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Chronograph Testing Some Long Colts, .41 AND .32

8384 Views 14 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Johnny Cash
This velocities test report is "hot off the range!" Just returned. Does anyone want to take a big sniff of my armpits? I thought not.

It was 97F in the shade of the awning over the 100 yard benches when I arrived at the Club range here today and 103F when I left. We're having a cold front just now as I post this and it's a chilly 99F.

Had an interesting afternoon anyway, despite the temperatures which really weren't unbearable as humidity is low and a nice breeze blew steadily.

The stars of the show this afternoon were Colt guns and Colt cartridges with fine performances turned in by each, of course. The chronograph trip today was primarily concerned with testing .41 Long Colt and both .32 Long Colt and .32 Short Colt, all in factory guise.

A special thanks to Forum member Muddyboot (newly crowned "King of the .41 revolvers) who made me the "deal of the century" on a full box of Remington 195 grain lead round nose .41 Long Colt so I could test them. He sent them to me along about the last week of June. Between a little contract work accepted and 3 trips I'm just now able to play "guns" a bit.

The .41 Colt factory loads sent me by the .41 King is a box of vintage Remington Kleen-Bore 195 grain lead round nose ammunition. The ammunition was in good condition and eminently suitable for testing in my circa 1901 4 1/2-inch Colt New Navy. The ammunition proved to be sure-fire, was clean burning with a noticeably small amount of smoke, and left the revolver's bore fundamentally lead-free. I felt that it was a bit cleaner than the Winchester-Western ammunition I've shot and also tested previously. Performance data as follows:

Remington .41 Long Colt 195 grain lead round nose

692 fps muzzle velocity
207 ft./lbs. muzzle energy
48 fps extreme spread
18 standard deviation

The Remington .41 Long Colt ammunition tested proved to be inconsequentially slower than the Winchester Western ammunition tested a couple of months ago. (see complete post here: For convenience, we'll cut-'n-paste the Winchester Western data.

" Ten rounds of Winchester Western "white box" ammunition performed as follows:

709 fps muzzle velocity
223 ft./lbs. muzzle energy
107 fps extreme spread
46 fps standard deviation

Ten rounds of Western ammunition in the yellow box performed as follows:

720 fps muzzle velocity:
230 ft./lbs.muzzle energy
16 fps extreme spread
6 fps standard deviation "

For some curious reason the "previous page" feature doesn't show up at the bottom of the "Reloading & Range Reports" section as it does for the "Revolver" section. I know there are more pages of threads full of good information than just one on top. Perhaps it is my computer or maybe it's a program glitch.

Anyway, I again came away enthused with the old .41 Long Colt cartridge and frankly more impressed with the rickety old New Navy than I ought to be. The revolver is really nice to shoot in single action mode. The grip frame feels just right to me when grasped and it's recoil gives a gratifying shove. I was utilizing a band of white rock in the ground, just barely visible above the ground's surface and located just in front of the 100 yard berm, as a target in order to align the bullet's path with the chronograph's screens. This rock band was scarcely wider than a man's shoulders. Often as not, the 195 grain bullets would ricochet off of this rock band with a satisfyingly large puff of white dust and strike high on the berm, which is really a cut in the side of a much higher hill. The reputation of the .41 is said to be inaccurate, especially at any distance at all, but so far I'm finding out that it gives practical accuracy that is quite good. To make good hits that mostly stayed within the width of a man's shoulders at 85 yards, with the revolver being rested, is acceptable accuracy, especially with me behind the revolver.

These Remington loads would be just as effective as the competition's ammunition for any reasonable use that one could conceive of for his .41 revolver. Back in the day, a handgun aficionado with a .41 Long Colt revolver was well armed for personal protection or for shooting entertainment.

The .41 wasn't the only Long Colt cartridge in attendance at the range today. I included a little 4-inch Colt New Pocket (transition) revolver that I have and a box of both .32 Long Colt and .32 Short Colt ammunition. This revolver dates from 1905 and is in reasonable shooting condition with a fair bore and a nice, tight action. It went head's up in competition with a couple more elderly revolvers, both chambered for the .32 S&W Long. I think it beat out it's Smith & Wesson competition for load performance.

Ammunition used was late vintage Remington .32 Long Colt and late vintage Winchester .32 Short Colt.

Remington .32 Long Colt 82 grain lead round nose

783 fps MV
112 ft./lbs. ME
72 ES
24 SD

Winchester .32 Short Colt 80 grain lead round nose

763 fps MV
103 ft./lbs. ME
54 ES
19 SD

I fired the Winchester .32 Short Colt load first. The Remington .32 Long Colt load fooled me into thinking that I could perceive a significant increase in power when I was firing it. It was longer and had a heavier bullet. The chronograph revealed how wrong perceptions may be.

The Remington .32 Long Colt load billowed great clouds of white smoke, both from the muzzle and from the barrel/cylinder gap. It didn't hang in the air like black powder smoke but dissipated in a wink. I thought this a bit unusual and excessive. I'm guessing it has something to do with the bullet lube used. The revolver was very sooty at the end of its session. I've not examined the bore closely yet but a cursory look in bright sunlight, without my reading glasses, revealed that rifling could still be seen.

As may be seen there is very little difference in velocity performance between the .32 Long Colt and .32 Short Colt. Couple this fact with the whopping 2 grain difference in bullet weight and we effectively have identical cartridge performance. I pressed this Colt New Pocket into service in the back yard recently to rid the area of a feral cat. One close range shot to the head with one of the .32 Shot Colt rounds from the box I also used today and it settled his hash. Didn't make a lot of racket or sling a bullet with high remaining energy into parts unknown.

