Alliant Sport Pistol Powder in .32 S&W. Yes, the Short One.

.32 S&W was introduced in 1878 by Union Metallic Cartridge for use in a series of pocket revolvers introduced by Smith & Wesson. It quickly became popular and S&Ws revolvers were knocked off by pretty much everyone, guaranteeing a market for this cartridge.

The cartridge’s original form used an 88gr. RNL bullet over 9gr. of FFg Black Powder, giving it a nominal performance of 725 fps and 103 ft./lbs of energy. Hardly a powerhouse, but its only real competitors at the time were .22 rimfires and .32 Colt, which was even weedier than .32 S&W. Oh, and 7mm Pin Fire; while it never really caught on quite a lot of pinfire revolvers were imported in the US. People weren’t exactly spoiled for choice when it came to cartridges for compact self-defense pistols and with violent crime at levels we would find inconceivable in large American cities (the ‘Wild West’ was actually safer) there was a lot of demand to fill.

Today .32 S&W is a relic of another age, long ago supplanted by more modern and effective calibers. But given the literal millions of top-break revolvers made between 1878 and WW2 there are a lot of these guns around, and the majority of them seems to tip to the .32 S&W. By and large these guns have attracted little interest from collectors and can often be had for $90-$200. People sometimes buy them on impulse and naturally they want to shoot them. That can be problematic; up until COVID several manufacturers did small runs of this cartridge and prices weren’t insane like they are for some old cartridges.

Last I checked people were still selling it at prices comparable to other small-bore cartridges but I haven’t looked into this recently. I suspect in this day of shortages many or most companies have suspended manufacture.

Alliant Sport Pistol

This powder is relatively new on the scene, apparently having originated some time around 2018. It’s designed to provide consistent results for competition in popular calibers, and from what I have been able to glean in mid-range loads it seems to do a reasonable job of this. It’s a very finely granulated powder and fairly slow-burning, so it does it’s best work in full-sized guns. I’ve also seen numerous reports that it’s accuracy and consistency improves with loads at the hotter end of the published data, though none of Alliant’s listed loads are what you’d call a ‘hot’ load.

As you’d expect there is zero data on the Alliant site for smaller, older or obsolete cartridges like .32 S&W. I have good results in 9mm and .45 ACP using both jacketed and cast bullets, though it can get very smoky with the latter. Since I had it on-hand I thought I’d try it in .32 S&W just out of curiosity.

Loading with Sport Pistol

This is a very finely granulated powder and meters very well through my lee Perfect powder measure, Since I am working in the dark here I decided to start with 1.2gr, but my powder measure wouldn’t throw a charge of less than 1.5 gr. with this powder. This actually works out decently in .32 S&W, and the powder has a relatively high volume-to-weight ratio so it does a decent job filling the available space.

I loaded a Aardvark Bullets 96gr. LFP bullets over my 1.5gr charge to see how it would perform.

Testing

The test guns

Typically revolvers of this type have around a 3-1/4″ barrel, though manufacturers offered lengths from 2-6″. I’ve been divesting myself of top-breaks and keeping only my favorites, so I no longer have a 3-1/4″-barrel gun and had to use two snubbies. The first is a S&W .32 Double Action (2nd Model) with the barrel cropped at 1-5/8″, and the other is an Iver Johnson First Model .32 Safety Hammerless with a 2″ barrel. This was shortened to this length very professionally at some indeterminate time in the past, and the patination on the crown is consistent with the rest of the gun so I suspect it was quite a long time ago.

Generally speaking you expect a longer barrel to yield higher velocities, but this varies by manufacturer and even by individual guns. Not to mention there’s only 3/8″ difference between the two barrels.

Averages were established with five consecutive shots from each gun.

Iver Johnson 2″

Averages: 472 fps. 47 ft./lbs ES: 103 fps

S&W 1-5/8″

Averages: 478 fps. 49 ft./lbs ES: 144 fps

While the S&W posted higher figures it also had a significantly larger extreme spread, though both were pretty terrible in this regard. I don’t feel much inclined to test for accuracy; neither gun is suited to it and given the huge extreme spreads demonstrated I doubt they would do all that well even in a gun that was specialized for accuracy.

Conclusions

While the listed load is weedy enough that you can probably fire it safely in your antiques, the extreme differences in velocity indicate very different pressures. At this load the highest velocity achieved was only 558 fps.; this is actually a little slower than factory ammo from the same gun, and that is formulated to not blow up the worst guns ever made. I would be leery of pushing this load any hotter. Given that it’s a fairly slow-burning powder it might give better, more consistent results in guns with longer barrels; it’s really not designed for short-barrel guns.

Should you shoot this in your guns? That’s entirely up to you. I will shoot off the remaining cartridges I loaded with no qualms, but I won’t use Sport Pistol for this caliber in the future. Red Dot, Unique and Universal all give better, more consistent results.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Sport Pistol and it is well-suited for what it is made for; target loads out of full-sized pistols. I’d go so far as to recommend it for that use, and will be publishing some test data using the powder in its intended role in the future.

