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Old January 23, 2015, 09:14 AM   #1
Herk30
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Question on .32-20

I recently picked up a 32-20 revolver and while completing the deal the shop owner and another customer both agreed that 32-20 ammo for pistols is different than rifles. I assumed 32-20 is 32-20, just like 44 mag is 44 mag, 357 is 357 etc. The only reason I bought it is because I have my grandfathers 32-20 lever action and thought it would be a fun round in a pistol. So how about it?
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Old January 23, 2015, 09:28 AM   #2
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I have a very old 32-20 handgun, from around 1905 I think, and it shoots regular 32-20 ammo. Everything I have seen indicates that the rifle and handgun ammo is the same.

I HAVE read that some ammo is made specifically for more modern versions of the gun and maybe that is what they are saying.
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Old January 23, 2015, 11:11 AM   #3
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there are power levels for the 32-20 that you do not want to cross because you gun is from the days of the power levels.

rifle had a high velocity load, and handguns had a lower velocity load.
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Old January 23, 2015, 11:18 AM   #4
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I have reloading books that have separate sections for .44 magnum handgun loads vs. .44magnum rifle loads. So I'd imagine the same could be true for any handgun rounds used in rifles too, that rifle ammo can be safely made substantially hotter than pistol, and they shouldn't be interchanged.

Of course, the milder loads could be used in both guns. I have some .44mag ammo for my Winchester that are just punishing in my Virginian Dragoon.
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Old January 23, 2015, 11:48 AM   #5
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Your looking at pressures, so think about the pressure vessel. On a rifle you have a nice thick piece of steel at the breech, on a revolver you have a comparatively thin cylinder wall. It's true that a rifle can take much higher pressures due to the beefy design, BUT we live in the era of the lawsuit so rounds potentially being used in handguns are built to handgun levels. If your buying ammo off the shelf your most likely in good shape (ask manufacturer) and if your reloading just do a new workup.

If your buying ammo, consider reloading. 32-20 is one of those oddball calibers where you pay a premium just to get the ammo. It is much much cheaper to handload than it is to buy ammo.
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Old January 23, 2015, 11:55 AM   #6
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I have plenty of supplies to reload 32-20 for quite some time. I'll start out low and see what we get. Thanks for all the input
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Old January 23, 2015, 12:20 PM   #7
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Maybe nobody who has replied is old enough to remember what the deal was. I'm old enough, it's the remember part that is kinda shaky.

The rounds that came in the box labeled Winchester SuperX 80 grain were (I maybe remember) manufactured with the Winchester model 1892 in mind. The 'standard velocity' 120 (was it 100?) grain rounds were intended to match up with the black powder rounds in chamber pressure, to be safe in the older guns out there, both rifle and revolver. Just how one identifies those, I dunno.

There by golly, that ought to be a load of... help.

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Old January 23, 2015, 12:50 PM   #8
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In modern factory ammo, it is loaded to pistol levels, unless the box is marked for rifle only. The difference is enough not to shoot rifle only ammo in antique pistols.
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Old January 23, 2015, 12:56 PM   #9
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+1

It's all the same thing today.

Hi Velocity rifle ammo has not been manufactured for at least 50 years.

If you find old 32-20 ammo with jacketed bullets, beware.

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Old January 23, 2015, 03:55 PM   #10
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First, a couple of good reads on the .32-20
http://www.leverguns.com/articles/paco/3220wcf.htm
http://www.sixguns.com/tests/tt3220.htm

If you are going to load the .32-20, get a copy of Ken Water's Pet Loads. An excellent source load information.

What I have learned about the .32-20. I currently have some handguns for the caliber, both single and double action. I had an old Marlin 94, but sold it.

There are two different case sizes for the caliber. For my Colt double actions, the case size is slightly shorter. If you don't have an old Colt, this won't bother you. All other guns, including the Italian copies use the larger case. If you have a mix, you need to set the sizing die to bump the shoulder back a little farther. The sized cartridge can also be used in the non-Colt guns.

Also, the new Marlin 1894 in .32-20 (now disc.) is bored for a .308 caliber bullet. Don't mix the ammo. If you are loading for the new Marlin you will need a smaller expander.

My last note is to obtain the RCBS Cowboy dies. These allow you to bump the shoulder back for the Colt without trimming the die. And the expander and seater are made for the lead bullets.

My thanks to members of this forum for their assistance in learning about this round. It has become my favorite.
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Old January 23, 2015, 05:05 PM   #11
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I have an old Colt .32-20 revolver that I've never fired. I bought some modern "cowboy" loads for when I get around to shooting it. Can I assume these are safe? (The bullets are plain lead.)

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Old January 23, 2015, 05:10 PM   #12
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Yes they are safe.
(unless they are somebodys reloads)

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Old January 23, 2015, 05:18 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcmodel View Post
Yes they are safe.
(unless they are somebodys reloads)

rc
They're commercial -- Ultramax, I think.

Thanks -- now I've got the urge to go out and shoot this gun! It's been locked in the cabinet since I bought it.
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Old January 23, 2015, 06:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcmodel View Post
+1

It's all the same thing today.

Hi Velocity rifle ammo has not been manufactured for at least 50 years.

If you find old 32-20 ammo with jacketed bullets, beware.

rc
One thing I learned from James Bond: Never Say Never. Some youngster will try to prove you wrong.

