How Obsolete Are They- Results Roundup

A few of the guns used in these tests.

Chronograph tests are finished; time to gather the results in one place. We’ll go from small to large. Each load will list the barrel length it was fired from, and I have used guns of typical length for self-defense use. The guns used in the test were made when the cartridge was current technology, meaning some of them date as far back as the 1880s.

I used two brands of primers for these loads, Federal and CCI small pistol primers and Federal large pistol primers. The difference between the brands did not show in chronograph results, and while it may not make a difference I’ll list them anyway.

The majority of the loads use Unique. This was one of the first commercially available smokeless powders, and so I was often able to find ‘period-correct’ load data for old cartridges. If the cartridge was originally a black powder cartridge I will list that load first. I’m actually using Hodgden’s Triple-7 FFFg black powder substitute for a variety of reasons, but hereafter I will simply call it ‘777’ for convenience. I have also measured the charges in the modern fashion, by weight rather than the old method, which measured by volume. I’ve done my best to recreate original factory loads, and while I doubt I’ve nailed it perfectly they are probably at least in the ball park.

I’ve included three 19th C. cartridges that are (effectively) no longer produced; .32 Colt Long, .38 Colt Short and .450 Adams. In the cases of the Colt cartridges I had guns on hand to shoot them, so why not? For these two I have tried to replicate the original factory BP loads. For .450 Adams I have listed a pair of black powder loads and one modern load using Unique. Once again I had the guns to shoot it and already reloaded it, so why not? Also, there are many fine old Bulldog revolvers and Webleys chambered for this round, and load data is scarce for BP loads and non-existent for smokeless.

The data presented represent the results of the average of 3-5 shots. Chronographs vary, and temperature, humidity, altitude etc. can affect results. Consider the data an approximation, not The Gospel.

I’ve recounted the origins and history of most of these cartridges already, so let’s get straight to the results.

.32 S&W

88gr. LRN, 3.5gr. 777, CCI500 primer (balloon-head case)

3-1/4″ barrel 471 fps. 43 ft./lbs SD:40

I’m not convinced that this genuinely represents the ballistics of the original load, though from some of the descriptions of it’s ineffectiveness it might…

88gr LRN, Remington Kleenbore (antique ammunition)

3-1/4″ barrel 615 fps. 74 ft./lbs SD: 14

88gr. LRN, Remington Target (modern ammunition)

3-1/4″ barrel 611 fps 73 ft./lbs SD: 17

At a guess Remington hasn’t changed their recipe for this cartridge in the last 100 years…

.32 Colt Long

87 gr. heel-base LRN, 6.8gr. 777, CCI500 primer (balloon-head case)

3-1/4″ barrel 739 fps. 105 ft./lbs SD: 20

.32 S&W Long/.32 Colt New Police

98gr. LRN, 9gr 777. CCI500 primer (Balloon-head case)

2″ Barrel 738 fps. 119 ft./lbs SD: 12

I only tested this from my 2″ Detective Special… a friend’s wife fell in love with the 4″ S&W so it was no longer available when testing this load. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a woman in love…

98gr. LRN, Remington Target (modern)

4″ barrel 694 fps. 105 ft./lbs SD: 18

2: barrel 643 fps. 90 ft./lbs SD: 32

96gr LRNFP, 3.0gr. Unique, Federal #100 primer

4″ Barrel 739 fps. 116 ft./lbs SD: 15

2″ Barrel 691 fps. 102 ft./lbs SD: 22

96gr, LRNFP, 4.3gr. Unique, Federal #100 primer

4″ barrel 1089 fps. 253 ft./lbs SD: 31

2″ Barrel 984 fps. 206 ft./lbs SD: 53

This is a maximum pressure load; start 10% lower and work up.

96gr. LRNFP, 4.0gr Power Pistol, Federal #100 primer (+P)

4″ barrel 1184 fps. 281 ft./lbs SD: 41

2″ barrel 1090 fps. 253 ft./lbs SD: 45

This load should only be fired in the strongest of revolvers, or better yet guns chambered for .32 H&R Magnum of .327 Federal Magnum.

