The 32 Long Colt Project
From the Sunflower State to the Keystone State, from my great uncle, to my grandfather, to my
uncle and then to my father, the Model 92 Marlin has done a bit of traveling. Hopefully it will
remain many more years in my gun safe before the next heir receives it. It is a 32 Long Colt caliber
and the rifle is in surprisingly good condition and shoots very well as shall be noted a bit later.
I figured that it might be a challenge to shoot this obsolete cartridge, but I really didn't know how true that thought
was going to be! It came with ? box of factory ammo but I wanted to reload for it. Research indicated that it would
take heel bullets or hollow base bullets and reloading data for this small cartridge is not readily available. I was very
lucky to get new brass for it. I ordered 200 pieces in 1998 for a reasonable price; now I wish I had ordered an
additional 300 pieces. Since that time, I have seen this brass listed at $1.00 per piece which equates to about $177.76
per pound for this Remington brass! Had I needed to pay that price for the new brass, the project would have ended
then and there. Brass problem solved.
Now, I needed bullets. Some inquires on the Internet to a couple of talk forums and a source was discovered. A person
in Wyoming made them from a Winchester mold dated to the turn of the century. One hundred of these small bullets
arrived a week later. Bullet problem solved (temporarily).
Reloading data was needed. As previously mentioned, very little exits. From several sources, articles, and Hand loader
Magazine, it was determined that starting loads for the 32 Smith & Wesson Long or the 32 Colt New Police could be
used. I found as many sources of data for this cartridge that I had and averaged the starting loads for each powder
selected. Nine different powders were used; all produced good results, but one powder, Unique become my powder of
choice for future reloading. Data problem solved.
A sizing die was also a problem. When the words custom-made appear on anything, the price is high. Knowing that
the studs used to hold tires on large trucks are the same diameter and thread size of the 7/8 x 14 reloading dies, a
thought entered. A local machinist was interested in what I was doing so he done the necessary lathe work to the stud.
A hole of 19/64th inch was bored into on end of the stud. I then enlarged the diameter of this hole to approximately
0.315 inch using a wooden dowel rod with emery cloth attached to it. This I turned with a drill and I quite often
measured the diameter as it increased ever so slowly. Subtracting the thickness of the brass on both sides of the case, it
sized the brass to have an inside mouth diameter of approximately 0.298 inch. This opening has proved to be right.
Sizing die problem solved.
Now, the reloading and shooting began. Although the 32 LC is a rimmed case, the head diameter is only a few
thousands of an inch from being the same as the rimless .223 Remington case. Any shell holder for the 223 Remington
will work for the 32LC case. And, any sizing die with a diameter larger than the 32 LC case and an expander plug less
than the inside diameter of the 32 LC case mouth can be used to remove the primer. I chose the 223 Remington sizing
die because the shell holder was included with the die set and it met the other two requirements. Priming was done
with a Lee Auto-Prime using a #4 shell holder. Winchester 6 ? -116 and CCI 500 primers were used. All the data for
the Winchester bullets used Winchester primers; the N.E.I. bullets (more on these bullets later) used CCI primers.
The rifle was made sometime at the very beginning of the 20th century. Exact years to correlate to Marlin serial
numbers are difficult to find. Regardless, it has 6 grooves, a bore diameter of 0.303 inch and a groove diameter of
0.308 inch. The twist appears to be 1 in 22 or 24 inches.
The bullets were from a Winchester mold and a mold (#78B) made by N.E.I. The Winchester bullets had a length of
0.558", a diameter of 0.3129", a heel diameter of 0.3014", and a seating depth of 0.141". They weighed an average of
89.5 grains with a SAECO hardness of approximately 5.5 or a BHN of 8 to 9. The N.E.I. mold I ordered knowing that
my Winchester bullet supply would soon end and I would need to be able to produce my own bullets. Fourteen weeks
after it was ordered, it arrived. It cast bullets of the correct diameter but the heel diameter was a bit small. So back to
N.E.I. the mold went and within a week it was returned. The heel portion of the mold had been slightly enlarged and
the bullets dropped from the mold with a length also of 0.558", a diameter of 0.3120", a heel diameter of 0.3005", and
a seating depth of 0.265". They weighed an average of 97.6 grains. This was when they were cast from a 20 to 1 (lead
to tin) alloy. These bullets have a SAECO hardness of 6.5 or a BHN of approximately 10.
