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S&w 32-20

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by chartgpa, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. chartgpa

    chartgpa Member

    I am looking at a S&W 32-20 double action with a mat nickle or stainless finish
    not sure of model or age? it has 4 screws i think on the cover it seems to be in good condition any idea were i find info on this revolver. also not to familiar with the 32-20 caliber any advice appreciated. they are asking around $350 for it
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013
  2. jhvaughan2

    jhvaughan2 Well-Known Member

    Unless there is something odd that has come out recently, there were no Stainless 32-20. S&W only made 32-20 before the war in the K-frame. (the 38 special frame). SS was not available till after the war. Also matte nickel was not an option. It is either faded nickel or a re-finished piece. One sure way you can tell a refinish is if the hammer and trigger are nickel. S&W never did that on production pieces.

    32-20 in a revolver is actually less powerful than a .38 special. .32-20 rifle ammo should not be used in the revolvers. $350 is a good price if it is in good shape and original. If refinished it is ok for a shooter. People love to shoot them. But the ammo will be tough to find and expensive.

    The other .32 is the .32 S&W long. That is completely different and a whole different subject.
  3. Radagast

    Radagast Well-Known Member

    .32-20 Hand Ejector was manufactured from 1899 to 1940.
    Price is determined by condition. Assuming good working order, original finish and no corrosion, then $400 to $450 is probably right to a collector. Rust, refinished or broken parts would drop the price.
    Note these guns were know for bulging barrels when fired with rifle only ammo, so check the barrel for a ring in it. Modern ammo is downloaded to be safe in them.
    If the hammer and trigger are nickeled then it is a refinish, S&W always color case hardened them.
    Check that it is a S&W, there were many Spanish near copies that were basically cast iron and unsafe to shoot.
  4. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Well-Known Member


    Yup, they are all prewar. I'll bet if you look in front of the trigger guard you will see another screw, defining it as a Five Screw S&W.

    Officially called the 32-20 Hand Ejector Model of 1902 or later the 32-20 Hand Ejector Model of 1905. Last made in 1940. This one was made around 1920, I have not lettered it yet, so I am not sure exactly when it shipped.


    S&W honored the old WCF naming convention in the caliber markings on the barrel. 32WCF (Winchester Center Fire) instead of 32-20.


    32-20 was one of the old Winchester Centerfire family of cartridges, which included 44-40, 38-40, 32-20, and 25-20. Originally designed as rifle cartridges revolvers were chambered for them soon after they came on the market. In the old nomenclature, the first number stands for the caliber, the second for how many grains of Black Powder the cartridge held.

    32-20 is a fine old cartridge, but you will have difficulty finding loaded ammo. Black Hills makes cowboy loads for it, which will be safe to shoot in an old revolver, as long as it is in good condition. I just checked Midway USA and they have 32-20 Ultra Max cowboy ammo in stock which would be safe to shoot in that revolver. It ain't cheap. But what is these days?

    When you look for any of the old WCF ammo on line these days, sometimes you have to go to the rifle ammo section of a website rather than the handgun ammo section.

    In this photo the round on the right is a 32-20, the round on the left is a 38 Special. If you look carefully you will see there is a slight bottleneck to the case.


    A 32-20 Hand Ejector may not be the best idea for a casual shooter, but I am still kicking myself over one I passed up last year for $300.
  5. witchhunter

    witchhunter Well-Known Member

    I have a 4th change .32/20 and it is great to shoot, has the target sights and no recoil. sweet little pistol. a 90 grain bullet at around 850 fps.
  6. chartgpa

    chartgpa Member

    well i bought it! looking through my guides it appears to be a Hand Ejector Model of 1905 4Th change in nickel as mentioned above the hammer and trigger appear to be case hardened so I believe the nickel is original and not a refinish also unlike driftwoods my barrel is stamped 32-20
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  7. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Your barrel should be marked "32 W.C.F. CTG" on the right side as Driftwood Johnson noted.
    And Smith & Wesson on the left side.

    If it is marked 32-20, your gun is very likely an old Spanish copy of a S&W hand ejector.

    Or it has been re-barreled at some point after it was manufactured with an after-market barrel of some sort.

    Post good photo's of both sides including the barrel markings and you can get better info whether it is a real S&W or not.

    But if it says 32-20?
    I'm voting Not!

  8. Two Old Dogs

    Two Old Dogs Well-Known Member

    Current 32-20 ammunition as loaded by Remington, Winchester, etc. is suitable for either rifle or revolver. SAAMI pressure specifications are 16,000 CUP for the 32-20 and 17,000 CUP for the .38 Special which puts them both in the same basic category.

    The High Velocity Rifle Ammunition mentioned above was discontinued before WWII and carried SAAMI pressure specifications of 28,000 CUP; considerably more than revolvers of that period could withstand. This High Velocity ammunition has long been obsolete and the chances of finding it outside of a collectors marketplace are remote.

    .32-20 case necks are relatively thin and many writers of reloading books and magazine articles warn that reloading is difficult. It has been my experience that if normal care is taken, the 32-20 is no more difficult to reload than any short bottle neck cartridge.
  9. blue32

    blue32 Well-Known Member

    32WCF is certainly less punch in an older revolver like the S&W. If you have a newer Colt SAA or clone, or even one of the Ruger DA's, you can exceed 38spl +P loads in terms of foot pounds by about 100 to 150. I definitely would not try much over 850fps in a S&W.

