.327 Federal Magnum Rifle Loads
Date: Sep 29 2009
Then news of the .327 Federal cartridge was received by the shooting public, the reception was mixed. Comments ranging from: “This is great!” to “Another useless cartridge to keep gun store shelves full.” Were common. I fell into the first category because I have always had a thing for the .32 H&R Magnum – and because I have enough common sense to recognize something good when I see it. Immediately, I wanted a lever-action rifle chambered for the .327 Federal Magnum.
After receiving a Ruger SP 101 .327 Federal Magnum and some ammunition, I checked to see if any of the three factory loads would cycle through the action of a Marlin 1894 in .32 H&R Magnum. Of course, the cartridges would not fully chamber, but all loads worked through the action just fine. It appeared opening the rifle’s chamber to .327 Federal Magnum would be all that was required.
After further pondering, it was also decided to have the 20-inch barrel of the Marlin cut back to 16 inches and have a big loop lever installed along with an action and trigger job. The rifle was shipped to Jim Brockman for this work. If you’re interested in just the cartridge conversion, you can obtain a reamer and gauges from 4D Reamers and open the chamber on an 1894 Marlin .32 H&R Magnum to .327 Federal on your own.
With the three available factory .327 Federal Magnum loads, accuracy was nothing to get excited about; groups at 50 yards averaged about 2 inches. Before opening the chamber to .327 Federal, one inch or smaller groups with about any .32 H&R Magnum load were common, so I had expected better accuracy. This presented a challenge most handloaders welcome: an opportunity to craft ammunition that will outperform what is available from the factory.
Federal and Speer load .327 Federal cartridges with powders not available to the consumer –WC297 and BE-88. According to Keith Anderson at the Western Powders lab, WC297 is an OEM powder from St. Marks Powder, similar to Winchester 296 or H-110. BE88 is an OEM powder from Alliant Powder for which there is no canister equivalent. After consulting the online loading data available from Hodgdon and Ramshot, and the recent article on reloading the .327 Federal Magnum by Brian Pearce in Handloader No. 258, I selected five powders: Ramshot’s True Blue and Enforcer and Hodgdon’s Longshot, H-110 and Lil’Gun.
The 85-grain Hydra-Shok, 100- grain JFP and 115-grain Gold Dot bullets used in factory ammunition are not available as components for handloaders, so I tried three, .312- inch bullets I commonly load for the .32 H&R Magnum: the 85- and 100-grain Hornady XTP and 90-grain Sierra SJHP. Redding’s .32 H&R Magnum dies were used for sizing, expanding case mouths and bullet seating. All cases were primed with Federal Small Rifle Match primers and loaded to the same overall length of 1.45 inches.
Maximum loads were worked up with each powder, and regardless of the powder used, velocities in the Ruger SP 101 .327 Federal Magnum revolver were found to be, for the most part, within 100 fps of published load data. Given the fact that published data from Ramshot and Hodgdon was established with a 5-inch barrel, velocities were on the mark. From the 16-inch rifle barrel, the velocity increase varied a great deal depending on the powder used.