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32-20 Revolvers, anything I should know?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by content, Jul 15, 2011.

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  1. content

    content Member

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    Hello friends and neighbors,

    I'm looking for a revolver in 32-20, most likely a Colt or S&W, to go with an1885 DOM, Winchester model1873.

    Is there anything I should know about these that differs from say a S&W M&P .38 special when checking them out.

    The tapered cartridge has me wondering about checking out the cylinder.
    The number of nickle ones for sale makes me wonder if they are potentially hard used Police/Military turn ins?

    Also is there a "best" decade of manufacture to look for in hopes of finding a good shooter.
     
  2. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Member

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    Nothing special about the 32-20.

    Many of them are quite old.

    Common problems on old revolvers are pitting and mis-timing.
     
  3. Ala Dan

    Ala Dan Member in memoriam

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    Not many stores, gun shops, etc. carry ammo for the .32-20; without them
    jumping thru extra hoops too find factory fresh cartridges. We try to keep
    an adequate supply on hand; but they are a bit more expensive than say a
    box of .38 Special's~! :uhoh: ;)
     
  4. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    A very common problem with those old 32-20 revolvers is a ringed or bulged barrel.
    You will probably see lots of them if you look at enough of them.

    It stemmed from folks shooting 32-20 WCF Hi-Speed rifle ammo in them many years ago when it was still being sold.

    The slow burning rifle powder would sometimes not burn cleanly in a revolver and pressure would fizzle out the barrel/cylinder gap.
    That left the jacketed bullet stuck in the barrel.
    The next shot ringed the barrel.

    I have not seen any cylinder problems, but have certainly seen a lot of them with ringed barrels.

    All current 32-20 WCF ammo is suitable for use in rifles & handguns.

    rc
     
  5. Dr_B

    Dr_B member

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    You should know that Robert Johnson had a song about the 32-20.
     
  6. MMCSRET

    MMCSRET Member

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    One of the most commonly seen and very good 32-20 revolvers is the Colt Army Special. It is a double action built from 1908 to 1926 or so. They are very well designed and built and are not horribly priced. I have two of them and cast, load, and shoot them regularly.
    The Italian copies of the Colt SAA also come in 32-20 in a wide range of prices.
     
  7. Radagast
    • Contributing Member

    Radagast Contributing Member

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    S&Ws .32-20 Hand Ejector Model of 1905 4th Change with a serial number greater than 81287 will have a heat treated cylinder, so less chance of it bulging or cracking with a poor load. RCModels advice about barrels still applies. Treat these guns as five shooters, as they lack a positive internal hammer block safety and could potentially fire if dropped. The S&W .32-20 was discontinued in 1940, so all guns in this caliber are old and spare parts will be from a second hand gun/ gun wrecker. On the plus side the S&W lockwork is more durable than the Colt, so you will have less chance of requiring spares or a gunsmith who knoqws what he is doing. If you load hot for your rifle then mark those cases so they don't end up in your revolver.
     
  8. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Member

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    That would be the one where he extolls the superior effectiveness of the 32-20 by comparison to the .38 Special. Mr. Johnson is certainly a blues legend. Clearly, he didn't know much about firearms though.

    Old 32-20 innards.
    [​IMG]
     
  9. JellyJar

    JellyJar Member

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    USFA makes 32-20 handguns. Pricey but good guns!
     
  10. LightningMan

    LightningMan Member

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  11. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    If you plan on reloading tapered cartridges are a real pain to deal with. The new .327 Magnum will out preform it with a straight walled case but ammo will be nearly as hard to find as the .32-20. There is a reason they quit making it. The modern .357 Magnum will out do anything the best of the .32's will do in the same sized revolver and ammo can be found anywhere. Try finding .32-20 at WallMart.
     
  12. content

    content Member

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    Thanks for the great tips all and for the much respected knowledge here.
    The only reliable info I had found was concerning heat treating the cylinders about 1920 in the serial number range provided by Radagast.

    Ala Dan-I grabbed some .32-20 ammo from $37.00 to $47.00 locally so I probably have all I need for a bit.

    rcmodel- I have seen one with a barrel buldge and now know to check for a blue ring-- outstanding.

    Dr B- I believe R.J. mentions a "gatlin gun" in .32-20 blues as well as the incorrect comparison to .38 special being "mos to light." as W.E.G> pointed out.

    MMCRSRET - You have the mindset I need "cast, load,shoot". I do like the Colts and have been looking at them and the Smiths. Best revolver at the best price all else equal between the two.

    Radagast- I'll look for a S&W as close to the 1940 cut off as possible and definately after 1920.

    W.E.G.,-Nice pic, it does look like a sturdy set up.
    I probably won't shoot the revolver or the Winchester 1873 too much but when the mood strikes I like to be ready.

    JellyJar - USFA is new to me I'll check them out tonight.

    Lightning Man - I may be dusting off the old Lee loader all to soon.
    Time is a factor but shooting .44mag , .30 carbine and now.32-20... price might soon override time.

    Owen Sparks -- Are you saying .327 mag will work in a .32-20 revolver?
    This is new to me but interesting, I'll check into it.

    Bad form to start a thread and disappear but I had an offer from a lady I could not refuse last night and am loading up several rifles,shotguns and handguns I have not shot yet to function test today.

    "Should" be an outstanding 86 degree shooting day for all here in upstate S.C. (103 a few days ago)

    Thanks again to all of you for the great info, if I stick around long enough I may even learn something.:D
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2011
  13. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Owen Sparks -- Are you saying .327 mag will work in a .32-20 revolver?

