.32 S&W

.32 S&W
Place of originUnited States
Production history
DesignerSmith & Wesson
Designed1878 (1878)
Case typeRimmed, 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 typeSmall pistol
Maximum pressure12,000 psi (83 MPa)
Ballistic performance
Bullet mass/typeVelocityEnergy
85 (5.51 g) Lead705 ft/s (215 m/s)93 ft⋅lbf (126 J)
98 (6.35 g) Lead705 ft/s (215 m/s)115 ft⋅lbf (156 J)
Source(s): "Cartridges of the World" [1]

The .32 S&W cartridge (also known as the .32 S&W Short) was introduced in 1878 for Smith & Wesson pocket revolvers. 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 by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company (UMC) as a black powder cartridge using nine grains of black powder, the round has been loaded with smokeless powder exclusively since 1940.[3] 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 chambered for it were out of production.[1] At one time, it was considered to be the bare minimum for a self-defense round and 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"—guns meant for use in point-blank defensive situations, such as in a carriage or an alleyway. These cartridges include the .25 ACP, and the .22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle. For comparison, the .32 S&W projectile is over 40% larger in diameter and over twice as heavy as the 40-grain lead round-nose bullet used in the .22 Long Rifle of its day (known as standard velocity today). The .32 S&W's velocity of approximately 700 feet per second (210 m/s) was very close to the .22 Long Rifle's performance from a sub-3-inch (76 mm) barrel, but with larger diameter and better sectional density.

Although the .32 S&W's round-nose bullet was less than optimal for defense, the centerfire design did offer a significant improvement in reliability over these other common handgun calibers of the day. This performance made guns chambered in the cartridge very popular as a gentleman's "vest gun" as evidenced by sales of around 5:1 based on surviving examples (the .22 rimfire variants being significantly rarer). Having twice the bullet weight and similar velocity of .22 rimfire in the same platform, the .32 S&W has around double the muzzle energy of a .22 rimfire in similar-sized handguns.


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 none of these longer and more powerful cartridges should be loaded into arms designed for the .32 S&W.[4]

Use in assassinations

Revolver and bullets used in the assassination of William McKinley

Guns chambered in .32 S&W have been used in at least three notable assassinations:

Chambered weapons

See also


  1. ^ a b c Barnes, Frank C. (2006) [1965]. Skinner, Stan (ed.). Cartridges of the World (11th 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. ^ Barnes, Frank C. (2016). Cartridges of the World (15th ed.). p. 430.
  4. ^ Treakle, John W. American Rifleman (May 2011) p.42
  5. ^ Allen, John L., Jr. 2001, September 14. "He executed justice - papal execution Giovanni Battista Bugatti's life and work". National Catholic Reporter.
  6. ^ Gun Review: Iver Johnson .32 S&W - The Truth About Guns
  7. ^ Robert Sherrill (February 1975). The Saturday night special: and other guns with which Americans won the West, protected bootleg franchises, slew wildlife, robbed countless banks, shot husbands purposely and by mistake, and killed presidents--together with the debate over continuing same. Penguin Books. p. 167.

Media files used on this page

Author/Creator: MatthewVanitas, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Picture of a .32 S&W revolver cartridge, and empty brass showing headstamp.
Author/Creator: Michael E. Cumpston, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Smith and Wesson New Departure .32 S&W fired one-handed from 15 yards.
Pistola de Czolgosz.JPG
a Pistola de Leon Czolgosz