Favorite Jacketed .32-20 Rifle loads?

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Nov 5, 2007
Rural, far beyond the beltway, Northern Virginia,
After exhausting my Search-Fu here and finding nothing, I decided to just ask. ;)

I was able to obtain good measurements of the groove-diameter of my new-to-me, apparently-pristine-bore, Bubbaed-receiver ~1922 Marlin Model 27-S pump-action rifle from 5 of 6 bullets captured in Water Jug Testing that I performed yesterday morning on the patio.

.311", max, but generally .310-.3105".

The 100gr and 115gr lead bullets (both .313" & .314") that I have been loading with Trailboss for my period Colts and S&W work fine in the Marlin (it appears to be very accurate with those loads).

I have decided to look into developing a jacketed, ~50%-higher-velocity, rifle-only round for the Marlin.

I will probably be going with a 100gr bullet, perhaps Hornady XTPs, but I would be happy to find a FMJ or heavy-plated for this purpose.

Considering the relative paucity of .32-20 loading data and rather than starting from near zero, I figured that there must be a few members here who have favorite loads for there .32-20 rifles (btw, I have perused the .32-20 Rifle section in Ken Waters' book already).

Whatever I decide upon, it will use on-hand propellant.

Other than Trailboss my propellants on-hand consist of,
and an assortment of old Herters propellant that I no longer count but sometimes use. ;)

I would appreciate any .32-20 rifle load information that you are willing/able to share.

Thanks! :)
My favorite load is:
Lyman .311316 (.311" 115gr w/gascheck) over 5.0gr Unique. Very accurate from a Marlin M1894CL.
Brass is quite thin. Load like you would a pistol cartridge. You MUST lightly flare the necks to seat the bullets. Crimp modestly.
This load won't ring your ears w/o muffs. The top load with #2400 and 100 gr jacketed definitely will!
My current sweetheart is the .327Mag. Basically a modern reiteration of the .32/20.

Added; Hornady 8th Ed has j-bullet data. H110 load looks good.
Don't put them in the vintage Colt or S&W.
Lyman .311316 is discontinued. The Lee .311-113gr FNGC is good replacement.
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Thanks, GG!

I was afflicted with .32-20itis several months ago. Since then I have accumulated a 1912 and a 1924 Colt Police Positive Special and a 1913 S&W Model 1905 Hand-Ejector ... and, most recently, I scored this 1922 Marlin. Quite frankly, I had about given up on ever having a period .32-20 rifle because of all of the crazy-high$ listings that I was seeing on Gunbroker.

I have been using Starline brass exclusively. It seems more robust than the limited WRA and R-P brass that I have ... but it is still pretty unforgiving if you are not careful about your alignment with the dies. Yes, I have trashed a couple of case mouths. :(

The irony of this is that I had no intention of really "getting into" .32-20.

I bought a Nagant revolver a couple of years ago (before they all disappeared and/or got stupid-expensive) and was going to phase into reloading these odd cartridges as I "unloaded" the thousand, or so, that I had in-stock.

I knew that my maternal grandfather's pistol was a .32-20 (1934 Colt Army Special, as it turned out) and it just seemed like a natural pairing of projects, so I got it from my cousin (eldest son of eldest son). I would ramp up with the .32-20s on my way to working out the reloading of 7.62x38r. In the process, I would get the old .32-20 on-line again.

I had no idea that .32-20 was highly contagious. :eek:

... and I have yet to touch the Nagant Project.

BTW, I was de-lighted to find that I could fire my Marlin without hearing protection. That makes the experience so much more enjoyable to me. :D
... Considering the relative paucity of .32-20 loading data and rather than starting from near zero, I figured that there must be a few members here who have favorite loads for there .32-20 rifles ...
:) OK, so, apparently, no one here (who has read this Thread) is doing any hand-/re-loading for period .32-20 rifles (modern rifles can safely handle much higher pressures) with jacketed bullets.

I will be sure to update the Thread with the results of my efforts.
:) OK, so, apparently, no one here (who has read this Thread) is doing any hand-/re-loading for period .32-20 rifles (modern rifles can safely handle much higher pressures) with jacketed bullets.

I will be sure to update the Thread with the results of my efforts.
Most who shoot with period guns only load lead. I'm one. And I am looking forward to your results.
OK, time for an initial summary of my .32-20 jacketed bullets adventure(s) today.

