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Old S&W 32-20

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by kentucky bucky, May 26, 2004.

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  1. kentucky bucky

    kentucky bucky Member

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    Hi guys,
    I inherited an old S&W revolver w/ a 4" barrel from my uncle. I believe it was his dad's. It is marked 32-20 and the latest patent date is August of 1908. The earliest date is in the 1890s.The serial number is in the 65XXX range. Can any of you fine folks tell me about this revolver? Anything would be appreciated. Thanks
     
  2. Josey

    Josey member

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    It sounds like a S&W Model of 1905. K frame. My S&W 32-20 is a Model of 1902. The 4" barrel is a little rare. 5" and 6" were common. Square or round butt? I learned to respect older marksmen. That half round front, rear dimple with a shallow trough sight set up is difficult to master. They were overbuilt by craftsmen to last. I have seen them in NRA fine condition for $475.00. Your value may vary.
     
  3. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    You have a Smith & Wesson 32-20 Hand Ejector, Model of 1905 / 3rd. Change. Some 20,499 were made between 1909 to 1915, with the last serial number being 65700, which would make your gun one of the last in the series. If your number is higher then 65700 then it’s an early 4th Change made in 1915 or possibly 1916. The “changes†refer to minor part changes that would affect interchangeability of some parts with earlier variants. The revolver was more commonly known as the Military & Police, which evolved into the current model 10. The .32-20’s were serial numbered in their own range, starting at “1†so don’t be confused when checking out a .38.

    It would probably be ill advised to shoot it using current 32-20 ammunition, which is intended for use in carbines. An exception would be lead bulleted loads designed for use in Cowboy Action Shooting. Be advised, that at this time the cylinders were not heat treated.
     
  4. kentucky bucky

    kentucky bucky Member

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    Thanks for the info fellows!

    I was wondering about modern ammo. I assumed that 32-20 was down loaded for the older guns floating around like the 45-70 ammo is. I figured that liability would dictate low pressures.
     
  5. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    .32-20 ammunition generally is downloaded, but there are exceptions. That why I recommended CAS lead-bulleted loads. Ammunition that is intended to be used in pistols will usually say so on the box. Remember to read the fine print.
     
  6. BluesBear

    BluesBear member

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    As late as the 1970s Remington and Winchester both loaded separate rifle and handgun loads in .32-20.
    The handgun loadings used a flat nosed swaged lead bullet, while the rifle loadings used a short jacketed soft-point.

    The rifle ammunition was usually labeled as high speed or high velocity on the box.

    Avoid using any factory loaded soft point ammo in older revolvers.
     
  7. Josey

    Josey member

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    Odd. I have been shooting HIGH VELOCITY 32-20 in my S&W Model of 1902. Remington catalog number of R32202. 100 gr, soft point. Kleanbore priming. (FOR USE IN ALL REVOLVERS AND RIFLES) is printed on the green/yellow box. Accuracy has been good. Should I switch to PMC? UltraMax? I am wondering.:confused:
     
  8. BluesBear

    BluesBear member

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    Josey,
    If it says for all revolvers and rifles it should be OK.
    They might be downloading the soft-point ammo nowadays.

    The Remington High Velocity soft point ammo, that I used to buy, in the old Green & White boxes was marked "Not for use in Revolvers".

    I haven't owned a .32-20 in almost 20 years. My Pre-war Colt SAA was worth more to a collector than it was to me. I didn't worry about ammo, that big cylinder would handle anything.
     
  9. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Blues Bear is correct so far as a .32-20 Colt SAA is concerned. It would handle any factory-loaded .32-20 cartridge ever made.

    That said, the S&W Military & Police revolvers made in 1915 had much smaller cylinders made from what amounted to cold-rolled steel. Beter heat treated cylinders weren't introduced until 1919.

    The ammunition labeled "for rifles or revolvers" SHOULD be safe in handguns, but I'm not sure the cartridge makers have guns made in 1915 in mind when they say that. Unquestionably, those rounds loaded with lead bullets should be safe.

    As an aside, I would offer the following comment from an old S&W engineer's log book:

    "March 11, 1919. The caliber diameter of the .32 Hand Ejector Winchester barrels were increased to make rifling .003" deep instead of .005" thus making the bore .307"-.308" instead of .303"-.304" by order of J.H. Wesson."

    You can make your own judgments about what might happen if a .308" diameter jacketed bullet intended to be used in rifles (and loaded to rifle limits) was shot through a .304" bore - in a gun where the cylinder was made of mild - not heat treated steel.
     
  10. sw44wcf

    sw44wcf Member

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    Do you have any pics?
     
