.32-20 Revolvers


December 7, 2003, 12:51 AM
I'm thinking about getting a revolver in .32-20. What are your opinions on the .32-20 in a revolver? What about in a rifle?

I'd like to buy a single action revolver to carry as a side arm while deer hunting. No bears in South TX, just need a side arm to finish a wounded deer, feral hog, javalina, etc. I like interesting/different calibers, thus the interest in the .32-20. I might even like to buy a lever action rifle in .32-20 for plinking.

Any opinions?

If you enjoyed reading about ".32-20 Revolvers" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
Mike Irwin
December 7, 2003, 03:36 AM
Fun caliber in a revolver, but something of a bear to find loading information for that isn't for a rifle.

I've got an S&W Hand Ejector Model of 1905, 4th change.

It's currently soaking in mineral spirits trying to cut through about 70 years of accumulated crud...

Old Fuff
December 7, 2003, 09:29 AM
The .32-20 is indeed a fun cartridge, but they are sometimes hard to find, and expensive when you do find them. One solution is to reload the brass, but because of it's bottlenecked shape, cases tend to split at the neck after a few reloadings. You didn't say, but I presume you don't have a .32 rifle you want to match the revolver too as of right now.

In place of the .32-20 I suggest that you consider a revolver chambered in .32 H&R Magnum. This cartridge has a straight case, is easier to find in most places, is easy to reload, and can duplicate 32-20 performance when the latter is fired in a handgun rather then a rifle.

As for a revolver, take a look at Ruger's .32 version of it's Single Six in Vaquaro garb. Also the SP-101 in .32 Mag. If you prefer an older gun in .32-20 like Mike's S&W 1905 Hand Ejector be sure to check the bore. Guns are relatively easy to find, but ones with good barrels aren't.

December 7, 2003, 10:10 AM
I have a Colt 1892, the predecessor of the Police Positive, in 32-20. It belonged to my great grandfather, complete with the handmade leather shoulder holster of a real cowboy that actually worked horseback and carried a handgun. It is loose as a goose, but should shoot fine. I have not shot it yet but I plan to.

J Miller
December 7, 2003, 01:34 PM
I've owned one rifle chambered for the 32 WCF (32-20). A well used old Win. Mdl 1873. It was a blast and I wish I still had it.

I've fired one revolver in this caliber, a Colt SAA with a 7.5" barrel. A gunsmith friend had just repaired it for a customer and I got to help him test fire it.

I'd love to have a pair. They are fun, easy to shoot, and something out of the ordinary.
The cases are available if you look for them and not at all hard to load for.
Yes they are a slight bottle neck, and you have to lube them, but so what?
Some times you just gotta step away from all the modern stuff like carbide dies and just slow down and take things in stride.
As for the cases splitting, well anealing them will increase case live a lot. Load data is there, and there are enough books available to find it. Plus a lot of shooters on the net that load this round and will gladly share their pet loads.

Like I said, I'd love to have a set.


Mike Irwin
December 7, 2003, 02:54 PM
"Load data is there, and there are enough books available to find it. Plus a lot of shooters on the net that load this round and will gladly share their pet loads."


Care to point me towards something suitable for use in an 80 year old revolver?

I've got the Winchester and Accurate pamphlets, and manuals by Lyman, Lee, Hornady, and a couple of others, and only Lee has a little bit of information for older revolvers.

I've got a box each of Winchester and Remington loaded ammo, but I'm leery of shooting it in case it's loaded for rifles, and e-mails to BOTH Winchester and Remington have been met with complete silence.

Old Fuff
December 7, 2003, 03:00 PM

I've got some Lyman data for .32-20 handgun loads. Do you want the whole thing or do you have a particular bullet in mind?

Mike Irwin
December 7, 2003, 04:48 PM

I've got I think a box of 115-gr. lead flat nose bullets. Any data for that?

Old Fuff
December 7, 2003, 05:09 PM

Oh, the things I do for you ......

But then, someone that likes (and has) "older" S&W Hand Ejectors can't be all bad - even though I deserve to have them more then you do.

