The .32 S&W

There's an old rusty H&R hammerless top-break revolver that's been kicking around in the bottom of my dad's gun safe for years. We've never shot it because it's chambered for the .32 S&W and we've never seen any ammo for sale. Recently I decided I wanted to shoot it, so I made my own bullets.

Harrington & Richardson Top Break Revolver
Harrington & Richardson Hammerless

Harrington & Richardson Top Break Revolver Box Art
The label inside the box it came in.

The .32 S&W Long is essentially a lengthened .32 S&W case, so I started off by using a Lyman case trimmer to cut off .31 inches of a .32 S&W Long down to an overall length of .61 inches. The exact length isn't quite as important since the case headspaces via the rim rather than the mouth of the case.

Comparison of a .32 S&W cartridge
.32 S&W Long, Factory .32 S&W, Homemade .32 S&W, .22 LR

Next I primed the case with a Winchester Small Pistol primer and dumped in 6 grains of FFF black powder. After packing the powder down with a dowel, I pushed in a muzzleloading .310" round ball. It's slightly smaller than the .312" bullet diameter listed in my reloading handbook, but that shouldn't cause any problems. Although it is important not to leave an air gap between the ball and the powder in the casing, otherwise the gun might blow up.

Components of a .32 S&W cartridge
Primer, 6 grains FFF, Cut down .32 S&W Long, 45 grain .310" roundball

Performance was dismal to say the least. The sights are so small as to be barely useful, the trigger pull is horrendous, and the cylinder timing is so bad that more lead is shaved off the bullet than actually goes down the barrel. Actually, it's not quite that bad, but this wouldn't be my first pick for a gun in a duel.

It's no powerhouse either. I have a book I shoot with various guns to see their relative power. A .22 LR makes it to around page 550, while my homebrew .32's made it to page 175. It did make a rather large hole and the soft lead bullet flattened dramatically, but this gun really is for man sized targets at card table distances.

.32 S&W Penetration Test
Penetration test on a 2x12 with an 88 grain Remington Kleanbore.