Thoughts on the .327 Federal Magnum

By David Harris

.327 Federal Mag.
Illustration courtesy of Federal Premium.

I was first introduced to the .32 family of cartridges in 1984, when I purchased a handy little Ruger Single Six Magnum (SSM) revolver in .32 H&R Magnum. The cartridge was touted at the time as being the equal of the standard velocity .38 Special in power, but in a smaller package and with less recoil. (These claims are still true today. -Editor)

It generally lived up to the hype, being fairly powerful, very accurate and pleasant to shoot. However, it is not a true magnum. It is loaded to a maximum average pressure (MAP) of 21,000 CUP, which is only slightly higher than the .38 Special +P.

Years went by and I purchased a second SSM, this time with a 6-1/2" barrel. I enjoyed these revolvers on the pistol range and for hunting small game and varmints. I also used them as a transition from rimfire to centerfire for new shooters.

I began reloading the .32 H&R, due to the spotty availability and cost of factory ammo. In the process of reloading the .32 H&R I ran into articles by people, such as Brian Pearce. These pioneers were pushing the limits of this cartridge into what I call true magnum territory. They were taking advantage of the difference in strength between the Ruger Single Six revolver and the Harrington & Richardson top break models for which the cartridge was originally developed. This was the situation during the 1990s and early 2000s.

For a time, Marlin even chambered their Model 1894 lever action carbine in .32 H&R. Ruger also offered it in their SP101 DA revolver.

The one thing lacking in the .32 H&R was sufficient power to be taken seriously as a self defense cartridge in the 21st Century. (Modern shooters have forgotten how popular the much less powerful .32 S&W, .32 Colt New Police and .32 S&W Long revolvers were with both civilians and police in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.) The .32 H&R Mag. was already very versatile, since it could also shoot the .32 S&W Long, .32 S&W and even .32 ACP cartridges.

Enter the .327 Federal Magnum! It is essentially a strengthened and stretched version of the .32 H&R pushed to a dizzying MAP of 45,000 psi. It was available for a few years before it got my interest. I hesitated to buy the first .327 revolvers; "three bears syndrome," too big, too small and I was looking for just right. I have since changed my mind on this, purchasing an eight shot Blackhawk and a 4.16" SP101.

Then Lipsey's, in their infinite wisdom, contracted with Ruger to design and produce the Single Seven, a seven shot version of the Single Six in .327 Magnum. It was just right and I purchased one in every barrel length.

I must admit that I was taken aback by the power of this new cartridge the first time I touched one off. The recoil is definitely .32 Magnum and the muzzle blast is in the same league as its big brother the .357 Magnum. The little cartridge comes into its own in the velocity department. I had never before chronographed a bullet from a 7-1/2" revolver above 1600 fps; it absolutely screams.

About a year after the Single Sevens were introduced, many .327 owners began to look for a companion rifle. This is something single action revolver fans are known for, a rifle and revolver chambered for the same cartridge. I suspect Mr. Imperato at Henry Arms received many e-mails on this.

Henry Big Boy rifles and carbines in .327 started arriving in the summer of 2017. The .327 in a long gun is an even a greater surprise. The 1600 fps revolver load becomes a 2000+ fps carbine load.

The .32 caliber revolver family now covers a full range of uses, from the .32 S&W (shooting rats in the barn), to the .32 S&W Long target master, to the .32 H&R Mag. all around defense and small game cartridge, and finally the .327 Federal Magnum full throttle performer (the fastest factory loaded magnum handgun cartridge).

A .327 wheel gun will do for 90% of what most folks would need in the outdoors. Except for the largest game, it is a go to revolver. Most of us have hunted coyotes, wood chucks, javalina, squirrels, rabbits and other Class 1 animals far more often than elk and bear. (It is also a good, flat shooting choice for protection from two legged predators in the field. -Editor)

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Copyright 2017 by David Harris and/or All rights reserved.