailored for Winchester Model 1892 rifles, which are much stronger than S&W .32-20HEs. Your gun may explode if you use this type of ammo! Before you buy, make sure the package says "Safe for Revolvers" or something like that, and you may want to stick with "Cowboy" ammo, which is loaded to low pressures and comes in vintage-looking boxes.
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Last edited by carguychris; November 16, 2008 at 12:34 PM.
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Old November 16, 2008, 03:02 PM   #3
Scorch
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Quote:
Modern .32-20 hunting ammo is usually tailored for Winchester Model 1892 rifles, which are much stronger than S&W .32-20HEs.
Modern 32-20 ammo is loaded to accomodate the numerous 32-20 handguns ( S&W, Colt, Iver Johnson, H&R, etc) made during the early 20th century. It is typically loaded with an 80 gr semi-jacketed or 100 gr lead bullet. The 100 gr is typically touted as a rifle load, but is in fact loaded to safe pressures for handguns. I used to own a Colt New Army in 32-20 and fired factory ammo and factory equivalent loads in it, and I always thought is was a really neat revolver.

32-20 ammunition used to be made in 2 load strengths for rifles and pistols, but since people insisted on stuffing rifle loads into pistols "to see how it shoots" or because "it's the same cartridge", ammunition makers switched to making one load for both.
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Last edited by Scorch; November 16, 2008 at 03:09 PM.
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Old November 16, 2008, 08:45 PM   #4
carguychris
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OK, turns out that Scorch is basically right; I was parroting some older sources. However, I still think the basic warning is valid, due to the possibility of a gun store carrying some new-old-stock ammo.

Revised important note:

If buying older ammo, do make sure that the package says "For Pistols & Rifles", "Safe for Revolvers", or some such thing.

Do not fire any .32-20 ammo labeled "High Velocity" in a S&W!
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Old November 17, 2008, 12:53 AM   #5
Mike Irwin
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"32-20 ammunition used to be made in 2 load strengths for rifles and pistols"

It's a bit more complex than that.

After the introduction of the models 1886 and 1892 lever action rifles, Winchester came out with a line of "High Speed" cartridges in .45-70, .32-20, .44-40, and .38-40 designed ONLY for those rifles.

The boxes were clearly marked that the ammunition was only intended for use in 1892s/1886s, with warnings that the ammo was NEVER to be used in revolvers or 1873 Winchester rifles.

Of course, dumbasses then being the same as dumbasses now, some didn't bother to read the warnings and there were any number of fine 1873s and old revolvers turned into scrap.

Supposedly firing one of these cartridges in an 1873 lever action would blow its sideplates off.
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