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Thread: cartridge nomenclature

  1. #1
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    cartridge nomenclature

    I inherited a 1910 Colt Police Positive chambered for 32-20. Correct me if Im wrong but as I understand it 32-20 means 32 cal. with 20 grains of black powder. I received with the gun 300 rounds of modern 32-20 Winchester ammo. The main question is this modern smokeless round safe to shoot in the Colt. I think the amount of smokeless powder is not 20 grains but maybe an amount equivalent in pressure to 20 grains of bp.
    My second question is as follows:
    I know the 30-06 cartridge refers to a 30 caliber bullet in a round accepted by the U.S. Military in 1906. I recently saw a center fire rifle chambered for 25-06. Is this another military round with a 25 cal. projectile adopted by the military in 1906?
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  2. #2
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    Colt .32-20

    Interesting gun there. On of the sites I googled is asking $1,900 for one. But google the " colt .32-20 " and you'll find a lot of good info.

  3. #3
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    I generally start with Wikipedia on these, they have dimensions and background on a LOT of cartridges, along with parent cases fairly frequently.

    25-06:
    The .25-06 Remington had been a wildcat cartridge for half a century before being standardized by Remington in 1969. It is based on the .30-06 Springfield cartridge necked-down (case opening made narrower) to .257 inch caliber with no other changes. Nominal bullet diameter is 0.257 in (6.53 mm) and bullet weights range from 75 to 120 grains (4.9 to 7.8 g).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.32-20_Winchester
    The .32-20 Winchester, also known as the .32 WCF (Winchester center fire), was the first small-game lever-action cartridge that Winchester produced.[2] It was initially introduced as a blackpowder cartridge in 1882 for small-game, varmint hunting, and deer.[3][4] Colt produced a single-action pistol chambered for this cartridge a few years later.[5] Currently, Black Hills Ammunition sells a 115 FPL cartridge of this caliber.
    The name .32-20 refers to the .32-inch-diameter (8.1 mm) bullet and standard black powder charge of 20 grains (1.3 g).

    Child cartridges
    The .25-20 Winchester cartridge is simply a necked-down version of the .32-20.[2] In addition, the .218 Bee was created using the .32-20 as its parent cartridge.
    I can't tell you if the modern ammo is safe to go blasting with, not for sure.
    I'd be wary of reloads from an unknown or non-trusted source, factory ammo I'd probably try out with gloves and safety goggles, but then I'm a risk-taker.

    I CAN tell you that the 25-06 is simply a child of the 30-06 and gets the "-06" portion of the name from there, not from .mil adoption.
    DON'T PANIC

  4. #4
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    From Wiki:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.32-20_Winchester


    Although it is an inexpensive cartridge to reload,[1] care must be taken by the reloader, because of the extremely thin walls of the cartridge case. Energy and pressure levels for handloading are determined based on the strength and condition of the firearm action to be used. Because most firearms chambered for this cartridge are older (e.g. early model Winchester model 73 and 92 rifles as well as older Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers) factory ammunition usually has reduced pressures from what can be achieved through handloading. Most factory ammunition exhibits ballistics of about 1,200 ft/s (370 m/s) and 325 ft·lbf (441 J) of energy at the muzzle with a 100-grain (6.5 g) bullet from an eighteen- to twenty-inch rifle barrel. The performance characteristics of the cartridge listed in the sidebar should be considered maximum performance parameters obtainable, and even then only with a modern weapon designed for higher pressure loads. Factory-type loads - and reloads mimicking factory type loads - are the safe maximum loads for use in older weapons chambered for this cartridge, as most of the weapons the cartridge is chambered for are. Few if any companies still manufacture hunting weapons in this caliber.
    It's the same story for a lot of factory cartridges for older firearms. The .38 S&W (not .38 Special), originally intended for black powder, is loaded with smokeless to low pressures suitable for older guns.

    If in doubt, since you have the ammuniton, write or e-mail the manufacturer with the lot number and cartridge catalog number on the box and ask about it. Or, you can usually just put the manufacturer and the cartridge catalog number in google. Most manufaturers will have a pretty good description that will include warnings, if any.

