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German WWII 32acp-Why

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Byron, Nov 14, 2003.

  1. Byron

    Byron Well-Known Member

    I have seen many German WWII 32 ACP's. Whay was this caliber so poplar with the Nazi Army?
  2. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

    It was a common European police pistol caliber at the time.
  3. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member

    Continental Europeans never really had the kind of handgun epiphany experiences with extremely hostile natives that the Americans and British had, so never really devloped much of an affinity for handguns firing large caliber bullets.

    If you look at Europe in the black powder age, you had large caliber handguns, but as we entered the smokeless age, virtually every continental nation started dropping back in caliber fairly quickly. Often this included a drop in power, as well, but not always.

    The French, for example, went from their Mle 1873 11mm Ordnance round to the 8mm Lebel round.

    The Germans went from the 11mm Mauser Commission revolver round to the 9mm. Lost diameter and bullet weight, but gained energy.

    The British stayed with large-caliber rounds, all roughly .45 caliber, while the Americans went from .45 to .38 and then after the Philippines experiences, went back to .45.

    The British particularly found large caliber handguns to be desirable when fighting native warriors such as the Dervishes or the Dinka.

    Continental Europeans also tended to view the handgun more as a badge of rank and much less as a fighting weapon than either the British or especially the Americans. As such, one attraction to smaller calibers was a smaller, lighter gun hanging from your Sam Brown, or Horst Wessel, belt.

    The MAIN reason, though, why you see so many German .32s from the WW II period?

    Germany needed every handgun it could get, and often impressed handguns from other nations to fulfill the needs that couldn't be met by home industry.

    Primarily handguns in .32, .380, and 9mm were impressed into service, but other, odder calibers, such as the French 8mm Lebel and MAS .32 Long were also issued for use by troops stationed in those nations where addressing supply issues wouldn't be as hard.
  4. RON in PA

    RON in PA Well-Known Member

    Not only was the 32 ACP (7.65 Browning) the second most issued pistol cartridge in the Whermacht after the 9x19, but it remained a major, if not the most popular police cartridge in post-war Western Europe. That changed after 1972 (Munich Olympics) and the switch to 9x19 as the police caliber.

    This has been discussed before, but maybe the 32 ACP is more effective than some people would want to believe. To open a can of worms, M&S claim that the .32 ACP is as effective as the .38 Special with the 158 grain RN bullet.
  5. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Well-Known Member

    I won't go near that can of worms -- but the .38 special, until loaded near its limits, isn't all that potent a round. (No, I don't want to be shot by a .38 special round...)

    Another factor in all of this was that .32 weapons, especially those used by the Germans and Soviets, were often, in effect, BADGES OF RANK -- with mostly sargeants and officers receiving them. They weren't really expected to use them, except perhaps to prod a recalcitrant soldier forward.

    (Of course, the Soviets also issued their sargeants sub-machine guns, to help them convince their own soldiers to move forward.)

    I was reading recently that in WWII, the Soviets lost MORE 1st Lts in combat than the total US Army losses for the same period. Makes you appreciate, a bit more, the continued reverence in the Soviet Union for the sacrifices their soldiers and people made during that war.
  6. DMK

    DMK Well-Known Member

    I find it interesting that the Czechs continued to widely use .32ACP when under communist rule. They had the CZ-50 and of course the Skorpion machine pistol in that caliber.
  7. Byron

    Byron Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the responses. I have learned a lot. Byron
  8. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    Don't overlook the fact that Nazi Germany had many more armed people than just the army or the regular police. There was the notorious Gestapo (Secret State Police); the SA, some of whom were armed; the regular SS, many of whom were armed; the Waffen SS, who fought as a semi-autonomous army; the SD (originally the SS internal security force, but later semi-independent); the RFV or Treasury Police; the border police; the customs agents; the railway police; the postal service guards; the airport police; and on and on. Also each city and state had a police force and needed small pistols for its detectives and investigators. (PP means Polizei Pistole or Police Pistol; PPK means Polizei Pistole Kriminal or Detective Police Pistol - it may seem odd, but the German word for detective is "Kriminal"; the word for a crook is "Kriminelle".)

    Small pistols were not carried by Army NCO's or company level officers (if authorized pistols, they had P.08's or P.38's) but higher ranking officers usually carried .32 or even .25 caliber pistols. And then there was the Luftwaffe, which used mainly .32 pistols to arm its air crews. Plus the many soldiers who purchased private pistols for last ditch defense or to defend themselves when off duty in potentially hostile areas.

    Actually, we have many of those same types of enforcement officers who are armed. Still, the number of issue guns, and the number of people armed for official duties must have been at something of an all time high in Germany. I guess that is why it was called a police state.

  9. dsk

    dsk Well-Known Member

    As far as the Nazis were concerned, the primary use of a handgun was to put a bullet in the back of someone's head at close range. For their use the .32 was just fine.
  10. Bahadur

    Bahadur Well-Known Member

    Didn't the British officers in Ulster/Northern Ireland carry Walther PPKs when off duty? Were they in .32 ACP or .380 ACP - does anyone know?
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2003
  11. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Well-Known Member

    Jim Keenan wrote:

    I had not come across the fact that NCOs and lower-level officers were never issued smaller caliber guns in the German Army, but that makes very good sense.

