The .32 ACP (7.65mm Browning)

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.

Millions of pocket pistols chambered for the .32 ACP have been sold over the years, which is also hard to understand since most pistols available in .32 ACP are also available in .380 ACP, a far superior cartridge.

The case is an unusual semi-rimmed design, although at a glance it looks like an ordinary rimless auto pistol cartridge. The .32 ACP bullet is not a true .32 caliber. It is actually a .30 or a .303--.32 ACP pistols vary! Accuracy with this cartridge is usually sketchy at best. Some .32 ACP pistols don't even come with sights.

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. 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.

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 the 40 grain JHP bullet fired from a .22 WMR pistol. In fairness I should point out that the .32 ACP is a step up from the .25 ACP.

The best bullet for a .32 auto pistol in which it will function reliably (not all do) is the Winchester 60 grain Silvertip Hollowpoint. This has a MV of 970 fps and a ME of 125 ft. lbs. The 50 yard midrange trajectory of this load is +1.3 inches.

Because the Silvertip bullet usually expands on impact, it has a superior one shot stop record of 63% according to the study conducted by Marshall and Sanow. This is really good performance for such a feeble caliber. If you are considering purchasing a .32 ACP autoloader, make sure that it functions reliably with the Winchester Silvertip load before you part with your money.

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Copyright 2001, 2005 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.