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32 Pop Guns

© 2014-Ed Harris


32 Pop Guns...

The ".32 Popguns" make great small game foraging guns which are more effective on game animals larger than bunnies and more effective than a .22 long rifle rimfire round. The .32 ACP and .32 S&W Long should not be your first choice as defense guns, but loaded with flat nosed cast lead bullets they will be more effective than LRN and FMJ bullets in those calibers which served in police and military roles for many years.  You need only ONE set of dies, one bullet mold, and two shell holders to reload ammunition for the:

.32 ACP
.32 Smith & Wesson
.32 Smith & Wesson Long
.32 H&R Magnum

You "could probably" load .327 Federal also, but I have no personal experience with that cartridge. 
Get RCBS .32 ACP dies having a carbide sizer, expander die and seater.  Get shell holders for the .32 ACP (or .30 carbine will work if you already have one) and .32 S&W Long (.223 Remington will also work if you already have one).  Buy a Lee Factory Crimp Die for .32 ACP, which I consider essential.  You don’t need one for the  .32 S&W Long.

Get the RCBS 32-90CM mold which casts a 90-grain, flattened round nose "Cowboy" slug. 
This is all you need besides your press. 

Cast your .32 bullets from range backstop scrap or wheel weights. Harder alloy is unnecessary. Load your bullets as-cast and unsized. Lube your bullets by tumbling in Lee Liquid Alox. You don't need to buy a lubricator-sizer. 

The .32 S&W Long and .32 H&R Magnum revolvers are most accurate with "fat" bullets of .313-.314, which are needed to fill the chamber throats.  While normal diameter to size cast bullets for the .32 ACP is .311", using the Lee Factory Crimp die in .32 ACP enables you to load bullets as-cast and unsized, after lubricating with Lee Liquid Alox, because the Lee Factory Crimp Die will size the bullets by compression inside the case and profile all loaded rounds to ensures that all rounds will chamber and extract freely. This removes any bulges caused by a mismatch of bullet diameter and base profile to case wall thickness.

Use Alliant Bullseye powder and anybody's small pistol primers.  Use the RCBS Little Dandy Measure Rotor # 00 to load 1.7 grains of Bullseye in the .32 ACP for about 750 fps from a pistol with 10cm barrel, approximating .32 S&W Long factory load revolver ballistics.  This is the minimum load which cycles most pistols.  If your Little Dandy Rotor #0 does not throw more than 2.0 grains of Bullseye you can use that for a heavier load, check it by dumping TEN charges onto a scale and moving the decimal point.

1.7 grains is your minimum low noise starting charge in the .32 S&W Long.  Factory level .32 S&W Long velocities of 750 fps from a 4-inch revolver are approximated with Little Dandy Rotor #0 for 2.0-2.2 grains of Bullseye and the 90 grain Cowboy bullet.

The maximum charge in .32 S&W Long is metered by RCBS Little Dandy rotor #1 which is 2.5 grains of Bullseye for about 850 in .32 S&W Long brass for general use.  This charge with a 71-grain FMJ at 0.98” cartridge in the .32 ACP case approximates the hot Euro loads at 970 fps from a full length (10 cm) barrel, such as the Walther PP and should not be exceeded.

In any revolver chambered for .32 H&R Magnum ammunition, you may use the Little Dandy measure Rotor #3 for 3 grains of Bullseye in .32 S&W Long brass with the 90 grain RCBS bullet for about 900 fps from a 4-inch revolver.  Consider this a "+P" load for occasional use only in strong, modern .32 S&W Long revolvers such as the S&W Models 30 and 31.

Factory level velocities around 1000 fps in the .32 H&R Magnum are approximated using the RCBS Little Dandy Rotor #4 to meter 3.2 grs. of Bullseye in Starline .32 H&R Magnum brass with the Federal 200 primer.  Power and energy approximate the old .32-20 Winchester black powder load fired in a revolver. Some manuals suggest higher velocities in .32 H&R Mag. loads than this, but they defeat the purpose of a non-destructive small game in which you can “eat right up to the bullet hole.”  .

My cast bullet hand loads in .32 ACP use either the 88-grain NEI #82, the 90-grain RCBS 32-90CM flat nose or a shortened 82-grain hollow point conversion of the Lyman #311008 as modified by Erik Ohlen at Hollow Points Molds (

I cast handgun bullets from either wheel weights or indoor range backstop scrap of similar 11-12 BHN hardness.  For subsonic loads harder alloy is not needed.  Wheel weights slowly air cooled after casting are about BHN of 12, which is a good match for .32 ACP or .32 S&W Long or H&R Magnum ammunition. 

I tumble-lubricate bullets in Lee Liquid Alox, and load them as-cast and unsized with a charge of 1.7 (LD Rotor #00) grains of Bullseye. Do not seat bullets shorter than 0.95 inch overall cartridge length, because doing so causes bullet bases to protrude into the powder space, increasing load density and raising chamber pressure above maximum limits. Do not exceed 0.975 inch overall cartridge length to prevent flat nosed cast bullets from dragging against the front of the magazine box. 

I recommend the Lee Factory Crimp Die for .32 ACP. Mine was custom made by them and costs about $30.  This may be a standard item now. It removes any bulges caused by mis-match of the bullet diameter with the internal case wall taper, ensuring easy chambering. It sizes bullets, if needed by compression inside the case.  People are confused by the advice given in old Lyman manuals which recommends sizing cast bullets to the groove diameter of the barrel. This results in undersized bullets being gas-cut, causing leading and poor accuracy. Load your bullets as-cast and unsized and let the Lee FCD make the rounds fit your gun.   Wide variation in bore sizes coupled with different diameters of factory jacketed bullets between US and European ammo from .309 to .312 explains most accuracy problems people experience with the .32 ACP. Cast bullets of .311-.312 diameter perform best in most guns, but using the Lee factory Crimp Die enables as-cast bullets as large as .315 to be used.

Do not shoot thousands of cast bullet loads with bullets heavier than 90 grains in the tiny Keltec and Beretta “mouse guns” having light alloy frames, because their increased recoil impulse is harder on the gun. The Beretta 3032 INOX pistol has a heavier slide than the original Tomcat which reduces its slide velocity to mitigate against the frame cracking problem which existed with early blued steel Tomcats using European ammo. My replacement INOX has proven far more rugged than the original blued steel Tomcat it replaced and has digested over 2000 of cast loads and 73-grain RWS hardball with no issues.


Beretta Inox 32 ACP with Cast Bullets…

In my testing Remington, Winchester, Federal and Magtech 71-gr. FMJ ammo averaged only about 850 f.p.s. when fired from a Walther PP with 3.9 inch barrel. European CIP 73-gr. FMJ ammo such as RWS, Geco, Fiocchi or Sellier & Bellot does over 900 in the 2.4 inch Beretta Tomcat and over 950 in the CZ or  Walther. Typical US 60-gr. JHPs typically run about 900 f.p.s. but because of their lighter bullets, don’t provide enough recoil impulse to reliably cycle the older European pistols. 

32 ACP Target Gallery:



Beretta with SAEO 325 + 1.8gr Bullseye

  BerettaM1935CustomBblHSonCaseMouth  BerettaM1935IssueBblVHSonCaseMouth  BerettaM1935withNEIcast  


Colt_Saeco_1  CZ27withNEIcast  CZ_Saeco_1









My cast bullet ACP loads discussed here approximate the velocity of .32 S&W Long ammo fired from a 4-inch revolver, about 750 f.p.s. Recoil impulse approximates European 73-grain hardball. These cast bullet loads are accurate, fun for recreational shooting or small game and they run the wartime guns like a pony trotting.


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