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The .32 ACP

By Chuck Hawks

.32 Auto
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

Colt introduced the .32 Automatic Colt Pistol cartridge in North America in 1903, although it had been available for four years in Europe. It is one of the all time most popular handgun cartridges, which is hard to understand since its performance leaves a great deal to be desired. .32 ACP ammo is widely distributed and easily available.

Typical factory loads shoot a 71 grain FMJ bullet at a muzzle velocity of 905 fps with 129 ft. lbs. of energy. The non-expanding bullet makes this load less effective for personal defense than a 40 grain JHP bullet fired from a .22 WMR revolver and the .22 WMR shoots much flatter. In fairness I should point out that the .32 ACP is a reasonable step-up from the .25 ACP or the .22 LR. It is adapted to a number of sub-compact (pocket) autoloading pistols.

The .32 ACP can be reloaded, but few bother to do so, as handling the teeny cases and bullets is a chore. (Maximum case length is only .68".) Most of those that do reload .32 ACP use ordinary .308" (.30 caliber) bullets, although the SAAMI specification calls for .311" bullets. (This actually makes it a .303 caliber.) According to the 26th edition of the Hodgdon Data Manual 2.2 grains of HP38 can drive a 71 grain jacketed bullet to a MV of 821 fps, and 2.5 grains of HP38 can drive the same bullet to a MV of 860 fps. These loads were chronographed in a 3.75" barrel.

Note: A complete article about the .32 ACP can be found on the Handgun Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2004, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.