View Full Version : Anyone load .32-20 with BP?

Mike Irwin
November 17, 2009, 12:27 PM
I have a .32-20 revolver, an S&W. It's in pretty rough shape. I have a much better S&W .32-20 on the way.

That got me to thinking what I want to do with the old .32-20, and naturally I thought black powder.

I have only a very vague idea what I need to do to load cartridges with BP. I've shot a muzzle loader a fair amount, but I know it's not anything like loading cartridges.

So, I need tips.

I have .32-20 bullets lubed for smokeless. I'll use those as an interim until I figure out how far I want to take this. I know they won't be optimal.

But, what kind of load am I talking about? 2F? 3F? 4F? I have 3 and 4F from my muzzleloader.

Grease cookie?

Wonder Wad?

Heavy felt soaked in lube and cut?

How much compression?

How much crimp?

November 18, 2009, 05:40 AM
First of all you do not want to use those smokeless lubed bullets with bp, it won't hurt anything but will make cleaning a real mess. The original load was 20 grs. of powder but I doubt you'll get that in a modern case. You need to fill the case enough so you get a little compression on the powder,maybe 17 grs. Unless somebody come in that loads 32-20 and can tell you exactly what charge to use you may have to experiment. You don't need wads or cookies. I use a heavy crimp on my 44-40's but I use them in a rifle too, you really shouldn't need much crimp if any. Powder should be FFF.

November 18, 2009, 05:50 AM
An interesting idea - returning a 32-20 to BP.
+1 about HH's post.
I'd not try a grease cookie in this case as you are already down on powder and need the space. I'd go with a 0.030" wad. fffg powder.
I'm quite interested in your results once you've got some loaded and fired. Be sure to post.

Mike Irwin
November 21, 2009, 11:09 PM
OK, no grease cookie needed. Good.

As for the lube issue, I know shooting them with modern lube is going to be problematic, but I'm not particularly worried about the clean up. If I find this to be something I'd like to do again, I may well simply buy myself a single cavity mold with a proper set of grease grooves and have at it.

Getting this project underway gives me a use for the Belding and Mull powder measure I just acquired. :)

November 22, 2009, 12:10 AM

HH has good info. The volume of powder you can get in is going to depend on the powder, how you put it in the case and of course how deep you seat the bullet. The .32-20 I had was an old and well used single shot so I didn't push it on the accuracy tuning as I would have if it was in better condition but nonetheless, it still shot quite well.

I don't know that I ever really checked the volume of powder I used, the Lee dipper set was just too handy because you can usually find one in the set to throw just the right volume. I do carefully pour the powder into the dipper, too much variation if you "dip" - pour over a clean bowl, overfill the dipper cup and scrape level, thus the bowl catches all the spilled powder for re-use. Then I used a short drop tube, pour the powder slowly and consistently into the cartridge case. The "fill to" point in the case is going to be determined by the seating depth that will be determined by the bullet length and the gun. Just be absolutely sure you do NOT allow any air space within the cartridge!

I used the Lee RN, 0.311" x 95gr I think it's listed as. The lube grooves are large enough to carry sufficient BP lube provided the lube. The mold was a tad on the small side, lapping cured that. The Lyman, 115gr IIRC, also shot well but the slighly lighter Lee bullet actually ran best.

As for 3F or 2F, only thing to do is see how they perform, sometimes 2F will avoid the heavy hard fouling resulting from 3F.

Mike Irwin
December 1, 2009, 09:59 AM
Well, my new .32-20 is here and I should have it in a few days.

One of the things I'm going to have to figure out is where I can shoot these loads. I normally shoot at the NRA range, and I doubt that they'll let me shoot BP there.

Don't ask, don't tell? :)

I should probably join the Sportsmen's Association in the town where my Mom lives. Nice facility, I used to be a member there years ago when I lived in that town.

Thanks, all, for your recommendations.

I think what I'm going to do for now is melt the lube out of some of the .32s I have and relube them just to give them a try.

I really don't want to start casing again, but what they hey! :D

Springfield Kid
December 1, 2009, 10:59 AM
Something I have done in the past is load smokeless lubed bullets useing APP powder , the 2F looks like small rocks , the 3F is much finer , much easyer to measure .
Its puney powder compaired to 777 or Pyrodex but it seems to make its own lube when fired so that is a plus .
It worked well enough in my 45 Colt loads for target plunking .
The smoke smells more like sugar than chemicals like some of the sub powders .

Mike Irwin
December 1, 2009, 11:34 AM
What the heck is APP powder?

Never heard of it before.

December 1, 2009, 12:34 PM
"APP" is just "APP", not "APP powder", since"APP" means American Pioneer Powder. "American Pioneer Powder powder" is redundant;)

Anyhow, if you want to give it a try, just buy a pound. I tried Shockeys' Gold which is supposedly APP's premium powder in my .45 Colt and 1858 Remington and the stuff is ridiculously inconsistent. One shot will be really mild, then the next shot feels like a Magnum. Not very accurate either. If you have access to real BP, well....you're already set.

December 1, 2009, 04:41 PM
If I had to shoot a substitute black powder it would be APP. Use your smokeless lubed bullets and get after it.

December 1, 2009, 10:03 PM
To be honest, Shockeys' Gold is the only substitute I have ever tried. If it is the best grade of APP, and APP is the best of the subs, then that's a really sad state of affairs, IMO. If it's all you can get, however, then it's better than nothing.

I have one question for .32-20 reloaders. I reload .45 Colt with BP, and can seat the bullet to get a fair amount of powder compression with no problems. Can the .32-20 be reloaded the same way- with the powder compressed- or is the shoulder too fragile to load this way?

December 1, 2009, 10:41 PM
Can the .32-20 be reloaded the same way- with the powder compressed- or is the shoulder too fragile to load this way?

Even if the shoulder is fragile, it shouldn't collapse because you are compressing the powder, if anything, the compressed powder filling the case should keep the shoulder from collapsing.

December 2, 2009, 06:37 PM
That makes sense.

One thing I rarely hear mentioned when discussing black powder cartridges is that there is usually no need to resize. The Ideal tong reloading tools didn't even have a resizing station. The bullet seats against the powder, and that keeps the bullet from going any deeper. The crimp keeps it from backing out.

So, with a good, compressed load and a crimp, the bullet isn't going to go anywhere. The only time you might need to resize would be if you are using the same ammunition in more than one gun. Even then, black powder doesn't really cause the case to fully expand. At least that has been my experience with .45 Colt cartridges. The .32-20 may be more sensitive to variations in dimensions between guns due to it's shoulder.

Unsized cases usually result in better accuracy anyway, and your brass will last longer. You also wouldn't have to worry so much about collapsed shoulders since you'd be omitting the resizing step. Might be worth a try.