.32 Winchester Special

.32 Winchester Not So Special



Q:  I’ve been offered an old Winchester Model 1894 rifle with 24-  inch barrel and full length magazine chambered in .32 Special – a  cartridge I’ve never heard of.  This rifle is in really good  condition and shows little signs of use, comes with a loading  tool and the price is very reasonable. The ammunition is not  stocked in guns shops in my area and I’ve been told it is no  longer being made. Can you give me an unbiased opinion of the .32  Special as compared to the .30-30. Is the round obsolete? I  want this gun for deer and pig hunting.
Kenneth Stamford
A:  Ballistically  there  is very little difference between  the   .30-30 and the .32 Special. The former pushes a 170gn bullet at  2200fps and the latter, the same weight bullet at 2250fps. A deer  certainly couldn’t tell any difference. The .32 Special makes a  hole .012-inch larger, but the .30-30 has better sectional  density.    Of course, .30-30 cartridges are easier to get and  there’s a 150gn load at 2390fps and there may be some advantage  to that. Actually, the .32 Special was a sort of make-shift for  which there is no present-day logical excuse. Winchester was  chambering rifles for the .32-40 when smokeless powder first came  into use. They found that the straight tapered case of the .32-40  wasn’t too efficient with the new powder, so they designed the    .32 Special cartridge retaining the bore and twist  specifications used for the .32-40. The twist of 1:16″ is just  enough to stabilise the bullet when the bore is in good  condition. The .30-30 may well hit a deer when the barrel  looks like a stove pipe inside, but with a little wear the .32  Special will scatter its bullets all over the place. This won’t  bother you, however,  as the gun you’ve been offered has had  little use and the bore should be good. The ’94 should be a good  performer in lightly timbered country where most of the shots  will have to be fast and taken at short to medium range. By the  way, Winchester Australia carries .32 Special ammo. Ask your  local gunshop to order some for you. It should cost about $200  per 100. Winchester lists unprimed brass for the .32-40 but none  for the .32 Special?




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.