    I'm not Owen, but it won't.
    The .327 is an interesting niche round but it is not what you need if you want a companion revolver to a .32 WCF rifle. There have been some combo revolvers with .327 and .32-20 cylinders but they are mostly expensive custom propositions.

    You will occasionally see S&W Military & Police and Colt Army Special, Official Police, or Police Positive DA revolvers in .32-20 for sale. But of course they considerably post-date your 1873 Winchester. Original Colt SAA .32s are going to be expensive. For occasional use on what a friend calls Ceremonial Occasions, an Italian repro would be one way to go.
    Buffalo Arms has Ubertis. The only version in stock is a 7 1/2" with "black powder" frame. That is going to be a heavy gun but they do not have any 4 3/4" or 5 1/2" guns on hand. You could ask or get on backorder.
    http://www.buffaloarms.com/Detail.aspx?PROD=161468&CAT=3925
     
  14. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    No it will not. My point is that the new .327 Magnum will out preform the .32-20 and is much easier to reload because the case does not taper. My choice would be to forget the .32's all together and get something chambered in .357 magnum that you can afford to shoot.

    BTW I have a .32-20 Smith & Wesson revolver and it will not do anything that a .38 special will do.
     
  15. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    There is nothing hard about reloading 32-20 WCF tapered case.
    I have loaded it for close to 20 years for use in a 92 Winchester and a Colt SAA.

    The only problem you might run into when loading for two different guns is, there has been a long-standing disagreement on chamber dimensions for all three WCF cartridges. The 32-20, 38-40, and 44-40.

    Winchester used one chamber design, and Colt used a different one.
    I'm not sure what S&W did.

    Modern reloading dies do not return the case shoulder to it's original position, instead bowing to Winchesters design, and reloads may or may not fit the other brand gun in question. Factory loads have the shoulder far enough back to fit anything.

    The solution is to grind about 1/8" off the bottom of the sizing die, and then adjust the die to return the shoulder to its factory location.

    rc
     
  16. Claude Clay

    Claude Clay Member

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    RC--
    i have 2, a S&W and a Colt. one has that 'ring' -- very slight bulge
    as it was his dad's gun and he had no explaination for it. as its accuracy is unaffected, i bought it.
    thanks for that bit of possibe info.
     
  17. I'm3rd

    I'm3rd Member

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    .327 magnum ammo is available at several sources in my area (north GA) but it is definitely on the pricey side. That may change as .327 guns become more common and ammo makers produce more of it. IMHO if anybody wants a .32 caliber revolver today the only practical choice is a .327 mag which will handle any .32 handgun cartridge except the semi-rimmed .32acp and the tapered-case .32-20. I think it's highly probable that production of .32 H&R magnum guns will soon be discontinued. However, there are probably more than enough .32 H&R mag guns in service now to keep the ammo in production for a long time to come.
     
  18. Justin Holder

    Justin Holder Member

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    Just out of curiosity, what kind of price would an old shooter quality S&W 32-20 bring?

    I ask because at the last gun show I attended a guy had one for sale, it was a 4" model in fairly decent condition considering its age. He wanted $400 and I passed. Would it have been worth that much from a non collector's standpoint?
     
  19. waidmann

    waidmann Member

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    An S&W 1905 Chg 4 of the standard mentioned by Radagast with correct grips and a 4 inch barrel, not the more common 5 inch, might just bring $400 in nice shape.
    Of the most common variants, Police Positive, 1905 M&P, and Army Special/Official Police, the latter on a .41 frame is likely the most robust.
    Given the ringed barrel observations a number of old timers elected to magnumize with rifle ammo. I wonder if the Army Special tolerated it?
     
  20. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    Just FWIW, John Wayne's personal 4 3/4" SA Colt that he used in several movies, is in .32-20.

    Jim
     
  21. content

    content Member

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    Just got back from a day and a half shooting, sighting in my 1968 Remington 760 .30-06 and checking out a few others. Every day should be this good.
    Rem760clos.jpg Rem760.jpg Rem760all.jpg proof:D

    Back to the .32-20
    Thanks for the added info all.


    Jim Watson - I like the Umberti idea if nothing else pops up. As you say a real Colt SAA 73 would be pricey just to fill a fun gap.

    Owen Sparks -thanks for the clairification. I just want a .32-20 revolver to shoot/woods carry with the Winchester 1873 as I do with my .357/38 revolver/rifle combo.

    rcmodel- If I take factory brass to my reloader should I inform him of your post #15? Or should I just let him inspect the rifle and revolver himself? Both I think. LOL

    I'm3rd - I'm looking for an older revolver manuf. between the mid 1920s and the 1940s, at the right price a Colt 73 would be great.

    waidmann /(to answerJustin Holder)- thanks for the pricing that seems consistant with prices here in S.C. and for the ones on GB with active bids a little higher.

    I like the added info as welland will consider it.

    Jim Keenan - D0 you know if John Wayne used a rifle in the same .32-20 caliber?
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011
  22. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Just make sure he checks your resized brass and see if it will chamber in both your guns before he loads up a bunch of it.

    rc
     
  23. content

    content Member

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    ^Got It and Will Do-- thanks for the tip^
     
  24. Derry 1946

    Derry 1946 Member

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    A very fun revolver to shoot. Ammo is available on the Internet for not too much. Enjoy!

    Derry
     
  25. Justin Holder

    Justin Holder Member

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    I know Cimarron Firearms makes several models in 32-20
     
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