Introduced in 1896, the .32 Smith & Wesson Long cartridge was made for the S&W Model 1896 Hand Ejector revolver. An extended version of the .32 Smith & Wesson cartridge, the case is a straight-walled, rimmed centerfire – similar to the .32 H&R Magnum and .327 Federal Magnum case diameter, but shorter in length. For this reason, the .32 S&W Long can be used in both the .32 H&R Magnum and the .327 Federal Magnum.
Law enforcement officers contributed to the popularity of this small caliber pistol when it was introduced – due to its easy concealment, small size, and good fit for both plain-clothed officers and detectives. The NYPD chose the .32 S&W Long, but it was referred to as the .32 Colt New Police since Colt offered a Colt New Police Revolver. This was the first firearm to be issued standard by the department. Theodore Roosevelt, who was the Police Commissioner of New York City at the time, was impressed by the accuracy of the new round. The popularity of this pistol began to fade when the .38 S&W Special arrived, but the .32 S&W Long has remained popular in some circles.
Great for target shooting, the .32 Smith & Wesson Long is an accurate cartridge with light weight, low speed, and soft recoil. S&W manufactured a Model 1896 target pistol with a longer barrel and precision sights, while other manufacturers – including Hammerli, Pardini, Sako and Walther – have made .32 S&W Long target pistols. The cartridge is also a regular contender in the NRA and ISSF Centerfire Sport Pistol matches.
This cartridge has also been used by hunters as a small-game round for years. Handgun hunters highly regard the .32 S&W, due to its accuracy and effectiveness for rabbits and squirrel (where both bullet energy and shot placement are important). 100 grain is the most common bullet weight, muzzle velocity is about 730 feet per second, muzzle energy is approximately 120 foot pounds, and the wadcutter bullet is hard to beat.
The .32 Smith & Wesson Long can be difficult to find in big-box stores or small shops with reduced inventory, yet it is still widely produced. Fiocchi offers the cartridge, as do Sellier & Bellot, Winchester and other manufacturers.