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Old 05-15-2020, 09:34 PM
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Default Reloading for the 32-20

Any tips on reloading for the 32-20. I know it is not smart to use modern rifle rounds in an old S&W revolver.
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Old 05-15-2020, 09:57 PM
rockquarry rockquarry is offline
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Get a Lyman cast bullet manual. You'll find just the right safe loads using a variety of bullets and powders. There is really no good reason to load anything but cast bullets for the .32-20.
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Old 05-15-2020, 10:37 PM
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That's a good plan not to load too hot for an older S&W. My Hand Ejector does well with the 115 grain bullets (Lyman 311008) sized to .312" at 800 fps. They shoot to the point of aim at 25 yards. I've been using Winchester/Olin 231 with good results.
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Old 05-16-2020, 02:44 AM
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Make sure to read carefully. My old Lyman manuals shows totally different entries for rifle and pistol. Read carefully or you could be unpleasantly surprised.
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Old 05-16-2020, 04:17 AM
Ivan the Butcher Ivan the Butcher is offline
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All S&W 32-20's are from 1929 or before! Mine is from 1902. and I have a 1919 Police Positive Special by Colt.

Use lead bullets and Trail Boss and you will have mild and accurate loads that are gentile on the revolvers. Hodgdon's reloading web page has IMR's Trail Boss listed. The standard bullet is the Ideal 3118/Lyman 311008 at 115 to 117grains depending on the alloy. Mine is a Lyman with a gas check. In your revolver you can also use round nose and SWC bullets sized to .314". I use SPG lube, which is a black powder lube but is fine for smokeless also. Avoid the hardest alloys like linotype and Jacketed bullets. Coated bullets are fine, use cast bullet data.

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Old 05-16-2020, 09:38 AM
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I think reloading for an obsolete caliber such as the 32-20 is one of the most noble manifestations of our pursuit. Those old guns need to speak.

Last edited by max503; 05-16-2020 at 09:40 AM.
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Old 05-16-2020, 10:23 AM
Muley Gil Muley Gil is offline
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"I know it is not smart to use modern rifle rounds in an old S&W revolver."

There currently NO rifle only .32-20 ammo available from the large manufacturers. Remington has a Rifle Express load, but it is safe in quality, good condition revolvers. A number of Spanish made .32-20 S&W copies are out here, but I wouldn't shoot one.

Here is a rifle only load. You might find some at a gun show. Save those for your Winchester or Marlin lever guns.


The cartridge is loaded with an 80 grain jacketed open nosed bullet. IIRC, the head stamp has "HV" (high velocity) on it.

Photo from alk3844.
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Old 05-16-2020, 11:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scharfschuetzer View Post
That's a good plan not to load too hot for an older S&W. My Hand Ejector does well with the 115 grain bullets (Lyman 311008) sized to .312" at 800 fps. They shoot to the point of aim at 25 yards. I've been using Winchester/Olin 231 with good results.
I use the Ideal/Lyman 3118 (plain base version) too in my 6 inch S&W with good results but have used mostly Unique powder.

Last year I found some HSM "Cowboy" ammunition on line that was "Blemished" at a good price and bought a few boxes. The HSM web page indicates its 850 FPS from a handgun. They use new Starline brass which is excellent for reloading.
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Old 05-16-2020, 03:10 PM
DeplorabusUnum DeplorabusUnum is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockquarry View Post
Get a Lyman cast bullet manual. You'll find just the right safe loads using a variety of bullets and powders. There is really no good reason to load anything but cast bullets for the .32-20.
I have this old S&W 32-20 that my wife absolutely loves to shoot. She's very accurate and comfortable with it. She hates all of my semi-auto pistols.

I have all of the reloading equipment for this cartridge. Is there any way to modernize this pistol, such as a newer cylinder, so that it can handle JHP bullets? This may sound stupid, but I'd kind of like this to be her home self defense gun, since she is so comfortable with it.
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Old 05-16-2020, 04:26 PM
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It is easy to get 1000 fps out of a longer barrel 32-20 with a 115g LRN and 275 ft-lb muzzle energy. That is using just over 5g Unique. Compare that to 115g 9mm at 1100 fps and 330 ft lbs ME. Most standard 38 Special loads average 250 ft-lb ME.
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Old 05-16-2020, 10:02 PM
rockquarry rockquarry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeplorabusUnum View Post
I have this old S&W 32-20 that my wife absolutely loves to shoot. She's very accurate and comfortable with it. She hates all of my semi-auto pistols.

I have all of the reloading equipment for this cartridge. Is there any way to modernize this pistol, such as a newer cylinder, so that it can handle JHP bullets? This may sound stupid, but I'd kind of like this to be her home self defense gun, since she is so comfortable with it.
No, you can't turn it into a strong, modern revolver. If your wife shoots it well, then it would be a far better home defense gun as is than a more powerful one she can't shoot well.
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Old 05-17-2020, 08:13 AM
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Thanks to one and all for all the advice. I believe this forum to be the best souce of info for questions like this.
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Old 05-17-2020, 04:59 PM
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The Lee manual actually has different pages for regular (pistol) loads and rifles. I preferred the Rainier 100 grain plated bullets but they went out of business. I still have a couple hundred left. Used to use Lasercast 115 lead so I will probably go back to those but I'm not a big fan of lead so will look around for alternative.
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Old 05-17-2020, 07:25 PM
Ivan the Butcher Ivan the Butcher is offline
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Story Time: My best friends family farm was on the east side of Columbus, as airplanes grew so did Port Columbus, and it now covers the farm.