Roughly 10 years ago I went on a search for .32-20 ammo when I visited Tulsa. Went to two shops, found a box of ammo at each. At the time I thought $20 was high. In a few months one couldn't buy a box for $30.

I have never fired any of the any gun rounds, but I did fire a few of the rifle in my 94.

I don't know how to date the boxes, but my guess is from the 90s.


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Old January 23, 2015, 06:20 PM   #15
Don McDowell
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Herk30 View Post
I recently picked up a 32-20 revolver and while completing the deal the shop owner and another customer both agreed that 32-20 ammo for pistols is different than rifles. I assumed 32-20 is 32-20, just like 44 mag is 44 mag, 357 is 357 etc. The only reason I bought it is because I have my grandfathers 32-20 lever action and thought it would be a fun round in a pistol. So how about it?
All 32-20 ammunition available today is loaded to Saami spec and is safe for use in even the originally built 32wcf guns rifle and pistol alike.
For a short while after smokeless powder and the model 92 Winchester got to rolling, Winchester did offer a high velocity load specifically for and labeled as such for use only in the 92's.
After world war 2 Winchester, Western, Peters, and Remington did offer 32-20 ammunition in both jacketed and lead bullet loads, but all were the standard velocity.
Follow the load recipe's in the recent Lyman reloading handbooks or the data on Hogdons and Alliant's web data and all should be well providing your guns are safe to shoot in the first place.
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Old Yesterday, 03:12 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don McDowell View Post
All 32-20 ammunition available today is loaded to Saami spec and is safe for use in even the originally built 32wcf guns rifle and pistol alike.
I have my doubts about that. If the MV quote here is real, regardless of barrel length, this sounds like a non-SAAMI pressure load.

http://www.venturamunitions.com/load...mmo-50-rounds/

I'm not certain they're actually making that stuff, though. I don't bother to watch this site regularly, but if I've ever seen this in stock, it was over two years ago.

Anything with more pedestrian velocity claims is fine. Ultramax comes in a nice box, but it's quite feeble and you can save a half-dozen bucks on other brands that work as well.

Toivo, save your brass! I have a similar Colt, which is why I got into reloading. I like shooting it more than I expected, and rapidly got tired of paying over fifty cents a round for factory ammo that performed like a glorified .22 LR. You can make better ammo for a quarter of the price, even if you buy your bullets pre-cast.
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Old Yesterday, 11:04 AM   #17
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The ultramax stuff is loaded for the Cowboy squib shooters, so yup it's really anemic.
The velocity in your link is about right maybe a touch slow in a rifle, but be that as it may, they do have the dark highlighted line that says it's for modern arms only and not to be used in original guns.
5 grs of unique under a 100 gr bullet was my favored load for use in both the Colt and the Winchester. The Winchester and Marlin 94 both shot very well with a good dose of 2400 ,but one seemed a bit warm for the Colt, never had any case sticking problems, but it did have a good crack to it.
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Old Yesterday, 01:57 PM   #18
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This is a Smith from the early 1900's. I think 1908 but I don't recall. I bought this one box of ammo, it was all that was available, and have shot exactly 18 rounds. I saved the brass and may buy dies to reload if I get a hankering one day.
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Old Yesterday, 03:55 PM   #19
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Please reduce the size of your pictures.
"...ammo for pistols is different than rifles..." Yep. Remington 20 round boxes of .44 Mag are rifle loads. 50 rounders are handgun loads. Not all companies do that though. Winchester only loads .32-20 as a rifle cartridge.
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Old Today, 05:07 AM   #20
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Main thing is for your pistol, stick to lead bullets. Jacketed bullets will not slug up to fit the barrel if it's a bit oversize, and for any given powder weight will generate higher pressures due to greater bore friction.
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Old Today, 01:13 PM   #21
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As stated by RC, et al, above, and with the *possible* exception of the item I linked to, all 32-20 made today conforms to SAAMI pressure and should be safe to shoot in revolvers made after the blackpowder era (except for Spanish-made knock-offs, which are supposedly unsafe at any speed).

Winchester and Remington's current 100 gr. lead RNFP loads claim 1200 fps, which is doubtless from a rifle or a long (i.e. 10" or more) test barrel, but it is OK to shoot in a revolver. (Not that the stuff ever seems to be in stock. I doubt they're making any when they can't keep up with demand for more popular calibers. Maybe they'll finally catch up this year?) The 115 gr. "cowboy" stuff that claims only around 800 fps might be loaded a little lighter, but I'll bet most of the difference is the heavier bullet and probably measuring it from a revolver. It would be interesting to contact Load-X or Ultramax and ask what they use for a test gun.

The true "rifle-only" Hi-Speed loads made 50+ years ago had 80 gr. JSP or JHP bullets and ran close to 2000 fps from a rifle. Don't load any old jacketed ammo in a revolver, just in case you've found some rare old stuff.

The top strap on my old Colt is about the thickness of two playing cards, so I treat it pretty gently. I've mostly shot it with 3.5 gr. of Unique or 2.5 gr. of Trail Boss under 118 gr. Saeco bullets. I've made a few with 4.2 gr. of AA #5, which is a bit more authoritative, by the sound of it. Haven't chronoed any of these. I also have 90 gr. swaged Hornady SWCs, 98 gr SWC from RCBS mold, and 100 gr. plated RNFP from Rainier (for the indoor range that doesn't allow naked lead). The swaged SWC shoot closest to POA at 25 yards, but I find them a pain to load: too easy to shave lead off the sides.
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