  11. kentucky bucky

    kentucky bucky Member

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    I don't have a camera yet. My 35mm died and I'm researching digitals.
    Thanks for the interest.
     
  12. hangemhigh87

    hangemhigh87 Member

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    S&W 1905 32-20 revolvers

    A Nice thread to dig up from the grave.

    I just inherited a S&W 1905 32-20 hand ejector, 4" Blue, 4 screw + 1 in the trigger guard, revolver in 90%+ condition.(SN#111xxx) - From my Grandfather's estate.

    According to my dad, my grandfather bought it from a Fresno CA Police officer who needed money to upgrade to the new department standard, the .38 Special. It's damn near new in my opinion. With the gun I got the following Ammo:

    18 rounds of Peters "Rustless" ammo, 100gr soft point bullet for "Winchester, Marlin, Remington & other Arms".

    32 rounds of Remington "Kleanbore" 100 grain soft point bullets.
    No visible corrosion and the ammo all looks good for it's age (Gulp!)

    I've cleaned and inspected the gun for serviceability, No problems.

    I've never shot this caliber so I'm VERY excited as to see how it turns out.

    My question for the collected wisdom of THR forum:

    Will modern day cowboy loads work in my S&W SAFELY?
    (Black Hills 115 grain 32-30 ammo? for Example)

    Can I "shoot out" this old ammo? - just for fun? no performance or accuracy expectations. Just mainly for "orientation" purposes.

    Thanks for any advice you might have.
     
  13. Gordon

    Gordon Member

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    Just for grins, now that Buckys been answered very well: Do you think that a colt Army Special from the early 20s could handle "any 32-20 ammo" being the cylinder dia. is the same pretty much as a SAA?:confused:
     
  14. Lone_Gunman

    Lone_Gunman Member

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    I have a Colt Army Special from the 30's in 32-20, and I haven't blown it up yet shooting Winchester or Georgia Arms 32-20.

    I don't think there is much high velocity 32-20 being made. In fact, I do not know of any.
     
  15. hangemhigh87

    hangemhigh87 Member

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    S&W 1905 32-20 revolvers

    I'm about ready to order a couple of boxes of Black Hills 32-20 115 grain Cowboy ammo. I'm (overly?) worried that I might blow up my cylinder at the range shooting the new ammo. I'm cofident that won't happen, but you never know.

    Better to be safe that sorry. I have done some snooping around in the internet since my first post. Sounds like current loads should not strain my S&W.

    Right? (knock on wood)
     
  16. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    hangemhigh87:

    A .32-20 1905 Hand Ejector (Military & Police) 4th change with a serial number in the 111,000 range was probably made in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. To know exactly you’d have to write Roy Jinks, Smith & Wesson’s Historian, and pay a $30.00 search fee. In exchange you would get an official letter from Roy, with all of the details concerning your Grandfather’s revolver as they are shown in the company’s records. Considering the gun past within your family I’d spring and pay the fee. Details will be found at www.smith-wesson.com

    Your gun is late enough so that it should have a heat-treated cylinder, and therefore be safe with the ammunition you have. However it is possible that the powder within those cartridges might have deteriorated over time, and not perform as expected. Considering the age and condition of the revolver and its presumed importance to your family, I wouldn’t risk the gun to shoot up 50 odd rounds of what must be old ammunition.

    Black Hills “Cowboy” .32-20 is loaded to use a 115-grain lead bullet @ 800 FPS. This load wouldn’t hurt your revolver, and probably would shoot closer to the point of aim.

    Gordon:

    Probably it would, but then it might not. Your Army Special is built on a .41 frame, not a .45 as is the case with the S.A.A. so the cylinder is smaller.

    But again, why risk fine old guns by using questionable ammunition when appropriate cartridges are available? Back when they loaded it, the makers didn’t say “rifles only” on the box for nothing.

    Lone_Gunman:

    I doubt that you will, but if it’s loaded hotter then the above mentioned Cowboy loads you may shake it loose, and the cost of repairing it might get your attention. Again, I recommend soft loads for older guns.

    I don’t think so either. They don’t want to be sued after some dingbat blows up or damages an old revolver or Winchester ’73 rifle.
     
  17. hangemhigh87

    hangemhigh87 Member

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    Great feedback everyone!

    I will wait for the new ammo and get rid of the old stuff.

    I got a history letter on my 32/22 so this one is next. I need to take it home and use my dad's digital camera for the S&W paperwork.

    (my next inheritance project is an 1878 Colt DA Thunderer in 41 Long colt. -now That’s a project!)

    Thanks!

    -Bryan
     
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