Howdy fellow highroaders, I recently purchased a pre-1988 Iver and Johnson revolver chambered in .32 S&W. I am looking for some good info or better yet some personal experience in loading the .32 S&W short with blackpowder.
Pardon me if I've got some stupid questions on this subject, I've never loaded any centerfire cartridges with BP or smokeless, with the exception of shotgun shells.
How many grains are needed for a good standard load?
Does anyone make a mold that is affordable so I can just cast my own and not have to worry about buying pistol bullets all the time?
Do I have to use soft lead in BP metallic cartridge reloading or can I just use some of the hard lead that I have plenty of?
Will "Magnum" pistol primers affect the velocity of this diminutive cartridge in any way?
Once I get the pistol I'll post pictures, this is a sweet lil' gun. I have to fix a trigger issue, the hammer won't stay back. I'm thinking it's either that the sear on the hammer has been worn down or the sear spring is missing or broken. Either way I'm fixin' it.
I already bought some brass from a fellow and bullets from Midway USA, so that's taken care of. All I need is primers and powder and I'm set. I already have some ideas for a homemade reloader.
It seems whenever I buy an old gun I am attracted to the one in a strange oddball cartridge that you can't just go and buy at Wally World. First I get a 16 gauge shotgun and now a .32 S&W short? I hope that in 50 years I'll still be able to handload these obsolete calibers and gauges.
Any help or advice is appreciated! :)
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September 14, 2012, 05:39 PM
I forgot one thing, how do you clean the brass after you shoot BP in it? Can I just use hot soapy water and soak the fired casings? Do I need to scrub them with some kind of brush? :confused:
September 14, 2012, 06:21 PM
The case is the measure for a blackpowder cartridge. Fill the case to about 1/8 inch of the top then seat the bullet. The type of lube on the bullet is the most important factor, depending on which powder you chose. Making sure there is no dead air space is the goal by ensuring a tad of powder compression. When you tell us which powder, lube advice will be plentiful.
I use wheelweight alloy for casting bullets for black powder cartridges. Pure lead works fine, but I save the pure stuff for balls for my percussion revolvers.
I use magnum and regular primers interchangeably. You would probably see some velocity difference between the two on a chrony, but they both go bang.
Crimp tightly to encourage complete burning of the powder.
Drop your dirty brass into a container of water and a dab of dishwashing detergent. Shake, rinse, allow to dry. Tumble polish if you wish. I do. Some don't.
September 14, 2012, 06:42 PM
Thanks for the info J-bar! I am planning on using Goex FFFG Black powder, but I am going to try some Pyrodex or maybe Triple Seven, we'll see if I fee like loading with that powder. I would imagine that it would produce some decent velocity. :D
Good to know that I can use WW lead and save the soft lead for my roundballs and buckshot, very cool. I'm looking for a mold that will make some decent .32 caliber bullets, preferably a Lee since their bullet molds aren't too expensive.
I ordered these bullets from Midway USA, from what I can tell they've got some kind of waxy looking lube on the outside. They also have a lube band along the side of the bullet and weigh 98 grains.
If they are too heavy and keyhole I figured I'd try making a dye to cut them a tad shorter and shave some weight off the slugs, or try the hollow base wadcutters that Midway also sells.
As for crimping my cases I don't have a crimper, but I do have a cool idea on how I could make one.
Thanks for all the info, I'll be sure to load some up just like you said. :)
I know this load isn't exactly going to be a magnum, but I don't care. I bought this revolver for plinking and shooting rats and/or gophers. Maybe even rabbits, I'll be going hunting soon with a friend.
September 14, 2012, 06:53 PM
My blackpowder reloading experience is .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .45 Colt. I have not reloaded the .32 S&W, so I apologize for not being specific for your caliber of interest.
