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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
not sure if this is in the right category so move it if you must Mods.
like I said in another thread, I recently bought a surplus Beretta 81 in .32 acp. it is a sweet shooting pistol in a caliber that I have always looked down on as being way underpowered. o_Othe other day, I shot a variety of .32acp factory ammo with both fmj & h.p. bullets and all penetrated a hard pressure treated pine 2x12 with ease. this got me to thinking that maybe my thinking was wrong about the little pipsqueak round. :confused:I plan on doing some more testing but I was wondering if any one here with more experience with the .32 would chime in and give some pros or cons about this little cartridge. I chronographed the various factory rounds I bought and they all were between 900 and 1000 fps. I realize that a 60-70 gr. bullet isn't going to have the kinetic energy of a heavier bullet but was wondering about the actual "killing power" or effectiveness of the .32 acp. especially out of a bigger pistol like the Beretta as opposed to the normal tiny sub compact pocket pistols the cartridge is usually shot out of. also if anyone has reloaded the .32acp and has any "pet" loads they would share. thanks in advance.
 

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The .32ACP aka 7.65Browning has been around a long time..the .32acp can be a decent defensive round if you are proficient with the pistol...smaller caliber/lighter bullet equates to the need for increase in bullet placement. That said, I have a Browning 1922 that has the tiny bump sights on it, it shoot increadibly accurate out to 7 yards... my KelTec P32 is slim as slim can be, it weighs almost nothing and is accurate at 7 yards...That said, it is not the most fun gun to shoot, the sights are miniscule, the triggerpull is DAO yet it will put a magazine full into the target...The .32ACP is semi-rimmed in that there is a slight rim and this can cause problems if you are intent on shooting hollowpoint ammo. HP ammo is shorter in OAL, that and the ctg being a semirimmed ctg can cause an at best case "difficult rimlock" stoppage and at worst a deadly rimlock stoppage...I only carry FMJ in my KelTec and it tend to be Fiocchi...quality ammo no rimlock issues....rimlock is caused by the recoil of the gun and the hollowpoint ammo being shorter, under recoil the ctgs move in the magazine and the semirims can become locked stopping the pistol from properly feeding...All in all the .32ACP is better than a .25ACP or .22LR, feed it properly and it will do you right....
 

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Typically, the firearm chambered in 32 ACP is smaller and lighter than firearms chambered in more robust rounds. Thus, the 32 may well be carried when the heavier gun is put on the shelf. A gun with you in time of need is way better than a more potent round still at home!
 

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The .32 ACP is useful in transitioning people from rimfires to centerfires, and it is a fun little plinker. That said, it can be deadly in the hands of someone who can handle a pistol like a pistol and not like a shotgun, who knows how to put rounds exactly where he or she wants them placed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
thanks for the replies guys.
K75RT- very interesting about the "rimlock". I've never heard of that before. more than likely I will start reloading this caliber so I will keep that in mind.:cool: I did notice that in the Fiochi ammo I bought that was loaded with XTP bullets, the bullets were seated farther out the case than looked right to me. and the PPU H.P. ammo had long ogives on the bullet that made it almost look like FMJ with a deep cavity.
Typically, the firearm chambered in 32 ACP is smaller and lighter than firearms chambered in more robust rounds. Thus, the 32 may well be carried when the heavier gun is put on the shelf. A gun with you in time of need is way better than a more potent round still at home!
the Beretta is not in the lighter/smaller pistol category. it is exactly the same size and weight as pistols that shoot more powerful rounds. this pic shows the Beretta 81 .32 acp with a Makarov and a CZ 82 both chambered in the hot 9x18. inspite of the Beretta being so sexy looking,the CZ has the best ergonomics and is a better shooter with higher power.;)
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I wouldn't hesitate to carry one. Nobody wants to get shot with one for sure unless they are thoroughly methed up or something like that. If nothing else it might deter an assailant while you're making your way to a 9mm, a 40 S&W, a 45 ACP, or some other potentially more suitable firearm.
 

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If a person needs to shoot through the steel wheel of a Renault Dauphine, the .32 ACP is just the ticket.

The cartridge does penetrate more than might be expected. Found a Renault Dauphine wheel when shooting in a dump once when I was young. Set it up and shot at it with an Astra Constable .32 automatic. Was surprised that the 71 grain FMJ bullet could pierce the rim.