See if any of the following will help - after you take off you're hip boots:

32-20 Handgun Loading Data. Test Gun: Ruger Blackhawk 6 ½”

Hornady 85 grain JHP Bullet 1.535” OAL

Powder Starting Load Velocity Max Load Velocity

231 3.2 grains 745 FPS 4.7 grains 1022 FPS
Unique 4.1 grains 742 FPS 4.8 grains 967 FPS
AA-5 4.2 grains 554 FPS 5.7 grains 948 FPS
SR-7625 3.3 grains 703 FPS 4.7 grains 987 FPS
SR-4756 4.5 grains 748 FPS 5.8 grains 1101 FPS

Sierra 90 grain Jacketed Hollow Cavity 1.535” OAL

231 3.4 grains 679 FPS 4.5 grains 937 FPS
Unique 3.6 grains 639 FPS 4.8 grains 864 FPS
AA-5 4.7 grains 697 FPS 5.4 grains 875 FPS
SR-7625 3.7 grains 716 FPS 4.5 grains 845 FPS
SR-4756 5.2 grains 791 FPS 5.5 grains 928 FPS

100 grain #313631 Cast Lead Bullet / #2 Alloy 1.550” OAL

231 3.2 grains 793 FPS 4.1 grains 990 FPS
Unique 3.5 grains 689 FPS 4.3 grains 888 FPS
AA-5 4.2 grains 650 FPS 5.0 grains 891 FPS
SR-7625 3.5 grains 654 FPS 4.2 grains 843 FPS
SR-4756 4.3 grains 763 FPS 5.0 grains 971 FPS

115 grain #311008 Cast Lead Bullet / #2 Alloy 1.530” OAL

231 3.1 grains 782 FPS 3.8 grains 905 FPS
Unique 3.2 grains 684 FPS 4.0 grains 835 FPS
AA-5 3.8 grains 649 FPS 4.5 grains 825 FPS
SR-7625 3.2 grains 642 FPS 4.0 grains 837 FPS
SR-4756 4.0 grains 735 FPS 4.7 grains 896 FPS

Lyman Pistol & Revolver Reloading Handbook (Second Edition)

I can't seem to get the columns to line up right. I can send the data as an e-mail attachment if you want.

Mike Irwin
December 7, 2003, 05:29 PM
Thank you, Fluff.

I said I had a Lyman manual, but it has nothing on the .32-20. Of course, it's a 45th edition, from 1970...

"even though I deserve to have them more then you do."

You don't want this one. It's a true beater. I think I paid $170 for it. Rusty on the outside, but surprisingly good bore. Mechanically it needs a little attention.

Mike Irwin
December 7, 2003, 05:30 PM
Just got the e-mail. Again, thanks.

The columns came out absolutely gorgeous in the e-mail.

Old Fuff
December 7, 2003, 08:05 PM
Well now I learned something .........

As for the 32-20 S&W - - If it has a good bore and chambers it's well worth fixing up. I've seen what looked like almost mint guns with bores that looked like sewer pipe.

December 7, 2003, 08:54 PM
Would one of you mind sending me the email loading data as well? My data is almost all rifle type. My email is available on this board with the button under this post. I would appreciate it much. Thanks.

Mike Irwin
December 7, 2003, 10:21 PM

Wanna bet?

You've got your e-mail set to this...

"Sorry! That user has specified that they do not wish to receive emails through this board. If you still wish to send an email to this user, please contact the administrator and they may be able to help."

That's what I get when I click your profile button (there's no e-mail button), and then click on "e-mail HSmith..."

Redo your settings...

Old Fuff
December 7, 2003, 10:39 PM

I sent him the data in a "Personal Message" and explained that if it came through messed up He would have to send me his e-mail address so I could answer in a reply. Now I'll wait and see what happens. Obviously e-mailing it to you worked fine.

I also found a bunch of OLD data (1940's era) that contained some chamber pressure data. Apparently the loads I sent you are in the 12,000 to 16,000 PSI range. Also some loads worked up by P.O. Ackley. If you want more data (Mostly using Bullseye or Unique) I can send it. What you have is much newer though.

December 7, 2003, 11:39 PM
Sorry Mike, so many gun boards and only so many settings.......... I was wrong but now all is right in the Universe, my settings have been modified. I hope you will forgive and forward LOL!!