777 is ok with conventional smokless lube, like you already have on those bullets. I would try that first for minimal hassle. 777 does not like much compression, so fill the case accordingly, just eliminate dead air space. For Goex and Pyrodex you will want to use a "blackpowder lube". You can buy SPG, or make your own from any of a dozen formulas. I use beeswax and crisco melted together 50/50. Put the bullets on a cookie sheet covered with a couple layers of paper towels, and spread the bullets over the towels. Heat em up in an oven at 150-200 degrees until the wax melts and goes into the towels. It stinks. Do it when the wife is out. Then I dip the bullets into the melted beeswax/crisco and let them set. (Let the little buggers cool first before lubing with your blackpowder lube of course. In fact, I will put them in the fridge and chill them so more lube sticks to them.)
I doubt you will have to change the weight of the bullets. I bet you will get acceptable accuracy (this is a belly gun after all) the way they are.
My experience with 777 is it hardly comresses at all, so be guided accordingly.
September 15, 2012, 12:11 AM
J-bar, if I end up getting some more .32's I might get one of those Biglube bullet molds for the sake of cost. I was casting some bullets for my .44 today and was using a repro Remington mold, it casts a ball and a nice and pointy conical bullet. This got me thinking, I know they make these in .31 for the little pocket pistols. I'm wondering if they'd shoot in a .32 S&W cartridge, that would be fascinating to try and load some.
The heel on those bullets was small, but I bet I could crimp the brass onto the heel. This would allow for more powder to fill the brass. But I would also be shooting these pointy bullets that would probably penetrate very nicely even with medium hard lead.
I imagine they would be very effective, or just about as effective as one can get with a .32 Smith and Wesson short. Then again, I plan to shoot cans and kill pests with this pistol.
Question, could I just melt some wax and mix in some powdered graphite to lube my blue wrestlers with? Or maybe even a thin coating of beeswax to help keep the fouling soft.
Or what about some kind of wad to scrape the fouling from the barrel? I'm thinking milk carton or felt wads might work well. Preferably milk carton since it won't take up as much space and leave more room for powder.
As far as accuracy goes, I find in these smaller pistols that lighter bullets at higher velocities are more accurate. roundballs might even work! :)
September 15, 2012, 05:53 AM
I've been loading these for my IJ with pyrodex, I agree full cases for the shorts is fine with real black. If your gun is the solid frame version, "bulldog" style, I am told these are true double action guns and their is a riser that rides up with hammer is pulled back to rest under a notch and hold hammer for single action. I'm sure you'll find the problem once ya get inside Levi :)
Ya might look at Titian Reloading for a mold that will suit ya.
September 15, 2012, 02:11 PM
Majes, I've got a ton of Pyrodex. Everytime it's my birthday or Christmas my family usually goes out and buys me a pound or two of Pyrodex FFFG because they know I can use FFFG in everything from pocket pistols to shotgun shells.
Once I get this pistol apart and figure out what's wrong I'll probably be able to fix it relatively soon. If I have to order a part from Numrich that's okay. Just as long as I've got a cute little pocket .32 to plink with.
By the way, can't resist posting a picture! It'll be here Monday and I'm mighty exited! :)
Ain't she cute? :D I'll have her checked by a competent smith to see if she's safe to fire. I know a guy who's a gunsmith and goes to my trap club.
Guns are like an illness, once you buy one you gotta have them all. I think I want to get some kind of pre-99 revolver in .25 centerfire or some weirdo caliber like that.
September 15, 2012, 02:48 PM
32 S&W is a tiny case. I have only seen 1 in my 65 years and I have it in my garage. I cast 122 grain 30 cal bullets and I have one sitting in the case. With the bullet sitting all the way to the bottom of the case it looks to be the correct length with no powder in it.
September 15, 2012, 02:57 PM
the .32 S&W is indeed a very small case. If the smith says it's alright I might load some cartridges up with an 80 grain bullet and 1 grain of Bullseye, that might get me around 600 FPS. Just gotta make sure it's safe to shoot smokeless in.
The guy I bought it from tells me you can shoot .32 H&R in it, I'm not sure if that is true or not but a bigger case would allow for more BP.
September 15, 2012, 05:44 PM
.32 H&R in that?
