The .32 Winchester Special

By Chuck Hawks

The .32 Winchester Special has been the lifelong running mate of the .30-30 Winchester. It has never been as popular as the .30-30, but it has been popular enough to be one of the top ten best selling American centerfire rifle calibers for most of its life.

The ballistics of the 170 grain factory load for the .32 Winchester Special are very similar to those of the .30-30 Winchester shooting the 170 grain factory load. The .32 bullet has the advantage of making a slightly larger hole; the .30 bullet has a slightly superior sectional density. The usual American factory loads give a 170 grain flat point bullet a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2250 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 1911 ft. lbs. At 100 yards the figures are 1870 fps and 1320 ft. lbs. The 200 yard numbers are 1537 fps and 892 ft. lbs.

The .32 Special is an easy cartridge to reload. Because Winchester lever action rifles lock at the rear of the bolt, it is generally recommended to full length resize cases. Hornady and Speer make 170 grain flat point bullets for the .32 Win. Special. The Speer 170 grain flat point bullet has a BC of .297, and a SD of .236. The reloader can drive these 170 grain bullets to about 2,200 fps from a 20 inch barrel with a variety of medium burning powders. My favorite is IMR 3031, which works very well in both the .32 Special and the .30-30.

Here are some specifications of interest to reloaders: bullet diameter .321", maximum COL 2.565", maximum case length 2.040", trim to 2.030".

The sixth edition of the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading shows that 26.1 grains of IMR 3031 will drive their 170 grain bullet to a MV of 1700 fps. A maximum load of 32.8 grains of IMR 3031 will drive the same bullet to a MV of 2200 fps. Hornady technicians used Remington cases and Federal 210 primers in developing these loads, which were tested in a Model 94 with a 20" barrel.

Note: A full length article about the .32 Winchester Special can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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