Friday, January 8, 2010

He got a .32 gun in his pocket for fun--again

The big news from Ruger was the compact SR9, but there was a smaller announcement as well: new versions of the Blackhawk and GP-100 chambered in .327 Federal.

Supposedly the .327 gives outstanding performance with a manageable recoil and, crucially, a skinnier cartridge, which allows more rounds to fit in the cylinder. In the case of the Blackhawk and GP-100, that's 8 and 7 shots, respectively. Don't get me wrong; high-cap revolvers are really neat, and may make the difference for somebody who really likes the feel and operation of a compact wheelgun but isn't comfortable with only five rounds. But for me, at least, that relatively fine difference isn't nearly enough to balance out the inherent disadvantages of a new cartridge: rarity, expense, and the gamble that this new revolutionary cartridge won't go obsolete like so many others. One or two extra rounds in the cylinder simply isn't enough to give the .327 the nod over a .357 or .38sp, a gun I can be absolutely certain will have ammo support for as long as I can buy ammo.

But what about going in the other direction?

What if, instead of making the same size guns hold more ammo, somebody were to make a smaller five-shot .327 revolver? I've handled some old H&R and Iver Johnson pocket revolvers and thought "Man, this would be incredibly handy... if it fired something more serious than .32 S&W." That class of guns was extremely popular in its day, and only went extinct because of their anemic cartridges. Now that we can fit some serious firepower in their chambers, isn't it time for a comeback?

Obviously, designing a whole new gun is a much bigger investment--and therefore a much bigger gamble--than just boring the barrel and cylinder of an existing revolver to a new diameter. And it may be a tough market, what with tiny semiautos being so popular. But if Ruger can find a market for cowboy guns, and Nort American Arms is prepared to gamble on a modern miniature rimfire revolver styled like 19th century pocket guns, there must be enough fans of old-man guns out there to make a subcompact carry revolver worth a try. If Ruger or NAA announced a tiny pocket double action tomorrow, I guarantee Danielle would instantly start jumping through Jersey's hoops to buy one.

There's an actual, bona fide empty niche to be exploited here in the world of handguns, a world where dozens of companies compete to offer minuscule variations on 99-year-old designs, and every major manufacturer tries to pimp its compact black plastic framed double action semiauto as superior to every other company's compact black plastic framed double action semiauto. Let's see some innovation, people!


  1. See, what we need is a cheap way to produce boutique-caliber ammo. The print-on-demand model for reloading/handloading.

  2. We have that, sort of. Unfortunately, the printers are expensive and labor intensive. ;)

  3. I kinda like these .327 Fed guns simply for their versatility. In addition to the .327 you can also fire .32 H&R Mag, .32 S&W Long, .32 S&W, .32 S&W Short, and .32 ACP (am I missing any others?)

  4. I love the idea of shooting .32 ACP in a revolver. There's something about firing a pistol cartridge from a revolver without moon clips... It might be the only way that semi-rim ever benefitted anybody.

    Chamber a subcompact pocket revolver in .327, and I'd shoot .32 ACP out of it till my wallet ran dry.

  5. Thing is, NAA's entry is just a riff on their existing mini-revolver, rather than a whole new frame.

    To use Smith as a f'rinstance, from the I to the "Improved-I" to the J to the "J-magnum", their smallest frame size has kept pace with the largest round it has to fire, due to economies of scale. The 317 in .22LR uses the same 1.73" cylinder window as the .357 Magnum 360. (The "I" had a 1.515" window and the "J" a 1.645" one.)

  6. Yeah, I haven't handled an Earl in person, and made a false assumption somewhere along the line, probably mentally comparing it to one of those larger old S&W pocket rimfires from the mid 19th century.

    I understand why nobody's making a compacter revolver for .327--they'd be taking the same gamble I don't want to take on a novel cartridge, but on a much larger scale--but that's the only way I see the cartridge being useful, from my particular perspective.

    The I frame is S&W's platform for .32 caliber rounds, isn't it? Is it meaningfully more compact than the J? Am I bitching about a problem that's already solved?

  7. Sorta on the topic , can you fire a 32 S&W LOng out of a old (early 20th century) 32 SW revolver safely? The cylinder is long enough to fit it...

    As far as love for old pocket guns, I carry my model 4 S&W in one pocket and and a KelTec 380 in the other :) perfect blend of new and old.

  8. Anon, you know, I have no idea. It probably depends entirely on the specific gun. Their muzzle energy doesn't look wildly different, but I probably wouldn't try it before asking somebody who knows your specific revolver really well.