The words Hand Grenade come to mind....
Once had a Police Positive in .32 New Police (.32 S&W long with a flatter pointed bullet) that was in sad shape. A friend wanted it and when I could not imagine why I asked and he announced his plan to take a .38 Special cylinder for the same type of Colt and install it without changing the barrel and leaving the gun loaded with what whould be +P+ .38Special ( hot even for the old .38-44 guys) in his shop where it could be found by someone breaking in. Having no desire to be associated in any way with a man trap and having no way of knowing who would end up hoist on that pitard I declined to give it to him......but .32 H&R Magnum in that gun reminded me of that little story
It is a cutey. I wonder how dead soft round ball from a .31 remmie mold might work in something like that. Perhaps use the tightest chamber in the cylinder for a bullet sizing die a la Nonte'.
BTW are you sure that is an I&J could it be an H&R young American?
September 15, 2012, 06:13 PM
Thanks for letting me know about how bad an idea that is, I like having fingers. :)
What about .32 S&W long loaded with blackpowder? I wouldn't imagine that would build too much pressure, considering most firearms are tougher than one might expect.
I am positive that it's an Iver and Johnson American bulldog, it has the words American bulldog on the top of the octagonal barrel. No adjustable rear sight, just a notch in the top strap and the blade for the front sight. I think if I figure out how to aim this little thing I could go hunt pests with it and put the ol' girl to good use! :)
I was thinking about getting an H&R .32 break top next, that would be a fun little shooter.
I think I could use a .32 roundball in this pistol, that might actually be a fine projectile. I am tempted to buy one of those Remington reproduction brass molds in .32, I have one in .44 that casts these big conical bullets that weigh about 200 grains, have a nice cone shape, a good point, and a nice heel that isn't too long. That way I can fit more powder in there, better velocity and good penetration. I think I could even shoot coon with this gun, provided I do my part and place my shot properly.
Still not a .357 Magnum, but oh well. I like old guns in obsolete calibers.
September 15, 2012, 06:19 PM
I've got one exactly like it. My intention is to holster as a pocket pistol for Cowboy Action Shooting.
Take off the grip panels, If the hammer spring is a flat spring style the gun is black powder ONLY!
If you find a coil spring instead, it is suitable for smokeless use.
September 15, 2012, 06:58 PM
Thanks for the info on my pistol!
First thing I'll do when I get it is check that spring, I'm hoping I find a coil spring.
I do have a question, can I only fire .32 S&W short or can I shoot .32 S&W longs in it?
September 15, 2012, 07:07 PM
Levi that pistol is more than 100 years old. I would only shoot what it is marked for. If it marked for the long that is what I would use. If it is marked 32 S&W that is all I would use in it.
September 15, 2012, 07:11 PM
My wife has a .32s&w long revolver that I just did some reloading for (on borrowed equipment) as part of a learning experience / mentoring (me being the student). The load we used for my few .32S&W short cases was .85gr (used a .17cc scoop) of Trail Boss under a 100 grain .312 diameter lead semi wad cutter bullet from Missouri Bullets. Also a great pointer that will work great for me and might help you find a new source of brass: .32S&W Long cases (in my case with slightly split necks) can be cut / trimmed down to .32S&W Short cases with a case trimmer and length gage. Sorry I can't help with the black powder side. YMMV, your gun is different, verify any and all loads you choose to use in your gun through a reliable published source (powder or bullet manufacturer) before using, the given data is simply an example of what worked for me in my (wife's) gun.
Best of luck
September 15, 2012, 10:58 PM
72Coupe, don't worry. I won't pull an Elmer Kieth an hot load my cartridges past factory specs, or with smokeless if this is a BP only gun. I suspect it's smokeless though, it looks like it's been used a lot and there isn't too much corrosion. Either that or the previous owner took care of this revolver and kept her clean. I mean it looks like it has had a long and adventurous life, maybe even a little beat up. But not rusted out, I'm thinking it's either smokeless or taken care of.
