Gun Digest

Ammo Brief: Accurate And Inflexible .32 Smith & Wesson Long

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Accurate as the day is long, the .32 Smith & Wesson was hindered by its lack of versatility compared to iconic .38 Special.

What Are The Defining Qualities Of The .32 S&W Long:

The .32 Smith & Wesson Long cartridge was developed for the Smith & Wesson First Model solid-framed, hand-ejector revolver, which was introduced in 1903. The same cartridge, loaded with a flat-nose bullet, is called the .32 Colt New Police.

Colt, Harrington & Richardson, Iver Johnson and Smith & Wesson were the principal companies making revolvers in this chambering in the United States. Many Spanish and other European revolvers, such as the Bayard and Pickert, chambered the round. In Europe, it had not been as widely used as the shorter .32 Smith & Wesson until some ISU centerfire target-shooters discovered the .32 S&W Long. Now, there are several high-class European target auto-loaders for the wadcutter loading of this cartridge.

On-Target Ammunition Information:

General Comments

The .32 Smith & Wesson Long was the smallest revolver cartridge deemed adequate for police use in the United States in its day and was fairly popular with detectives or plainclothes officers. It has always been available in a variety of short, light, small-framed revolvers, some of which are very well-made.

It has a reputation for excellent accuracy and has been used for target- and match-shooting in the past, as well as in ISU shooting. It’s as accurate as the .38 S&W Special but not as versatile. It is the minimum size for sporting use and, with handloaded, hunting-type bullets, it’s quite effective on small game. It’s not as popular or widely used for self-defense as it once was because of the development of compact .38-caliber revolvers. Its range and effectiveness can be increased by handloading. The original load was 13 grains of blackpowder and a 98-grain bullet.

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from Cartridges of the World, 16th Edition.

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