The .32 S&W cartridge was no powerhouse.
It was a small cartridge that fit small pocket revolvers years back.
Let’s look at the .32 Smith & Wesson cartridge and see why it is now quite obsolete.
In 1878 there was big news from Smith & Wesson on the debut of the .32 S&W cartridge for Smith & Wesson pocket revolvers. It was originally loaded with black powder. The around 88 grain lead bullet was not a bone smasher but in the age of less than stellar medical help even a scratch could turn septic and could kill the receiver. Any bullet wound was a bad day and not many criminals were lining up to be shot by the little revolvers at card games and saloon bars.
What type of power is achieved in the modern smokeless loading? Well humming along at 705 fps. with a muzzle energy of around 100 foot pounds the little cartridge is not a real fight stopper. Is it a killer? With any weapon shot placement is critical and with this little pipsqueak that cannot be overstated. Some big name assassinations were made with this cartridge along with undoubtedly a large amount of self defense carry. A quick search on the internet shows more of the infamous uses back in history. Chambered in relatively cheap small pocket revolvers of yesterday they have become quite obsolete but still fun to collect.
On a personal note I know of one Iver Johnson Owl Head Safety Hammerless Revolver that defended a flock of chickens. The revolver in this instance was my grandfather’s that he bought from a security guard at the defense plant he worked at during World War Two. The revolver was left with my grandmother to guard the chicken house from a very determined weasel. Off to work he went and he left a full box of cartridges for the little revolver. If you have ever examined one of the old Iver Johnson Owl Head Revolvers you will probably remember the insanely heavy trigger pull they have. This revolver also had that same trigger. The hunt began.
There was a brick post that my grandmother sat by and used as support to steady her aim. The weasel was back, but would only expose it’s head for a moment from beneath the chicken coop. Every time that weasel would expose it’s head, my grandmother would slowly squeeze the trigger. When the varmint would dart back, she would stop pulling but would hold that tension on the trigger. Each time the weasel’s head was exposed the revolver came closer to firing. Finally the weasel’s luck was all used up. With a bang! the weasel jumped and slumped over dead. With one shot my grandmother killed the chicken thief much to the surprise of my grandfather. The little cartridge claimed a life due to expert marksmanship.
So is the little .32 S&W cartridge thoroughly obsolete? I would say so. Modern ammunition available for better made modern handguns are much more potent to stake your life on. The old .32 revolver you have is best left in the gun safe as a family heirloom.