Don't know whether that says more about the effectiveness of the cartridge or the strength of the wheel.
 

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Here is an update an older article of mine which is a good summary on the .32 ACP:

My mentor, the late Harry J. Archer was a career clandestine services officer who served from the post-WWII cold war period through the Vietnam era. Harry was the real-life equivalent of Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne, surviving Cold War era covert missions in denied areas, later in life becoming a highly respected case officer and trainer down at The Farm, at Camp Peary, VA, near Williamsburg, finally retiring and living long enough to die peacefully at home in bed in New Market, VA.

Harry taught his students that the purpose of a concealed handgun is to neutralize immediate threats from contact to twenty feet to facilitate escape. When on missions he carried whatever handgun was common among criminal elements in the country where the mission took him. This often meant a .32 ACP or 7.65mm Browning, because a M1911, Colt or S&W revolver would make it obvious that he wasn't "a local."

While no .32 ACP is your first choice for defense, the first rule of gun fighting is to HAVE A GUN. In the worst-case scenario any gun is better than no gun. Many countries restrict foreign nationals working corporate security for their clients from carrying anything larger than a .22 LR or .32 ACP, so you "dance with the girl you brought."

A .32 autopistol is easy to control to produce rapid, accurate double or triple taps, compared to a .380 or 9mm of similar size, which carries one less round. The currently imported Beretta 81 double-stack magazine .32 ACPs have a heavy slide and heavy-duty recoil spring. They can produce 950 fps with the .309" diameter Hornady XTP bullet with 3 grains of AutoComp from the 3.8" barrel of the Model 81. Their increased magazine capacity is also a "plus."

Back in the day (1960-70s) Harry's .32 ACP carry load was the Winchester 100-grain .32-20 lead flatnosed Lubaloy bullet assembled in "sterile" unheadstamped (WWII WRA) primed cases with 3 grains of Hercules Infallible powder, assembled at 0.95" overall cartridge length, giving 870 +/- 30 fps from a Colt M1903 Pocket Hammerless Type III, approximating the performance of .32-20 factory loads from the same barrel length, but in a .32 ACP pocket pistol. Indeed a powerful and effective load. Substituting the Accurate 31-095T with 2 grains of TiteGroup produces identical results with near full-caliber "crush."

In actual chronograph tests common US .32 ACP hardball typically seldom exceeds 850 fps from a pocket pistol with barrel shorter than 3-1/2 inches. The Speer Gold Dot and Hornady XTP JHPs do break 900 fps, but seldom expand from barrels shorter than 3-1/2.” European CIP 73-gr. hardball actually produces about 900 f.p.s. from pocket pistols such as the Beretta Tomcat, and 950+ f.p.s. from the Walther PP, SIG P230, or Beretta M1935, M70 and M81. European police organizations routinely carried .32 ACPs and felt them entirely adequate until after the 1972 Munich Olympics terrorist attacks.

When you are using a marginal caliber, feeding reliability, shot placement and penetration are most important. You want not less than 20” of water or 12” of gelatin penetration. Experienced users of deep-concealment, hideaway guns agree, based on police and military experience dating back to Fairbairn and Sykes experiences in China before WW2, and continuing through the Cold War era. Lighter weight, short-nosed hollow point bullets often fail to feed and may fail to penetrate larger bones or defeat intermediate cover, such as a defensively positioned arm, needed to reach vital organs.

Comparing European CIP specification 73-77-grain hardball in .32 ACP to typical .380 FMJs fired from short barrels any difference in performance not important.
Experience has also shown that light-weight .380 ACP bullets of fragile enough construction to expand from short barrels, often fail in the penetration department. Typical .32 ACP hardball, however, usually does a 180-degree "flip" during the first 6-8" of soft-target penetration and continues base-first, causing more damage than its kinetic energy would suggest.

In my testing of numerous different .32 ACP pocket guns, no JHP loads currently available would expand reliably in either water jugs or gelatin when fired from barrels shorter than 3 inches. US commercial .32 ACP loads are "anemic" compared to their CIP-Euro counterparts and less reliable in function. Many WWII-era European military and police pistols steadfastly refuse to function with American ammo, even Buffalo Bore.

