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
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
115 ft./lbs ME
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
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
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
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.