View Full Version : .32 revolver ammo

tristar viper
August 28, 2010, 06:51 AM
My wife is getting a S&W .32 revolver from her dad. I was told that .32 ammo for a wheel gun and a pistol isn't the same. I had no idea of that. I also was told that .32 revolver cartridges are extremely hard to come by and my gun shop says it has been over 2 years that they have had any.
Can anyone explain the differences to me and why the revolver type is so hard to get?

August 28, 2010, 07:47 AM
There are three .32 caliber revolver cartridges currently in common use, the .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Magnum, and the .327 Magnum. They all use the same basic cartridge size, with a different length (increasing in length in the order listed) to prevent the newer higher-pressure rounds from being used in older revolvers not designed to handle them. This is exactly analogous to the relationship between the .38 Special, .357 Magnum, and .357 Maximum. Revolvers chambered for the longer cartridges in each group can safely fire the shorter ones, but not the reverse. Your wife’s revolver is most likely chambered for one of the first two cartridges listed because the .327 Magnum is a comparatively new development.

Now, to answer your question. Yes, .32 revolver cartridges differ from .32 cartridges intended for use in semi-auto pistols. The semi-auto cartridge – and there may be more than one, but this is the most common – is known as the .32 ACP (for “Automatic Colt Pistol”) or just simply .32 Auto. It is, for all intents and purposes, an entirely different design, sharing only the same diameter and therefore using, at least in part, the same bullets. Cartridges intended for semi-autos are usually (not always, and not necessarily) of the “rimless” design which promotes easier feeding from magazines vs. the "rimmed" design of revolver cartridges. They headspace on the mouth of the cartridge; rimmed cartridges headspace on the rim. The relationship here is essentially the same as the relationship between the .45 ACP (.45 Auto) and the .45 Colt.

I reload for all of the approximately 30 different calibers I shoot – everything except the .22 rimfires – so I’m not a good source of information on the availability of various types of loaded ammunition, but I would think that .32 ACP would be a good bit more difficult to find than the .32 caliber revolver cartridges, although it’s probably true that less well-stocked gun shops may not have either. I have a high-end target pistol that uses .32 S&W Long (an example of a rimmed "revolver" cartridge chambered in a semi-auto pistol), and I know that unprimed brass is readily available via mail-order.

All of these cartridges, and pretty much all the other firearm cartridges both modern and obsolete, are described in great detail in Wikipedia.

ETA: The .32 ACP is actually "semi-rimmed," meaning that it has an extraction groove like rimless cartridges, but the rim then extends a small way beyond the case diameter, and therefore it can (and does) headspace on the rim. I think it's safe to say that the rimless, headspacing on the case mouth design is more common in semi-autos.

August 28, 2010, 09:06 AM
My guess would be that her revolver is chambered in .32 S&W long unless it's a tiny thing and might take the shorts.

Speculation aside, yes .32 S&W is fairly expensive for a round that gives you .22lr like performance and yes it is hard to come by at Walmart and mom n pop gun shops.

Locally, Gander Mountain keeps 50 round wadcutters in stock for something 20-something a box. I shoot them out of my old Nagant Revolver.

You can also get 50 round boxes of round lead nose online for around $15. After I shoot up all my wadcutter rounds, I plan on getting a box or two of these for plinking.

Mike Irwin
August 28, 2010, 09:32 AM
There's no indication how old Viper's wife's revolver is going to be, so it could also very easily be chambered for .32 S&W or .32-20 WCF.

Fiocchi has recently announced that they're manufacturing both .32 Smith & Wesson and .32 Smith & Wesson Long in their Cowboy line of ammo.

August 28, 2010, 10:25 AM
+1 on Mike's comment. OP you should inquire again once you've got some more info on the model and caliber designation.

September 3, 2010, 10:02 AM
Old Western Scrounger (http://www.ows-ammo.com/catalog/) has .32 S&W Short and Long ammo.

September 3, 2010, 10:22 AM
Hopefully, it's in .327 or .32H&R. If so, the latter isn't impossible
(not easy) to find or order. I wouldn't plan on just picking up tons of cheap
practice ammo for it. Best of luck.

Jim Watson
September 3, 2010, 12:22 PM
There is always mailorder.

Midway has several sorts listed but not many in stock.
They do have Magtech .32 S&W Long hollowpoints and Magtech and Fiocchi full wadcutters. .32 S&W Long is an oddity, the wadcutter is actually loaded heavier than the roundnose; they do what it takes to cycle European target autos in the caliber.

If this is a top-break S&W it will be in .32 S&W (Not ".32 S&W short", just .32 S&W.)

James K
September 3, 2010, 12:34 PM
Do NOT use .32 ACP (.32 Auto/7.65mm Browning) in any of the older .32 revolvers. It may fit and fire, but the chamber pressure is a lot higher that the .32 S&W that most of those guns were made for (21000 psi vs 13000 psi) and it could destroy the gun and possibly injure someone.

Except for S&W hand ejector (swing out cylinder) revolvers, most of the older revolvers were NOT chambered for the .32 S&W Long, but for the shorter and even less powerful .32 S&W.

And yes, .32 S&W and .32 S&W Long are hard to get, as are all other low sales ammo. I don't know where you can find factory loads in either caliber for $15 for a 50 round box, but if you can, buy it.


September 3, 2010, 12:41 PM
We really need to know specifically what model S&W revolver your wife is getting. As has been stated above, S&W has made revolvers in .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Magnum, .32-20 (a.k.a. .32 WCF) and .327 Federal Magnum at one point or another over the last 168 years. If the gun is old enough, it could even possibly be chambered for the now-obsolete .32 Rimfire cartridge.