The .32-20 Winchester

By Chuck Hawks

The fine old .32-20 (or .32 WCF as it is also called) was originally a black powder cartridge adapted to both rifles and handguns. Winchester advertised it as a combination small game, varmint and deer cartridge.

Modern .32-20 factory loads are rather anemic, launching a 100 grain lead bullet (SD .142, BC .166) at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 1210 fps from a rifle, and about 25% less from a revolver. At a MV of 1210 fps the muzzle energy (ME) is 325 ft. lbs. Remaining energy at 100 yards is 231 ft. lbs.

According to the Speer Reloading Manual Number 13 the rifle reloader can essentially duplicate the factory load by using a 98 grain cast lead bullet in front of 3.8 grains of Hodgdon's Universal, or 3.9 grains of Power Pistol powder. The MV of both loads is approximately 1200 fps in a 22 inch rifle barrel. The Speer technicians used Starline cases and CCI primers for these loads.

The Speer Reloading Manual also lists High Velocity handloads for modern .32-20 rifles such as the Marlin 1894CL and the Browning reproduction of the Model 92. These loads generate pressures as high as 28,000 cup and are safe only in these modern rifles. The Speer 100 grain, .312 inch JHP bullet (BC .167) can be driven to a MV of 1635 fps by 11.0 grains of Hodgdon H110 powder, or a MV of 1858 by 13.0 grains of H110. The ME of the 100 grain bullet at 1800 fps is 719 ft. lbs.; at 150 yards it is about 351 ft. lbs.

Note: A complete article about the .32-20 Winchester can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2004, 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.