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 17 August 2022

EDC. For Real, in Real Life

Recently Chris at Lucky Gunner posted a video about his EDC, and it brought up some very good points. You can watch that here. One of his central points is that we’re all different people with different needs, situations, quirks etc. Lacking the imagination to come up with my own topic I thought I’d steal his, and was surprised how many of my choices boil down to ‘because I’m an idiot.’ More on that later. Let’s have a look…

Oh dear. What Fuddish F*ckery is this?

Let’s hit the high points first. The cigarettes are obvious stupidity so we’ll dispose of them first. My only defense is that in the last year I’ve cut my smoking by 60-75% and am continuing to work on it. The lighter isn’t stupid; I often need a lighter in my workshop.

The modern minimalist wallet is easy too. My old one wore out and I replaced it with this so that I would stop stuffing every random receipt, business card etc. that I encountered in my wallet to languish in obscurity until I had completely forgotten what it was and why I kept it. I’m not kidding, when I tossed the old wallet out there were receipts so old they faded into illegibility. Come to that I only assume they were receipts but I don’t know what else they might be. Moving on…

OK, in relative terms this isn’t a ultra-spendy watch, but for someone in my income bracket it’s ludicrously expensive. Hey, it was a birthday present from my wife so you’re damn right I’m going to wear it. The stupid comes in because part of why it’s as expensive as it is. It’s a mechanical self-winding watch, because otherwise the battery would run down and I’d forget to run down to the jeweler to get it replaced for six months, and I need to know what time it is more often than I have my phone immediately available.

One or t’other.

One of these two knives is always in my pocket, and yes they both could use some TLC. The Opinel is a great knife for doing knife stuff. By knife stuff I mean cutting things that should be cut with a knife. It’s not a screwdriver. It’s not a prybar. It’s not intended to be used as a weapon. It’s cheap, light, easy to replace, sharp as hell and it does it’s job. The other knife is one I made a decade or more ago, and it was designed to do a certain amount of weapon stuff but that’s not why I carry it. It’s lightweight and useful, if not as cheap and easy to replace as the Opinel. Sometimes that it opens and closes one handed is a definite bonus however. The knives typically do things like open packages, cut string or twine, trim errant vegetation and I’ve even used the Opinel for leatherwork.

The keys are of course keys which are useful and necessary for the obvious reasons. Be patient, we’ll get to the gun!

Because reload.

I carry a reload. I don’t expect to need it in the context of my day to day life; the main reason I carry it is because I carry a semi-auto and for many malfunctions the fastest way to clear the gun is to reload. Mind you I don’t expect the gun to malfunction; it’s proven quite reliable. OTOH I don’t expect to need a gun at all, but I still carry one. Having a reload seems prudent.

I carry my spare magazine in an inexpensive pouch with a belt clip, and have it inside my waistband. Yeah it’s cheap, but it’s also sturdy, comfortable, is easy to hide and deploy the magazine from. It’s fit for purpose; it doesn’t have to be all high-speed high-tech tacticool.

OK, on to the gun. I have been rather famously ‘gun-agnostic’ for a long time. Given the unique circumstances of my life I’ve felt that pretty much anything I chose would be adequate. Snub-nose revolver, semi-auto, whatever. What I could do with the gun was more important than the specifics of what it was. If it was reasonably comfortable to carry and conceal under my standard wardrobe, enjoyed shooting it and shot it well that was good enough. Recently I re-evaluated that attitude and decided it would be prudent for me personally to have a more capable firearm and meet a more stringent standard. This is because I have had to acknowledge that even if I know the smart thing to do is in a given situation I might do some other thing. Not the wrong thing probably, just something less prudent.

Oh dear. A 1911.

Yes it’s a 1911-based gun, but that’s not because I’m a Fudd or Boomer. OK, in part it is, but not for the reasons you might think. Because of my age and the events of my life I have a lot of experience with 1911-based guns from back when modifications of the platform were broadly regarded as the best choice. By the criteria of the time, the guns available and affordable on the market and especially for action-shooting competitions it arguably was. As a consequence my familiarity with the manual of arms is pretty hard-wired. But while that is at least arguably a plus it’s not the reason.

By the way, the gun is chambered in 9mm. Not because I have any belief it’s ‘better’ in and of itself. It offers higher capacity, fractionally faster follow-up shots and is quite capable of doing the job so that is sufficient.

This gun is heavy, but I am a large man, have a solidly made gun-belt and a well-made holster so the weight and size is not an impediment. The holster is leather because a portion of my day job is leatherwork, so I have the skills and the tools and materials were on-hand when needed. I intend to switch to a Kydex IWB holster as soon as I reasonably can. I’m also working on improving my capabilities, with a more modern, higher capacity platform. When I can meet my performance standard with that weapon I will switch to it. Until then this is the best, most capable choice available to me.

Make no mistake, this is not necessarily the best choice for someone else and I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s only the best choice for me based on current availability and my own arbitrary standards that are extremely specific to me. My life, physicality, circumstances and standards are as unique to me as my fingerprints, and yours are to you also.

