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.32-20WCF or .25-20 or...?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Furncliff, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. Furncliff

    Furncliff Well-Known Member

    Most of my shooting and all of my reloading is either rim fire or pistol caliber. I've started to become interested in the older cartridges and firearms. But I need some advice on which to choose. I want to reload what ever I choose and I know that some calibers are tough because of thin walls etc.

    Which of the older calibers do you enjoy shooting?
  2. DMH

    DMH Well-Known Member

    Nice to see someone interested in .32-20 and .25-20 I have and shoot a .32-30 1892 model Winchester from 1908 I have found loads from 80 gr. lead round nose to 120 gr. there are some 100 and 115 gr also. I have not started reloading this caliber yet but have found brass, which is a seasonal run so grab the brass when you find it. #6 1/2 primer and I found a guy at big lube bullets with a nice 80 gr. bullet mold. I plan on loading with black powder. The .32-20 is very mild to shoot. No real recoil to speak of. The down side is that it is on the weak side for any deer hunting. I know people can and have harvested deer with the 25-20 and the 32-20, but there are better cartridges for the job. So when I first started looking at the .32-20 I was thinking what could I use this cartridge/caliber for, well for trigger time it is fun, but more expensive than rimfire. For small game it is over kill, for turkey and coyote its great. But it is fun, not everyone has one and did I say its a pleasant round to shoot. The factory loads for .32-20 are very light. My dad is 88 years old and last week out shooting at the 100 yard range it was the 1892 Winchester rifle he wanted to shoot most. Good luck with your choice ether one will be fun.

  3. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Well-Known Member

    Starline does a run of 32-20 brass ONCE a year.

    Order as much as you want now.
    You'll get it eventually.

    I like the 32-20, but you will hate reloading it until you get a Lee factory-crimp die.
    32-20 brass is so thin in the neck that it will buckle (ruining the case, or causing all sorts of mis-feeds and/or light strikes), unless you use the factory-crimp die.

    Did I mention you MUST have the Lee factory-crimp die if you expect to reload 32-20?


  4. kelbro

    kelbro Well-Known Member

    I love shooting my 25-20. It was my first centerfire and doggoned if it isn't one of the trickiest to reload. Chamfer and flaring tools along with good dies and a smooth stroke on the press will prevent most crushed cases.
  5. Cherokee

    Cherokee Well-Known Member

    32-20 is great fun !! Been shooting & reloading it since the 70's. Got two Marlin original 1889's and one factory & two custom Rugers. Do Not need a Lee FC die, just be careful seating, then crimping the loads. Uniform case length really helps. Never used the 25-20.
  6. Jesse Heywood

    Jesse Heywood Well-Known Member

    I have been loading the 32-20. Cases are about the same as the 25-20. At first I ruined quite a few cases. I slowed down, and had less problems. Must have hit up Starline at the right time, I ordered and about two months later had cases. I have one rifle and three handguns in the caliber.
  7. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    I love the .32-20 and load it for both rifle and sixgun. IMHO, it's easier to load for than folks would have you believe. You'll ruin a few cases until you get a feel for it but I reload it without incident and do not have a Lee die anywhere.
  8. Missionary

    Missionary Well-Known Member

    I have reloaded the 32-20 for some years and I would say start there. Those little 25 caliber bullets are getting tougher on my fingers to work around into case mouths.
    Beyond that I do a little paper punching and far more varmit elimination when I am up north there. The 32.20 is far better at dispatching fat ground hogs than the 25-20 & when trying to see bullet holes at 100 yards a big hole is always easier to see.
    Mike in Peru
  9. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Well-Known Member

    Y'all can keep on going in smug sufferance without the Lee factory crimp die.

    Its not expensive, and there is no question that it significantly improves the process of loading the 32-20.

    Some people just refuse to give up their mule.
  10. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    Not at all, I just see zero gain in adding another step with the FCD to my loading process. Never did. Probably never will.
  11. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

    I got a full set of Lee does from Midway and plan on using Ultramax brass. (I bought 5 boxes of .32-20 cowboy ammo so I have 250 pieces of brass to mess around with before buying starline.) Midway offeres up several 113-120 gr .32 cal lead bullets with gas checks already installed which should cut down on leading.
  12. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    I load .32-20 without one. No worries. Be careful crimping though. It is easy to buckle a case.

    Not smug, and don't have a mule.