    And as I think about it, the examples I had read about were primarily Soviet troops and not German/Wermacht. (When I responded, I was simply wrong on that point.)

    The German Army was often VERY PRACTICAL. Even their cooks and other support troops were rifleman -- their military units were considered more effective than the comparable Allied units because of that -- fewer non-combatant troops per unit; they all carried weapons and fought when on the march or once in place. (They were more like US Marine units than the standard US ARMY units, in that regard. As it has been explained to me, each unit's support troops were support troops mostly when the action slacked off, and riflemen otherwise.

    It makes sense, then, that the men who had to really be in combat had more effective handguns.
  12. flinch

    flinch Well-Known Member

    .32 acp is the most civilized handgun caliber made. Light weight, effective without a mess, accurate and easy to shoot well. Some of the most attractive handguns made : Mauser, Colt, Walther, FN etc. all use this caliber. It started WWI too.
  13. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    I don't know if the correct word is "civilized" or "ineffective", but the pistol used by Gavrilo Princip to kill the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was not a .32 caliber Browning 1900, even if one American "expert" did say that and it has been repeated endlessly.

    Serbian Major Vojin Tankosic provided the four pistols used by the assassination team. They were Model 1910 FN pistols in caliber 9mm Browning Short (.380 ACP). The serial numbers were 19074, 19075, 19120 and 19126.

    They were in a Vienna museum up to WWII, when they disappeared during the Soviet occupation of Austria.

    This information has been provided by Prof. Jiri Vojta in the NAPCA magazine and in other publications, with pictures, but the .32 Model 1900 story persists.

    As to the carrying of the P.08 (Luger) and P.38 pistol by German Army NCO's and company officers, I am going mainly by pictures of army units in action. The service pistols were also carried by such troops as machinegun crews and by some artillerymen. While the U.S. issued carbines to many support troops, pistols were issued in both armies to troops who had to use their hands for other functions or to serve other weapons and who could not easily carry a rifle. One example is that the U.S. issued pistols to combat photographers whose main "weapon" was a Speed Graphic or a Keystone movie camera.

    One sidelight is that some of the Walther "wartime commercial" HP pistols were bought by soldiers who wanted a personal weapon that used the standard ammo and could be repaired by the unit armorer, but which could be kept after the glorious German victory. There was a small problem with the latter part, but it was a good idea at the time.


  14. Blackhawk

    Blackhawk Member In Memoriam

    Thanks, Jim.

    Another venerable chestnut gets tossed into the fire! :D

    I especially liked your tests of firing a .45 with a plugged barrel proving that the gun wouldn't kaboom.
  15. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member


    Thanks for the kind words on the Sarajevo gun, Blackhawk, but please watch those statements about plugged barrels. The test was not just of "a plugged barrel". It was of a barrel plugged in a very specific way so that the bullet could not move when the round was fired. The idea was to prove that the recoil in response to bullet movement was what operated the gun, not the gas pressure by itself.

    If the barrel is plugged at any other point, like part way up or at the muzzle, the gun will most definitely KA-BOOM!

  16. SnWnMe

    SnWnMe Well-Known Member

    It was effective against the French.
  17. cigarman

    cigarman Member

    It was Browning's personal favorite, too. As a matter of fact he only developed the .380 due to specs requiring that caliber. And when he had to design it he simply increased the size of the .32 design. he didn't think that the gain in ballistics was worth it.
  18. Blackhawk

    Blackhawk Member In Memoriam

    Understood, Jim, but I still don't know anybody else who's as interested in those finer points of the physics and mechanics of guns to discuss your experiments with so I haven't inadvertently misled them with any imprecise words. However, in an abundance of caution, let me revise and extend my remarks:
    After all, this is a public forum accessible by everyone.... :what:
  19. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    Hi, Blackhawk,

    Yes, I was worried someone would misunderstand.

    Actually, a blocked barrel in a .45 won't really cause a kaboom, but it will cause a bulged and maybe a split barrel, which (depending on how much of a bulge) can prevent removal of the barrel and you have to cut it out with a cutting tool. Been there, done that. Lots of fun.

    Hi, guys,

    A note on .380 ACP. JMB started out designing his pistols for rimmed revolver ammo. He soon realized that didn't work well with a magazine, so he cut the rims down as much as possible, creating the semi-rimmed case. .32 ACP, .25 ACP, 9mm Browning Long and .38 ACP are all semi-rimmed, and are supported on the rim. But in 1904, he came up with the .45 ACP, then with the .380 ACP (9mm Browning Short), both of which are supported on the case mouth. What happened to cause the change? Well, back in Germany, Georg Luger had a problem. The army wanted a 9mm cartridge and poor Georg had only a 7.65mm round for his Luger. If he expanded the neck to 9mm, there would be too little shoulder to support the case. So he came up with (or maybe borrowed) the idea of supporting the case on its mouth.

    Georg brought some 9mm pistols and ammunition to the U.S. in 1903. I can't prove that JMB got the idea of a rimless case supported on the mouth from GL, but it seems quite possible.


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