    Another example is the .45 Colt (.45 "Long Colt") cartridge which is usually factory-loaded to "Cowboy Action" pressure levels, much lower than the pressures which can be handloaded for modern arms in good condition. The .45 Colt can in fact safely be hand-loaded to darned near .44 Magnum energy and pressure levels with smokeless powder.

    In the proverbial "modern arms in good condition."

    Terry, 230RN
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  5. #5
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    The transition from black to smokeless seems to have been an interesting one. With black powder the reloading method was: fill the case (with a little space for the bullet), seat the bullet, crimp, done. We have all seen pictures of the result when that is done with smokeless in a .45C, then fired in a SAA.

    Some factory .45C ammo will damage or destroy black-powder era arms, and even modern SAAs. Those boxes are typically labeled as .45 Colt Magnum or some such (even though the round is dimensionally a .45 Colt), while the black-powder-power-level rounds are usually labeled "Cowboy."

    Fortunately, Buffalo Bore and the others are not yet making a .32-20 "Magnum," so you should be all set with any factory ammo.

    Be aware that you can also get pre-loaded black powder cartridges from Black Dawge, if you want to be authentic, and learn about cleaning guns with soap and water.

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    I forgot to add that it is not always true that the hyphenated designation means the weight of black powder, as in ".32-20 means 20 grains of black powder."

    During that period of transition from black to smokeless, some cartridges were designated that way, but with the hyphenated number meaning grains of smokeless. The venerable .30-40 Krag cartridge was one such example. The "40" actually meant 40 grains of the military smokeless rifle powder of the time.

    Another example is the .30-30 cartridge, AKA the .30 Winchester, AKA .30WCF.

    Terry, 230RN
    "Gun control is not about public safety, crime reduction, or 'the children.' Gun control is about power. The people have it, and the government would rather they didn't." (An internet poster, not myself.)

  7. #7
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    Current production .32-20 ammunition is loaded with smokeless powder at pressure levels meant to be safe in revolvers and 1873 Winchester rifles. I don't know if my Dad's old Police Positive Special was as old as 1910 but it was pretty old. He carried it daily and shot it occasionally... ammunition was even more expensive then, relative to the value of the gun, than it is now.

    We are frequently warned against shooting the High Velocity, High Speed, and High Power loads of .32-20 (also .38-40 and .44-40) meant for 1892 Winchesters in revolvers and older rifles, but that ammo has not been in regular production for over 50 years. You would really have to search for it to try.
    I have a few facts and a lot of opinions.

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    I inherited a Bisley Colt from my grandfather when I was 10, 1955. The Colt was chambered in 32 W.C.F., ammunition, Remington or Winchester-Western was loaded with a 100 gr, jacketed soft point bullet and cost me $5.30 for a 50 round box. A neighbor up the canyon had several old Winchesters and some revolvers in 32-20, he taught me to cast bullets and reload 32-20 ammunition. I still do it today for that same Bisley Colt. It is approaching its 100th birthday and still gets used from time to time, but it has 3 more Colt friends now, all in 32 W.C.F.

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    ...he taught me to cast bullets and reload 32-20 ammunition. I still do it today for that same Bisley Colt.
    Without your recommending loads, what weight of cast bullet, type of powder, and weight of charge do you use?

    I understand the nice and bulky Trail Boss powder is used a lot for this cartridge.

    Just curious.

    Terry, 230RN
    "Gun control is not about public safety, crime reduction, or 'the children.' Gun control is about power. The people have it, and the government would rather they didn't." (An internet poster, not myself.)

  10. #10
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    I cast using an obsolete Ideal single cavity #3118. I also have a double cavity #311316 that will take a gas check. I do use Trail Boss in loads for a 1907 New Army. I use Unique in my "newer Colt Army Specials, 1919 & 1922. Both bullets will average 115 gr. when sized and lubed, I size to .313, seems to work for all of them. The Bisley is the stronger of the four revolvers, but I don't "hotrod" any of them. I have a new 327 Magnum for that, uses the same bullets!!

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