What I Don’t Carry

I used to carry a flashlight, but honestly I almost never used it. When I do need a flashlight there’s usually one near to hand. I don’t carry first-aid supplies either; at home both are available if needed, and when out and about they are as close as my vehicle which for me is typically close enough. I don’t carry a fixed blade knife because I don’t anticipate a realistic need for one unless I am hunting or otherwise mucking about in the woods. There are a bunch of other things people consider essential but in my particular, personal circumstances I either don’t feel the need or acknowledge that they are inconvenient enough to carry that re-organizing my life and wardrobe around them isn’t warranted.

Look, I’m sixty years old. I’ve been at this for a while and I pay attention. I’ve got a pretty good idea what I do and don’t need and what I can and will put up with. I am able to adapt to changing circumstances and learn new things, and will doubtless alter my opinions as my needs, circumstances or new knowledge dictate. I acknowledge the need to be mindful as things change and have an open mind. If part this is fueled by an awareness of how often I’ve been wrong, pig-headed or just plain stupid in the past that’s as my be.

Getting to the Point

The point is you need to think. Think about your life, what you do, where you do it and what it’s like. How permissive is your daily environment? What are the plausible threats you might face and what can you reasonably expect to do about them? What skills do you need, where are you at now and what is it reasonable and worthwhile to improve?

We are individuals, we have unique lives and circumstances and these are subject to variable amounts of change. What’s right for one may be inadequate for another, or it might be overkill. What’s right today may not be tomorrow. What’s right for one is not necessarily right for all.

You need to have a realistic idea of what you need. You have to assess how important those needs are and how likely you are to actually follow through. Having a gun you won’t carry or practice with is useless. Likewise gear you won’t or can’t carry in the course of day-to-day life is also useless. Life is about compromises, and we cannot always readily alter our life or circumstances to accommodate our wants, needs or inclinations. Carrying an complete first aid kit on my person isn’t practical most of the time, so as a compromise I carry it in my vehicle.

It’s easy to say, ‘Dress around the gun,’ but it’s not always possible given that most of us have jobs where our clothing is to some degree dictated by the needs and environment of the work. Find the compromises that work best for you and your life and build your EDC accordingly. Be aware of items you might need but that cannot be conveniently kept on-hand and where you might keep them reasonably accessible, or obtain them in an emergency.

There’s more to life than what might happen, and we need to scale things based on our own lives and what is likely to happen. You are a unique person living a unique life. Consider other’s thoughts on the matter and whether they are applicable, but don’t let someone else dictate what’s right for you.

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 8 July 2022

Happy Independence Day!

To all of my readers and viewers I hope you have a great day full of food, family, friends and fireworks! We may be enjoying fewer fireworks this year; previously they were allowed in unincorporated King County meaning that by longstanding tradition we stay home with buckets of water and fire extinguishers handy and comfort our cowering dogs. Most years I don’t even have to call the Fire Department. Most years.

Particularly memorable was the years Keeven (not a type) filled fifty-gallon trash bags with acetylene and detonated them. Not too many windows on the street were broken thankfully. Another year the neighbors ornamental bushed were casualties, as was Karen’s front porch. The Fire Department was not amused.

I expect this to be the last bad year as the police are only warning people this time, and it seems likely my neighbors will take full advantage. This year we were going to dare to venture up to my folks house for the day, but Linda passed a very bad night and was unwell this morning so we had to cancel.

Later in the afternoon she was feeling better, and expressed a desire for Chili-Cheese dogs as her July 4th dinner. An unusual request, but as you wish, m’lady. After popping out to Rain City Shooting Center for a bit of test-firing of the SOS2 (still getting dialed in, seems to be pretty much there) I stopped at the store for fixings.

Yep, there have been some changes. More about that in future posts and videos.

OK, I am normally pretty open-minded about chili. I even put beans in it. But for me the chili for a chili-cheese dog is a very specific thing. It’s not at all a proper chili; more of a meat/chili sauce made of ground beef, finely diced onion, chili powder and tomato paste. So at the store I picked up a pound of lean ground beef and looked at the hot dog selection. They had good hot dogs, Hebrew National and Nathan’s, but the love of my life had specified that she wanted the ‘big fat ones.’ The only available option was Bar S Jumbo Jumbo franks. A 20-pack. It’s going to take us years to eat twenty hot-dogs but for Linda? Anything.

So, hot dog buns. Nope. Not a single package to be seen. Well hell, it is the 4th of July. Nonetheless, bugger. I grabbed some hamburger buns. Just have to cut the franks up. I got home and set to work on the chili. By dinner time things were looking good.

‘Uh Tinker, those don’t look like…’ ‘Oh shut up.’

Linda pronounced them good and was quite satisfied. Hey, this woman got a C&R FFL just so she could buy me old guns. She’s a keeper!

Now the fireworks are starting, the dogs are hiding and quivering and we’re waiting to see what carnage the evening brings. Have a fine night everyone.

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 4 July 2022