Introduced by Winchester in 1882 for their Model 73 lever action rifle, the 32-20 quickly attained considerable popularity as a medium power cartridge in both rifle and revolver. Practically all American makers have chambered rifles for the 32-20 in lever, slide or bolt action, and most single shot rifles have also chambered it. Colt, Smith & Wesson and Bayard made revolvers in this caliber. Marlin reintroduced it for their Model 94CL lever action in 1888. Winchester once offered a lighter 100 grain bullet black powder load for the .32 Colt Lightning magazine rifle, headstamped .32 CLMR. A similar 100 grain loading specifically for Marlin rifles was headstamped .32-20. Both Remington and Winchester still offer factory loaded ammunition in this caliber.
Although semi obsolete, the .32-20 still enjoys modest popularity with farmers, ranchers, trappers, and pot hunters. It can be reloaded easily and at a moderate cost. In addition, it delivers good killing power on small and medium game at ranges out to 100 yards without destroying all the edible meat.
Winchester once advertised it as a combination small game and deer cartridge. It is much too under powered for deer sized animals. It is, nonetheless, a useful small game and varmint cartridge at short ranges, and is quite accurate in a blot action or solid frame single shot.
The author has had considerable personal experience with the old 32-20, having owned and hunted with several rifles of this caliber. These included (in chronological order), a Winchester Model 1892 lever action, Savage Model23C bolt action, Remington Model 25A slide action and a rechambered Greener single shot Cadet rifle.
The Savage bolt action with a scope sight would shoot very consistently into 1 to 1-1/2 inches at 100 yards. This was a very nice little varmint and small game combination at ranges of 100 to 125 yards.
In a strong single action revolver, the .32-20 can be loaded to 1050 to 1100 fps from a 6 inch barrel, which makes a very effective field gun. Trouble is the cartridge is too long for most modern revolver cylinders. The .32 H&R Magnum is shorter and will serve to fill the requirement for a high performance 32 caliber handgun round. The .357 Magnum revolver cartridge chambering in a rifle will outperform the 32-20 by a substantial margin. In any event, the author has always liked the .32-20 for certain purposes, although by todays standards it is a bit on the obsolete side. The .32-20 is the basis for the 25-20 and the 218 Bee.
Source: Cartridges of the World
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