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Old 03-11-2009, 02:31 PM
Andy Taylor Andy Taylor is offline
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I have never really given this old cartridge much thought. Then I come across this nice set (not really a set just two nice guns in this cartridge) consisting of a 5" Colt Army Special and a Winchester 92. I got to thinking this would be a really nice combination. How does this cartridge compare to say .32 H&R or the .327 magnum? Any thing else you can tell me would be appreciated.
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Old 03-11-2009, 02:31 PM
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I have never really given this old cartridge much thought. Then I come across this nice set (not really a set just two nice guns in this cartridge) consisting of a 5" Colt Army Special and a Winchester 92. I got to thinking this would be a really nice combination. How does this cartridge compare to say .32 H&R or the .327 magnum? Any thing else you can tell me would be appreciated.
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Old 03-11-2009, 03:50 PM
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I own a 1922 Army Special, Colt SAA custom 3rd gen, and 94CL Marlin in 32-20. The 32-20 is a
great cartridge for varmints and can be used up close for deer. It is not a long range rifle, but will shoot as far as you can see with iron sights. I have used mine on feral hogs of less than 100 pounds. In all honesty I have seen hogs drop to cast 32-20s quicker than hot 357s.

The 32-20 was originally a black powder cartridge for the 1873 Winchester and
the Colt SAA. It was later loaded in the
20th century in many smokeless loadings with all the manufacturers offering a lead or jacketed soft pointing, a full metal case for hide hunters, and a "rifle only" 80 gr hollowpoint loading called 32-20 high velocity.
The high velocity load was discontinued in the 1960s, but are readinly availaible on the internet. I collect them and hunt with them.
They were a good 100 yard varmint gun.

The modern 32-20 loads are fine in all rifles and pistols that were proofed for smokeless.
The high velocity rounds were intended to be fired in 1892 Winchester, Marlin 94, and bolt actions. It was not to be fired in the Colt or S&W revolvers or the Winchester 1873. These high velocity loads were fired in revolvers by many people including myself. If you are carrying a 32-20, you want all the bang you can get. Vintage sources say the only pistols capable of handling the hi pressure load was the Colt SAA because its cylinder was so thick and later SAA were capable of being chambered in 357 Magnum. Whatever the case, they will wear a pistol out. Some of the little framed Colts will stretch if they are fired with them. Some said the Army Special was good with them, but I am not putting them in mine.

Ballisticly, modern 32-20 loadings are like the 32 S&W Long from a revolver. Manufacturers loaded the 32-20 down beginning in the 1950s.
Some of the 1940s vintage ammo I have chronographed goes 150 fps faster than modern loads. I handload mine back to the old loads.
I have an old Skeeter Skelton load for the 32-20
SAA that propels a 115 gr cast slug to 1150 fps and is within standard pressure limits. That is the ballistic duplicate of the 9m/m.

From a rifle, modern 100 gr lead loads clock 1250 fps. This load from my Marlin dropped a 100 lb deer dead in her tracks. The original high velocity loading propelled an 80 gr slug to 2000 fps!! I handload a 100 gr XTP to 1700 fps and that would be great on deer within 75 yards.

You really need to handload for the 32-20 to get full potential. Basically the 327 Fed Mag
is like the old high velocity "whv" loads.
The 32 HR Mag pistol is about like a 32-20 rifle with a standard load.

Also, the 1892 rifle is a very strong lever action and can be loaded pretty stout.
The only bad thing about the 32-20 is that it has the most ear piercing muzzle blast from a pistol- much like the 357. It is not bad from a rifle.