Thanks for the PM Fuff, the data is there and useable even if not in the perfect format Mike teased me with;) ;) . I appreciate much the info, and will be sure to let you know anything I learn in loading this cartridge. A scholar and a gentleman you are.........

Chuck Dye
December 8, 2003, 12:43 AM
Nose around enough, and you may find a Ruger special edition done for, I think, Buckeye Sports some years ago that has interchangeable cylinders and handles both .32-20 and .32 H&R mag. The one I shot (just a couple of cylinder's full) was set up for the H&R mag and was great fun.

December 8, 2003, 01:03 AM
IIRC, EMF and Navy Arms both are producing 32-20 single actions. Cimmaron has a dual cylinder set uo for 32-20 and 32 H&R Magnum available. I also have a 5" round butt Model of 1902 in 32-20.

Mike Irwin
December 8, 2003, 01:43 AM

Check your e-mail...


No, I don't think loading information that old is viable for use anymore, but thanks for the offer.

I learned my lesson about that using data for .32 Long that was approximately 40 years old when I loaded 50 rounds with modern Unique for use out of my I-frame .32 Long.

Luckily I was shooting over a chronograph.

As I recall, a middle of the road load with Unique in the old book that SHOULD have produced about 725 fps with an 85-gr. lead bullet chronographed at an average for a 5-shot string at just under 1050 fps.

That's ABOVE .32 H&R Mag. stats for the same bullet weight.

And it wasn't the chronograph, either.

A box of Winchester loads chronographed right at 700 fps, where they should, with very mild recoil.

Recoil on my handloads? Bordering on severe.

Old Fuff
December 8, 2003, 10:58 AM

I agree with your observations and experience using old handloading data. The only reason I offered it was because the listed powder charges were in line with the newer data I sent you. I suspect that the charges you used in that poor little I-Frame (that stood up to them anyway) were for use in late model Winchester or Marlin lever action rifles. I did come across some of those, and they were in the velocity range you noted.

Mike Irwin
December 8, 2003, 11:49 AM
"I suspect that the charges you used in that poor little I-Frame (that stood up to them anyway) were for use in late model Winchester or Marlin lever action rifles."


You're reading too fast again. :)

Smith & Wesson never chambered an I-frame in .32-20 (to the best of my knowledge).

Neither Winchester or Marlin ever chambered a lever rifle (to the best of my knowledge) in .32 S&W Long.

I was shooting Unique handloads out of an I-frame S&W in .32 Long, NOT .32-20 loads.

December 8, 2003, 12:20 PM
What does the 20 stand for in the .32-20?

I like to listen to Robert Johnson. He has a song called .32-20 blues. In the song he says he’ll “cut her (his girlfriend) “half in two” (with the .32-20) He also says that “she got a .38special but I believe its much too light”

What is the difference between the two calibers?


Mike Irwin
December 8, 2003, 12:38 PM

The original load was roughly 20 grains of black powder, hence the name.

Old Fuff
December 8, 2003, 02:43 PM

Oh shucks - I knew that.

Sure you weren't using 32-20 data in a .32 S&W Long?

Anyway, if you pushed an 85 grain lead bullet out of a little 1903 Hand Ejector at over 1000 FPS you must have established a record of some kind.

Don't think I'll try it though .....

Mike Irwin
December 8, 2003, 03:19 PM
"Sure you weren't using 32-20 data in a .32 S&W Long?"


I've still got the manual, and IIRC it didn't have any handgun info on .32-20 handgun loads.

