Introduced in 1896, the .32 Smith and Wesson Long cartridge was made for the S&W Model 1896 Hand Ejector revolver. The case is a straight walled, rimmed centerfire. It is an extended version of the .32 Smith and Wesson cartridge. The .32 H&R Magnum and .327 Federal Magnum have the same case diameter, but are longer than the .32 S&W Long. 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. It was easy to conceal, small, and a good choice for both plain clothes 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 stayed popular in some circles.
Target shooters liked the .32 Smith and Wesson Long as an accurate cartridge with light weight, low speed, and soft recoil. The .32 S&W Long with a wadcutter bullet is hard to beat. Smith & Wesson manufactured a Model 1896 target pistol with a longer barrel and precision sights. Other manufacturers including Hammerli, Pardini, Sako and Walther have made .32 S&W Long target pistols. The NRA and ISSF sanction Centerfire Sport Pistol matches where the cartridge is a regular contender.
This cartridge has been used by hunters as a small game round for years. Handgun hunters regard the .32 S&W highly due to its accuracy and effectiveness for rabbits and squirrel where both bullet energy and shot placement are important. 100 grains is the most common bullet weight. Muzzle velocity for this bullet is about 730 feet per second, and muzzle energy is approximately 120 foot pounds.
The .32 Smith and Wesson Long can be hard to get in big box stores or small shops with reduced inventory, yet is still widely produced. Fiocchi offers the cartridge, as do Sellier & Bellot and Winchester, and other manufacturers.