In my testing the short-overall length JHP and hard cast lead flat-nosed rounds such as Buffalo Bore are not reliable enough for defense carry. In most guns they are almost a sure recipe for a “Jam-O-Matic.” The Beretta 81 is the only pistol I have tested which ran Buffalo Bore out of the box with no drips, runs or errors. In most guns overall cartridge length should be 0.945" or greater to prevent the possibility of rounds repositioning in the magazine stack, due to recoil, causing "rim-lock."

The best .32 ACP pistols for pocket carry should enable safe carry with the chamber loaded, and should be capable of immediate firing by stroking the trigger without having to manipulate an external safety. In the event of a misfire, the trigger mechanism should enable an immediate repeat strike upon the primer by repeating the trigger stroke. Pistols which meet these criteria are the Walther PP and PPK, SIG P230, Mauser HSc and Beretta Model 81.

The micro-pistols such as the Keltecd P-32 and Beretta Tomcat are attractive. My advice is to severely limit loads producing over 130 ft.-lbs. to only occasional or emergency use in the tiny micro pistols because they may cause “slide bite” if you have meaty hands and don’t use a Hogue Grip Sleeve, as I painfully found out. Also, after prolonged firing, [over 1000 rounds] they are “frame crackers.” My Beretta Model 3032 INOX Tomcat test platform, digested about 2000 rounds of hot CIP-Euro and heavy cast bullet hand loads before the frame cracked.

The most effective carry load in the .32 ACP is a +P handload with the Hornady 90-grain XTP bullet of .309" diameter with 3 grains of AutoComp, at an overall cartridge length of 0.950-0.955," producing 930 fps. from a 3-1/2" barrel and 960 fps from the 3.8" Beretta 81. This load is NOT for casual shooting in quantity if you want your gun to last! ONLY IF your barrel slugs larger than .310" groove diameter, substitute the Hornady 85-grain XTP .312" intended for the .32 H&R Magnum for the same result. The XTP bullet from the .32 ACP does not expand spectacularly as depicted in typical gun magazine hype, but does expand "some," to about .40 cal., so is more effective than FMJ, and it penetrates deeply.

The classic Colt M1903 Pocket Hammerless, Beretta 1935 and the Walther PP are steel-frame pistols I have shot extensively with these heavy loads and which will reliably feed large flatnosed bullets such as the Saeco #325 semi-wadcutter and the Accurate 31-095T. The Beretta 81 is another pistol which feeds anything! In pistols which do not feed reliably with anything other than FMJRN "hardball" bullets the 87-94 grain Accurate 31-087B, 31-087T and 31-094H bullets are recommended. If you intend to standardize on bullets heavier than 80 grains in your .32 ACP pistols, it is highly recommended that you replace the recoil spring with the .380 ACP version for the same model, if possible.

Let’s be clear that the .32 ACP is not my choice as a defense gun against either two-legged or 4-legged predators. However, there are those times when “any gun is better than no gun,” so it is better to take the .32 along than to go unarmed and take your chances. When the cylinder bulge of my usual Colt .38 Detective Special is too obvious, my 1903 Colt Pocket Hammerless, Beretta M1935 or SIG P230 drop nicely into a pocket holster. I like the fact that the makes a bigger hole than a 22 and presents a low profile. With correct loads performance is equal to most factory loads in the .380 ACP and in typical .32 ACP pistols you have an additional round of magazine capacity.

We aren't talking about "one-shot stops" here, but to quickly and accurately put double or triple taps on target. The Italian Carabinieri practice 3-shots in 2 seconds at 5 metres or 2 shots in 2 seconds at 10 metres, aiming at a 10 cm x 8 cm oval which represents the nose, eyes and forehead of a terrorist. While these days they carry 9mm pistols, the drill dates back to the WW2 era. Multiple hits increase stopping power. Think of a .32 ACP as delivering a 00 buckshot pattern which arrives sequentially rather than concurrently.

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I carried a Secamp for years as a backup and still enjoy it. However it has no sights whatsoever, so it is truly a point shooter. I did shoot a monster armadillo once, it took 2 rounds, federal hydro shock.

I also shoot the 25 acp in my 303 Enfield. I have a little adapter that looks like a steel 303 case that takes the little bullet. Absolutely quiet, like a 22 short. It shoots about 1.5 inches at 25 yards, not great but good enough for rabbits or squirrels. Just a fun thing to do. Not sure they still sell those adapters but if you have a 303, you need one.