I have read something about the .32 S&W Long being cut down to short lengths, sorta like a .22 LR versus a .22 short, or a .357 Magnum versus a .38 Special. Very cool! I saw Midway has .32 S&W long in stock, the .32 S&W shorts were out of stock.
If I can make .32 S&W shorts with .32 Longs can I use .32 H&R, or .237 Federal cases? Is the taper significant enough to hinder proper seating of the bullet?
Sorry I've got so many darn questions, I have never loaded pistol cartridges before (except .22LR loaded with BP and fired out of a pistol but that's rimfire)
September 16, 2012, 02:53 AM
Don't go figuring that since it isn't rusty. that it is a smokeless gun.
When I mentioned that I have one that is exactly the same, I meant it.
I swear, it could be the one hanging on my rig. Maybe it has something to do with the nickle plating, the fouling shows, so the owner is more likely to bother to clean it? Mine is black powder type, and you couldn't distinguish the guns if they were side by side.
September 16, 2012, 06:35 AM
Levi, take a look at this thread to understand the 32 H&R they were talking about, it isn't the modern day 32 H&R magnum.. That would big a big no no!!!
the 32 S&W long was introduced in 1898 and the american bull dog revolvers were manufactured between 1883 and 1899. none of them were chambered with the 32 S&W Long cartridge in mind. the early alternate to the 32 S&W was the 32 M&H (also known as the 32 H&R). it had a case length longer than the 32 S&W but shorter than the later 32 S&W Long. the 32 M&H (merwin & hulbert) was loaded by most ammo companies until the WWI era although most revolver companies had switched to the 32 S&W Long before that.
I've done a bit of net research on these revolvers so feel free to PM me if I can point ya in right right direction.
September 16, 2012, 06:40 AM
By the way, it should have written on the top of the frame two lines, "American Bulldog", serial on left grip frame under grip. If it does, then it is an Iver Johnson 1st model 1883-1886.
If it has "American Bulldog written top of barrel, it's an Iver Johnson second model 1887-1889.
All of which of course were designed for black powder cartridges.
September 16, 2012, 09:31 AM
I used to load 32 S&W for an H&R that belonged to my great grandfather that was left to me. The brass will easily hold 5-7gr of 3f Goex. My personal opinion is to stay away from Trailboss in that gun, use only the powder which you can be pretty certain will NOT turn it into a hand grenade please. 7gr of 3f will take a reasonable amount of compression to get the bullet to seat at the proper depth, not to mention that it will have quite a "bark" with 7gr in it, that little grip doesn't provide much of a handle to hang onto.
I'm getting ready to take off for down south on Tuesday morning and will be gone until the ice melts up here. I have I believe somewhere around 100+/- rounds of Goex SPG lubed bullets for your gun. If you're interested in them send me a PM BEFORE Monday afternoon and I'll take them with me and send them to you for whatever the Priority Mail flat rate box would cost.
BTW, those bullets you ordered are crayon lubed and you can use them with Black Powder, just be prepared for a possible hassle when cleaning.
September 16, 2012, 10:53 AM
According to Wikipedia, spec for 32 s&w bullet is .312" dia., so I could see using a .310, 45 gr .32 Cal. round ball. It might not be a bad idea to slug your bbl first to be sure.
I would personally use only mouse fart loads in a gun this old as long as it's inspected safe to shoot.
Good find, lad. Good luck with that hammer issue.
September 16, 2012, 03:01 PM
unknwn, that's a good point I didn't even consider, thank you for pointing that out! Fouling really shows on my nickle plated .44, more so than my other guns with other finishes.
Joe, I might have to take you up on that offer! :)
I just got an email from the guy who I bought this piece from, he told me the history of this particular gun. Very interesting stuff!
Appearantly it was taken, not stolen from a crime scene in Anderson SC way back in the day. It was then given to the grandfather of the man who I got it from. He carried it and he was a railroad conductor. After he died he gave it to his son, the sellers father along with a pocket watch that his grandfather owned.
