Fiocchi's caliber designation for .32S&W Long

I received some Fiocchi .32S&W Long 100gr wadcutters today, and was surprised by how they define the caliber. On the box they refer to it as “.32 Wad cutter”, with no mention of the proper caliber designation of .32S&W. The brass case itself is obviously a .32S&W L case, but it is also headstamped G.F.L. .32 WAD CUT..

Would Fiocchi be doing this to appear as being more vague in terms of .32 caliber, for different .32 revolvers, such as the option to shoot these in .32 H&R Mag, or .327 Federal Mag?

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Matt, Fiocchi is doing this because since 1984 the CIP consider a wadcutter loading of the .32 S&W Long as a distinct caliber. Although there are pistols and revolvers with chamber dimensions specified for this variant only, from an historical perspective it was born and made for revolvers chambered for the standard .32 S&W Long, so it should not be considered a different caliber, just a different loading.

Regards,

Fede

That is interesting that they bother to consider it a distinct caliber, whereas I would never think of a .38spl wadcutter as being anything other than a variant of .38spl in general. I wonder what would be made of something like the Lehigh Defense .45 Colt with Maximum Expansion bullet (much over max O.A.L.) as being distinct since these will not function in any dedicated .45 Colt firearm.

Well, they have done the same distinction with wadcutter loadings in .38 S&W Special, carbine loadings in .44 S&W Special and .45 S&W Schoefield, and shot loading in .22 Long, .320 Short y .44 Magnum. As you can see, they have their own criteria to define a “caliber”.

I would consider the .45 Colt with Maximum Expansion bullet a distinct caliber if there was a correlation between its development and the development of a firearm chambered for the same. However, if it was developed as a special loading that will function in certain firearms already in existence, I would not consider it to be a different caliber. With this criteria you can exclude +P, +P+, carbine and certain extra length match loadings from being considered calibers.

I am currently at Bundesarchiv Berlin, looking into German proof-related files. I found that the .38 Special / .38 Wadcutter and .32 S & W long / .32 Wadcutter question was discussed and hope to be able to add some explanation tomorrow.

According to the files I examined in Bundesarchiv, the following happened. This is of course not a neutral description, because it is solely based on the opinions of the members of the German proof council.

The .38 Special Wadcutter as a separate cartridge definition came into being due to the creation of automatic pistols in .38 Special for match shooting. These could only be loaded with Wacutter cartridges [not explained why, I presume magazine dimensions]. Therefore it was considered safe to create a cartridge named .38 Wadcutter with a lower maximum pressure (80 percent or 1200 versus 1500 bar). The pistols were designed for the weaker Match loads, so it was thought a good idea to create a special proof load for them.

The .32 S&W long Wadcutter is an entirely different story. The .32 S&W long caliber became very popular for UIT (today ISSF) shooting because it was a “fullbore” cartridge under UIT rules with practically no recoil compared to real life fullbore. Pressure was only 1000 bar (approx 14500 psi).
The Liege proof house at some time [must have been before 1984] approved a cartridge with the same case dimensions, which was called .32 S&W long Wadcutter with a maximum pressure of 2200 bar. This catridge was finally accepted by the CIP plenary session “at London”. Today its pressure is set at 1550 bar.

Normally, a cartridge called “(semi-)wadcutter” will be assumed to be less powerful. Whatever the reasons were, assigning .32 S&W Wadcutter a pressure considerably higher than the proof load of the ordinary cartridge does not seem a good idea. Anyone owning a .32 S&W long revolver (or .32 Colt New Police) may be tempted to fire .32 S&W Wadcutter, which is most dangerous.

So the “homologation” of .32 S&W Wadcutter has in my view to be considered a black day in CIP history as an organization founded for firearms safety.

In the CIP database, the origin of this cartridge is given das Germany/Finland. It would be very interesting to find out more details. Because it was the executive director of Walther (GSP pistol!) who initiated the complaints and considering Walther’s close cooperation with RWS/Geco, I have no idea who in Germany could have proposed this dangerous cartridge.

Interesting about the higher pressure on the “.32 wadcutters”, however I am going to presume that Fiocchi does not actually load to that high of a listed max-pressure? Otherwise it would seem a very bad idea for Fiocchi USA to be presenting it to market over here essentially as standard .32S&W Long, which is what they do. There are no special warnings on the box either, and I had a customer this morning actually excitedly buy 3 boxes from me when he declared it was hard to find. So he must have shot it before in his standard revolver anyway?

Peelen - your assumption about the magazine limiting the cartridge OAL in .38 Wadcutter auto pistols is correct. When Smith and Wesson brought out their Model 52 .38 Wadcutter match pistol, they used the basic dimensions of the Model 39 9 mm Pistol’s frame. While and accurate and reliable pistol with the right ammunition, in the case of “button-nose” wadcutter bullets, if even the raised “button” on the front of the projectile protrudes beyound the case mouth, they generally will not work in the Model 52 pistol. I could be wrong, but I think the S&W Model 52 was the first full-production .38 Special WC self-loading pistol. The Army Marksmanship Unit built, or had built, so based on the Colt/Browning M1911A1, but they were limited quantity. After that, custom gunsmiths built them. I used to have and shoot a 6" barrel version, made by welding the front end of a second slide to the front of a full slide. It used Colt Gold Cup .38 Special Magazines.

I am not actually sure if the Gold Cup came first, or the Model 52 did, to be truthful. I was never particularly impressed with the accuracy of the Colt pistol, even though I much preferred the Colt “platform” in custom pistols. The Model 52 was very accurate, but a little bit more prone to jamming with handloads than was the colt. The 52 was fine with factory Wadcutter rounds, with the bullet recessed in the case sufficiently so the button nose did not protrude. Winchester-Western seemed to be the factory round to use in them.