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Old June 19, 2005, 11:26 AM   #1
BillCA
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Range Report: S&W 432PD

I purchased a S&W Model 432PD recently and finally made it out to the range to test fire this diminuitive little gun. For those of you who don't know the gun, the Model 432 is a small, Airweight alloy J-Frame hammerless Centennial revolver chambered for the .32 H&R Magnum round. Tipping the scales at a mere 15.7 ounces empty, the 432 seems to weigh next to nothing. Looking very much like it's bigger .38/.357 caliber brother, the Model 42/642 series, the smaller .32 H&R Magnum cartridge allows room for a 6th shot in the cylinder. With a 1 7/8" barrel the 432 this lightweight revolver makes a fine pocket gun.

My gun came equipped with Houge Bantam grips which leave the backstrap exposed on the grip and the grips stop at the end of the grip frame. The rubber-like material is not very tacky and I thought this would allow the gun to squirm about, but such was not the case.

Shooting was conducted at a local indoor range in the SF Bay Area. Unfortunately I discovered two things as soon as I looked to fire the first shot. The 432 is finished in a matte black finish which causes the front sight to blend in perfectly with a black silhouette target! Secondly, age has overtaken me and the current prescription for my eyeglasses doesn't allow me to focus on the front sight properly! This had a dramatic impact on my shooting ability when you combine a dimly lit indoor range, poor eyesight, and sights that blend in with your target. Dramaticaly bad! But all of this gives a good idea of using the gun for nighttime home defense when one can't see well or perhaps focus without the aid of eyeglasses.


S&W Model 432PD - .32 H&R Magnum Centennial Airweight

Shooting was conducted at 7 yards with three types of ammunition. Federal 95gr "Semi-wadcutter" which really looks like a lead flat point round, Federal 85gr JHP and a 118gr RNFP Cowboy action load from Load-X, a local manufacturer. The short range was selected since the 432 is clearly a self-defense gun and not a plinker or target gun.

Upon firing the Federal 95gr SWC the first thing I noticed was a mild "sting" in the heel of my hand where the backstrap rests. For some reason, S&W put a rounded groove down the middle of the backstrap which causes this mild sensation. Recoil itself was mild, a little bit sharper than a .38 special wadcutter load. Federal claims 1034 fps for this load with 224 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle from a 4.5" vented test barrel. As rough guess, since a chronograph wasn't available, I'd say these popped out around 900fps.

The slightly heavy trigger pull was stagey at first. The cylinder feels like it rotates and locks up early in the trigger cycle, leaving a long pull to drop the internal hammer. The smooth trigger was comfortable except for pinching my finger slightly when fully depressed. Accuracy was fair with the 95gr SWC, but I think this was due more to the inability to see the sights clearly than a fault of the gun. My first shots were high, in the 9 ring and spread out, stringing towards the right of center. More on this in a moment.

The Load-X cowboy loads shot a bit high and left, grouping in a 4" area. Recoil with the heavier 118gr load was about the same as the 95gr Federal. One you switch to Federal's 85gr JHP load, however, things change. I'd put up a new target with an orange stick-on bullseye and I could now see the sights. The first three rounds I fired punched right into the orange bull. The next three were inside the 10 ring of the silhouette. Recoil was easily controlled as with the other rounds, however the bark and muzzle flash were pronounced as you'd expect. Federal bills the 85gr at 1100 fps with 228 ft-lbs and I'd expect about 1050fps out of the snubbie 432.

I repeated the firing using the orange sticky bullseye with the other loads and groups shrank and centered better when I could see the front sights. The 95gr Federal load impacted about 1/2" lower than the JHP round. Load-X's cowboy load seemed to like firing about 3/4" to the left of center despite carefully looking over my glasses at the front sight to check the sights.

In rapid fire (the 432 is, of course, DAO) spread the rounds out, but all stayed within the 9 ring at both 7 yards and 15 yards which I did for grins.

The trigger seems to be smoothing out and with only a total of 125 rounds fired I'm sure it will become easier after about 250 or so rounds. After firing the 432 I'm going to invest in some sight paints from Brownell's and put bright green or orange on the front site! This isn't a tack driver - yet - but I can tell the trigger is already smoothing out with use. As an up-close personal defense gun the 432 is a dandy gun. Especially for those who can't handle the recoil of a lightweight .38 special revolvers. Argue all you want about the "stopping power" of the little .32 cartridge, but two rapid shots can be done on target without the wrist wrenching of the .38 specials.

Questions & comments welcome.
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Old June 19, 2005, 11:46 AM   #2
Glenn E. Meyer
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Thanks for the report. I feel the same way you do about the sights. I had a 442 and now have a 642. I painted the sights on both.
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Old June 19, 2005, 06:11 PM   #3
liliysdad
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I have a 431PD, the same gun with a hammer.

I find my gun to be very accurate with the MagTech LRN .32 ammo from any range withing 15yds. I may wind up painting the sight, but I didnt have any issues picking the sights up as they are. I feel the trigger is a bit heavy, but very smooth, and not stagey at all. I am sure the difference in the two models is significant, due to the mechanics of the centennial vs. traditional lockwork.

All in all, this is the very best J-frame Ive ever had the oppurtunity to shoot.
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Old June 20, 2005, 07:12 AM   #4
BillCA
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I'll be the first to admit that the main problem with accuracy during my shoot was me. It's time for bifocals or at least some newly calibrated eyeballs as my current prescription doesn't allow focusing on something dimly lit that close up.

The trigger was a bit tight and stagey for the first 25 rounds or so. After that, it began to smooth out a little. It's still heavy, but that'll be resolved if it continues to be heavy after 200 rounds. The long pull after cylinder lockup does bother me -- I'm used to K & N frames having a shorter throw after lockup.

As a close-up defense gun though, this is a dandy little gun. It'd make a great ankle gun. Carries perfectly in "Thunderwear" too.
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Old June 20, 2005, 10:47 AM   #5
P. Plainsman
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Interesting post, Bill. Viva .32 Mag. I like that little Smith.

Nothing wrong with Federal's loads, though I recommend the Black Hills ammo, which I have found to be of slightly higher quality. Their 90 gr LFN Cowboy round is the closest thing to cheap factory practice ammo ($13 / 50 from MidwayUSA). It is a light-recoiling and accurate round.

I also recommend Black Hills's 85 gr JHP over Federal's, finding them more accurate.

The most promising factory defense load in .32 Mag is the Georgia Arms 100 gr JHP. Somewhat hotter than the other companies' JHPs, it feels just right in terms of balancing low recoil with a reassuring sense of energy. (Bear in mind that I'm shooting these rounds in a Ruger SP101 with a lot more weight than your little S&W.) They shoot well.

Only prob I've had with the Georgia Arms .32 Mag rounds is some dicey QC, at least in the shipment sent to me -- there were bits of junk gunking up the hollowpoints in two of the packs.

Perhaps it was an abberation; most people who use GA speak very highly of them. Indeed, I also really appreciate their .32 ammo -- it's a superior concept for defense/small game use. I just wish I hadn't had to open the packs on the table and sort in order to find "carry" rounds.

I will order another few hundred rounds of Georgia Arms .32 Mag soon and follow up on this forum.
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Old June 20, 2005, 10:58 AM   #6
Dain Bramage
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Thanks for the report. Has anyone tried this gun with the available Crimson Trace laser grips? I believe they cover the backstrap since there is a step at the rear from the grip to the frame.
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