June 16, 2006, 09:46 AM
By accident, while surfing the net looking for info on the 32-20, I chanced across this link to your interest in the caliber.
I'm happy to say that I likewise enjoy shooting this round.
By way of background, I presently own a Smith Model 1905 V.4 manufactured sometime in 1930s' and load unique 3.2 grns pushing 115 grns lead bullet. This gives me 600 FPS velocity by my chronograph and is pleasant to shoot without stressing the firearm or barrel leading. Brass life seems to be good also!
You could call it an all day plinker!
One of your respondents spoke of scarcity of ammo and might have mentioned cost. Not every dealer stocks this stuff and it can be pricey when found. Reloading is an excellent way to mitigate this if you do or would consider reloading. It's an easy cartridge to reload with reasonable care to avoid damaging the thin cases.
I may have some additional reloading data derived from Phil Sharpes' reloading manual for revolvers if you're interested. Or you could look for the manual itself. Would have to wait until I complete my relocation to N. Carolina to search for any info.
Someone also responded that you'd be better off shooting something like the .32 H&R round. Inspite of arguments supporting this tact, it still remains that it's still not the 32-20.
Likewise, I've owned a MINT condition Colt Pol. Pos Spec in 32-20 And foolishly passed up a Browning M53 NIB and presently looking for one used or a Marlin 1894. I realize rifle loadings would be different and not interchangeable with revolvers.
Anyway, love to talk about the cartridge and shooting in general. Hope this is still info of use to you.

Bullet Bob
June 16, 2006, 12:59 PM
Have the lever action - great fun to shoot, and with cowboy shooting so popular, not as hard to find ammo as it used to be.

Would looooooove to find an old S&W target sighted revolver. At home I have many old Gun Digests, and one them has an article by (I think) Dave Anderson about his two S&W 32-20's. I 'll have to see iffen I can locate it.


From the Web:

NEVER Exceed the Loads Listed Here

32-20 Winchester
BBL: 5.5" PR: Winchester SP
TWIST: 1:20" TRIM: 1.305"
CASE: Remington BULLET DIAM. .314"
Bullet Powder COL Starting
Charge Wt.
(grs) Velocity
(fps) Pressure
Charge Wt.
(grs) Velocity
(fps) Pressure

77 gr. LFP 231 1.555" 3.4 957 11,000 CUP 3.8 1031 12,700 CUP
90 gr. CAST LRNFP 231 1.490" 3.2 833 11,900 CUP 3.5 969 16,000 CUP
115 gr. CAST LRNFP 231 1.580" 3.2 839 11,100 CUP 3.5 915 15,600 CUP


SWC= Semi-WadCutter, FMC= Full Metal Case, FMJ= Full Metal Jacket, JHP= Jacketed Hollow Point and if GC indicated, means Gas Check at bottom of lead bullet.
Loads for .32-20 Winchester:
This necked cartridge has been around since the 1880's and was originally black powder only. If you have an old gun, use very mild loads, something that produces speeds around 550 fps for starters in pistols. The newer Ruger is stronger for the normal loads and T/C guns can handle much higher pressures and speeds in the vicinity of 1500 fps.
The OLDER guns were chambered for bullets of .312" for jacketed and .313" for lead. The newer guns have been chambered to work with .308" jacketed bullets. You must determine what the bore of your guns is and choose the correct bullet. If you used the older guns, you could use the smaller diameter bullets with some loss of accuracy. Do NOT use .312" or .313" bullets in the newer and smaller bore guns. However, one of the Ruger Blackhawk guns I came accross, had a .312" grove diameter.
Do not use anything but light loads and lead bullets in these older revolvers.
The Thompson Contender (T/C) has the smaller .308" grove. Don't use larger bullets for the T/C.

(Note: Most ARE MAXIMUM loads (except where noted), you may want to use 10% less to start.)
(See note on Powders below or read all about various Powders.)
Due to different barrel lengths, type of bullet, seating depth, primer type and other factors, you may not get near the FPS charted. It is just a guide and the reason you should start under these charges and work up.

Most are MAXIMUM LOADS: Start at 10% less and work up! Some very old 32-20 guns as well as some imported copies are very weak and may blow up with even the mildest of loads. If you load for originals, use lead, slug bore first, and be VERY careful to work up the loads.