    I am sure the FCD for .32-20 works just fine, but to say one "MUST" have it to load .32-20, is incorrect.

    PS, I would love to have a Marlin like yours. :)
  13. 10 Spot Terminator

    10 Spot Terminator Well-Known Member

    LOVE THE 32-20 !!!

    Been loading for a rare Savage Sporter bolt gun for over 10 years and all who have had the chance to shoot this little gem tried to buy it on the spot. With certain lever guns and both the Savage and Winchester bolt guns you can load them nearly 30% hotter than for the universal pistol rifle loads. My sweetheart 90 gr. HP load runs 1965 fps and took a nice Mulie fork horn for me last year. As for those talking about ruining some cases I am thinking this is during bullet seating as had happened with me a few times. I beat this with a Lee case flaring tool . This is a must especially if loading cast boolits as they can run larger for diameter .The 32-20 dies run tight as the production bores on some older firearms ran as does my Savage at .310 where most later on were at .312 and the necks of sized brass had to be tight enough to hold the smaller .310 bullets snugly. Casts can run .313 or higher. Crimp the smaller diameter loads with the Lee Factory crimp die but for the larger softer cast bullet loads I prefer no crimp at all and flare the case necks a bit heavier to reduce deforming of the bullets as much as possible when seating them. They will be plenty tight I assure you. If you must have proof just see how much force it takes to pull down a loaded round.

    10 Spot
  14. RevGeo

    RevGeo Well-Known Member

    One little story about the 32-20. I bought a mint condition '94 Marlin octagon barrel 32-20 several years ago at a gun show. I also bought a large bag of used but clean and tumbled brass at the same time.
    I loaded up some light loads with a Lyman cast bullet and Bullseye using Lyman data.
    On the third shot the case separated just ahead of the rim. A bunch of hot gas and powder granules blew back through the firing pin hole in the rifle's bolt right into my face. Thank god I was wearing my sunglasses. It burned the @#$% out of my nose and cheek.
    I got the remains of the case out of the chamber with a cleaning rod and upon inspecting it I noticed for the first time it was stamped .32WCF indicating it was an old and, possibly, balloon head case. The bag of brass was a mixed bunch of brands with some stamped 32-20 and some stamped .32WCF.
    I trashed all the brass and have reloaded for the old rifle with NEW brass only since.

    The point being that there still is a lot of old brass for these antique calibers floating around and if you buy used brass make sure it is the modern stuff.
    Having said that, I love the 32-20 cartridge and use it on squirrels, rabbits and grouse (legal in my state). I have no experience with the 25-20, but a friend has an old Stevens in that caliber and it is his main small game gun.

  15. DM~

    DM~ Well-Known Member

    I no longer own a 32-20, but i do still own a S&W 25/20WCF revolver and also a T-bolt single shot rifle, both chambered for 25/20WCF.

    It's a great round, i like to use lighter hand loads in the revolver for small game hunting, it's put a lot of small game on my table and into my freezer...

  16. Redneckly33

    Redneckly33 Well-Known Member

    I'm loading for the 25/20. I bought new Brass for it. I'm trying to load it on a Dillon RL550 B. Talk about a trip in frustration. I ruined the first 9 cases I put in the Press. First problems was with the Resizin die. Got that straightened out and then the Powder funnel was hanging on the case and tearing the thin neck. Once I got that fixed, I new I had to go slow, and slow I went. I've fixed all of these problems by buying a single stage press. Lee Classic. Easy and slow, that's the best way to load for these thin wall cases. That was the worst session I have ever experienced on the Dillon Press. That stuff ain't made for a Progressive press.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2011
  17. bangaway

    bangaway Well-Known Member

    I shoot several .32-20 rifles and revolvers. Accurate, I drive nails in rail fences at 60 yards with a four digit marlin 94, and quiet. Factory did load a 115 gr. head at 1700 fps some time ago. I handload for a new marlin 94 at 1800 fps/115 gr. and shoot anterless whitetails. Not so quiet. I shoot the savage 23B, .25-20, bolt action with hornady 60 gr./2000fps at gophers. Just started shooting the lyman 257420 and nosler's 85 gr. blue tip ballistic tip. I like the .32-20 most. It has more new heads and wider choice of weights than the .25-20. The .32 cal. 85 gr. xtp looks interesting. Both these calibers had reps. for killing game and not ruining meat with the larger heavier .32-20 being preferred. Have fun and bangaway.

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