32 Winchester Special

Fire Arm






: Marlin 336

: 24 inches

: 1:16 inches

: 24 X

: 50 yards

: 10

Click for detailed 32 Win Special Tech drawing
Click on figure to access ANSI
technical cartridge drawing

A rifle cartridge, quite conflicted, becoming obsolete. CotW7 suggests that the 32 WS should be given a prize for being a truly unnecessary cartridge. Suydam in Handloader asks why Winchester ever bothered to develop and introduce the cartridge. The present author would like to suggest an alternate view: the development and introduction of the 32 WS was both obvious and appropriate.

The 32 WS provided an upgrade path for the 32-40 shooters of the time. For those 32-40 target shooters, happy with 165 gr at 1520 fps, there was no need to change; for the 32-40 shooters, with plenty of .321" bullets, experience with 1 in 16" twist barrels, and a desire for more velocity, they now had the 32 WS. This also resolved a problem for Win: clearly the 32-40 case was large enough to drive 30-30 class bullets at 30-30 velocities, and the commensurate pressures. This was the problem: the 32-40 in 1900 was already 30 years old, and in that time had been chambered in many rifles only capable of Trapdoor pressures; not to mention the number of soft steel barrels which would have been destroyed by jacketed bullets. The 32 WS was Win's answer - allow the 32-40 to continue as before: a low pressure, lead bullet, blackpowder target cartridge; and let the 32 WS operate at 30-30 pressures, generating 30-30 velocities and with jacketed bullets, and driven by smokeless powder. The cartridge was chambered by Win and Marlin, but few others. Date of introduction was either 1895, and in conjunction with the m1894, or later in 1905 or 06, depending on the source.

The case capacity of the 32 Win Special, itself only a slightly necked up 30-30 case, full case, is 44.3 gr (of water). This is a little less than the 32 Rem, at 45.3 gr, a little larger than the much older 32-40 Win, at 42.1, and well short of a 300 Savage at 48.9 gr.

The 32 Win Special, like the rest of the genera, (30-30 Win, 32 Rem etc) is a small game or minimal deer cartridge. The standard factory load drives a 170 gr bullet at, 2235 fsp (vs. 2120 of the 32 Rem, or 2180 for the 30-30, all 170 gr). Although a significant improvement over the 32-40 (165 gr at 1520 fps), it is short of the 300 Savage of the era, 180 gr at 2340 fps.

The maximum bullet diameter as listed by SAAMI is .3220"; with a recommended loading limit of 38k CUP (vs 37k of the 32 Rem), and with an maximum average pressure of 41200 CUP. RCBS offers both case forming and reloading dies for this cartridge.

© Copyright Gregory J Mushial 1997-2004