View Full Version : Info on 32/20 pistol

Quiet Storm
December 12, 1999, 09:49 PM
Hello, I was recently given an old Spanish? revolver in caliber 32/20. On top of the barrel it says "gara te anitua & Cia eibar (espana)" on the left side of the barrel is says "32/20 us services ctgs" The finish is 50% and it is a swing out revolver not a break in half. Can anyone give me any info on this guns history or worth? I did not know 32/20 was a US service round. Thanks for any help!

December 13, 1999, 10:55 AM
If this is basically a copy of a Colt Police Positive it is most likely a Cosmopolite Oscillatore made by Garate, Anitua y Cia of Eibar. Made from 1925-33 though my reference says it is in .32 Long Colt. The main visual difference between it and the Colt is the the ejector yoke is unlatched by pulling the ejector-rod forward. Also made in .38 Long Colt.

The only other plausible listing I could find by Garate is the L'Eclair; a five-shot 8mm Lebel. Though I doubt it's this model.

The .32/20 has me stumped though, especially the tag on the barrel. Is the barrel marking in the same script as any other markings? Possibly it was added later for marketing purposes. On many of these older "suicide specials" the marketing department would put any Madison Avenue company to shame. There wasn't even a vestige of truth in much of the advertising back then in any retailing of any sort, not just firearms.

James K
December 13, 1999, 01:26 PM
Hi folks,

Garate, Anitua made a number of revolvers and auto pistols in the 1920's period. Some of them were copies of S&W or Colt designs intended for export to this country and sale as Colt or S&W originals if the customer was not too swift. The .32-20 chambering was pretty common in Spanish revolvers of the time. The Garate, Anitua guns were a little better than most of the Spanish pot metal junk of the time; at least they put their names on the guns and the actual caliber, not "USE CARTRIDGES THAT FIT BEST" as one of the type is marked.

I do not recommend firing the gun, though. There are fine examples of the Spanish gunmakers' art, but these revolvers were not among them. The steel (iron?) is iffy, the craftsmanship only good enough to get it sold. I have seen a number of the type blown up.


Big Bunny
December 14, 1999, 08:53 PM
I thought the 32/20 was a Winchester rifle round, as one of our club members still uses one in a L/A for hunting local 'roos , but perhaps it was a dual purpose round in the black-power era ? Interesting.

December 15, 1999, 09:03 AM
The 32/20 was indeed loaded in both handguns and long arms including the Colt Model P and both Winchester and Marlin rifles (to name but a few arms for which it was chambered). IIRC the 32/20 was somewhere around the 3rd or 4th most popular round in the Model P.

October 3, 2008, 09:39 PM
My grandfather gave me the exact same gun with the same lettering and everything on it. I recieved the gun when I was 12 and have been shoting it ever since. It uses the same ammo as a 32-20 Winchester WCF. Supposedly my grand father recieved the gun while serving in the Korean War.

P.S. Only recently has the gun given me any problems. It is sending sparks backward as I shoot it.

October 4, 2008, 05:37 PM
Your firearm is out of time, the cylinder hand or even the ratchets on the cylinder are worn, As stated, these old Spanish " Ruby" revolvers are made from soft iron, not steel.The 32-20, even loaded down as the modern is, is still a hot pistol round. now this is your firearm, you can do as you see fit, however if you continual to shoot it you are responsible for your own injuries and for those around you when it gos boom. If your lucky it will only break instead.:eek: Buy the way your grandfather may have acquired the firearm while in service but he did not receive it as per issued. The Army has been known to do some very foolish tings, issuing Spanish Ruby revolvers is not one of them

James K
October 4, 2008, 10:43 PM
Both S&W and Colt made DA swing cylinder revolvers chambered for .32-20 (.32 Winchester Center Fire). It was and is a good caliber in a revolver.

The chambering came about an odd way in the Spanish revolvers. In WWI, the Spanish made revolvers for the French, chambered for the 8mm Lebel revolver cartridge. When the war ended they, like other gun makers, had a lot of guns and parts left over. There was little demand for revolvers in 8mm Lebel, but the U.S. market was wide open and the 8mm chambers needed only a little work to accept .32-20, a popular U.S. caliber. Accuracy might not have been the best, but for $2.95 or so, no one cared except S&W, whose revolvers were the ones most copied and who were hurt by sales of Spanish guns that were "just like a popular American brand." S&W took legal and other action, and eventually the Spanish revolvers were banned from import.

Of course, customers sometimes cared when the Spanish guns, mostly made of "pot metal" (cheap cast iron from which cooking pots were made) blew up, as most have by now, or at least those that were not tossed in the trash when they broke in other ways.

(Just FWIW, one of the steps S&W took was to trademark the color case hardening on their triggers and hammers. If the Spanish did not do that, their guns wouldn't look like S&W's; if they did, the importer could be sued for trademark infringement. And S&W uses that coloring to this day to keep the trademark protection in effect, even though there is no need to case harden MIM parts.)


