32-20 Winchester

Fire Arm






: Marlin 1894 cl

: 22 inches

: 1:16 inches

: 24 X

: 50 yards

: 10

Click for detailed 32-20 Winchester Tech drawing
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technical cartridge drawing

An obsolete cartridge, revivified. Introduced by Winchester as their forth chambering, and first small game cartridge, for the m73 lever gun (previously 45-70, 44-40 and 38-40), 1882. Introduced as a blackpowder round, descriptively known as the 32/20/100 WCF, and with it balloon head cases, generated 1300 fps; and in a 6 lb gun, virtually zero recoil. In 1884 Colt added the 32-20 as a chambering for the SAA. It became the 4th most popular chambering in the SAA (behind 38-40, 44-40 and 45 LC). In 1892 reintroduced as a smokeless powder round. Cartridge proved very popular over multiple decades, chambered by all other major manufacturers. Marlin renamed theirs 32-20 Marlin, Colt theirs the 32 Colt Lightning. The cartridge had slipped into near obsolescence until coincidently, in 1988 Marlin reintroduced a 32-20 m1894cl, and the cartridge was rediscovered by the CAS community.

As a pistol cartridge, especially for its caliber, the 32-20 offers a large case capacity, 22.2 gr (of water), full case; in comparison, the 32 HR Mag offers 15.0, the 32 SW Long, 13.7, the 32 SW, 7.9. As a rifle cartridge it is one of the smallest - 32 Win Spcl, 44.3, 32-40, 42.1, and the 32 Rem, 45.3.

The case geometry is that of a radially reduced 44-40 case. Today's standard factory load is to drive a 100 gr bullet at 1200 fps. In 1895 Win offered a necked down 25 caliber 32-20, called it the 25-20, offered it as a chambering for the m1892. In 1938, another 32-20 variant was introduced by Win, this one necked down to .224", with shoulder moved forward, was called the 218 Bee, and introduced to the public as a chambering for then new m65 lever gun.

The 32-20 is a viable small game hunting cartridge, to 100 yards or so. Its muzzle energy is on the order of a 38 Special. It is definitely not a deer cartridge. On the farm or ranch it is still a very viable pot gun.

It has been written elsewhere that in a 32-20 chamber, one can also fire 32 SW Long, 32 SW, and 32 Colt Long and Short rounds. The present author would suggest doing such would render the brass unreloadable for its original cartridge, due to the destructive case head expansion (do to a smaller body diameter, all these cartridges would be fired effective with unsupported heads).

Maximum bullet diameter as listed by SAAMI is .3125"; with a recommended maximum loading limit of 16k CUPS, and a maximum average of 17.7k CUP. RCBS offers reloading dies for this cartridge.

© Copyright Gregory J Mushial 1997-2004