I have enjoyed the 32-20 because it is just so much fun. It is not hard to reload once you get the hang of it and the guns chambered for it are my favorite types.
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Old 03-12-2009, 01:20 PM
Andy Taylor Andy Taylor is offline
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BreakerDan-Thank you for such an informative post.
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Old 03-12-2009, 05:33 PM
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you are very welcome.
The 32-20 is a lot of fun if you decide to get the guns.
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Old 03-12-2009, 06:05 PM
RGAmos RGAmos is offline
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Before you buy anything in 32-20, I suggest you check the price/availability of the ammo. I recently got rid of a Ruger BH and Colt SAA in this caliber because of the ammo cost and non-iterest in reloading.
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Old 03-16-2009, 06:54 PM
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Back in May I purchased an 1873 Winchester rifle in .32-20 (32 WCF) from a friend. It had been in his wife's family for well over 110 years. It was made in the mid 1880s.
I've only fired it a few times, with modern smokeless ammo loaded with lead bullets. Modern ammo is loaded down quite a bit and this rifle is mechanically sound.
But a box of 50 Remington .32-20 cartridges cost me $30 in Salt Lake City, Utah!
Yikes!
That's 60 cents a shot, folks! Load up that 6-shooter and there's $3.60 in the cylinder!
Yikes-squared!
And only one store in Salt Lake City carried .32-20 ammo.
The .32-20 is a great cartridge. In a strong rifle or revolver it can be safely loaded beyond the factory ballistics, but what's the point?
Why risk a gun and possible personal injury for a little gain?
Still, it's a fun caliber and will take care of small game handily.
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Old 03-19-2009, 10:53 AM
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I like the round but would likely get the 327 Federal over it because case walls of the 32-20 can be an issue when it comes to reloading.
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Old 03-19-2009, 12:02 PM
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.32 WCF can sometimes be tricky to reload.

It's slender, thin neck can cause a lot of heartaches- and I cry when used to crush a neck on one, because the brass is so expensive when compared with .38's or .45's.

I usually load lead for plinking in my S&W's and Colt revolvers. The best trick I have found in loading them is to use a .32 S&W long or .32 Magnum case mouth expander to slightly bell the mouth of the case for loading cast bullets- I've never had a crushed case after starting this practice.

I only wish someone made a speed loader for it.
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Old 03-19-2009, 12:57 PM
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32-20 was first rifle cartridge I loaded -- I was 13-14 years old or so. I thought it was easy to load then, with lead bullets I cast myself. Used a universal tong-type loading tool that did everything except full-length resize (cast bullets, size bullets, deprime, prime, size and bell neck, seat and crimp bullet.

Now, many decades later I am loading 32-20 again, again with cast bullets (buy them this time) and Hodgdon 777 FFg. I am still impressed how easy it is to load and how well it performs.

Yes, you do need to bell the case, but same for 38 Spl, 357 mag, 45 Colt, 44-40, 30-30, etc., etc., especially with lead bullets.

Niklas
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Old 03-19-2009, 08:47 PM
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Most people who have problems with the 32-20 reloading are in too big a hurry. We are all guilty of that. If you bell the case mouth too much or crimp to hard you will crumple the case. Make adjustments slowly and it all works great for me.
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Old 03-22-2009, 08:32 PM
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And its a really good blues song, by the late great Robert Johnson (poisoned by a jealous husband in 1938).

Some lyrics:
I sent for my baby, and she don't come
I sent for my baby, man, and she don't come
All the doctors in Hot Springs sure can't help her none

And if she gets unruly, thinks she don't want do
If she gets unruly, and thinks she don't want do
Take my 32-20, and cut her half in two
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Old 06-09-2018, 03:39 PM
32-20 WFC 32-20 WFC is offline
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Default I have a old 32-20 winchester and I cant find bullets for it

Quote:
Originally Posted by BreakerDan View Post
I own a 1922 Army Special, Colt SAA custom 3rd gen, and 94CL Marlin in 32-20. The 32-20 is a
great cartridge for varmints and can be used up close for deer. It is not a long range rifle, but will shoot as far as you can see with iron sights. I have used mine on feral hogs of less than 100 pounds. In all honesty I have seen hogs drop to cast 32-20s quicker than hot 357s.

The 32-20 was originally a black powder cartridge for the 1873 Winchester and
the Colt SAA. It was later loaded in the
20th century in many smokeless loadings with all the manufacturers offering a lead or jacketed soft pointing, a full metal case for hide hunters, and a "rifle only" 80 gr hollowpoint loading called 32-20 high velocity.
The high velocity load was discontinued in the 1960s, but are readinly availaible on the internet. I collect them and hunt with them.
They were a good 100 yard varmint gun.

