I have two 1890's era revolvers in .32, one a Forehand Arms much discussed with Hammerslagger and a H&R six shot top break which I never posted about as I saw a post about the exact same gun, single '87 pat. date, same mrkngs. etc. same prefix letter and SN within a hundred or so! Standard S&W caliber guns have 15/16(?)" cylinders, both mine have 1 1/4" cylinders. I learned via these Forums they were chambered for a loooong gone .32 H&R Long ctdg. but now suitable only for .32 short. My question: Since the .32 S&W Long case fits these guns perfectly, can I use those cases and just load appropriate .32short loads or .32H&R equivalents (whatever they are) either in smokeless or black pwdr.? Reason I ask is I have a nice bunch of .32S&W Long cases but only a precious few .32S&W(short) and I can get nice little cast bullets to load. I don't want to pay the outrageous prices for current .32S&W ammo - and - that may be a bit hot for these old guns?
The direct answer to the question as posed is that a .32 S&W SMOKELESS powder load in a .32 S&W Long cartridge case will give somewhat lower pressure than the same load in a .32 S&W (short) case. If the longer case with bullet fits into a straight bored cylinder one would not expect any problems relative to any extra pressure caused by the longer but somewhat heavier constructed case that has a rim nominally 0.010" thicker, which could help take up the likely excess headspace previously described by dartswinger.
Not previously mentioned, but mentioned now: When loading BLACK POWDER cartridges with Black Powder the powder charge should fill the case to the bullet's seating depth. If a lighter Black Powder charge is used, filler material like corn meal should be added to fill the excess case capacity so that the contents of the cartridge case are slightly compressed. Uncompressed Black Powder charges can be dangerous when ignited in a firearm! It is not wise to shoot them.
Below will be found several quotes, from other forums, that seem reasonable and knowledgeable. Cheap 19th and early 20th Century revolvers were likely made from Bessemer process steel. The typical impurities found in it gave it excellent machining qualities but made it much weaker than "open hearth" or "crucible" steel. The Titanic's hull was constructed of Bessemer steel. Long aging (like 80 to 120 years) further weakens this material to shock stress. I hold the opinion that it is not usually prudent to shoot these old guns for safety reasons.
From a post on antiqueguns.com -
"my final say on this subject is starting about 1900 Iver Johnson's arms & cycle works marked the boxes of the safety automatic revolvers with this warning, "THIS REVOLVER IS NOT SUITABLE FOR SMOKELESS POWDER". This warning was used on all boxes until 1909, the year the third model was introduced. I would advise every one to heed this factory warning."
August 20, 2010, 09:08 AM
when there were plenty of them around for a few dollars. I still have an old Safety Hammer IJ from 1898, BP for sure, and I won't shoot it.
FWIW, it won't "explode" the old guns, but it will cause them to stretch and shoot loose due to the different burning characteristics of smokeless and black powders. I have found Iver Johnsons and H&R revolvers to be a lot tougher than most give them credit for, but why destroy an old veteran - keep it as a display gun and get something newer to shoot.
Also, DO NOT SHOOT ANY Forehand and Wadsworth, Meridan, Hopkins and Allen or other odd brand old top break revolver - they are not as strong as the IJ/H&R's and you will destroy them quickly. Most of these brands never made it into the smokless era, and they should be regarded as historic relics.
I have been told by "gunsmiths" that the old Smiths and old Merwin Hulberts were safe to shoot with smokeless, but I don't believe that, and would NOT recommend taking a chance on ruining an great old revolver.
Retire all old revolvers that were made before 1910 or so-they deserve a rest.
Last edited by Hammerslagger; 04-20-2012 at 03:59 AM..
Reason: add reasonable quotes from other sources