.32 Automatic ballistic test

The .32 Auto, also known as the 7.65mm Browning, was developed by none other than John Browning for the FN 1900 pistol introduced in 1899.  This was JMB’s first handgun cartridge and was designed for a blowback compact pistol design but has since been implemented in locked breech designed handguns. Many say the .32 Auto is underpowered for a defensive cartridge. Given the fact the .32 Auto cartridge works so well in a small pocket pistol I thought it would be worth doing a ballistic test to see what was what.

I secured two pistols to use in the ballistic test, the new Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless Pistol made by US Armament Corp and the ever popular Kel-Tec P-32. The reason I used two pistols is the 1903 Pocket Hammerless has a 3.75 inch barrel, while the P-32 has a 2.7 inch barrel. I was curious to see what the 1.05 of an inch difference would make in velocity and terminal performance. Both pistols would serve well for concealed carry but the Kel-Tec P-32 is tiny and very easily concealed. Something else to consider, comparing similar sized handguns the one in .32 Auto usually has one more round in magazine capacity over the .380 Auto.

After securing common .32 Auto ammunition, both defensive and ball rounds, I set out with my CED Chronograph and Clear Ballistics ballistic gel to get the results.

Please click on the chart for a larger version.

The recovered bullets are from left to right PPU, Speer Gold Dot, PMC, Hornady XTP, Cor-Bon Glaser, Fiocchi, Sellier and Bellot. The bottom row was shot in bare gel while the top through 3 layers of denim.

The first seven were shot through the P-32 while the last seven were shot through the 1903 Colt Hammerless Pistol. You will notice by the chart and photos the extra 1.05″ in barrel length made quite a difference in terminal performance. With that said, the .32 Auto did pretty well if you choose your ammunition wisely. Looking over the results and the ballistic gel, I would always go with a jacketed hollow point in the .32 Auto. There was usually some expansion and that did not affect the penetration as much as you would think.

Kel-Tec P-32 review 

Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless by US Armament Corp review

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5 Responses to .32 Automatic ballistic test

  1. LouisianaMan September 28, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

    Excellent test, thanks! Great job in turning raw numbers into visual images for comparison. Likewise, for clearly demonstrating that significantly different barrel lengths can make this cartridge into a totally different beast.

    I have a Model 1922 FN/Browning, 4.5″ barrel, and need to check it out with at least three of the JHP designs you show. My extra 3/4″ of barrel may cause yet another exponential increase in performance.

    Your Gold Dot and XTP each performed about as I suspected they might, but the Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics load is a highly promising design I’ve never seen accounted for.

    • Hunter Elliott September 29, 2017 at 12:46 am #

      Thank you sir. I was pretty surprised by the Fiocchi myself. I paid for the test ammo, so as to not be bias and I almost passed on them. The guy at my local gun store said he sells a lot of it in .32 Auto and he was curious how it would do. If I were to carry a .32 Auto this one would be in the top of the list.

  2. LouisianaMan September 29, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

    You’ve probably come across .32 articles by Ed Harris, a former Ruger and NRA engineer and adviser. He has adapted a myriad of platforms, optimized ammo and handloads etc.

    I saw one of Ed’s reviews which indicated he had good luck with Fiocchi, and I think he was referring to this JHP load. He is or was also very well acquainted with covert agents who used the .32 ACP in extremely hazardous situations.

    One particular agent had an attachment to the 1903 Colt, so I particularly look forward to your review of the modern version.

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