smith and wesson 32 w.c.f. ctg or 32-20


September 24, 2012, 12:52 AM
I just traded for this pistol with a 6 inch barrel with wooden handles and the SW medallion countersunk in the top of them.It has a 5 digit serial number with the three I saw all matching.The last date on the barrel is dec.29,14.It is blue metal with fixed sight.It came with 32-20 ammo and I shot nearly a box of fifty so I know the ammo works but I do not see 32-20 caliber on the pistol.Can anyone tell me age and value and why it doesn"t have 32-20 on it?The blueing is worn and I would rate it a 7 plus scaled to ten.Thanks.

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September 24, 2012, 01:11 AM
I want to add that I got some remington high velocity 32-20 win 100 gr. lead and winchester wwx 32-20 100 gr soft point rifle or handgun cartridges and was wondering should I shoot anymore of the remingtons or any of the winchesters at all.Thanks.

September 25, 2012, 07:14 PM
.32-20 and .32 WCF (Winchester CenterFire) are different names for the same cartridge. I don't really know much about the cartridge or whether there is any commercial ammo that's good for rifle, but not safe in the revolver. Someone else will need to answer that question. If the ammo is old and scarce enough, it may be of more value to collectors than for range use.

September 25, 2012, 07:46 PM
There were high velocity loadings labeled for rifle only. All the 32-20 of recent manufacture that I've seen was standard velocity. There might very well be some old high velocity loadings still around.

The pity of it is that all the revolvers for it use older metallurgy and are limited to lower pressures.

I'd love to have something like a S&W M19 with modern metallurgy chambered for it. It has enough room to provide 32 magnum performance or better if you could put it in a modern revolver.

September 25, 2012, 10:05 PM
About .32WCF or 32-20 ammo I had some of those super high velocity rounds at one time (traded them off to a gun dealer) These rounds had an HV on the head stamp and were ment for rifles with the strength of a 92' or stronger. You risk damaging anything else not strong enough to handle them, especially older revolvers. LM

September 26, 2012, 12:49 AM
Thanks for the info.I suppose I will sell the pistol and the ammo.

September 26, 2012, 01:00 AM
You have a .32-20 Hand Ejector model of 1905 4th Change manufactured sometime between 1915 & 1923. Heat treatment of cylinders began at serial number 81287 on May 7th 1919. If the serial number is below this then I would only shoot it with low velocity lead 'cowboy' loads.
The old jacketed high velocity loads were known to strip the jacket in the barrel, with the next round fired into the jacket causing a bulged barrel.
It also predates the positive hammer block safety introduced during WWII and should be treated as a five shooter, with the chamber under the hammer left empty.

If in excellent to as new condition then it may bring a small premium from a collector. is the home of the hard core collectors. A post there with pics should get you a rough appraisal of value.

Jim Watson
September 26, 2012, 02:59 AM
If the Remington High Velocity is an 80 grain jacketed soft point, I would not put it in a revolver. About anything with a 100 grain bullet lead or jacketed is standard speed ok for revolvers.

It is an interesting old tech round. My Dad, not otherwise a Gun Person, carried a .32-20 Colt to work every day driving a city bus with protection needed from those who would steal his fares and change.

Owen Sparks
September 26, 2012, 10:04 PM
My grandfathers 32-20 S&W has the serial # 344XX. Is it suitable for modern factory loads or should it be retired?

September 26, 2012, 11:55 PM
Owen Sparks:
Your Grandfathers gun is a .32-20 Hand Ejector Model of 1905 2nd Change. Serial range was 33501 to 45200 manufactured between 1906 & 1905.
I've read different claims that S&W started advertising all their guns as being suitable for smokeless powder in 1906 & 1908. Either way your gun is probably on the cusp of any change to the steel made at that time.
That being said, the maximum pressure for the .32-20 is 16000 cup, for the .38 Special standard pressure, 17000 CUP. I doubt there is any chance of it blowing up with standard pressure lead loads. I would avoid any form of hot hand load and any jacketed bullets.
Additionally, IIRC the 1915 design change included the non positive hammer block safety that was replaced in WWII after a fatality when it failed. Your gun grandfather's gun lacks even that and should be treated as a five shooter as a precaution.

September 27, 2012, 02:23 AM
If you fellas want to continue to own and shoot these guns you can still reload for them. Starline sells the brass and likely a few places sell the bullets, cast or jacketed. So you could keep them running for years to come if you like them or given their family history in Owen's case. They may not be guns you shoot a lot but even so it would be nice to have some ammo around to aid in celebrating some special occasions or the odd day of remembering who the gun was originally owned by.

September 27, 2012, 12:53 PM
DO NOT fire 32-20 Hi-Speed or HV ammo in any 32-20 revolver, regardless of the age.

The problem was not with stripped jackets.

The problem was with the slow burning smokeless power they used back then to get the high velocity in a rifle barrel.

In a revolver, pressure could fizzle out the barrel / cylinder gap faster then the powder produced it, and result in a stuck bullet in the barrel.
The next shot would bulge the barrel.

And we continue to see a lot of old .32 WCF revolvers with ringed barrels to this day.

Todays factory loaded 32-20 ammo is safe in any vintage 32-32 / .32 WCF revolver.
It is held to only 16,000 CUP pressure.

The old HS / HV loads were 28,000 CUP.
All the factorys stopped producing it right around WWII, or shortly after.


September 27, 2012, 01:10 PM

September 27, 2012, 01:13 PM
Unless you happen to have a Benjamin burning a hole in your pocket, and you scour the internet for expensive "collector" ammo, or you somehow find some hidden ammo stash in a widow's barn, you don't have to worry to much about "accidentally" shooting old plutonium-powered ammo in your 32-20.

This is the stuff that rc is talking about.

hunnerd dollars a box

Jim Watson
September 27, 2012, 03:28 PM
Shooter's Bible 1971 still shows 80 gr .32-20 WHV "Not suitable for revolvers or Winchester 73." Was it still being made that late or was that just a carryover in their charts? I dunno.

The similar .38-40 and .44-40 HV dropped out a lot sooner.

September 27, 2012, 04:54 PM
Post #12... Is this why I see so many old 32-20s with bulged barrels? My Colt was cut to 3" after someone bulged it and I found many damaged guns while searching for a 32 WCF.

This is a caliber that demands reloading. I use the 115 lead over 4 grains of Unique and so far no problems.

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