His kids were allowed to look at it but if they touched the gun they'd get the belt or a nice piece of hickory, that sounds like good discipline.
His dad didn't fire the gun very much but kept it on a shelf with a box of ammunition in a drawer. He cleaned it sometimes, that's probably why it's looking so fine. His father kept it for defense, as a last resort. Although Anderson was a safe town where you could keep your windows open and doors unlocked at the time. After his father passed away in April of 2008 he and his siblings divided up his fathers stuff, he was the one who got the revolver and the pocket watch.
He had thought about fixing it up and keeping it, but he collects die cast cars, not guns and decided to sell it. So he had it taken to a guy who checked out the firearm, told him what he had, then said Gunauction was a good way to sell it.
In the meantime, I was browsing Gunauction looking at cool old pistols, hoping to get a S&W breaktop, or perhaps an early H&R breaktop and stumbled upon this tasty ol' equalizer he had for sale.
So I bought it and I'm probably going to carry it eventually in situations where I don't need a magnum (perhaps going to go check the trot line) and give it to my kids. Lets hope they don't sell it when I go home to the great shooting range in the sky.
I think I need to read up on these old cartridges like the .32 S&W short, long, H&R, and the different lengths. As well as the .38 S&W, Elmer Kieth wrote about the .38 S&W in one of his books, I just can't remember which.:banghead:
He might have wrote something about the .32 S&W, but then again I haven't been known to have the best memory.
September 17, 2012, 10:37 PM
Good news, I got my gun today and finished fixing it! The pistol was double action only because a small spring had broken and rendered it useless as a single action. So I went and took the gun apart, cleaned the internals really well and then I tried to figure out the issue with the hammer not staying back when cocked.
I tried making a new spring for that little nub right behind the trigger that gets pushed in single action mode, and put the gun back together. It felt like the sear was trying to engage but couldn't quite hold on. So I took the gun apart then checked the sear on the hammer, it was totally round and worn down.
So I took a nice sharp file and made the sear look and function the way it should, put the gun back together, and bingo! I fixed it!
This pistol is very nice feeling in my hand, not too big and not too small. The gun actually points nicely, that's a surprise with the shallow groove rear sight and the blade sight in the front, it's actually a nice fine sight picture. The trigger pull is a tad heavy, but not too bad. The nickle has worn off a little, but I'm going to re-plate it.
She's a little rough but mechanically pretty decent now. The cylinder gap is just fine, and the head spacing seems to be just fine too. I found a single .32 S&W casing in this big box of casings I've got, it seemed to enter and exit the chamber just fine. I'll have my buddy check it out on Wednesday at the trap range, he's a gunsmith.
Congrats on the purchase and the 'easy' fix. Best of luck and great looking wheelgun!
September 18, 2012, 12:55 AM
Thanks Centurian! I'm going to do a range report now that I've found a pistol and rifle range if this gun turns out to be safe to shoot. Well, I kinda made that fix sound easy, that was just the abridged version.
I should have titled it "7 smokes, and 5 cups of coffee, and many bad words later..." :D
I checked the mainspring, this lil' sweetheart can shoot smokeless. I'll be sticking with the holy black and lighter charges of 777 though. I don't want to risk it. I don't think I'd be so quick to call this a belly gun. I might get some good accuracy with her. I don't know yet but I like the looks of those sights.
September 21, 2012, 08:34 PM
Alright guys, I just fired my first five shots of BP loaded .32 S&W shorts. To say I'm pleased with this revolver and the BP cartridges is an understatement.
Thanks to all who gave me the info I needed to load some BP .32's! :)
Now I didn't manage to get over to the gun shop to buy primers, gas is so darn expensive these days and I've got a Chevy Silverado. Did lack of primers stop me from loading and shooting my ammo today? Nope.
I took some .38 special casings and tapped out the old primers and saved them. Then I hammered out the dent my firing pin made with the tip of a depot nail that I ground flat. I soaked the anvils and cups in Hoppes Gun Scrubber and let them dry. I got some paper caps and cut the explosive compound from the paper. I put the little dot of the impact sensitive explosive into the little metal cups, straightened out the anvil, put it into the cup, then used a hammer and dowel to get the primers into the casings.
