Perfecting the Perfect Pocket Pistol.
I love old Pocket Pistols; many are designed by the greatest gun designers of the19th and 20th century. These master gun makers started the small pistol craze that has caught speed again today. A big difference between the classic pocket pistols and the new small pistols is many are plastic/polymer frames today. I think, sadly, the days of steel/alloy frames for small guns may be all over.
I enjoy shooting these old classic guns and I wanted to give my favorite old classic pocket pistols more power and a little more get up and go. To do that I need to give them a faster, harder hitting round, improving them as a defensive weapon, and to give them longer range for practice/plinking.
Back in the summer 2005, I was shooting my 1911 with a .400 Cor-bon barrel swap-out in it. I was impressed by the .40 caliber bullet with the bottleneck-down .45 ACP brass. I thought the concept would work and I could put a .32 bullet on a necked-down .380, making them faster and harder hitting and increasing accuracy and distance. When I found Cor-bon made that exact round I got to work on my ideal.
First I converted two classic old pocket pistols, the Browning 1910 and 1922 using the .32 NAA round from Cor-bon. You can read an article about it here on Handgunner’s website at: http://americanhandgunner.com/exclusive-little-steel-guns-with-big-attitudes/.
Having great success with the two Browning conversions I wanted to give my favorite pocket pistol the .32 NAA treatment also. I feel this is the easiest shooting .32 ACP or .380 ever made. A very accurate gun that is perfect — or at least close to perfect in my eyes. This remarkable firearm has a floating breech and a concealed hammer. The first and possibly the only gun made without any screws. The grip fasteners (metal plates) are held on by rivets and the plates slide off the frame after the removal of a pin. When you pick this all-steel gun up, you’ll note right away the grip and balance is superb and points perfectly at the target.
It has a timeless look, black or dark brown grips, blue nitrate small parts and a rich dark brown color bluing. Back in the day John Browning was asked, how does it feel to be the best gun designer in the world? He said “I don’t know, ask John Penderson!” Inventor/designer John Pederson, best known for the Pederson device, converting rifles for the US in WWI, designed the Remington M51.
I couldn’t wait to give this near 100 years old, perfect little pocket pistol the .32 NAA conversion.
The Model 51 on a cool gun rest made for small hand guns, along with .32
NAA 60-grain JHP ammo, the chamber reamer and military 11-degree target
crown reface cutter with spindles and brushes.I couldn’t wait to give
this near 100 years old, perfect little pocket pistol the .32 NAA conversion.
What Is The 32NAA Round?
This round is a relatively new cartridge/firearm “system” designed and developed by the partnership of North American Arms and Cor-bon Ammunition. Guardian describes the cartridge as based on a .380 case, necked-down to hold a smaller .32 bullet. It resulted in a remarkable gain in ballistic performance and a new round called the .32NAA. It delivers in excess of 1,222 fps velocity to a 60 grain proprietary bullet. When tested in a 4″ barrel it generates an average of 1,453 fps.
Argueably, it produces more velocity and more energy than any conventional jacketed lead hollow point (JHP) .32 ACP, .380 ACP or .380 ACP (+P) with 15 percent less recoil than the +P. It also penetrates 8.3″ of gelatin after passing through four layers of denim, expanding to a .55″ mushroom with a retained weight of 100 percent. Not too shabby for a pocket pistol.
Parts, magazine, trigger, grip safety, stocks and hammer assemblies
I left together. The two stocks have ten parts in their assemblies alone.
Keeping It Simple!
I used one rule for the conversion: No parts can be changed, except the barrel and in some cases the magazine. So to get started I had to find a Model 51 and you could spend a lot of time and gas locating one. Looking online at GunBroker.com, I found a selection to choose from, under the category semi-autos and relics. I need two guns, one in each caliber, to see if both can support a .32 NAA conversion.
So, I got an NRA exhalent .380 ACP for $725.00 and found a shooter .32 ACP for $420. The gun had three initials carved in the frame, lots of scratches and was just starting to pit and needed a lot of T.L.C. and was perfect to experiemnt with. The .32’s are very rare, the estimated total is only 16,000 were made.
Comparing both guns, I knew looking at the slides, only the .380 could be converted. The slide, frame, breech block, extractor, firing pin and spring are all different. This gun has a fitted recessed breech face and .380’s will not fit in the .32 ACP breech. Fortunately the barrel, action spring and collar can be swapped out with the .380. This time only the .380 Model 51 will be a candidate to get this .32 NAA conversion.
Now I needed a .32 caliber barrel since I am not going to use the barrel in the .32 I bought. I won’t part out the rare .32 ACP parts. So I needed to buy a new or used barrel. Numrich was my first choice, and I was lucky they had a new “old stock” one. The next chore was to re-chamber the barrel. I recommend a good gunsmith do this for you, as a “local machinest” might be a crap shoot. After having the barrel chambered properly, off to the range I went, excited to test the Model 51.