    To compare with the 38spl, the 32 will be slightly cheaper to reload but will require lubing cases. Case life will not last infinitely like the 38. Starline is the best I've used for cases, followed by Winchester in a close second. Remington cases come in at 1.305 whereas the others only measure 1.28 or so. Yes the case necks are thin but I've reloaded about 1,300 and haven't lost one to reloading yet. The 38 uses small pistol primers whereas the 32 has loads for that and small rifle (but probably not in the loads you will use for the S&W).

    Some things to look for:
    1. how is lockup
    2. bore condition
    3. bore diameter (.312-.313) would be ideal in my opinion.

    If the revolver and cartridge turn you on then get it. I received some good help from THR members in reloading this round so don't let the perceived complexities deter you.
  10. chartgpa

    chartgpa Member

    Thnx for the info on reloading i can get 500 cases for about 120 so i will b reloading. the one box of factory ammo was 40$ for a box of 50 ouch!
  11. chartgpa

    chartgpa Member

    Been doing a lot of research sins some concern about authenticity. in regards to barrel markings according to BB values barrels made before 1928 was marked 32WCF barrels after 1928 are marked 32-20. I will have pictures soon.
  12. chartgpa

    chartgpa Member

    Another question they say to watch for bulging is this in the barrel or the cylinder i assumed it was in the barrel but post say not a problem with newer production that has a hardened cylinder?
  13. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Barrel bulging, or a ringed barrel is quite common to see in them.

    That dates back to when the Hi-Speed rifle loads with jacketed bullets were still being made.

    What happened was, the slow burning powder used in them sometimes failed to ignite properly in a revolver cylinder, and most off the pressure fizzled out the barrel/cylinder gap.

    That left the jacketed bullet stuck in the bore.
    And the next shot ringed the barrel.

    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  14. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Well-Known Member


    A hardened cylinder has nothing to do with a bulged barrel. It can happen in any firearm, no matter how old it is.

    Basically what happens is something gets stuck in the bore forming an obstruction, then a bullet is fired and slams into whatever was in the bore. Often what happens is for some reason (too light a powder charge, bad primer, no powder charge) or a variety of other reasons, a bullet stops partway down the barrel. This bullet has become an obstruction. If another round is fired after it, the new bullet strikes the old bullet. There will be arguments of exactly what happens from a physics standpoint, but the net result is the steel of the barrel directly around the obstruction gets stretched out, forming a ring inside. If pressures are high enough, the gun will blow up, perhaps at the point of the obstruction, perhaps at the cylinder.

    If nothing bad happens, and you get the obstructions out, there may be a ring left behind in the bore. It is fairly easy to see such a ring. Sometimes the ring is accompanied by a bulge on the outside of the barrel. Sometimes the bulge is barely noticeable, sometimes it is obvious. Sometimes you cannot see the bulge, but if you run your fingers down the barrel you may feel it. If there is no noticeable bulge on the outside, there may be a ring inside the barrel. They are fairly easy to spot, a bright borelight will usually reveal them. It looks like a halo on the inside of the bore. If it is deep enough, the rifling may be obliterated for a short distance. More commonly the ring is barely noticeable.

    Do not assume you have a bulged barrel because of the caliber, just look and see.

    P.S. I have dozens, yes dozens, of S&W revolvers. The only one that has a bulged barrel is an old 38 M&P that is close to 100 years old. I did not even notice the bulge until a year or so after I bought the gun.
  15. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Well-Known Member

    Howdy Again

    I know nothing about S&W marking the caliber on the barrel other than exactly as it was done in the photo I showed you.

    However, it is very simple to determine if the gun left the factory with that barrel or not.

    S&W marked the Serial Number on guns of this era in four separate places on the gun. The number at the bottom of the butt is the SN of the gun. The other three places S&W stamped the SN was on the underside of the barrel, the rear face of the cylinder, and the underside of the extractor star.

    There is a flat no the underside of the barrel, obscured by the ejector rod. Open the cylinder and look at the flat. The SN should be stamped there, just like in this photo.


    If the SN on the butt also shows up on the flat as I have shown, the gun left the factory with that barrel. If the SN does not show up on the underside of the barrel, or if it does not match the # on the butt, then the gun did not leave the factory with that barrel.

    End of story.

    This second photo shows the two other places that S&W stamped the SN on revolvers of this era, rear face of the cylinder and underside of the extractor star. Don't try to take it apart like this, you will probably break something. To see the # on the underside of the extractor star, push the extractor rod in, and peer with a strong light under the star. The number is often obscured by grease, so you may have to wipe it off.


    That's it. Always inspect all older S&W revolvers to make sure the numbers stamped in the three other places match the number on the butt. If they don't match, the revolver did not ship with those parts. If they do match, those parts are original.

  16. chartgpa

    chartgpa Member

    The barrel cylinder and butt all match did not know about the ejector! learn something new all the time on this board.
  17. Twmaster

    Twmaster Well-Known Member

    I've got a 1905 4th change in 32-20 and just love the thing. From what I've been able to track down mine was made in or near 1922.

    As always, great info to be learned in the threads here on THR.
  18. Officers'Wife

    Officers'Wife Well-Known Member

    Hi Chartgpa,

    I have a 32-20 both in revolver and lever action, a gift from my Grandfather. If I was sure of my marksmanship I would have qualm none about shooting deer or wild pig with either. Even though both weapons were manufactured sometime around the turn of the last century both are accurate and have performed admirably and well for me, my grandfather before me and his father before him.
  19. ElToro

    ElToro Well-Known Member

    i have been on the hunt for a S&W 32-20 for some time.
    my dad has the family 1892 win in .32-20 and a companion caliberd pistol would be ideal. a friend has a 1st gen colt bisley in 32-20

    its no slouch caliber properly loaded. even an old blues song.. 32-20 blues.

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