And like all the smaller guns, whether it is a bad person or a pit bull, you want to put 3 rounds of muzzle blast to the face, then escape. And remember cops all over Europe carried the round for decades and even James Bond carried one, they say.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
thanks for all the replies gang! I can see that the little .32 does have a place and does deserve some respect. while I have plenty of better carry options, my plan is to experiment (thru reloading) and see how I can "improve" the lethality of the little round. sort of making a mountain out of a mole hill.:p
 

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Here is an update an older article of mine which is a good summary on the .32 ACP:

My mentor, the late Harry J. Archer was a career clandestine services officer who served from the post-WWII cold war period through the Vietnam era. Harry was the real-life equivalent of Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne, surviving Cold War era covert missions in denied areas, later in life becoming a highly respected case officer and trainer down at The Farm, at Camp Peary, VA, near Williamsburg, finally retiring and living long enough to die peacefully at home in bed in New Market, VA.

Harry taught his students that the purpose of a concealed handgun is to neutralize immediate threats from contact to twenty feet to facilitate escape. When on missions he carried whatever handgun was common among criminal elements in the country where the mission took him. This often meant a .32 ACP or 7.65mm Browning, because a M1911, Colt or S&W revolver would make it obvious that he wasn't "a local."

While no .32 ACP is your first choice for defense, the first rule of gun fighting is to HAVE A GUN. In the worst-case scenario any gun is better than no gun. Many countries restrict foreign nationals working corporate security for their clients from carrying anything larger than a .22 LR or .32 ACP, so you "dance with the girl you brought."

A .32 autopistol is easy to control to produce rapid, accurate double or triple taps, compared to a .380 or 9mm of similar size, which carries one less round. The currently imported Beretta 81 double-stack magazine .32 ACPs have a heavy slide and heavy-duty recoil spring. They can produce 950 fps with the .309" diameter Hornady XTP bullet with 3 grains of AutoComp from the 3.8" barrel of the Model 81. Their increased magazine capacity is also a "plus."

Back in the day (1960-70s) Harry's .32 ACP carry load was the Winchester 100-grain .32-20 lead flatnosed Lubaloy bullet assembled in "sterile" unheadstamped (WWII WRA) primed cases with 3 grains of Hercules Infallible powder, assembled at 0.95" overall cartridge length, giving 870 +/- 30 fps from a Colt M1903 Pocket Hammerless Type III, approximating the performance of .32-20 factory loads from the same barrel length, but in a .32 ACP pocket pistol. Indeed a powerful and effective load. Substituting the Accurate 31-095T with 2 grains of TiteGroup produces identical results with near full-caliber "crush."

In actual chronograph tests common US .32 ACP hardball typically seldom exceeds 850 fps from a pocket pistol with barrel shorter than 3-1/2 inches. The Speer Gold Dot and Hornady XTP JHPs do break 900 fps, but seldom expand from barrels shorter than 3-1/2.” European CIP 73-gr. hardball actually produces about 900 f.p.s. from pocket pistols such as the Beretta Tomcat, and 950+ f.p.s. from the Walther PP, SIG P230, or Beretta M1935, M70 and M81. European police organizations routinely carried .32 ACPs and felt them entirely adequate until after the 1972 Munich Olympics terrorist attacks.

When you are using a marginal caliber, feeding reliability, shot placement and penetration are most important. You want not less than 20” of water or 12” of gelatin penetration. Experienced users of deep-concealment, hideaway guns agree, based on police and military experience dating back to Fairbairn and Sykes experiences in China before WW2, and continuing through the Cold War era. Lighter weight, short-nosed hollow point bullets often fail to feed and may fail to penetrate larger bones or defeat intermediate cover, such as a defensively positioned arm, needed to reach vital organs.

Comparing European CIP specification 73-77-grain hardball in .32 ACP to typical .380 FMJs fired from short barrels any difference in performance not important.
Experience has also shown that light-weight .380 ACP bullets of fragile enough construction to expand from short barrels, often fail in the penetration department. Typical .32 ACP hardball, however, usually does a 180-degree "flip" during the first 6-8" of soft-target penetration and continues base-first, causing more damage than its kinetic energy would suggest.

In my testing of numerous different .32 ACP pocket guns, no JHP loads currently available would expand reliably in either water jugs or gelatin when fired from barrels shorter than 3 inches. US commercial .32 ACP loads are "anemic" compared to their CIP-Euro counterparts and less reliable in function. Many WWII-era European military and police pistols steadfastly refuse to function with American ammo, even Buffalo Bore.

