By John Taffin, American Handgunner
The .32 Smith & Wesson cartridge was then lengthened in 1896 to become the .32 Smith & Wesson Long. The 1899 Military & Police (in .32 S&W Long) was Smith & Wesson’s first swing-out cylinder revolver. Before production ended on their I-frames, which are slightly smaller than the J-frames, Smith & Wesson had produced over 700,000 .32 DA sixguns. The K-32 was built on Smith & Wesson’s medium frame, which we now know as the K-frame.
While Smith & Wesson named this new cartridge the .32 S&W Long, Colt’s version was the .32 Colt New Police. Just as with the .38 Colt New Police, which was Colt’s answer to the .38 S&W, Colt’s version had a flatnose instead of the roundnose used by Smith & Wesson, giving it some advantage when it came to self-defense.
Years ago, even before the .32 H&R Magnum arrived, I was shooting and handloading for a 3″ I-frame Smith & Wesson .32 Long. That one went in a trade, but I was able to use my .32 Long dies to load the .32 Magnum for the Ruger Single-Six. I no longer needed a .32 Long, or so I thought, but in the back of the mind I still longed for a .32 Masterpiece. Finally, thanks to a reader, I have a K-32, and Diamond Dot has a pair of I-frames, both 4″ versions, with one being blue and the other a nickel-plated, factory pearl-gripped .32 Long.
There was a time when the .32 Long/.32 Colt New Police was looked upon as being a viable self-defense and law enforcement cartridge, and definitely as a target cartridge when chambered in the K-32. Today it’s still a most pleasurable plinking cartridge and just about perfect as a combination small-game and varmint cartridge.
The Smith & Wesson K-32 Masterpiece in .32 Long can
deliver gilt-edged accuracy with most loads.
Take It Easy
With a good supply of Starline brass and such bullets as the NEI #32-100 SWC and the RCBS #32-98 SWC I have been able to do a lot of experimenting with this now nearly 120-year-old cartridge. Then a few weeks ago I walked into Buckhorn Gun Shop and what should I see in the case but an old Colt Pocket Positive chambered in “.32 Police.” It came with a partial box of 85-gr. Winchester copper jacketed .32 S&Ws, the shorter original version. I was later surprised to find these clocked out at 700 fps from the 3″ barrel of the Colt Pocket Positive.
When I started reloading for the .32 Long I consulted some reloading manuals from a few years back. The RCBS Cast Bullet Book gives a maximum load with their 32-98 SWC at 3.5 grs. of WW231 while the Lyman #45 Reloading Manual lists a 100-gr. bullet at a maximum of 4.0 grs. of Unique. I would not be concerned with firing either of these loads in the Smith & Wesson K-32, however since they would also be used in the smaller I-frames, I cut both charges by 0.5 grs. as the maximum.
My original .32 Long dies did not have a carbide sizer, however the addition of RCBS carbide .32 Magnum dies took care of this problem and it works for both .32 cartridges. With the .32 Long tried in various .32 Magnum sixguns I have found mostly, yes, they will work very well and shoot very accurately. But there are exceptions, and I have seen some .32 Magnum sixguns perform like shotguns with .32 Long loads.
Bullets used in reloading for the .32 Long include the AA Ltd
90-gr. RNFP, RCBS 98-gr. SWC, NEI 100-gr. SWC and Bull-X 100-gr. SWC.
The.32 cartridges compared (L-R) .32 S&W,
.32 S&W Long, .32 Magnum and .327 Federal.
Targets And Defense
Just as with the .38 Smith & Wesson, which is also a small-capacity cartridge, most of my reloading chores are accomplished with HP38, Unique and Trail Boss. With either the NEI or RCBS 100-gr. semi-wadcutter bullets, performance with the K-32 is excellent with either 3.0 grs. of HP38 or 3.5 grs. of Unique. They all shoot very tight little groups, with muzzle velocities from 800 to 1,000 fps. The RCBS bullet, when loaded with 2.5 grs. of Trail Boss, gives a very pleasant muzzle velocity of just over 725 fps and groups well under 1″ at 20 yards.
For those non-reloaders who have solid-frame sixguns in excellent shape and chambered in the .32 Long, Buffalo Bore is now offering two loadings. In a Smith & Wesson 4″ I-Frame, .32 Long, Buffalo Bore’s .32 Long 115 LFN clocks out at 825 fps, and groups in 11/8″ at 7 yards, while their 100 LWC has a muzzle velocity of just over 900 fps and groups around 13/8″. These loads put .32 Long sixguns in a viable self-defense category.
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