The jacketed bullets that I chose for this exercise were 85gr and 100gr Hornady XTPs. They are .312" diameter so I resized them to .311".

I pored thru all of the documentation that I could find (sources were slim) on reloading old .32-20 rifles with jacketed bullets.

Since most omitted pressure info (or the info they listed was not believable), I ended up with Ken Waters .32-20 Rifle chapter/article as my primary guide.

I setup a series of 6-round strings in new Starline brass.

IMR-4227 & CCI400 SRP
10.0gr 100gr XTP (1255avg)
10.5gr 100gr XTP (1367avg)
10.5gr 85gr XTP (1374avg)
11.0gr 85gr XTP (1441avg)

Waters was also fond of 5.5-6.0 Unique loads, so ...

Unique & CCI400 SRP
5.5gr 100gr XTP
6.0gr 85gr XTP

and since I was a little leary of those particular loads even though Ken really seemed to like them (they looked a bit warm to me) I paralleled them with some lead bullets as a pre-test ...

Unique & Fed100 SPP ( I decided to test the difference whle I was at it)
5.5gr 115gr Lead (1444avg)
6.0gr 100gr Lead (1608avg)

Finally, I decided to roll a couple of Test Strings with 100% density Trailboss, since that is what I use for my revolver loads ...

Trailboss & CCI400 SRP
4.3gr 100gr XTP
4.8gr 85gr XTP


I got started a little late and, pretty soon, the target was in deep shade and I was in full sun ... not a good combo for O.L.D. eyeballs, but I can still get a good sense of each load's accuracy potential.

I setup as I do for handguns. I actually ran a few Test Strings with my S&W Model 1905 at ~7yds before moving the bench back an additional ~10' for the rifle part of the program.

I started with the pre-test lead bullet Unique strings 5.5/115, first. I immediately noticed pressure indicators (the look of the case & primer). I quickly decided that this load was at the bleeding edge of what I would feel comfortable putting thru this rifle. I fired all 6. 1444fps AVG.

I tried the 6.0/100 pre-test lead bullet Unique string and halted after only 2 rounds. The pressure indications were slightly more. The velocities for those two were 1608 & 1610.

Since the lead-bullet pre-tests exhibited too much pressure (for me) I was not about to drop the hammer on any of the cartidges in the Unique XTP strings.

I took the rifle inside, checked-over the rifle and cleaned the bore & chamber.


Back at the bench, I decided to run the Trailboss loads.

I fired one of the 4.8gr 85gr XTP rounds out back last night as a pre-test round, so I selected the 4.3gr 100gr XTP to start.

First round ...
... the hammer dropped ... silence for 2-3 seconds ... then I heard a strange sound, not very loud, like pffffffffFFFFT! and what appeared to be the 100gr XTP exited the bore at low speed, traveled over the CHRONY (but did not register), and bounced off of the target, landing ~18" away from it.


Apparently, the 4.3gr of Trailboss took awhile to build enough pressure to poot the bullet out of the bore. It was moving so slowly that I couldn't even find a dent in the target.

That may be the oddest thing that has ever happened to me in almost 50 years of reloading.

So, to heck with the other 5 ... and, for now, to heck with the 85gr string (even though the pre-test round last night fired/felt/sounded OK).

Back to the house to check-over the rifle and clean the chamber & bore. <sigh>


Back at the bench, I successfully ran all 4 of the IMR-4227 strings.

They all produced OneRaggedHole in their targets and produced the following AVGs; 1255, 1367, 1374, 1441.

I was smiling after the IMR-4227 strings. I think that I may have some winners there.

Quite frankly, by the time I got to these last strings I was a bit ragged and forgot my pattern of always tipping the rifle straight up and slowly back down before taking aim & firing, so the ESs were a little bit broader than I like to see ... but that is on me. Can't really argue with OneRaggedHole. ;)

I hope to take & post a pic of that "poot" bullet & case tomorrow.

Sorry'bout all of the words. :)
Thanks, BSA1, but I made the decision to stick with the propellants that I had on-hand. Waters had a couple of favorite flavors of powder that I did not have ... but I successfully (so far) resisted the "Just one pound" urges.

That said, I have added AA-5 to my list of maybes ... ;)

Actually, I was prepared to have to give-up on the jacket bullets entirely and just stick with lead ... but the IMR-4227 results are promising.
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