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The Ultimate Reloading Manual
Wolfe Publishing Group
  • reloading manual
  • alliant reloading data
  • reloading brass
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The Ultimate Reloading Manual
load development

Loading the .32 ACP

Author: Bob Campbell
Date: Jun 05 2015

This old PP served as a West German police sidearm. Today it is a recreational shooter.

The handguns used to work up this report are very pleasant shooters with little recoil and surprisingly good accuracy, and they are well made of good material. I actually had little problem working up good, accurate, reliable loads and did not agonize over load performance – the .32 ACP is what it is and only has so much power. If there is a problem, it’s handling the little cases and tiny charges of powder! The .32 ACP is not the tiniest handgun cartridge by any means, but it is at the limit of my dexterity.

I am almost surprised I have fallen into loading the .32 ACP, but once I began shooting and enjoying the pistols, handloading was mandatory. As for learning to load good .32 ACP combinations, a few things were learned, and the experiment was rewarding.

I am primarily an accumulator of good handguns rather than a collector. Among the ex-German service pistols I have obtained is a Walther PP .32 ACP. I have also fired a CZ 50 extensively. To round out the .32s, there is a Walther PPK/S and a Beretta Tomcat. I have also used a Colt 1903 .32 ACP extensively. The Astra Constable is a better handgun than most would allow, usually more accurate than the Walther. The reputation for accuracy of these little fixed barrel handguns is well deserved.

It is fashionable to illustrate one of the mini .32s beside a Colt 1903 and note how much handguns have been downsized. That is fine as far as it goes, but the mini-gun breed will never be as easy to handle or as accurate. Further, few modern polymer- frame handguns are as reliable as the Walther types. As for practical use, quite a few shooters own the .32 for personal defense. While Europeans seem to like the .32, most like more punch. I have taken small game with a .32 revolver, however, and the .32 automatic has more speed. I suppose that if we decide to fire and use the .32s simply because we can, that is good enough reason.

The .32 ACP case doesn’t take much powder and
is a bit difficult for man-sized hands to handle.
Just the same, it is an enjoyable cartridge.

The Colt

This .32 is an interesting piece of history. Once issued to airline pilots, the Colt was also issued to the New York City Police Department’s plainclothesmen for a time during the early part of the previous century. (A Colt .32 revolver was standard uniform issue.) The grip safety, slide-lock safety and straight trigger compression make for a smooth pistol. The flipping sear design makes the piece even safer than the 1911 to carry cocked and locked. The pistol is quite flat and comfortable to carry, and I have always considered it accurate. When firing under controlled range conditions at proper targets, some of this reputation for accuracy was tarnished. It is difficult to use the pistol well due to its small sights. Just the same, 2.0- to 2.5-inch, 15-yard groups were common. It will not feed the majority of hollowpoints, so this was a limiting factor.

Walther PP

The PP was the incentive for this report. The first time I fired the pistol with Speer Lawman ball ammunition, three shots went into less than 2.0 inches at 15 yards. Good results followed. The Cor-Bon load proved a real tack-driver at well over 1,100 fps in the Walther. A sore spot came when one of the two magazines supplied with the pistol continuously fell out during testing. I was able to modify it and continue testing, but that is the way of things with well-worn police service pistols.

The Beretta Tomcat performed better than its size would indicate.

Walther PPK

This piece is so nice I fired it but little. It is a German-made pistol, circa 1969, in nearly new condition It is normally stored in the original Interams box. Shorter and lighter than the PP by a margin, the PPK or “Detective” version of the Walther is a trim pocket pistol. This is the pistol James Bond carried. It is slightly more accurate than the PP, which is a bit backward for a compact pistol with a short sight radius. The pistol functioned just fine with hollowpoints of all stripes, but for some reason did not like the Winchester blunt-nose FMJ bullets. I think the length of these bullets is the kicker.

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