I didn't have any misfires and the primers lit the BP up just fine, I feel good knowing that if I don't have a source for primers I can simply make my own with stuff I already have! :D
September 21, 2012, 10:24 PM
Very resourceful Levi. Good going.
September 22, 2012, 03:49 PM
Thanks! I figured since I couldn't get over there to get some primers that letting that stop me wouldn't feel too good. I just love that I figured out how to reload primers! It feels like I've hit a new level of self reliance.
I'm able to cast my own bullets, load my own primers, and make my own powder. Country folk can survive! :D I think I want to get a .38/357 mold and a .32 mold next. That would be slick to be my own ammo smith.
September 22, 2012, 04:26 PM
Sounds like the Tap-o-cap idea for making #11-ish caps from soda cans and caps. Good thinking.
There were a few posts about using strike anywhere kitchen matches among ye old survivalist and later Y2K-ers. Appearently they felt that remaking primers with the striking tip material in them would work.
I do have to wonder how much glass or glass like material is in caps or strike anywhere matches to help them react to strikes and how that might effect ( or affect?) the firearm they are used in.
I made a stratigic error this week when my 11 y/o who is doing some sort of "settle the new planet" excercise at school, asked what uses there might be for mercury deposits near his settlement area. Did not seem interested in medical uses or use in thermometers, but, when not thinking, I explained mercury fulminate his little eyes lit up. I have since carefully explained the sinsitivity of Mercury fulminate and its danger to the point I think we are all safe. I really have to not try to do something else while the boy is asking me questions.
September 22, 2012, 06:48 PM
You know when I was about 14 I made nitroglycerin. It is suprisingly easy yet deceptively dangerous.
September 22, 2012, 09:38 PM
I have been thinking more and more as time goes on about making caps, if you tap the little brass cup out of spent shotgun primers (the part that is struck by the firing pin) hammer out the dent, and pinch it with some pliers it will fit on the nipple of a revolver just fine. I tried putting some paper cap explosive material in the cups and then put them through my Super Companion with some Pyrodex. They lit the powder just fine actually, it does me good to know I've got caps and primers handled.
I think strike anywhere matches would work, maybe if you were to get the material off the tip of the match, make a paste with some alcohol and the match tips, and put some into the primer cups with the anvil.
The only problem is that Diamond has started issuing "Greenlight" strike anywhere matches. The tips are green with the very tip of the match being white, and the wooden sticks are made from "responsibly recycled wood" or something like that.
You can't light em' on your teeth, or your thumbnail, or do any other cool stuff with them. They are no good at all, but that's all I can find. They are much less sensitive than the red tipped ones.
72 Coupe is right, it's surprising how easy it is to make that stuff. Some of the most powerful explosives are pretty simple. Usually only a few ingredients. When I made nitroglycerine I carefully mixed it with sawdust to stabilize it, that would make it much safer to handle.
Glad I still have all my hands and those pictures of big craters still in my mind! :D
Careful about those young ones, they usually get ideas if you tell them stuff like that. I can't tell you how many things I made when I was young that went bang. :banghead:
September 22, 2012, 11:18 PM
I forgot to post a picture of this nice ammunition. I figure it's about time I do so!
I found that I don't have to cut down my brass to use it in this handgun, I can just shoot .32 S&W longs instead. My handloads are actually loaded the same as I loaded those .32 S&W shorts, kinda like how you'd load .357's to .38 Spesh specs so you don't have to buy more brass.
The beauty of this is that with the cornmeal filler the bullet is closer to the forcing cone, leading to better accuracy than with the shorts. I think this is a fairly accurate gun to be honest. Just because a pistol has less barrel doesn't mean that it can't be useful as long as you hold and aim it correctly.
I don't think I did too bad being these are some of the first metallic centerfire pistol cartridges I have ever loaded. I think this is some pretty decent looking cartridges!