85 Grain JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point) .312" dia
HP38 3.3 gr. 780 (starting load)
HP38 4.5 gr. 1,050 (MAX)
HS6 6.5 gr. 1,071
HS6 7.0 gr. 1,182 MAX
H110 15.5 gr. 1,617 MAX (Strong Guns Only)
231 3.2 gr. 745 (mild load)
231 4.7 gr. 1,022 MAX
Unique 4.1 gr. 742 (mild load)
Unique 4.8 gr. 967 MAX
AA No. 5 4.2 gr. 554 (mild load)
AA No. 5 5.7 gr. 948 MAX
90 Grain JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point) .312" dia
HP38 3.3 gr. 811 (starting load)
HP38 4.3 gr. 1,023 (MAX)
HS6 6.2 gr. 1,011
HS6 6.8 gr. 1,081 MAX
H110 15.1 gr. 1,482 MAX, Strong guns only
2400 11.0 gr. 1,270 MAX, Strong guns only
231 3.4 gr. 679 (mild load)
231 4.5 gr. 937 MAX
Unique 3.6 gr. 639 (mild load)
Unique 4.8 gr. 864 MAX
AA No. 5 4.7 gr. 697 (mild load)
AA No. 5 5.4 gr. 875 MAX
100 Grain Lead SWC Lyman #313631 .313" + Gas Check
231 3.2 gr. 793
231 4.1 gr. 990 MAX
Unique 3.5 gr. 689
Unique 4.3 gr. 888 MAX
AA No. 5 4.2 gr. 650
AA No. 5 5.0 gr. 891 MAX
AA No. 7 5.8 gr. 869
AA No. 7 6.1 gr. 924 MAX
AA No. 9 6.7 gr. 869
AA No. 9 7.0 gr. 924 MAX
AA 5744 8.4 gr. start load
AA 5744 9.3 gr. 900 MAX
100 Grain Speer Jacketed "Plinker" .308" dia.
HS6 5.6 gr. 849
HS6 6.6 gr. 992 MAX
HP38 3.7 gr. 838
HP38 4.1 gr. 922 MAX
------CONTENDER ONLY BELOW----------
HS6 10.1 gr. 1713 MAXIMUM and T/C ONLY
2400 13.0 gr. 1793 MAXIMUM and T/C ONLY
AA No. 9 14.0 gr. 1833 MAXIMUM and T/C ONLY
110 Grain JSP or JHP .308" dia
HS6 5.4 gr. 803
HS6 6.5 gr. 900 MAX
HP38 3.6 gr. 770
HP38 4.0 gr. 869 MAX
------CONTENDER ONLY BELOW----------
HS6 9.1 gr. 1539 MAXIMUM and T/C ONLY
2400 12.0 gr. 1594 MAXIMUM and T/C ONLY
AA No. 9 13.5 gr. 1739 MAXIMUM and T/C ONLY
115 grain LEAD RN/FP (Lyman #311008 .313" dia)
(Bull-X makes a 115gr. RN/FP bullet )
231 3.1 gr. 782
231 3.8 gr. 905 MAX
Unique 3.2 gr. 684
Unique 4.0 gr. 835
AA No. 5 3.8 gr. 649
AA No. 5 4.5 gr. 825

These are ALL MAXIMUM LOADS unless noted or a lower amount
is shown. Start at 10% less than max. and work up!

Discussion: Again, there are TWO different bore sizes in use: The .308" used in the Thompson Contender and perhaps some other modern guns. But the original bore size was .312" so you need to make sure which size you are loading for. The RIFLE loads are closer to the T/C loads, than are these milder pistol loads.
A bullet with a copper gas check or copper plating is best for INDOOR ranges to keep lead vapors out of the air.

Power Pistol, Bullseye, Unique and 2400 are products of Alliant (formerly Hercules) Powders.
Clays, Universal, HP38, HS6 and H4895 are products of Hodgdon Powders.
IMR 3031 and IMR 4895 are products of IMR (formerly DuPont) Powder Company.
N100, No. 2, No. 5, No. 7, No. 9, #2230, and #2460 are products of Accurate Arms Company
WAP (Winchester Action Pistol), WMR, WSF, WSL, 760, 748, 231 and 540 are products of Winchester, Components Div.

References: Accurate Arms Co. 1996 Reloading booklet - - Alliant Powder Co. Reloaders' Guide (1995) - - Hodgdon's Basic Reloaders Manual (1996) - - Speer Reloading Manual, #12 - - Winchester Reloading Components Manual, 14th edition - - Lyman Piston & Revolver Reloading Handbook, 2nd edition

This information is worth exactly what you paid for it, and I'm assuming, in the words of my dear departed grandmother, that you "have the good sense God gave a billy goat".

If you enjoyed reading about ".32-20 Revolvers" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!