The modern 32-20 loads are fine in all rifles and pistols that were proofed for smokeless.
The high velocity rounds were intended to be fired in 1892 Winchester, Marlin 94, and bolt actions. It was not to be fired in the Colt or S&W revolvers or the Winchester 1873. These high velocity loads were fired in revolvers by many people including myself. If you are carrying a 32-20, you want all the bang you can get. Vintage sources say the only pistols capable of handling the hi pressure load was the Colt SAA because its cylinder was so thick and later SAA were capable of being chambered in 357 Magnum. Whatever the case, they will wear a pistol out. Some of the little framed Colts will stretch if they are fired with them. Some said the Army Special was good with them, but I am not putting them in mine.

Ballisticly, modern 32-20 loadings are like the 32 S&W Long from a revolver. Manufacturers loaded the 32-20 down beginning in the 1950s.
Some of the 1940s vintage ammo I have chronographed goes 150 fps faster than modern loads. I handload mine back to the old loads.
I have an old Skeeter Skelton load for the 32-20
SAA that propels a 115 gr cast slug to 1150 fps and is within standard pressure limits. That is the ballistic duplicate of the 9m/m.

From a rifle, modern 100 gr lead loads clock 1250 fps. This load from my Marlin dropped a 100 lb deer dead in her tracks. The original high velocity loading propelled an 80 gr slug to 2000 fps!! I handload a 100 gr XTP to 1700 fps and that would be great on deer within 75 yards.

You really need to handload for the 32-20 to get full potential. Basically the 327 Fed Mag
is like the old high velocity "whv" loads.
The 32 HR Mag pistol is about like a 32-20 rifle with a standard load.

Also, the 1892 rifle is a very strong lever action and can be loaded pretty stout.
The only bad thing about the 32-20 is that it has the most ear piercing muzzle blast from a pistol- much like the 357. It is not bad from a rifle.

I have enjoyed the 32-20 because it is just so much fun. It is not hard to reload once you get the hang of it and the guns chambered for it are my favorite types.
What rounds can you put down a 32-20?
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Old 06-09-2018, 04:16 PM
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I've had a couple of rifles and a Colt Army Special in .32-20. Great cast bullet cartridge, in fact no advantage to using jacketed bullets unless you just want to use them. Bore sizes can vary considerably.

I haven't been without at least one .32-20 firearm in the last thirty-five years or so, but haven't really figured out the usefulness of the cartridge, sort of like the 7.62x39.

Get a regular Lyman manual or the Lyman cast bullet manual, lots of safe load data. I'd stay away from the older hot data that's still out there, particularly if you have older Colt and S&W handguns.
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Old 06-09-2018, 04:33 PM
KarmannGhia KarmannGhia is offline
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As a kid, my grandfather would spin tales of his feats with the 32-20. I have always had a special spot for the 32wcf. I have three double action Colts, two Ruger Vaqueros, and a Marlin lever action in the caliber.

As others have said. It is not a good choice if you don't reload (however, the ammo is more plentiful now that is was before the rise of Cowboy Action Shooting). It is slightly more labor intensive that say a 38 or 357, but it is not hard. 32-20 is the reason I started reloading in the 1980s because it was near impossible to find the ammo back then.
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Old 06-09-2018, 05:13 PM
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"They'll shoot plum through a man".

Here's mine, a Colt Police Positive Special, made in 1911...
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Old 06-09-2018, 05:21 PM
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My .32-20's include a Winchester 1892 carbine (c. 1912) and a Colt SAA Bisley Model (c. 1902), both in original and well used condition.

If you are going to be a .32-20 shooter you will just about have to be a reloader. No real alternative exists unless your wallet is thicker than your head.

Cast bullets (make your own or order from a dozen good sources). Lyman M-die to properly flare the case mouths for seating without crushing the thin-necked cases.

