.32 H&R Magnum Small Game Rifle


May 24, 2006, 09:24 AM
Preface: I like to hunt small game on my 22+ acres in Alabama with a lever-action rifle. Most of the game has been rabbit and squirrel, and the range has been less than thirty yards. Until now, I have used a Marlin 39A or 1897T for that duty, and I have been pleased with the results.

Want: Every now and then, I am presented with a shot on something a bit bigger, including turkey. While the .22 LR will work with "proper shot placement", it is a bit underpowered for that game, and I would like something with a bit more oomph. My first thought was another lever action in .22 WMR; however, Marlin only made a few and I am not a fan of the Winchester 94/22. In addition, I can reload small centerfires, including the .22 Hornet, for less than the cost of .22 WMR ammo.

I want to stay with a Marlin lever action due to my comfort with how they work. I considered a .25-20 or .32-20, but was put off by the cost of the rifles and the thin brass of the cases. I considered using an 1894 in .357 Magnum, but I have not had the best of luck in getting .38 Special loads to cycle in the one I once owned.

Idea: I see that Marlin is offering the 1894 Cowboy in .32 H&R Magnum. This seems like a good compromise as the rifle is a bit pricey but the brass is easy to handle. I like the fact that the tube works like the 39A tube, meaning I can empty the rifle without feeding the rounds through the action. The ballistics seem good enough for what I want to do. I also have some .32 S&W Long Brass. The sights may be an issue, but I have a spare Marble peep I can mount on a new 1894.

Questions: Does the .32 H&R Magnum 1894 make sense for this application? Will the .32 H&R Magnum 1894 work with .32 Long brass? Thoughts?

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May 24, 2006, 10:26 AM
I would think the 32 mag would be perfect for small game up to turkey size. Never used it on turkey myself, but I remember Ross S (I forgot how to spell his last name) writing about how useful it was for turkey out of a revolver. So with the extra velocity from the rifle it should be great.

Regarding the 357, since it appears you reload, why not just load the light loads in 357 cases? But anyway, the 32 will work.

May 24, 2006, 11:07 AM
While I know the .357 Magnum will work, light loads with all of that air space in the case are a bit of a concern to me. In addition, I did sell my .357 Magnum 1894, so I need a new rifle no matter the round I choose.

May 24, 2006, 12:28 PM
That sounds like a pretty darn nice small game rifle to me. I don't know about using the .32 long brass though. If it's not the same length as .32 H&R Magnum, I'd be concerned about a ring of fouling or erosion adversely affecting chambering the full length round.

May 24, 2006, 12:40 PM
If you try TiteGroup, or even Unique, in .357 cases there's no problem with ignition or powder position in the case. You can keep velocity under 1100 f/s with cast SWCs and have amazing consistency and stellar accuracy to 50 yds and a bit past. While I haven't reloaded any .32s in a long time, I don't see where the H&R round would be much different. Now that the Cowboy Costume Gamers have saved that nifty little cartridge from extinction, brass and commercially cast bullets for it are all over and relatively inexpensive. New loading data for it is being generated, too.

I've used my IMI Timberwolf and Rossi '92 clones in .357 with my standard utility load of 6 gr. Unique under a cast 158 gr. LSWC in .357 cases for small game with great satisfaction for many years now. An added bonus is that the mild report of this load compared to the "crack" of an HV .22 RF seems to spook the other game less, especially squirrels.

IMO, the .32/20 and .25/20 WCF are still the great small game rounds they were back in the day. With the moderate loads appropriate for small game under 50 lbs., case life is no more of an issue than it is with straight-wall handgun rounds. You can't get carbide resizing dies for 'em ,which adds a bit of extra work to the process, and a Lyman "M" die is a good idea, but otherwise it's no more involved than it is for any other cartridges.

May 24, 2006, 02:12 PM
Interesting info about loading for the .25-20 and .32-20. The info on the .357 Magnum almost makes me regret selling my 1894 in that caliber. But the 1894 in .357 Magnum never quite felt right to me when carried afield.

I am drawn to the .32 H&R Magnum, mostly due to the ability to use carbide dies and the front loading magazine tube. Due to the way it loads, the 1894 Cowboy in .32 H&R is a slightly larger version of the 1897T, down to the sights. If it balances like the 1897T, it should be a winner.

May 24, 2006, 02:14 PM
I love the marlin rifles (I have a 44mag cowboy) but don't turn your back on the rossi/puma guns. I have shot several different ones that belong to fellow gunclub members and they are real nice. Some say the Microgove marlin rifles don't handle lead bullets well, (my cowboy has cut rifleing) as a handloader this would be a giant factor for me.
25-20 is a clasic cartridge but a straight wall case will be the best bet for cheep simple reloads.
You can buy 500 or 1000 pieces of brass from starline at a reasonable price so haveing some 32S&W brass that might not work well anyway isn't a big deal.
Comeing up with mid range or mild loads in a .357 case is not a problem,My buddies with the rossi guns shoot mostly the full .357 handloads as they have flatter trajectory than the lighter loads . If you hand load the cost of 38 vs .357 is slight. I favor rounder nose bullets in a lever gun for smoother feeding,may varry from gun to gun.If you are putting critters in the pot the round nose might cause less meat destruction also.
Whatever gun you decide on check to insure it is drilled and tapped for a peep sight as that is the hot setup for lever guns .

May 25, 2006, 11:27 AM
I can understand about the carbide dies, farscott, especially if you're going to be using a progressive loader. Actually, the only added step needed when reloading "bottleneck" cases is lubing them before resizing. Now that we have the non-migrating spray case lubes where you can treat a sizable batch all at once it's much less of a chore. The folks I know who use Dillon progressives to load their .223 and .308 ammo use them and crank out hundreds of rounds with no more trouble than I have with .45 ACPs on my SDB.

John Taffin and Mike Venturino have written comprehensive articles on reloading the WCF double-duty rounds for "Guns" and "American Handgunner". While both of them concentrate mostly on the .44/40 and .38/40, the tips and principles apply to the .32/20 and .25/20 as well. If you subscribe to either of these, you might be able to access the articles in their archives online.

FWIW, this idea sort of parallels a "project" that I've been daydreaming about for a long time. Back in the early '60s when I was a boy, the father of a pal of mine had a Martini Cadet that'd been converted to .32 S&W Long. It was about the sweetest little woods walking piece you could imagine and deadly accurate with his cast bullet handloads. I've been looking for a suitable Cadet action at a price I can afford for years and the .32 H&R is what I had in mind for it.

May 26, 2006, 07:51 PM
I did a little more research on the .32-20, .25-20, and .32 H&R Magnum, and I have decided to go with the 1894 in .32 H&R Magnum, mostly due to the availability of the rifle, the magazine tube loading, and the carbide dies. Ballistically, all of the cartridges would meet my needs, and the little .25-20 would damage the least meat. However, convenience won out over tradition. I had some bad luck loading .44-40 Winchester, and I really like the ease of loading with carbide dies.

Now I just need to save the money for the rifle, dies, and brass.

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