When I first began reloading this little cartridge, I assembled several of the rounds with the recommended starting load
and the Winchester bullets. I then tried them in the chamber and in the tubular magazine of the Model 92. The
chamber fit was good, but they would not cycle from the magazine to the chamber, the length of the cartridge was too
long. I remember reading an article and they indicated the cases need trimmed with some bullets to allow them to feed
from the magazine to the chamber. Several of the cases were trimmed to 0.815" and this allowed for them to cycle
properly. A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION ARE IN ORDER AT THIS POINT: If one uses the trimmed cases, ONLY the
starting charge of powder is recommended. I discovered this with the Unique powder and the N.E.I. bullets. 2.5 grains
seemed safe in this particular rifle but 3.0 grains began to show pressure signs on the cases and the 5-shot group also
showed problems...keyholes were very obvious. A combination of the trimmed cases and the longer seating depth
(heel) of the N.E.I. bullet is probably what leads to the excessive pressure. The case rims actually became somewhat
out-of-round, the primers had deep indents, and a couple of the primers had a pin-sized hole in the center with black
carbon deposits also noted. I later discovered that the N.E.I. bullets could be loaded into the untrimmed cases and they
would cycle from the magazine to the chamber. 3.0 grains of Unique in the UNTRIMMED CASES showed no signs of
All data and groups listed on the chart were fired with untrimmed cases that are 0.910" in length. The overall case
length with the Winchester bullet was 1.314" and with the N.E.I. bullet it was 1.192" The bullets were lubed with Lee
Liquid Alox. I drilled 21/64th inch holes through a piece of 1/8th inch aluminum. The loaded rounds could them be
place into these holes, the rim keeps them from falling through, and be dipped into a container of Alox that was the
correct depth to only cover the bullets. The bullets were left to drip for a few minutes and then they were touched on a
piece of paper towel. This removed the excess from the tip. Leading has not been a problem with these bullets and this
A summary of events follows:
1. Untrimmed cases were used to shoot all groups at 20 yards, with the exception of the group that showed excessive
pressure to the cases and the "key holing" noted on the target. Case life appears to be very good as some of the cases
have been reloaded and fired at least 10 times.
2. If trimmed cases are to be used, EXTREME CAUTION should be used with powder charges. Even the starting loads
listed MAY cause pressure problems in some firearms. They all appeared safe in my particular rifle.
3. Before the bullet was seated into the case, the case mouth was "very slightly" egg-shaped by pressing it against the
reloading bench. This allowed the bullet/case to make a distinct "snapping" noise when the bullet was pushed into the
case. Bullets were held in place fairly tight using this method.
4. Groups with the N.E.I bullets were only tested with the powders that produced the best groups with the Winchester
5. Velocities were chronographed at a distance of 5 feet from the muzzle. All velocities listed are with Winchester
bullets. Not shown in the chart is the velocity of the 3.0 grains of Unique and the N.E.I. bullet. This combination
produced an average velocity of 1130 fps. Yes, I checked and rechecked this velocity and it is what it is! Unique, CCI
500 primers, and the N.E.I. bullets are my choice for this rifle.
6. The barrel of this rifle was cleaned using Sweet's 7.62 and a bronze bore brush after every 10 rounds of ammo were
It was an interesting and challenging project and an old firearm gets put back into use again.
PLEASE USE CAUTION WITH ANY OF THE LOADING DATA PROVIDED. SEATING
DEPTHS, BULLET WEIGHTS, PRIMERS, AND OVERALL CARTRIDGE LENGTHS
GREATLY CAUSED PRESSURE SIGNS TO FLUCTUATE. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST
FINICKY CARTRIDGES I HAVE EVER RELOADED.
POWDER WEIGHT VELOCITY % INCREASE S.D. WIN GROUPS N.E.I. GROUPS
BULLSEYE 1.7 GRAINS 918 FPS 52 FPS 0.96"
BULLSEYE 1.9 GRAINS 922 FPS 0.43
RED DOT 1.8 GRAINS 902 FPS 15 FPS 0.98"
RED DOT 2.0 GRAINS 917 FPS 1.64
700X 1.6 GRAINS 909 FPS 31 FPS 0.74"
700X 1.8 GRAINS 909 FPS 0
GREEN DOT 1.5 GRAINS 762 FPS 22 FPS 0.70"
GREEN DOT 1.7 GRAINS 777 FPS 1.97
HP38 2.1 GRAINS 856 FPS 11 FPS 0.56"
HP38 2.3 GRAINS 855 FPS -0.12 0.54"
231 2.0 GRAINS 818 FPS 28 FPS 0.66"
231 2.2 GRAINS 896 FPS 9.54 0.75"
PB 2.0 GRAINS 810 FPS 52 FPS 0.90" .
PB 2.2 GRAINS 917 FPS 13.21
AA#5 2.9 GRAINS 880 FPS 22 FPS 1.05"
AA#5 3.2 GRAINS 910 FPS 3.41
UNIQUE 2.5 GRAINS 954 FPS 19 FPS 0.79"
UNIQUE 3.0 GRAINS 1062 FPS 11.32 18 FPS 0.51" 0.52"
UNIQUE 3.0 GRAINS 1130 FPS 0.63"
FACTORY 950 FPS 5 FPS
Title: The 32 Long Colt Project
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