But back in the 1920's the family was very prosperous, having a farm and working at nearby factories. Then the depression hit, and cash became a rare commodity! "Grandpa" had a Harley-Davidson, and wasn't afraid to use it to do some sort of currier work!

Fast foreword to the early 1970's while still in High School, My best friend had picked up a 6" M&P in 32-20 and was at the replacement farm doing a little target practice. "Grandpa" came over to see what we were shooting. Upon seeing that we had a 32-20 exclaimed, You boys be careful, that gun of mine shot right through people! It is amazing what people will say when they get excited!

Ivan
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Old 05-17-2020, 08:55 PM
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The 32-20 is my favorite cartridge. I have a single action revolver and a Uberti 1870 carbine that I have burned a lot of ammunition through when active in Cowboy Action Shooting.

My load uses 115 gr. Flat Nose Lead Bullet, AA #5 powder and Winchester Small Primers. I got my load data from Lyman Reloading Manual.

I call my EMF Single Action Revolver my money gun because I paid way too much for it and because it has helped me place well in shooting matches.

For self-defense I suggest you look into getting a 32 Magnum. The 32 Magnum is just the straight wall version (for easy reloading) of the 32-20. Hornady offers their Critical Defense and Federal has a 85 gr. JHP.

p.s. “Grandpa” is right about the 32-20 shooting right through people. It was also considered to be a good deer rifle cartridge until the Internet came along and told us how much tougher deer are today than in Grandpa’s time.

p.s.s. Yet the same Internet today tells us that 55 gr. bullets in the .223/5.56 is good enough stopper when deer hunting.

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Old 05-18-2020, 06:23 PM
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I have several 32 magnums. In fact, Ruger makes or made a single action that comes with both cylinders, 32 magnum and 32/20. I have a cylinder from a older pre-17 that I might get converted to 32 magnum and have a convertible S&W.
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Old 05-18-2020, 07:36 PM
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Ruger disappointed a lot of 32-20 fans when they made the cylinder for 32 Magnum Single Six too short to be rechambered in 32-20.
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Old 05-18-2020, 07:43 PM
Johnnu2 Johnnu2 is offline
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Yup I reload for the .32-20 but am too lazy to go and find my formulae tonight.... BUT, I will share a Ruger that is now a .32-20 and an old box of ammo that I found:

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Old 05-19-2020, 04:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reccpd101 View Post
Any tips on reloading for the 32-20. I know it is not smart to use modern rifle rounds in an old S&W revolver.
Good idea;
the rifle load with a 115gr cast #311316 bullet out of a 24.5" barrel with IMR4227 powder does................
1865fps per my old Lyman manual.

Just a wee bit more than a 800fps load.

Good luck with that old Revolver.

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Old 05-19-2020, 05:43 PM
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The old high velocity rifle .32-20 cartridge has not been factory loaded since the early 1960s as I remember. It used a lightweight (80 or 85 grain) JHP bullet, so it visually stands out. It was sold for rifle use only (but not in the Winchester 73), but inevitably it was used by some in .32-20 revolvers. I have understood that it could cause barrel cracking in the forcing cone area, but not Ka-Booms. Back in the early 20th Century, similar rifle-only light bullet high-velocity cartridges cartridges were loaded for the .44-40 and .38-40.

For reasons understood only by Remington, they currently label their .32-20 ammunition as "Rifle". Of course it CAN be used in any rifle chambered for the .32-20, but it's actually a low velocity lead bullet loading which is safe to use in any .32-20 revolver.

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Old 05-19-2020, 08:00 PM
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I also load for the .32-20 (32 WFC). I use 92 grain round nose and 113 grain flat nose gas checked bullets, both cast from Lee molds with whatever lead alloy I have on hand. I use Unique powder. As mentioned above, the Lyman cast bullet manual is an excellent source of information.

I size my bullets to .313 inches in diameter, which does not really size them much at all, but does make it easy to lube them and apply gas checks. I never load to try to make a magnum out of it. Whenever mention is made of this caliber, it seems to never fail that someone will make mention of the old saying, "That'll plumb shoot through a man", or words to that effect. There is something about a .32-20 that makes a man start a-talkin' all folksy! In all seriousness, this caliber really does penetrate.

I have a set of Redding dies, which are outstanding, and I crimp as a final, separate step with a Lee Factory Crimp die.

I have never had any trouble with loading .32-20 ammo, although I have read all of the horror stories. Same holds true for using Unique powder!

My only gun in this caliber is a 4" Colt Police Positive revolver, made in 1911. Still tight as a drum, although according to internet lore it should be out of time, and there are no old school gun smiths left anymore who can fix it! LOL!!!
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:58 PM
Green Frog Green Frog is offline
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I know this is a little off topic for this thread, but then again maybe not so much. I have been wondering about the possibilities of a two cylinder gun, utilizing my Project 616 (in 327 Fed Mag if you came in late) and adding another rebored stainless cylinder, this one in 32-20. I have a complete cylinder assembly from a Model 648 that I bought “just in case” so it should be pretty straightforward “conversion” if it can even be called that... maybe “addition” would be a better descriptor.

What do you guys think?

Froggie
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Old 05-19-2020, 09:29 PM
J. R. WEEMS J. R. WEEMS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scharfschuetzer View Post
That's a good plan not to load too hot for an older S&W. My Hand Ejector does well with the 115 grain bullets (Lyman 311008) sized to .312" at 800 fps. They shoot to the point of aim at 25 yards. I've been using Winchester/Olin 231 with good results.
Pretty much my choice as well Make them in snake loads also.
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