Original instruction fold out with a Remington repair manual and
tools, Model 51’s, ammo, barrel, spare grips my .32 and .380 M51.
At The Range
Feeling confident knowing the success I had with the two Browning pocket pistols, I was anxious to shoot it. But I realized I needed to take my time, focus, review safety rules I used on the first Browning test, as it’s only fun when we all are safe. I put one round in the magazine, nervously pushed the magazine home pointing down range, pulled the slide and the round slid right in. I pulled the slide back and the .32 NAA round popped right out. Okay, chambered and extracted fine.
Now, one in the magazine, the magazine in, rack the slide back and ready to shoot. Aiming at a bull eye 10 yards downrange I squeeze the trigger. The gun went bang. The only small problem I could see was the fact I missed everything, not a hole in the paper. I put two rounds in, found it shot really great, except I’m not hitting anything. I switched to a bigger target.
Filling the mag with seven rounds, it ran fine and felt wonderful, with little recoil and was easy to stay on target — if it would hit the target. The bigger target showed the seven shots hit high and to the left, and I knew something was not right. I took a good look at the sights and they looked perfect.
With the .380 barrel installed in it, there were no problems and it’s very accurate. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so I packed things up to think on it some. All the way home I kept thinking, how did I screw it up. The big question though, what I really worried about was could I ever find another a .32 caliber 7.65 mm Model 51 barrel?
It’s hard to believe this is a 100 year old pocket pistol!
Looking at the barrel with out my glasses it was not apparent anything was wrong with the crown. Using my 10x power loop I could see a dent/smashed place on the crown, looking like it bumped up against something creating a small impression across the inside edge of the crown. When you buy new old stock I guess you should expect some problems, or maybe it was damaged by me, I don’t know. After searching online and at part houses for a new barrel and having no luck at all, I put this project on the back burner and kept looking. Some time went by, and that’s when I decided I’d have to cut a new crown. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.
Looking at a Manson Precision Reamers catalog, I found a military crown refacing tool kit, three spindles and 11-degree cutter and kit attachments, all for $215 plus shipping. This could be really handy to have around regardless, so I gave Dave Manson a call and he again was very helpful and when ordering he told me about instructional videos on Youtube on how to reface the crown. As soon as I received the crown cutting kit I tried it out. It was very fast and easy to do, and frankly, I felt dumb for waiting so long. Literally, in just seconds I was ready to go back to the range.
Not the best kind of a day for testing being gray and raining off and on, but I had the range to myself, which is always good. This time I loaded seven and shot at ten yards with a real big target. I already knew it worked fine, but was still anxious to see if I could hit anything — or would it still a nightmare.
I bench rested seven rounds and I could see right away it’s on-target. I had to do it again. The next two magazines were nearly the same. I am Ecstatic! Looking at the gun in my hand I felt a great relief. I wanted to jump up and down and yell hooray! Corny, I know, but it feels great to solve a problem like this.
So, did the conversion to .32 NAA perfect the “Perfect Pocket Pistol?”
My best group at 25 yards was near 2″ and at 10 yards well under an inch. I checked velocity using my Shooting Chrony. The M51 with a 3.5″ barrel, using Corbon 60-grain JHP .32 NAA averaged 1,320 fps. The Model 51 pocket pistol with the .32 NAA round to be approximately 50 percent faster than .380 ball ammo. After a new 11-degree target crown, it shoots very well, better than I can shoot it, actually. This gun is an incredibly easy handling and accurate pocket pistol, that won’t hurt your hand when you shoot it. I’m happy with this .32 NAA conversion, and it was worth the added expense and troubles I encountered. Easily the best conversion so far.
I have been asked many questions, and the big one is what pistols are candidates for the .32 NAA round? A lot of people want to try this conversion on their favorite pocket pistol. I want to make it clear my experience doing these conversions is meant to be anecdotal and not instructional in nature. With that, I believe there are very many candidates for this .32 NAA conversion. One thing you should consider though, is to select only high quality firearms for this conversion. A .32 NAA has a higher chamber pressure than standard .32 ACP or .380, pick a quality weapon new or used, one you would bet your life on!
What’s next for me? I’d like to try a conversion on a Mauser HSc with a double stack magazine. I do have a .32 ACP barrel for a classic Colt model M/N so that’s in the works, but not next. To all the fans of a PP series pistol, I too would like convert one. But what’s the next project for me? I’m thinking way out of the box. How about a .32 NAA revolver, or maybe a carbine?
The next time you are thinking about buying a new, small semi-auto pistol, you might consider the best old pocket pistol ever made — an elegant old Remington. And if you give it a new .32 NAA attitude, you will turn it into the Remington Model 51 Pocket Rocket Pistol.
By James Frostick
For more info: Dave Manson Precision Reamers, 8200 Embury Rd. Grand Blanc, MI. 48439, (810) 953-0732