There was big news way back in 1882.
A new cartridge named the .32-20 Winchester was born.
Let’s take a look what the .32 WCF (Winchester Center Fire) cartridge was and is all about.
The .32-20 cartridge was brought to commercial production in 1882 for their lever action rifle. It was loaded with a .32 caliber (.312″ diameter) lead projectile and fueled by a case of 20 grains of black powder (hence the name .32-20). It was originally made for small and medium game.
As time went on Colt made a single action revolver for this rather long cartridge for a revolver. It paired well for those in a saddle so their long gun and sidearm would fire the same cartridge. This made for easier logistics on the leather gun belt.
Many times called “the gun that won the west” this lever action Winchester rifle was made in 1889 via serial number research sported a heavy 24 inch octagon barrel and full length magazine. That long magazine tube held plenty of .32-20 cartridges for any adventure.
This Colt Army Special revolver chambered in 32-20 caliber with a 6″ would have made a great friend on the trail (and still would today). It is said by serial number the below revolver is from 1922.
Black powder went and smokeless powder became the go-to powerplant for all cartridges. The .32-20 Winchester cartridge made the leap. Each year though newer cartridges with more range and power began to erode the overall popularity of the .32-20. Even so, the great cartridge just kept going in a cult following of dedicated handloaders and shooters. Cowboy action shooting has certainly helped some to keep the history alive.
While the .32-20 Winchester (.32 WCF) is still potent medicine for target and small game work it is still on the light side for larger game. It is and was a more utilitarian cartridge for middle of the road performance on small and medium game. A bear cartridge this certainly is not! Older firearms need to be loaded lighter than newer models and handloaders must deal with somewhat thin brass cases and stretching that might occur. For most major cartridge makers they classify this old girl as “obsolete” and do not load any new production ammunition. There is hope though as some smaller sources still offer some loads.
Picking this great historical cartridge is still a sound choice for tradition, targets and appropriate game. Long live this little handy plinker and small game cartridge. That ole’ gal still has a few more years on the trail and range.