October 20, 2008, 02:57 PM
I stopped in a gun store in Memphis when in Millington.they had several 32/20 spanish revolvers and all had the top strap broken.I bought a S&W 32/20 in NH with a chamber blown out.S&W would not touch it.I welded the strap on and welded the chamber shut and cut the notch on it and used 5 chambers.
32/20 were made for rifles with extra power and not for use in revolvers.but back then people just asked for 32/20 and never looked to see what they were used for.even smiths blew. :rolleyes::rolleyes:;)

October 2, 2010, 12:09 PM
About 2 weeks ago I had bought a Spanish 32-20 revolver that looks like a Colt Police model for $75.00. Had some surface rust, so I used 0000 steel wool and looks little better now. After I bought it, I went on line and looked up info of it and from what I read, was not good. A lot of people said not to shoot it cause the steel is too week for modern loads and would blow up! So I took it to a gunsmith and says it's ok to shoot as long you shoot light loads through it. I then picked up some Black Hills Cowboy loads and shot it last Saturday at the range and it did shoot. Shot 2 boxes but it was spitting lead at the cylinder gap. One couple 20 feet to my left was feeling lead and I was feeling it on my left temple and arm. Funny thing, the empty shell casings end up being straight wall instead of bottle neck. Then I took it at the store where I bought it and showed them the case and explained what had happend. So right now it's being repaired. Nice gun though but ammo is a little too pricey. I guess all those shooter that had their guns blowup must have had used high pressure loads. One more thing, some of the bullets were keyholing.

James K
October 2, 2010, 11:07 PM
I have no idea how the shop can "repair" that gun, but if they can, it is still not safe to shoot, even with low-power loads. Most shops will not sell them or take them in trade because they are so dangerous. A dealer donated one to the high school track team to be used with blanks as a starter pistol; it blew up with a piece of the cylinder just missing a student. Now any he takes in trade are just scrapped or turned into a "buyback" program.


October 3, 2010, 10:37 PM
I don't know Jim. I think with some of these guns blowing up, must have been already cracked or something but the gunsmith says he can fixer up.Timing was off. Most revolvers timing goes off after awhile. Like I says, I shot 100 rounds through it that day without it blowing up.

February 6, 2013, 10:03 PM
I have had a spanish made 32 20 s& w type revolver since 1953 and it still shoots great!My grandfather had it and I got it but just remember to shoot pistol bullets in it now called cowboy action bullets and I have never had a problem with the gun except one time timing messed up fixed easy and it will not blow up like all people will tell you I have shot over 15000 rounds in mine and I reload my own now!

Bill DeShivs
February 7, 2013, 12:53 AM
I ended up with one. I cut the firing pin off of it.
These guns are not of good quality and they can and do blow up. Often.

Two Old Dogs
February 7, 2013, 12:42 PM
Garate, Anitua y Cia was one of the better manufacturers of handguns and supplied the British with approximately 45,000 copies of the S&W New Model 3 top break revolvers chambered for the .455 Webley cartrlidge in WWI.

Davez, unless your revolver was marked .32-20, I'm guessing that you have a one of the 8mm Lebel (8.3x27.5mm) revolvers made for the French in WWI.
Several manufacturers supplied the French with 8mm Lebel revolvers and the 8mm chambering was moderately popular in the commercial market as well.

I found what I thought was a .32-20 S&W M&P copy made by Trocaola, Aranzaba, y Cia at a gun show for $20.00 several years ago . There were no markings indicating caliber on the gun.

I took my prize home and loaded it with .32-20 light reloads. Upon firing, I found the accuracy miserable and the fired cases, like yours, were no longer bottle-necked, but a straight taper.

I measured the chamber and the bore and determined, after lengthy research, that I had a revolver chambered for lthe 8mm Lebel (8.3x27.5mm)
cartridge that was produced for the French in WWI (see The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Handguns by Zhuk and Spanish Handguns by Ganagrosa).
Trocaola, Aranzabal y Cia along with Garate, Anitua y Cia was considered one of the better Spanish manufacturers.

The 8mm Lebel cartridge was originally loaded with black powder and original pressures were in the 18,000 psi range

Using Nonte's the Home Guide To Cartriddge Conversions, I shortened .32-20
brass to the appropiate length. The bore diameter is 0.327". I made a compression die and bumped up Lee 308-100-2R (100 grain) cast bullets to 0.327".

I loaded the bullets over 1.5 grains of Bullseye or 2.5 grains of Unique (.32 S&W Long data from Lee's Modern Reloading). These loads are mild (below 10,000 CUP) and give plinking accuracy at 25 yards.

My revolver is a fun gun to load for and shoot and the price was right.

James K
February 7, 2013, 10:02 PM
I give up!

People with some small gun knowledge say those guns are poor quality and can be dangerous.

Then some owners respond that they are just great, beautiful examples of the gunmaker's art, and just because chambers blow out, cylinders spit lead and accuracy is terrible is no reason to condemn them. I have to wonder what it takes to get folks to accept that a gun they own is just plain no good!


February 8, 2013, 12:22 AM
Jim. holding back your true thoughts and repressing your self can be harmful to your health, It causes high blood pressure and other bad things. Come, let it all out , what are your true feelings on this issue come on, don't be shy;)

James K
February 9, 2013, 12:31 AM
Trouble is that I don't have any really good words for those guns, at least not words I can use in a post. I have seen several that blew up, including one fired with a blank (it had been made into a starter pistol).

Most of those guns were made of what is often called "pot metal." Current "experts", including the silly ass who wrote the Wikipedia article on the term, believe it means an alloy that can be melted in a pot. It doesn't. I means the cheap cast iron from which cookpots were made. It is porous, brittle and not at all suitable for use in a firearm except at the very lowest pressure levels.

Anyone who wants to shoot those can do so, including the folks who claim they are super strong. Not me. I would find it hard to type these little notes without fingers.


April 22, 2013, 03:32 PM
hanks Jim for this... great info.

(Just FWIW, one of the steps S&W took was to trademark the color case hardening on their triggers and hammers. If the Spanish did not do that, their guns wouldn't look like S&W's; if they did, the importer could be sued for trademark infringement. And S&W uses that coloring to this day to keep the trademark protection in effect, even though there is no need to case harden MIM parts.)


One of the things I have always liked about my S&W s was the color case hardening.