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Anyone know anything about the old .32 Rimfire's ballistics?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Ardent, Apr 5, 2006.

  1. Ardent

    Ardent Well-Known Member

    Hi folks, I'm just curious what bullet weights, and what velocities were made with those weights, were in the old .32 Rimfire back in its day.

    Would love to hear about it. I know little of the cartridge, though I'm assuming a bullet of 70-100gr and velocities on the order of 700fps. Does anyone have a case handy, who can tell me what the case length is? When did the big companies finally drop it, and did it ever go smokeless?

    Cheers and thanks!
  2. Johnny Guest

    Johnny Guest Moderator Emeritus

    No precise information, I fear.

    Perhaps a little general data and some slightly informed guesses will help a little bit.

    Most of my information comes from Frank C. Barnes's valuable reference book, Cartridges of the World. My copy is the Third Edition printed in 1976, but it has a lot of old information from the First Edition from 1966

    There were actually several .32 RF cartridges in circulation for a time:
    .32 Extra Short
    .32 Short
    .32 Long
    .32 Long Rifle
    .32 Extra Long

    The .32 Short RF was arguably the most produced. Introduced under the Smith & Wesson patent of 1860, it was used in the original S&W No. 2 and 1-1/2 tip-up revolvers which became so popular as a sidearm during the War for the Liberation of the Southern Confederacy.
    While no velocity is given in the text, we can make some fairly educated guesses based upon those .32 centerfire cartridges which immediately succeded the RF number.

    The .32 S&W (CF) was introduced in later production of the No. 1-1/2 revolver in 1878, replacing the .32 RF. Production did not fully switch over to smokeless powder until about 1940. It is logical to assume it was loaded to approximately the same level as the old BP rounds. The factory load is listed as an 85 gr. bullet at 705 fps.

    The British .320 revolver cartridge was introduced in 1870 for the Webley revolver. It was the inspiration for the later .32 Short Colt, and was manufactured in the US but discontinued in the late 1920s. Barnes wrote that it is (WAS, more likely) still made in Europe and England. Factory load: 80 gr. bullet at 550 fps.

    The .32 Short Colt (.650" case length) was introduced in 1875, and late production ammunition is said to run an 82 gr. bullet at 790 fps. It is noted that the Colt revolvers of that period were far more robust than the little tip-up S&W designs of 15 years before.

    Given the above information, a pretty good estimate of the .32 Short Rimfire cartridge specifications would be an 80-gr. bullet at about 650 to 700 fps from a 5" revolver barrel.

    For whatever it's worth. ;)
  3. Ardent

    Ardent Well-Known Member

    "For what it's worth"

    Laf, you just handed me more info than I could have hoped for, thank you very much. :)
  4. NVMM

    NVMM Well-Known Member

    Johnny Guest, thanks for that post. I have an old 32 rimfire rifle with a few boxes of cartridges left. I used to shoot it but its to hard to find 32s any more.
  5. Berek

    Berek Well-Known Member

    If you were coming to NY anytime soon, I'd give ya a box. I have one box that was included in a batch purchase... no use for it... Oh well....
  6. JackM

    JackM Well-Known Member

    C-I-L of Canada was the last to manufacture the larger rimfires in North America. From their 1971 catalogue, and probably rifle velocities.
    .25 Stevens Short - 65 grains @ 945 fps
    .25 Stevens Long - 65 grains @ 1130 fps
    .32 Short RF - 80 grains @ 945 fps
    .32 Long RF - 80 grains @ 1050 fps


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