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32 Winchester Special - Created for Smokeless and Black Powder
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February 23, 2022 - 12:38 am
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The first Winchester advertisement for the new .32 caliber Winchester Special cartridge published in:

Shooting and Fishing – January 30, 1902.

The .32 Caliber Winchester Special

A New Smokeless or Black Powder Cartridge and Rifle.

The .32 Winchester Special Cartridge, which we have just perfected, is offered to meet the demand of many sportsmen for a Smokeless powder cartridge of larger caliber than 30 Winchester and yet not so powerful as the 30 US Army, and which could be reloaded with Black powder and give satisfactory results. The 32 Winchester Special Cartridge meets all these requirements. Loaded with smokeless powder and a 165-grain bullet, it has a muzzle velocity of 2,057 foot seconds, generating a muzzle energy of 1,550 foot pounds. At a standard testing distance of 15 feet from muzzle, this cartridge with a full metal patched bullet, will give a penetration of 37,5 inch pine boards. Its trajectory is as follows: 100 yards, 1.23 inches; 200 yards, 5.92 inches; 300 yards, 16.38 inches. From these figures it will be readily seen that the advantages of this cartridge are its great striking energy, penetration, high velocity and consequent flat trajectory. Next to 30 US Army and the 303 British it is the most powerful small-bore  cartridge today. With a charge of 40 grains of Back Powder, the 32 Winchester Special develops a velocity of 1,385 foot seconds, which makes it a powerful Black Powder Cartridge.

We have adapted the popular Winchester Model 1894 rifle to handle the .32 Winchester Special Cartridge, but are prepared to furnish it in take-down style only with the 26 inch octagonal nickel-steel barrel, the list price being $28.00. Rifles for the .32 Winchester Special Cartridge are fitted with a new and specially designed rear sight, which is graduated for both Smokeless and Black Powder cartridges.

Winchester Repeating Arms Co., – New Heaven, Conn

I have a scanned image of the original Winchester advertisement but I’m unable to post it here. 

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February 23, 2022 - 10:16 pm
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 Have heard of this before,but thanks for posting,so all can read and get the information.Do you have any 32 Winchester Special rifles?

 

 Interesting that the 32 Winchester Special was the third most powerful small bore smokeless cartridge available at the time, just behind the 30-40  Krag and the 303 British.

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February 23, 2022 - 11:15 pm
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Has anyone on the forum tried loading and shooting black powder in any of their 1894 .32 Winchester Specials?  Seems like a fun project.

Don

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February 24, 2022 - 12:35 am
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deerhunter said
Has anyone on the forum tried loading and shooting black powder in any of their 1894 .32 Winchester Specials?  Seems like a fun project.

Don  

If you enjoy cleaning with hot water, inc. cases.  But why only this cartridge?  Could do the same with any other cartridge.  Friend of mine who obtained a supply of primed .22 LR cases reloaded them with BP.

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February 24, 2022 - 3:15 am
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32WS-flyer-Back-1.jpgImage Enlarger32WS-flyer-Front-1.jpgImage EnlargerHere is the same advertisement that was put out as a Flyer. Some Reloading Tool boxes have it as an insert.

The advertisement is not totting the advantages of loading with Black Powder, but quite the opposite. 

The mindset of Winchester at the time was to discourage the practice of Reloading with Smokeless. Due to the inexperience of the public when reloading with Smokeless, as Winchester only starting offering Smokeless six years earlier in 1895. Winchester was concerned with the harm that comes with the public blowing up their guns. The Reloading of cartridges was a legal quagmire for Winchester (as I’m sure other companies). On one hand they tried to discourage the practice, but on the other sold all components for reloading. They wanted to make money off these items but didn’t want to be liable. For years they warned about reloading with smokeless but produced special handouts for smokeless powder load recommendations for a large portion of their cartridge ammunition. They did so practically until they got out of the reloading tool businesss.

That last sentence of the front side of the flyer explains their position well. 

Sincerely,

Maverick

P.S. Forgot to mention in the Spring 2015 of the Collector, Brad Dunbar has a nice article on the .32 W.S.

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February 24, 2022 - 8:06 pm
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deerhunter said
Has anyone on the forum tried loading and shooting black powder in any of their 1894 .32 Winchester Specials?  Seems like a fun project.

Don  

Yes, I dabbled a bit with it and the initial results were underwhelming, so to speak. I did not pursue that project for long, I don’t consider the 32WS a BP cartridge but I thought it might be fun.

 

Mike

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Smokeless powder is a passing fad! -Steve Garbe
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February 25, 2022 - 3:48 am
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clarence said

If you enjoy cleaning with hot water, inc. cases.  But why only this cartridge?  Could do the same with any other cartridge.  Friend of mine who obtained a supply of primed .22 LR cases reloaded them with BP.  

There were a few reasons Winchester chose the .32 special as their vehicle for the experiment. In the early 1900’s the .32/40 was very popular amongst hunters AND target shooters. Lots of .32 lead bullet molds around plus a 1 in 16 inch twist was preferable over the 1 in 12 inch twist of the .30/30 for black powder /lead bullet shooting. And at the time maybe Winchester was hedging their bets as who knew if this newfangled smokeless stuff would really take off?

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February 25, 2022 - 5:14 am
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mike webb said
 And at the time maybe Winchester was hedging their bets as who knew if this newfangled smokeless stuff would really take off?  

Smokeless had already taken off in a BIG way when it was adopted by the US Army in 1892, following the lead of France (1886), then Germany & Britain; & none of those countries ever looked back.  If you read the shooting periodicals of the time, you’ll find nothing but expressions of enthusiasm for this new “miracle” propellant, smokeless, because shooters were ALL too familiar with the shortcomings of BP.  It was (falsely) believed that, using the new “nitro-solvents,” smokeless was going to eliminate the nasty cleaning chore inescapable with BP.  Took several yrs to discover the problems caused by corrosive primers, which meant back to cleaning with water, just as with BP.

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February 25, 2022 - 1:45 pm
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Maverick:

P.S. Forgot to mention in the Spring 2015 of the Collector, Brad Dunbar has a nice article on the .32 W.S.  

I just read Brad’s article.  It’s a great read.  Thanks for mentioning it and thanks to Brad for writing it.  I really like the part about the early .32 Special loadings (as compared to the .30 WCF) and how it was meant to sit between the .30 WCF and the .30-40 in power level.

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