Military Wiki
.32-20 Winchester
Left 32-20, Right 32ACP
Type Rifle / Handgun
Place of origin USA
Production history
Designer Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Designed 1882
Case type Rimmed, bottleneck
Bullet diameter .3125 in (7.94 mm)
Neck diameter .327 in (8.3 mm)
Shoulder diameter .342 in (8.7 mm)
Base diameter .354 in (9.0 mm)
Rim diameter .408 in (10.4 mm)
Rim thickness .065 in (1.7 mm)
Case length 1.315 in (33.4 mm)
Overall length 1.592 in (40.4 mm)
Rifling twist 20"
Primer type Small pistol
Maximum CUP 16000 CUP
Ballistic performance
Bullet weight/type Velocity Energy
85 gr (6 g) JHP 1,100 ft/s (340 m/s) 228 ft·lbf (309 J)
115 gr (7 g) CL 900 ft/s (270 m/s) 207 ft·lbf (281 J)
Source(s): "Cartridges of the World"[1]

100 grain lead

The .32-20 Winchester, also known as the .32 WCF (Winchester center fire), was the first small-game lever-action cartridge that Winchester produced.[2] It was initially introduced as a black-powder cartridge in 1882 for small-game, varmint hunting, and deer.[3][4] Colt produced a single-action pistol chambered for this cartridge a few years later.[5]

The name .32-20 refers to the .32-inch-diameter (8.1 mm) bullet and standard black-powder charge of 20 grains (1.3 g).


Although the .32-20 cartridge was occasionally used for deer hunting in the past, many now consider it too light and low-powered for deer; it is much better suited to small game. It has a good reputation for accuracy in both rifles and the few handguns that have been chambered for it.[3][4][6] Because of its low power, it destroys very little meat, making it a good hunting round for appropriately sized game, up to about 100 yards (91 m).[6] The cartridge is now approaching obsolescence, as shooters turn to other similar but more powerful and flexible loads. The power level of more modern .32s, such as the .32 H&R Magnum and the .327 Federal, equal or surpass the .32-20 in modern firearms.

Although it is an inexpensive cartridge to reload,[1] care must be taken by the reloader because of the extremely thin walls of the cartridge case.[7] Energy and pressure levels for handloading are determined based on the strength and condition of the firearm action to be used. Because most firearms chambered for this cartridge are older (e.g. early model Winchester Model 73 and 92 rifles as well as older Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers) factory ammunition usually has reduced pressures from what can be achieved through handloading. Most factory ammunition exhibits ballistics of about 1,200 ft/s (370 m/s) and 325 ft·lbf (441 J) of energy at the muzzle with a 100-grain (6.5 g) bullet from an 18 to 20 inch rifle barrel. The performance characteristics of the cartridge listed in the sidebar should be considered maximum performance parameters obtainable, and even then only with a modern weapon designed for higher pressure loads. Factory-type loads - and reloads mimicking factory type loads - are the safe maximum loads for use in older weapons chambered for this cartridge, as most of the weapons the cartridge is chambered. Few if any companies still manufacture hunting weapons in this caliber.

Daughter cartridges

The .25-20 Winchester cartridge is simply a necked-down version of the .32-20.[2] In addition, the .218 Bee was created using the .32-20 as its parent cartridge.

The .32-20 has been used to create usable ammunition for the Nagant M1895. this is accomplished by removing .01" from the rim thickness and sizing the case in a specific reloading die (lee nagant 3 die set). the ammunition produced is functional and easy to reload, however the gas seal that made the Nagant famous does not fully function because the .32-20 brass is not long enough to protrude past the Nagant cylinder to form the seal.[8]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Barnes, Frank C. (1997) [1965]. McPherson, M.L.. ed. Cartridges of the World (8th Edition ed.). DBI Books. pp. 64, 91. ISBN 0-87349-178-5. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Levergun loads: the .25-20 Winchester" by John Taffin, Guns Magazine, April 2004
  3. 3.0 3.1 ".32-20 Winchester (HV-92)" from Accurate Powder
  4. 4.0 4.1 "The .32-20 Winchester" by Chuck Hawks
  5. "32-20 WINCHESTER CENTERFIRE 1882" by Paco Kelly at
  6. 6.0 6.1 ".32-20 Winchester" at The Reload Bench
  7. People who do hand load the .32-20 feel this is not problematic, and if usual care is taken, there is no special problem with the case.
  8. Fisher, George N. (November 9, 2002). "M1895 Nagant Revolver Reloading Project". Retrieved December 8, 2012. 

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