.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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10 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.

  3. T Smith December 26, 2017 at 9:04 pm #

    Thanks for an excellent review piece. As a happy owner of a P32, I’ve been told numerous places that JHP has a potential for rimlock in 32 cal. At one time, Kel-Tec sold a kit to eliminate rimlock in the P32 when shooting JHP. Would appreciate comments from all knowledgeable.

    • Mark Hunstiger August 26, 2018 at 10:55 am #

      T. Smith. Did you get the answer you were looking for?

      • Hunter Elliott August 26, 2018 at 3:05 pm #

        Not really looking for a specific answer, just information. Though I did learn the .32 Auto is not my first choice as a defensive cartridge.

  4. Outpost75 February 13, 2020 at 12:58 pm #

    While the micro-pistols such as the Keltec P-32 and Beretta Tomcat are attractive for concealment, they are difficult to shoot well. Also, they are not as durable as holster-sized pistols when fed a steady diet of CIP-Euro heavy-ball loads or a high volume [over 2500 rounds] of standard-pressure SAAMI loads. My advice is to limit loads producing over 130 ft.-lbs. to only occasional or emergency use in the micro pistols. They may cause “slide bite” if you have meaty hands and don’t use a Hogue Grip Sleeve, as I painfully found out. After firing over 1000 rounds, handloads with bullets over 80 grains producing over 850 fps from mouse guns with barrels shorter than 3 inches are “frame crackers.” My Beretta Model 3032 INOX Tomcat, which replaced my earlier blued version (in which the frame cracked after less than 500 rounds of RWS hardball) did somewhat better, and digested 2000 rounds of hot CIP-Euro and heavy-bullet hand loads before its frame finally cracked and I junked it too.

  5. Mark H February 13, 2020 at 8:03 pm #

    Rimlock: I have done a bit of investigation and found some ammo brands have a bevel on the back of the rim and they will feed even when intentionally mis-loaded to induce rimlock. The Russians figured that out about 125 years ago with their 7.62×54 service rifle ammo. Not a new concept. MH


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