In my testing the short-overall length JHP and hard cast lead flat-nosed rounds such as Buffalo Bore are not reliable enough for defense carry. In most guns they are almost a sure recipe for a “Jam-O-Matic.” The Beretta 81 is the only pistol I have tested which ran Buffalo Bore out of the box with no drips, runs or errors. In most guns overall cartridge length should be 0.945" or greater to prevent the possibility of rounds repositioning in the magazine stack, due to recoil, causing "rim-lock."

The best .32 ACP pistols for pocket carry should enable safe carry with the chamber loaded, and should be capable of immediate firing by stroking the trigger without having to manipulate an external safety. In the event of a misfire, the trigger mechanism should enable an immediate repeat strike upon the primer by repeating the trigger stroke. Pistols which meet these criteria are the Walther PP and PPK, SIG P230, Mauser HSc and Beretta Model 81.

The micro-pistols such as the Keltecd P-32 and Beretta Tomcat are attractive. My advice is to severely limit loads producing over 130 ft.-lbs. to only occasional or emergency use in the tiny micro pistols because they may cause “slide bite” if you have meaty hands and don’t use a Hogue Grip Sleeve, as I painfully found out. Also, after prolonged firing, [over 1000 rounds] they are “frame crackers.” My Beretta Model 3032 INOX Tomcat test platform, digested about 2000 rounds of hot CIP-Euro and heavy cast bullet hand loads before the frame cracked.

The most effective carry load in the .32 ACP is a +P handload with the Hornady 90-grain XTP bullet of .309" diameter with 3 grains of AutoComp, at an overall cartridge length of 0.950-0.955," producing 930 fps. from a 3-1/2" barrel and 960 fps from the 3.8" Beretta 81. This load is NOT for casual shooting in quantity if you want your gun to last! ONLY IF your barrel slugs larger than .310" groove diameter, substitute the Hornady 85-grain XTP .312" intended for the .32 H&R Magnum for the same result. The XTP bullet from the .32 ACP does not expand spectacularly as depicted in typical gun magazine hype, but does expand "some," to about .40 cal., so is more effective than FMJ, and it penetrates deeply.

The classic Colt M1903 Pocket Hammerless, Beretta 1935 and the Walther PP are steel-frame pistols I have shot extensively with these heavy loads and which will reliably feed large flatnosed bullets such as the Saeco #325 semi-wadcutter and the Accurate 31-095T. The Beretta 81 is another pistol which feeds anything! In pistols which do not feed reliably with anything other than FMJRN "hardball" bullets the 87-94 grain Accurate 31-087B, 31-087T and 31-094H bullets are recommended. If you intend to standardize on bullets heavier than 80 grains in your .32 ACP pistols, it is highly recommended that you replace the recoil spring with the .380 ACP version for the same model, if possible.

Let’s be clear that the .32 ACP is not my choice as a defense gun against either two-legged or 4-legged predators. However, there are those times when “any gun is better than no gun,” so it is better to take the .32 along than to go unarmed and take your chances. When the cylinder bulge of my usual Colt .38 Detective Special is too obvious, my 1903 Colt Pocket Hammerless, Beretta M1935 or SIG P230 drop nicely into a pocket holster. I like the fact that the makes a bigger hole than a 22 and presents a low profile. With correct loads performance is equal to most factory loads in the .380 ACP and in typical .32 ACP pistols you have an additional round of magazine capacity.

We aren't talking about "one-shot stops" here, but to quickly and accurately put double or triple taps on target. The Italian Carabinieri practice 3-shots in 2 seconds at 5 metres or 2 shots in 2 seconds at 10 metres, aiming at a 10 cm x 8 cm oval which represents the nose, eyes and forehead of a terrorist. While these days they carry 9mm pistols, the drill dates back to the WW2 era. Multiple hits increase stopping power. Think of a .32 ACP as delivering a 00 buckshot pattern which arrives sequentially rather than concurrently.

Do you want to stand in front of it? Didn't think so... View attachment 136444 View attachment 136446 View attachment 136448 View attachment 136450 View attachment 136452
EXCELLENT write-up on a "peewee" cartridge most of us (including me) wouldnt think once about carrying. My .32 hasnt been out of the drawer in literally years... may consider doing some reloading in .32acp, its a much smaller package than my usual 9mm Mak...
 
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