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Old 08-23-2020, 09:41 AM
jayn.32 jayn.32 is offline
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I just retired and have taken up shooting my collection. I have concerns about shooting my black powder frame top breaks. does anyone load .32 and .38 shorts to shoot in good, solid, tight guns? Looking forward to hearing from knowlegable folks. Thanks
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Old 08-25-2020, 11:18 AM
desi2358 desi2358 is offline
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There are a few companies that offer rounds like the 32 S&W and 38 S&W loaded with black powder (Buffalo Arms and a few others). With the current high demand for ANY ammo they may be out of stock so you would have to check around to see if they had it in stock or were accepting back orders.

Modern production ammo from the big makers is supposed to be loaded to pressures that are safe in older black powder era firearms (mainly for liability reasons I suspect) and have been for years..... You will however find endless discussions on burning rates, pressure curves and such debating whether such loads, even if safe, can cause increased wear and tear on older guns. I have used modern ammo in old guns myself without any detectable issues but have gone over to loading my own over time and duplicate the original black powder loads as closely as I can nowadays.

If you really want to shoot them much a small investment in loading tools could have you up and running on your own. Either original Black or Pyrodex can make up loads very close to original specs............... One vital thing to remember is that the guns will require a very thorough cleaning when done as the residue is corrosive. One positive note is you really only need soapy water to clean them properly.... clean, dry and oil and you are done. Always a good idea to check them later on just in case but it has worked for me for years now and I shoot a lot of black powder guns (muzzle loaders, cap & ball and BP cartridge guns).
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Old 08-25-2020, 10:59 PM
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Many of the old top break .32 and .38 revolvers have probably fired far more smokeless ammo than BP. Remember, smokeless powder cartridges first appeared on the U. S. market about 1894, and pretty much displaced black powder loadings in most handgun calibers by the early 1900s. Assuming your top breaks are in sound condition, you can shoot today's factory loads (which are lightly loaded) in them safely. One exception is that Buffalo Bore loads a fairly snappy .38 S&W cartridge intended for use only in solid frame guns. I would not even think about making up any BP handloads but you might consider loading your own smokeless loads if you acquire the necessary loading tools, accessories, and components, assuming you will be shooting enough to justify the cost.

Be aware that although .32 S&W and .38 S&W cartridges are still manufactured in the US and elsewhere, they are slow-moving items and many retailers will not carry them. Which means lots of searching and haunting gun shows, or buying from internet sources which can get costly.

Last edited by DWalt; 08-25-2020 at 11:10 PM.
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Old 08-27-2020, 09:06 AM
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It is known that standard factory 32 S&W and 38 S&W ammunition is very mild and from my experimentation, lower felt-recoil and velocity than original BP loads. There have been many discussions of shooting pre-1899 firearms with smokeless powder and, but no documentation or examples of damaged guns from doing so. Remember, the companies that manufacture ammunition have huge liability issues with regards to every caliber they manufacture. The last thing they would want is to blow up these old top-breaks.

There is much discussion about the evils of smokeless and the dangerous pressure curves the produce. Second and third hand information has been passed along forever, but those people do not realize that nothing changed in post-1899 top-breaks. Almost all top-break S&Ws transitioned from black powder to smokeless era with absolutely no changes made in steel strengths or design. They still remain in fine operable condition today. Stick with Remington, Winchester, and other major brands and they will assuredly under-perform BP loads all day long, which is a good thing.
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Old 08-27-2020, 02:50 PM
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When these concerns about using smokeless ammunition in black powder guns used to be much more common here (not nearly so frequent today), I would always ask the question if anyone had ever seen any warnings by the major ammunition manufacturers, either in their sales literature or printed on cartridge box labels, regarding the danger of using smokeless loadings in BP-era revolvers. While there is sometimes a vague statement to the effect of using them only in guns "in sound condition," such warnings do not exist (except in the case of the Buffalo Bore .38 S&W ammo mentioned above). The last thing any manufacturer wants is to be dragged into a court as a result of someone being injured as the result of a gun failure resulting from use of their ammunition. Much of the "pressure spike" horror stories sometimes seen regarding smokeless powder are pure fiction. But that is another topic.
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Old 08-27-2020, 07:53 PM
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Just for kicks I recently have gotten into reloading 44-40 and 45-70 with black powder and cast bullets. Really not that much of a undertaking and fun in itself. That may be an option for you.
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Old 08-28-2020, 01:54 PM
jayn.32 jayn.32 is offline
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I bought tools to reload many years ago and plan to set up soon. Meanwhile I saw a new Remington 32 SW load and it sounded safe. Also 38 SW loads I had made up yrs ago are too long. Is 38 Short colt the proper load ? thanks
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Old 08-28-2020, 03:18 PM
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I think we have assumed that you are discussing S&W revolvers in 32 & 38, but please let us know if that assumption is incorrect. If you are loading for those two calibers, use reloading information for these specific calibers only, not 38 Colt. No idea if the powders of weights are the same, but Colt is a solid frame gun, so may have heavier loading. Find loading recipes for the exact caliber you are loading and you will be all set. Keep on the minimum side of the charts until you get to the range to shoot your reloads over a chronograph. My target for both calibers is 600 fps to 650 fps. Plenty heavy enough for the range. One word of caution for 32 S&W is that the load weights are extremely low, so you need a very accurate scale to weigh 1.1 grains of powder. An error of only 0.2 grain over-load could result in a 20% increase in pressure.
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Old 08-28-2020, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by jayn.32 View Post
I bought tools to reload many years ago and plan to set up soon. Meanwhile I saw a new Remington 32 SW load and it sounded safe. Also 38 SW loads I had made up yrs ago are too long. Is 38 Short colt the proper load ? thanks
You CAN use .38 Short Colt cartridges in a revolver chambered for .38 S&W, but it's not recommended. All of the old top breaks will use either .32 S&W or .38 S&W cartridges or their Colt equivalents which are no longer made. Sounds like the ammunition you have may be .38 Long Colt, and there were, to my knowledge, never any top break revolvers made in that caliber. If you are going to re-load, do not exceed powder charges shown in reloading manuals.
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Old 09-06-2020, 09:41 AM
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Thanks for the info
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