.32-20 / .32 Winchester Centerfire

96gr. LRNFP, 12.7gr. 777, CCI500 primer (balloon-head case)

4″ Barrel 837 fps. 149 ft./lbs SD: 12

96gr. LRNFP, 3.7gr. Unique, Federal #100 primer

4″ Barrel 744 fps. 118 ft./lbs SD: 35

96gr. LRNFP, 5.5gr. Unique, CCI500 Primer (maximum-pressure load. Start 10% lower and work up)

4″ Barrel 942 fps. 189 ft./lbs SD: 18

100gr. Copper-washed LRNFP (antique)

4″ barrel 779 fps. 135 ft./lbs SD: 23

115gr. LRNFP (antique)

4″ Barrel 761 fps. 149 ft./lbs SD: 13

.38 Colt Short

125gr. Dry-lubed heel-base RNL, 10gr. 777, CCI500 primer

2-1/2″ barrel 544 fps. 82 ft./lbs SD: 19

.38 S&W

Some data had to be omitted, as the results were skewed by using a gun of inferior quality. Loads are limited to those safe for top-break revolvers.

145gr. RNL, 7.0gr 777, CCI500 Primer

3-1/4″ barrel 636 fps. 130 ft./lbs SD: 16

1-5/8″ barrel 566 fps. 103 ft./lbs SD: 7

145gr. Winchester (modern)

1-5/8″ barrel 535 fps. 92 ft./lbs SD: 39

These bullets are quite undersized, and keyholed frequently

125gr. TCL, 2.7gr. Unique, Federal #100 primer(.357 bullet diameter)

1-5/8″ barrel 621 fps. 107 ft./lbs SD: 21

This is specifically formulated as a low-pressure ‘antique-friendly’ round.

150gr. LSWC, 2.7gr. Unique, Federal #100 Primer

1-5/8″ barrel 672 fps. 150 ft./lbs SD: 14

160gr. LSWC, 2.7gr. Unique, CCI500 primer

3-1/4″ barrel 754 fps. 202 ft./lbs SD: 24

1-5/8″ barrel 722 fps. 185 ft./lbs SD: 31


No data yet; these will be chronographed during the ballistic gel tests

.450 Adams

138gr. .451 Lead Ball, 10.0gr. 777, Federal #150 primer

2-1/2″ barrel 628 fps. 121 ft./lbs SD: 16

210gr. copper-washed LSWC, 7.5gr 777, Federal #150 primer

2-1/2″ barrel 551 fps. 142 ft./lbs SD: 9

215gr. TCL, 4.0gr. Unique, CCI300 primer

2-1/2″ barrel 639 fps. 195 ft./lbs SD: 7

Approach this load with caution. Start at 3.5gr. and work up

As always, you use this load data at your own risk. The writer assumes no liability for the use or misuse of this load data. Only use these loads in a good-quality firearm that has been inspected to insure that it is safe to fire. When in doubt DON’T.

So there we are. Next step is testing these loads in Ballistic Gel, and I may be testing some loads with modern hollow-points or other modern bullets, and I’ll report on their velocities at that time. These test will likely occur later this spring; such testing can be pretty involved, not to mention expensive.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 5 march 2020

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3 thoughts on “How Obsolete Are They- Results Roundup

  1. Pingback: Weekend Knowledge Dump- March 20, 2020 | Active Response Training

  2. Caleb Smith


    I’m curious what load you think Critter is capable of handling, it can only take .32 short? I’m looking around for a pocket revolver and found your articles, I am much more interested in a DA S&W than an NAA mini. Do you mind measuring critter and letting me know what the overall dimensions are (L*W*H, mass)? My wife has a new colt cobra and wants something if she has to go minimal; I measured it using the BIC lighter for a scale and it seems like it could be a good candidate.

    Stay safe, sounds like your bug in will be pretty good since you have been working at home and don’t need to leave for anything.



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