.32 S&W

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.32 S&W
Type Handgun
Place of origin USA
Production history
Designer Smith & Wesson
Designed 1878
Case type Rimmed, straight
Bullet diameter .312 in (7.9 mm)
Neck diameter .334 in (8.5 mm)
Base diameter .335 in (8.5 mm)
Rim diameter .375 in (9.5 mm)
Rim thickness .045 in (1.1 mm)
Case length .61 in (15 mm)
Overall length .92 in (23 mm)
Primer type Berdan or Boxer Small pistol
Ballistic performance
Bullet weight/type Velocity Energy
85 gr (6 g) Lead 705 ft/s (215 m/s) 93 ft·lbf (126 J)
98 gr (6 g) Lead 705 ft/s (215 m/s) 115 ft·lbf (156 J)
Source(s): "Cartridges of the World" [1]

The .32 S&W cartridge was introduced in 1878 for the Smith & Wesson Model 1 1/2 revolver. It was originally designed as a black powder cartridge. The .32 S&W was offered to the public as a light, defense cartridge, for "card table" distances.[2]


Originally designed as a black powder cartridge using 9 grains of blackpowder, the round has been loaded with smokeless powder since 1940. It is low powered and perfect for use in small frame concealable revolvers and derringers. The round remained popular in the United States and Europe long after the firearms for which it was chambered were no longer produced.[1]

At one time it was considered to be the bare minimum for a self-defense round, but was judged unsuitable for police work.[1]

For defensive uses, the .32 S&W is grouped with other turn of the century cartridges designed for use in "belly guns", or guns meant for use in point blank defensive situations such as in a carriage, or alley way. These cartridges include the .25 ACP, and the .22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle.

For comparison, the minuscule .32 S&W projectile, is over 40% larger in diameter, and over twice as heavy as the 40gr lead round nose used in the .22 long rifle of its day (what we would call standard velocity today). The .32 S&W's velocity of approximately 700fps was very close to the .22 long rifle's performance from a sub-3in barrel, but with this larger diameter, and better sectional density.

Although the .32 S&W's round nose bullet was less than optimal for defense, it did offer significant improvement over these other common handgun calibers of the day.

This performance made the .32 S&W, sometimes referred to as .32 Short, very popular as a gentleman's "vest gun".


The .32 S&W Long cartridge is derived from the .32 S&W, by increasing the overall brass case length, to hold more powder. Since the .32 S&W headspaces on the rim and shares the rim dimensions and case and bullet diameters of the longer .32 S&W Long, the .32 H&R Magnum cartridges, and the .327 Federal Magnum, .32 S&W cartridges may be fired in arms chambered for these longer cartridges. Longer cartridges are unsafe in short chambers, so neither of these longer and more powerful cartridges should be loaded into arms designed for the .32 S&W.[3]

The .32 Merwin & Hulbert cartridge is the same as the .32 S&W. Merwin & Hulbert rebranded the .32 S&W and .38 S&W with their own name, but dimensionally they were the same.

McKinley assassination[edit]

Leon Czolgosz used an Iver Johnson revolver chambered in .32 S&W to shoot President William McKinley on September 6, 1901.[4]

Chambered weapons[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Barnes, Frank C. (2006) [1965]. Skinner, Stan, ed. Cartridges of the World (11th Edition ed.). Iola, WI, USA: Gun Digest Books. pp. 290, 337. ISBN 0-89689-297-2. 
  2. ^ Chicoine, David (28 September 2005). Antique Firearms Assembly/Disassembly: The Comprehensive Guide to Pistols, Rifles & Shotguns. Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. pp. 177–181. ISBN 0-87349-767-8. 
  3. ^ Treakle, John W. American Rifleman (May 2011) p.42
  4. ^ http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2010/03/don-gammill-jr/gun-revieww-iver-johnson-32-sw/