Over the years, Dan Wesson has developed a well deserved
reputation for the strength and accuracy of its guns as well as the many
unique cartridges that they are chambered in, i.e. the 357 Super Mag, 414
Super Mag, 375 Super Mag, and the 445 Super Mag. Of course this is in
addition to the conventional heavy weights that they also offer such as
the 357, 41, and 44 Mag. At the tail end of this very impressive list of
hard hitting heavyweights is the little 32 H & R Magnum.
The 32 H&R was introduced to
the Shooting World in 1983 by Federal Cartridge Corp. and the now defunct
firm of Harrington & Richardson. H&R was known mainly as a maker of
inexpensive 22 revolvers and rifles, and toward the end of its life, a
very nice, modern version of the trap door Springfield rifle.
This new 32 was really a magnum
version of the classic 32 Smith and Wesson Long cartridge. While the 32
H&R is only slightly longer than the Smith cartridge (.155Ē), it operates
at nearly twice the pressure (21,000 CUP versus 12,000 CUP).
Interestingly, the H&R was
first promoted as a self defense cartridge. Factory figures of the time
showed it to have twice the energy of the S&W Long, and 13% more energy
than the standard 38 Special. The higher pressures for the new cartridge
actually gave some merit for its claim as a new self defense cartridge. In
fact, the H&Rís pressures are similar to some 38 Special +P loads. Indeed,
the H&R is even enjoying some new found popularity in some light weight,
short barreled self defense revolvers where the recoil from larger
cartridges might be difficult for many people to handle.
However from a practical point
of view, it quickly became apparent that this claim of being more
effective than the 38 Special was overstating things a bit too much. Never
the less, it was soon found that the new 32 was a fun little cartridge to
shoot, had mild recoil, a relatively flat trajectory, and good accuracy.
Consequently, it was a natural for target shooting, popping jack rabbits,
and for getting rid of pests. The new magnum cases are also stronger than
the other 32ís floating around making them easier to reload with a much
longer life span.
Not surprisingly itís also
proven itself to be a very flexible cartridge for silhouette shooting. The
32 H&R has been used in Field Pistol silhouette almost from the very
beginning thanks to the qualities just mentioned above. It also has a
place in long range silhouette as well. Thanks to Jim Rock and his
genius, the 32 has also been loaded up with 190 grain Hornady 30 caliber
bullets which then made it a dandy straight wall version of the 300
Whisper. When teamed up with an XL or a TC, it works like a champ, pole
axing rams at subsonic velocities. If I had to choose between the Whisper
and the H&R, the H&R would be the clear winner because the straight wall
case is so much easier to reload.
It was only natural then that
the new Dan Wesson company would chamber one of its revolvers for this
pleasant little cartridge. As mentioned before, the 32 H&R is a very nice
Field Pistol cartridge, and when coupled with the Dan Wesson small frame
revolver, it becomes very effective indeed.
always been a pretty fair group of silhouette shooters out there that have
favored the revolver for Field Pistol versus the single shots. Primarily,
this stems from the fact that generally speaking, revolvers are often
better balanced, are lighter in weight, and many times will have grips
better suited to standing shooting. When shooting on your hind legs,
these attributes can worth their weight in gold.
The new Dan Wesson small frame
guns are real sweethearts. While DW large frame guns are massive and
business like, the small frame is elegant, almost like a Russian
ballerina. The dimensions are linear and the beauty is there but
subtle. You can also sense its considerable strength, but itís hidden
beneath the surface in the steel.
To illustrate just how strong
these guns are, Seth Wesson once told me how, as an experiment, he took a
small frame 357 Mag model, replaced the barrel with a solid steel rod, and
loaded it with a proof cartridge (100,000 psi +). The gun was then fired
remotely in a test chamber. Not only did the gun survive, but functioned
normally afterwards with no damage what so ever. Now thatís what I call
My evaluation gun was the 8Ē
stainless version equipped with the standard shroud i.e. not the one with
the heavy rib underneath. If you shoot Field Pistol with open sights you
might consider using the heavy shroud instead as many shooters feel the
additional weight dampens front sight movement. On the other hand, if you
shoot Field Pistol with a scope, the weight of the scope will accomplish
the same purpose, and the extra weight of the heavy shroud could become a
of the Wesson sight ribs which are ventilated across the top, the sight
rib on my gun was solid and is an integral part of the barrel shroud. The
theory behind ventilated ribs is that the vents aid heat dissipation from
the barrel and supposedly contribute to accuracy.
