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The .327 Federal: this seriously potent .32 is the hottest thing in its class.

Thirty-two caliber handguns have been with us for a long, long time. Two very early examples were the .32 Short Colt in 1875 followed closely by the .32 Smith & Wesson in 1878. The ballistic performance of these little cartridges was nothing to write home about, 80 or 85-grain bullets in the 700 fps range. They did lend themselves to small, light guns that were called pocket pistols and sometimes (for reasons I don't pretend to understand) parlor pistols. They were followed in 1899 by the .32 Auto, which was only a very slight improvement.

Right after the start of the 20th century (1903) S&W introduced a revolver chambered for the "new" 32 Smith & Wesson Long. It was a real zinger, with a 98-grain bullet at nearly 800 fps. By today's standards these cartridges aren't credible as concealed-carry or backup guns: they are just too wimpy.

In some target shooting events the, 32 caliber guns met the rules and were quite popular due to their fine accuracy and modest recoil. In 1984 Federal Cartridge Co. and Harrington & Richardson joined forces to introduce the .32 H&R Magnum. This much longer, and higher pressure, cartridge pushed the performance with an 85-grain bullet up to about 1,100 fps. The .32 H&R Magnum was a huge improvement, but still fell well short of the power levels that could be produced by the 9mms and the .38 Specials.

Now Federal has come up with the .327 Federal Magnum. For the first time, a .32-caliber cartridge is available that can match the performance of the 9mms and .38s in a smaller gun. Now we're talking something like 1,300 fps (out of a three-inch barrel) with a modern 100-grain jacketed hollowpoint bullet. To get there, the working pressure level has been increased from about 13,000 CUP to 45,000 psi. The combination of the greater case volume and increased working pressure has more than doubled the power factor level, to 130,000--putting the .327 Federal in the same power class as a .38 Special.

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LOADS FOR THE .327 FEDERAL MAGNUM

Bullet Primer Powder Case Start Max. Velocity
 Load Load (Max.
 Load)

60-gr. Win.WSP Acc. No.5 Federal 8.0 10.5 gr. 2,110
Hornady XTP gr.

60-gr. Speer Rem. 1.5 Win. WAP Speer 8.0 10.5 gr. 2,100
Gold Dot gr.

71-gr. Sierra Win. WSP Hod. HS-6 Speer 7.5 9.5 gr. 1,950
FMJ gr.

85-gr. Rem. 1.5 VV N340 Speer 5.5 7.5 gr. 1,710
Hornady XTP gr.

90-gr. Sierra Rem. 1.5 Acc. No. 7 Federal 7.0 10.5 gr. 1,775
JHC gr.

100-gr. CCI-500 VV N350 Speer 6.5 8.5 gr. 1,650
Hornady XTP gr.

100-gr. Speer CCI-500 Hod. Lil Federal 10.0 14.0 gr. 1,620
Unicor Gun gr.

115-gr. Speer Rem. 1.5 RS Federal 9.5 13.0 gr. 1,650
GDHP Enforcer gr.

* All loads chronographed from a six-inch pressure barrel.


Don't be misled into thinking that just because this new cartridge is a .32, the recoil will be very mild. Other things being equal (and they rarely are), the peak recoil force, the kick we feel, is proportional to the power factor. Still, there are few people who would call a .38 Special a real kicker, and the .327 Federal Magnum certainly isn't in the same recoil class as a .357 Magnum.

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Reloading for the .327 Federal Magnum is entirely straightforward. Compared to some of the more popular calibers, there are a limited number of bullets available. Sierra, Speer, and Hornady all make bullets in at least two weight sizes, and that's more than enough to get started. Dies are easily available. This month ours came from RCBS. The same dies will work for .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Magnum and, course, the .327 Federal Magnum. Straight-case pistol cartridges generally require three die sets and the .327 Federal Magnum is no exception. Plenty of primers and suitable powders presently exist. Both Federal and Speer are loading factory ammo for this caliber, so there's your case supply.

I used a six-inch one-piece pressure barrel while developing these loads. We were all set to get a loaner gun from Ruger, but the SP101.327 had not received a safety clearance from the People's Republic of California, so Ruger couldn't ship the gun. Our friend Lane Pearce, writing for our sister publication Shooting Times in the state of Alabama, did receive a gun--and shot my loads in two revolvers. The SP101 with a 3 1/16 inch barrel produced velocities averaging 300 fps slower than the pressure barrel numbers reported here. Lane also had a custom-built revolver with a six-inch barrel that produced velocities about 150 fps slower than these numbers. The difference, besides simple barrel length, is that the one-piece pressure barrel does not have the gap between the cylinder and the barrel that revolvers have, and therefore always produces higher velocities.

The body diameter of the .327 Federal Magnum cartridge makes it possible to fit six chambers into a cylinder that would hold only five shots of .38 Special. It offers another option to consider for a concealed-carry or backup gun.

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WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data.
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Title Annotation:G&A RELOADS
Author:Forker, Bob
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Feb 1, 2009
Words:920
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