I keep my loads on the modest levels because of the vintage of my guns. Not too much to be gained by going toward the top of the loading charts, anyway. The .32-20 is a 135 year old centerfire caliber that, in its best days, was suitable for small to mid-sized game animals at best. My 115-grain cast LRN-FP loads run about 1700FPS from the Winchester and about 1100FPS from the old Colt, perfectly suitable for small critters and varmints, but not much more.

In my mind I compare the .32-20 most closely with the .30 Carbine, which I consider to be very close in actual performance.
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Old 06-09-2018, 05:37 PM
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I am a fan of the .32-20 and have been loading for it since Nixon was vice-president starting with a Lee Loader. Even when it was more common it was not cheap, leastwise not when it was paper route money buying the cartridges. It is a fine cast bullet cartridge and I enjoy the old guns that shoot it.
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Old 06-09-2018, 05:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 32-20 WFC View Post
What rounds can you put down a 32-20?

.32-20 isn't as hard to find as many would have you believe. Locally it can be found at Gallenson's, Cabela's, and Sportsman's Warehouse just about anytime. If you don't have one of the large chains like Cabela's, etc. you might hace to mail order. Here are links to mail order houses with it in-stock when this was posted:


32-20 Winchester - Rifle - Ammo - Graf & Sons


.32-20 Win, Rifle Ammo, Ammunition - Natchez


And there are others.


It isn't hard to load for either. As long as you can't bang through the loading operations, take you're time and be careful it isn't any harder that any other caliber. I have been loading it for nearly 60 years, before the internet and everyone telling me it was so hard to load!


And it isn't loaded down! The cartridge began in ca. 1882 as a black powder cartridge and it is loaded to the same performance level it always has been, just with smokeless powders. The exception is the "Hi-Speed" 80 gr. high velocity jacketed hollow point. This version has not been produced since the 1960s so you are extremely unlikely to find any for sale except as collectors ammunition. And don't believe stories about "modern ammunition", there isn't any such thing, it is all loaded to black powder ballistic levels. Same about "Rifle" ammunition! .32-20 is and always has been a rifle cartridge, so many makers label it as such!
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Old 06-09-2018, 06:23 PM
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I've chronographed some of the 100 grain Remington loads of recent manufacture in a rifle. I think muzzle velocity was around 1,100 fps, maybe a little less. Pretty puny ballistics, but probably safe in ancient guns as long as they're in good shape.
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Old 06-09-2018, 06:34 PM
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40-something cartridges are used here with center fire cartridges handloaded, each and every one. The .32-20 is in my top 5 favorites of all time.

A dandy little circa 1896 Winchester Model 1892 saddle-ring-carbine and a 1920s Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector make for a delightful shooting combination that when using handloads is nearly as cheap to feed as shooting .22 Long Rifle. Great for jaunts afield.

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Old 06-09-2018, 08:30 PM
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I have a Marlin Model 1894CL and a Ruger Blackhawk in 32-20. The only factory ammo you might find in a gun store is the Remington 100gr which is VERY mild in deference to all the old guns starting with Winchester 1873 and Colt SAA. Then lots of medium-sized revolvers got made in 32-20. So, I handload much heavier loads from manuals. The Marlin has a scope on it and is very accurate.
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Old 06-12-2018, 12:38 PM
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I've become really fond of the .32-20 cartridge and I'm keeping an eye out for a reasonably priced revolver in that caliber.

Several years ago I went to look at a Marlin in .218 Bee an older gentleman had for sale and he mentioned he had one in .32-20 also and I wound up buying them both because I have little willpower when it comes to such things.

I load mine with lead FP bullets and it's very accurate and quite effective on varmints up to coyote size.

As you can see in the pic, Both the .218 Bee and .32-20 had scope mounts on them when I got them. I added scopes to both since my bifocals don't play well with iron sights.

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Old 06-12-2018, 01:36 PM
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One thing to keep in mind when shopping for an older gun in 32-20, is to check for a bulged barrel. The early 32-20 jacketed rounds had a tendency to occasionaly shed the jacket leaving it in the bbl, with the next fired round bulging the bbl.

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