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A 1917 vintage Smith & Wesson Model 1903 .32 Hand Ejector was also carted out to the range and put through its paces with Aguila factory loads.

This revolver is 98% and tight as new. It sports the 3 1/4-inch barrel which has a sparkling bright bore.

Aguila 98 grain lead round nose fired in the Smith & Wesson Model 1903

631 fps MV
87 ft./lbs ME
50 ES
20 SD

A Colt Police Positive .32 was also tested with the Aguila ammunition. This little revolver has seen better days but still has a little original finish and is serviceable. It has a 4-inch barrel.

Aguila 98 grain lead round nose fired in the Colt Police Positive

728 fps
115 ft./lbs ME
37 ES
16 SD

The surprise here for me was that the Colt gave so much higher velocity than the Smith & Wesson. I can't imagine that 3/4 inch of barrel length would make much difference with a low pressure load like this Aguila .32 S&W Long ammunition.

The Police Positive is much the better gun for pleasant shooting. It gives a fuller grip and is better balanced though it is still pretty small and concealable. For me, both the Smith & Wesson Model 1903 and the Colt New Pocket have stunted grip frames with thin panels that don't afford a truly adequate grip for my fairly large hands. I enjoyed the Police Positive so much that I shot it for a while at a spinning disc target I had brought with me. I forget about actually shooting this Police Positive from time to time and need to take it out more for some great .32 fun.

I also tried the Aguila in a 7.62 Nagant revolver that I won last year in a shooting contest, just because so many claim that it is ok to shoot .32 S&W Long in the Nagant's factory cylinder. I've already tested the revolver for accuracy with .32 S&W Long and satisfied myself that it is a non-event to fire .32 S&W Long ammunition in it. All that remained was to test .32 S&W Long for velocity and consistency.

Aguila .32 S&W Long ammunition fired in a Nagant revolver

574 fps MV
72 ft./lbs ME
25 ES
15 SD

By studying the 7 cartridge cases in the above photo, one may see a slight bulge in the .32 S&W Long that forms when it is fired in a Nagant revolver. I've fired most of a box and have not had a split. It will be noticed that the ejector rod is extended in the photo. I failed to notice this and actually loaded and fired the revolver once over the chronograph with the ejector rod extended.

So, using the same ammunition, the Colt Police Positive gave the best efficiency. It is preferred for pleasant shooting. If I bear down and really strive to shoot both the Colt and the Smith & Wesson for accuracy they group identically for me. I feel that I may be more prone to fliers with the Smith & Wesson.

The Nagant will give a really good accuracy performance with the .32 S&W Long ammunition, better in fact than it shoots its own proper ammunition. It handles, balances, and points much better than it looks. It is hopeless to load and unload. Slower than molasses, it operates like a Colt Single Action Army but with a curious pivoting ejector rod that has no spring to retract it. Most awkward. If under attack or fighting hand-to-hand in a combat situation, one would have it's cylinder's compliment of 7 shots with no reasonable way to reload in a timely manner. The gas seal system for which it is famous does work, but for no purpose since the ammunition is so feeble.

Here's a test of Fiocchi factory 7.62 Nagant ammunition with a 98 grain jacketed bullet.

672 fps MV
98 ft./lbs ME
84 ES
28 SD

When considering the operation of the Nagant, one would have been just as well off to try to beat back the German hoards in 1941 if he'd been armed with a Colt Police Positive .32.

This is way more than most folks ever wanted to know about old wheezer cartridges such as these but I'm recording this data because I intend to handload both Colt rounds and wanted to establish a benchmark. I've had a set of C&H dies for .32 Long Colt along with both hollow base and heel type bullets for a couple of years but have yet to assemble the first .32 Colt load. I intend to order a set of dies for the .41 Long Colt and already have some component bullets on hand. Perhaps other fans of old Colt revolvers can make some use of this information.

The final test of the day: Spanish surplus Santa Barbara 95 grain FMJ .380 ACP with a flat, yet concave nose fired in a Kel Tec P3AT.

1012 fps MV
216 ft./lbs. ME
61 ES
25 SD

This stuff has a reputation for being hot and it is. The P3AT really bucks and roars but remains manageable when fired with it. Ejection is enthusiastic. Cases will land a full 15 yards behind the shooter.

This surplus stuff was super cheap a few years back but supplies have dried up. I bought a large supply. I fired quite a lot of it through the Kel Tec and credit the ammunition with smoothing the pistol up where it became dependable. An earlier test recorded a 1032 fps average. When I infrequently carry the P3AT, it is loaded with this ammunition. I don't like the gun and only tote it when I can't contrive to carry anything larger.

Chronograph: Oehler Model 12
All handguns had a fouling shot fired through their barrels prior to testing and recording a 10-shot string. Ammunition was kept out of the sun. Each handgun was tilted back and carefully leveled to promote consistent orientation of the powder charge within the cartridge case prior to firing. This is a habit I have formed when testing even though, in practical use, one wouldn't be so careful. I've tested individual loads both ways in the same gun and sometimes such a step makes a measurable difference but many times it really doesn't matter.
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I have the ammo including the remainder that Forum member Muddyboot made available to me so we could test two different brands of original factory stuff.

My brother-in-law lives in Brownfield, about 3 hours from me.

The possibility does exist.
No. Only penetration test to date was the use of the .32 Short Colt on a feral cat trying to beat up on our meek female cat inherited upon my mother's passing. Through and through at close range.
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