The Sixgunner: Playing Favorites — .32 Magnum Sixguns Part II


Freedom Arms .32 Magnum Model 97 with extra cylinder chambered in .32-20.

Did you ever have one of those weekends when everything seems to come together? My friend and fellow Shootist, Fermin Garza of the Corpus Christi Police Department, found a couple Bisley Model .32 Magnums in Arizona a few years back. Bisley Model .32 Magnums are not easy to find and here we had both an adjustable-sighted and a fixed-sighted version. I made arrangements for them to be shipped to my dealer and while there discovered another .32 Magnum — a 4-5/8″ Single-Six. After several years of not being able to find a single Ruger .32 Magnum, I now had a trio of these excellent little sixguns.

I didn’t fire any of them before sending them to Gary Reeder in Flagstaff with instructions to turn them into something special. Both of the Bisley Models were fitted with new 7-1/2″ barrels while the Single-Six was turned into a true long-range sixgun with a 9-1/2″ barrel. Gary also put my name on all three and finished them in the high polished blue he is so well known for — nobody does it better. Both of the Bisley Models already had steel grip frames. When they came back, I removed the alloy frame from the Single-Six and fitted it with a brass grip frame to add a little weight in the back and change the balance. With my favorite 8.5 grains of #2400 under the Hornady 100 grain JHP it runs 1,065 fps and groups five shots in ½.″ The adjustable sighted Bisley Model prefers the Speer 100 JHP over the same powder charge for just under 1,100 fps and a 7/8″ group. I call them superb varmint pistols.

All three of these Ruger .32 Magnums have been customized by Gary Reeder. The two Bisley Models, one with adjustable sights and the other with fixed sights now have 7-1/2″ barrels while the Single-Six has been fitted with a 9-1/2″ barrel.

When the .32 Magnum arrived, Elgin Gates, then head of IHMSA, sent me a Dan Wesson Field Pistol version with an 8″ Heavy Barrel and instructions to really put it to the test. I took it to the first Shootists Holiday in 1986 and never got to fire a single round. It was passed from Shootist to Shootist — all declaring it a superb sixgun. When the stainless-steel version arrived, I had a second .32 Magnum from Dan Wesson. Both of these have been excellent shooting .32s over the years. I especially prefer the Sierra 90 JHC over, yes you guessed it again, 8.5 grains of #2400 for 1,150 fps and another 1/2″ group. The Speer 100 JHP over the same powder charge is right behind it for 1,165 fps and a 7/8″ group. I don’t believe Dan Wesson ever made a revolver which would not shoot very tight groups with the right loads.

The Heavy Barreled 8″ Dan Wesson .32 Magnum was originally designed for IHMSA Field Pistol matches.

The Freedom Arms Model 97 is a natural for the .32 Magnum and my first is a 7-1/2″ version with the added versatility of a .32-20 cylinder. This one has gone through a lot of testing. I met with Bob Baker of Freedom Arms at a Shootists Holiday and we spent considerable time running my handloads and factory loads through both cylinders with a 2X Leupold in place. It didn’t take long to see we had a superbly accurate sixgun. Ten different .32 Magnum handloads averaged 3/4″ for five shots at 25 yards though the best group was smaller. The Sierra 90 JHC over 10.0 grains of H110 averages 1,260 fps and groups in 1/2″ while the Hornady 85 XTP and the Speer 85 JHP both over my favorite 8.5 grains of #2400 do 1,295 fps and 1,250 fps respectively. Both shoot in ¾.″ The Speer does even better over 10.0 grains of H110 yielding 1,270 fps and a 5/8″ group. This is one of those rare sixguns which simply shoots everything superbly.

When the .327 Federal Magnum was unveiled, I ordered a second .32 Magnum Model 97 — this time with a 10″ barrel and two extra cylinders in .327 Federal Magnum and .32-20. While other .32 Magnums are somewhat selective in which loads shoot best, the Freedom Arms, as we have already seen, shoots everything well. It’s no wonder why Freedom Arms’ sixguns are the most expensive factory produced revolvers out there. Some may complain about the price but I’ve never heard anyone who actually bought one and shot it say it was too expensive!

Targets shot with the 10″ Freedom Arms .32 Magnum.

The 10″ Freedom Arms is so accurate it deserves a scope. Mine wears a 4X Leupold. The Sierra JHC over 8.5 grains of #2400 clocks out at 1,220 fps with a five-shot group at 25 yards of 5/8″ while the Black Hills factory loaded 85 JHP has a muzzle velocity of 1,110 fps and a group of ¾.″ The Federal 85 grain JHP factory load clocks out at 45 fps more and groups into one-half inch. I have yet to try any load in this revolver that doesn’t shoot under one inch.

I really enjoy the big bores, especially the .44 Special, .45 Colt, and .44 Magnum, however, there are times when they are not really needed. Sometimes I just want to relax and shoot an accurate sixgun with little felt recoil. The .32 Magnum is just the recipe needed.