However, Iíve been shooting revolvers
for a long time now, and have never found a gun equipped with a vented
sight rib to be inherently more or less accurate than one without. Itís
strictly a cosmetic feature. I happen to like the way a vented rib looks,
but I have no illusions about them from a practical point of view.
At any rate, the solid stainless
sight rib on my gun was bead blasted to a dull gray to reduce reflection and
glare. As it happens, the contrast between the brushed stainless of the shroud
below and the dull gray of the sight rib on top made a very handsome contrast.
One of the unique features of the DW
32 is that it was equipped with one of the new Lothar Walther barrels from
Germany. The barrel is a ten land and groove design which is also used on other
Dan Wesson models. DW is the only manufacturer that I know that uses this type
of barrel. It should be understood that this is not a micro groove type
barrel. The grooves are the same depth as they are on standard 6 land and groove
barrels found on other guns. The lands, while being the same height as in other
barrels, are naturally more narrow.
The theory behind this feature is
that the additional lands provide a better grip on the bullet as it enters the
bore with less likelihood of rotational stripping. This is especially true when
using cast lead bullets. The result is said to be improved accuracy and
velocity. Barrel twist on the Wesson is the standard 1 in 18.75Ē for this
The gun was also factory
drilled and tapped for the optional Dan Wesson Weaver sight base. The base
fit the gun perfectly and had the Dan Wesson logo engraved in gold
lettering on the rear. I like the Weaver base simply because I own mostly
Weaver style rings and the fact that scope and rings can be easily
removed. If you prefer, Wesson also offers the massive steel Burris mount
for Leupold style rings for an even stronger set up. However for the 32,
the lighter Weaver base is a better choice.
For iron sights, the gun came
equipped with a standard partridge front sight and a Millet rear
sight. The sight picture for this combination was good in that the size of
the light bars on either side of the front sight was neither too small nor
too large. The Millet sight provided 12 clicks per rotation. I was happy
to find that the clicks on the Millet were positive, although somewhat
uneven in feel. However, they worked just fine returning the point of
impact on target with no problems. If you prefer, a variety of other front
sight blades are available and you can upgrade to an optional Bomar rear
sight. Sight radius with this 8Ē barrel was a nice 9.25Ē.
The trigger is the standard Wesson
style i.e. smooth and stainless with rounded surfaces. Trigger pull was very
clean and crisp with no creep what so ever.
The gun was also equipped with
Wessonís rubber Hogue grips. These are very nice, but are more similar in style
to some combat type grips. The Field Pistol silhouette shooter might prefer one
of Wesson's larger, better hand filling, wood, target style grips instead for
Since the 32 H&R is a fairly small
case, small differences in the amount of powder used can produce significant
changes in pressures and velocity. Consequently, go slow when developing
loads. During the evaluation, I used Reddingís titanium carbide dies for the
first time. I canít say enough good things about them. They are absolutely the
smoothest dies I have ever used and the workmanship is just superb. They are an
absolute pleasure to use. Simply the best.
I also used Reddingís profile crimp
die as well. The profile is a combination crimp which uses both a standard roll
crimp in the cannelure and a taper crimp around the bullet. Itís the strongest
there is. However, it is probably overkill for the light recoiling H&R.
When reloading for this little
cartridge, youíll find that there aren't a lot of choices as far as bullets are
concerned. For jacketed types, youíre basically limited to 85, 90, and 100 grain
bullets and thatís it. I used only the Speer 85 grainers and the Sierra 90's
this time around. Although I did get a supply of the Speer 100 grain bullets, I
was unable to test them in time for this story. The Hornady 86 grain bullets
have a good reputation in the H&R but unfortunately I didn't have any on
hand. If possible, I'll try to provide load info on those two bullets later on.
There is also a small selection of cast bullets floating around but I wasnít
able to include any in my evaluation.
Starline cases were used exclusively
during my evaluation. For primers, both Federal and CCI small pistol mag primers
seemed to work better than standard pistol primers, even with fast powders.
Consequently only mag. primers were used in the evaluation.
Although most of the powders tried
could be made to work decently, I'd have to say that VihtaVuori 350 probably was
the best of all in this application, having a burning rate similar to Blue Dot.
For some reason groups with this powder seemed to be more uniform in this gun.
In conclusion, I found the Dan Wesson
32 H&R to be one of the most pleasant and fun guns I have ever shot. The ease of
reloading and its mild mannered competence should make it a favorite for many
Field Pistol shooters.