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Myth and Reality
Myth and Reality

Why no love for the .32?

In a recent class, I had an older lady student. She was using a .22 Ruger LCR because she has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and finds .38s extremely painful to shoot.

I knew she was coming so I brought out my .32 S&W Long caliber revolver and invited her to try it at the end of the class. The ammunition I loaded was .32 Long wadcutters.

She fired a cylinder and said that while it wasn't as quite as pleasant as her .22, it was more than do-able. She shot it quite well, in terms of accuracy.

Her husband contacted me today and said she really liked shooting it and they are planning to get her a .32.

All the love is gone for the .32 caliber, both auto and revolver, in the gun press. I think that's unfortunate. It should satisfy the reliability requirements of the ignition obsessed with a freakish fear when it comes to un-natural aversion to a .22 LR rimfire (which is completely irrelevant when high quality Eley primed/ CCI ammunition is used). 

The J frame revolver was originally designed around the .32 cartridge, which is why a .32 J holds six shots instead of five. Recoil is clearly milder than even a standard *.38 wadcutter, based on experiments I have conducted with older and/or more hand sensitive females (and males for that matter).

It's just too bad that a useful, manageable, and effective caliber got left out in the cold because of our idiotic ‘bigger must be better’

national obsession.

(1) First, I have personally seen autopsies of numerous shootings, including homicides and suicides.

I have also made it a point to study real shootings for over 30 years.

I have seen, and read about, “instant” kill from .22 LR, or .25ACP and failures from larger calibers. I’ve seen the failure of the .357 Sig, and .357 Magnum, and read about contact head shots from .40 S&W, .45ACP, and .357 Magnum failing to kill.

These are not outliers.

It can go either way. There simply are too many variables to “control” to make a statistically meaningful prediction. Which leads to our next point.

(2) Let’s say some caliber is x % ‘effective’ and another is y % effective (based on statistical analysis which by definition is flawed). Statistical analysis does not equal absolute predictability.

In a given single shooting case, x can fail or y can succeed against all odds without any rhyme or reason.

You can argue “playing the odds,” but to do that, one has to show statistically significant differences in results, which do not exist in a meaningful way precisely because you cannot “control” (ie, analyze for cross variance and true independence of variables) for everything in a given shooting event.

The bottom line: it’s a crap shoot. Behind stress, position, perhaps injuries already sustained, psychological effects and other mindset issues, caliber choice is virtually a non-issue in terms of self defense. The variables and circumstances are too innumerable to contemplate.

That’s why HAVING A GUN is so vastly more important than any worry over caliber, or action type, or anything else we can try to drag into the equation (remembering that 75% of stops with a handgun are psychological, not physiological). This stuff is fun to debate, and we can crack a beer and hash over all the merits of this vs that… Fun stuff, I don’t deny. But it really does not correlate with “Successful” vs “Non-Successful” self defense. Only three things seem to consistently produce the desired results... Having any gun, shot placement, and multiple, rapid hits.

Said another way, in the real world, it simply does not matter because it does not have predictive power.

It reminds me of the end of the movie, Once Upon a Time in the West...

“Hey Harmonica… when they do you in... pray its someone who knows WHERE to shoot”

  1. *The mild shooting and effective .32 Long can be duplicated exactly for use in a .38 caliber revolver by finding/buying, or loading 100 grain .358 wadcutters over 2.8 grains of WW231 powder (800 FPS & 147 FPE on target).  This is every bit as easy to handle as the mild shooting .32 Long, and is actually better suited for self defense due to the larger bullet diameter and full meplat of the wadcutter. But in either caliber, the wadcutter is a proven, effective self defense round.

Fiocchi 32 S&W Long 100 Grain Lead Wadcutter.

In a pinch, the .32ACP Auto cartridge can be used in a .32 Long /.32 H&R Magnum, or .327 Magnum revolver since it’s a semi-rimmed cartridge. The extractor won’t knock them out of the cylinder because of the smaller rim, but they’ll work.


New (09.28.15) 6 shot Ruger LCR (5452) chambered in .327 Federal Magnum, as well as the .32 H&R Magnum/.32 Long/.32 S&W Short, and in a pinch, the .32ACP

Winchester 32 Auto FMJ-FP (Q4255) Flat Points tend to tumble on impact creating larger wound channels and more damage while still penetrating to sufficient depths.