Title image via Guns America.com
The .32 Remington was introduced as an alternative to the .32 Winchester Special in 1906 as a rimless version of the competing round. Despite being one of the standard chamberings of the popular Remington Model 8, semi-automatic rifle, it failed to endure like other rounds and has slipped into obscurity. With little to no current support for this round, it stands as all but dead. Some components, such as brass and dies are still available. However, the fact that many of the rifles that were supposed to fire this round are now collectors items or museum pieces gives the few fans of this round little hope for its future.
The .32 Remington and The Remington Rimless Cartridge Series
Any detailed look at the history of the .32 Remington would be amiss if it did not mention the family of cartridges that it was a part of. The .25, .30, .35, and the .32 Remington were all a part of a family of cartridges that Remington took to market with a clear goal in mind. Make inroads into areas where Winchester did not dominate already with their lever-action rifles. Despite Remington’s evangelism of these rounds, only the .35 Remington has managed to endure as a popular alternative.
Trying to beat Winchester at their own game seemed a daunting task to Remington, so they elected to take a different route.
Attempt to develop both pump-action and semi-automatic firearms, in similar calibers, that could compete with Winchester’s rifles and cartridges ballistically. Towards this end they bought patent number US 659786 A from John M Browning. That rifle design would become known as the Remington Model 8, going on to become the first truly commercially successful semi automatic rifle in the US.
While the other calibers in the rimless series from Remington were aimed at dethroning other cartridges, the .32 Remington had a very specific target in mind. The .32 Winchester Special. The .32 Remington is an incredibly close copy of Winchester’s design, however it had a few forward thinking changes.
The Changes of the .32 Remington
First the .32 Remington retained the .321 inch bullet diameter but changed the neck diameter to .343 inches and the shoulder diameter to 0.394 inches. However the biggest change came from the removal of the rim. Instead of keeping the rim, only really necessary in tube fed, lever-action, rifles. Remington removed this and made the .32 Remington a far more reliable round in semi-automatic, box fed, firearms. Despite being a forward thinking move that would be part of small arms design to this day, it was not able to save the .32 Remington. If anything Remington was looking at the equation incorrectly.
It was not that the .32 Remington was almost ballistically identical to the .32 Winchester Special, and a close match for the .30-30, that made the Model 8 popular. It was Browning’s design and its reliability that made the round popular.
Why Did the .32 Remington Fade Away?
Answering the question of exactly why calibers end up dying is always a difficult task. Sometimes the timing is simply off, other times there are better alternatives. In the case of the .32 Remington my personal speculation is that the round simply was outshined by other options. For those who wanted to stick with lever actions, the .32 Special was still there, so was the .30-30. For semi-automatic rifles the .30-06 came out in the same year and would prove to be a more powerful round. Able to handle nearly double the .32 Remington’s 36,000 PSI max pressure.
Yet the biggest drawback of the .32 Remington is the effective distance. Reaching out to about 200 yards is the most that one could hope for when using this round.
So despite being one of the chamberings for arguably the first popular semi-auto rifle, the .32 Remington failed to make the inroads necessary for lasting acclaim.
However that is not to say that the round is not capable. Being ballistically comparable to the .30-30 makes it an excellent round for deer, bears, and hogs. I’ve seen hunters report not only one to two MOA accuracy with old Remington Model 8 rifles, but being able to take game with them successfully as well.
Hand Loading and Factory Ammo
One of the first things I start looking for when researching a particular caliber is to see if there are any factory rounds available. In the case of .32 Remington I’ve been unable to find any factory ammo available. Yet reloaders still have options open to them.
First both RCBS and Redding offer dies for .32 Remington, bullets in .321 caliber are available as well. Since the introduction of the LEVERevolution line from Hornady, the .32 Remington has received a bit of a boost. The FTX bullets used in this line are suitable for the .32 Remington as well. However I can not find any load data for the .32 Remington using these bullets. As mentioned in the article on .32 Special, there are a number of 170 grain, .321 diameter bullets on the market Hornady’s 170 grain InterLock soft tip bullets, Speer’s 170 grain Hot-Cor flat nose bullets, and Hunter’s Supply’s 170 grain flat nose lead hard cast bullets.
The first major stumbling block for reloaders looking to work on this round is brass. I’ve only been able to find one manufacturer that is actively making brass for this round. Quality Cartridge Reloading has .32 Remington brass on offer, however at $1.37 a piece and on clearance at Midway I’m not confident that this brass will be around much longer. An alternative to this would be to take .30-30 brass and remove the rim and use a case forming die.
As an aside the similarities of the two rounds are unmistakable, even to the point where I have seen them be talked about as if they were the same caliber in reloading manuals. My 1988 Speer Number 11 Reloading Manual actually uses the same loading data for both rounds and lists the .32 Remington as an alternative name for the .32 Special. However this is incorrect. The .32 Remington may be a ballistic twin of the .32 Special. However with the deletion of the rim, and other changes to neck and shoulder diameter, they are definitely two distinct rounds.
Finding loading data has proven somewhat difficult, I’ve even seen it suggested that load data for the .32 Special could be used for the .32 Remington, and my Speer Number 11 Reloading Manual definitely seems to reinforce that idea. However in Cartridges of the World: 14th edition I was able to find some reloading data that I will share with you here.
Despite being an almost dead caliber today, the .32 Remington had a number of firearms chambered for it. The most well-known of these firearms is the previously mentioned Remington Model 8. Other firearms included the Remington Model 14, and the Remington Model 30. Other rifle manufacturers also adopted the caliber for their rifles. The Savage Stevens Model 425 was chambered in this round, as was a number of firearms from the Standard Arms Company.
On Death’s Door
Despite being one of the calibers that the popular Model 8 was chambered in, the .32 Remington was not able to stand the test of time as well as its contemporaries. I hate to mark any caliber as dead, however the .32 Remington is close. If not for the handful of reloading dies and brass I would mark this caliber as officially dead. When that time comes I will update this article with the passing of yet another underappreciated round that more people should know about.
Special Thanks to Peter D. for suggesting this caliber. If you have any calibers that you’d like me to write about let me know in the comments below.