As with many things firearms related, the .32 centerfire cartridge begins with Colt. The original .32 centerfire round was created by Colt for the Single Action Army revolver as one of 30 different calibers offered for the Peacemaker. First there was the .32 Short Colt and .32 Long Colt, as well as chambering for the Winchester .32-20 rifle cartridge, and then .32 S&W (introduced in 1878 and not interchangeable with .32 Colt).

The .32-20 was the most popular, with Colt producing 29,812 (first generation) Single Actions chambered for the Winchester rifle round, while .32 Colt was limited to just 420 guns and .32 S&W to only 97. The .32 centerfire round was far more popular with Smith & Wesson’s pocket models and the company’s proprietary .32 S&W caliber, which brings us to the quintessential evolution of the .32 with the .32 S&W Long (1903) and .32 H&R Magnum (1983), the latter being the touchstone to the current .327 Magnum round introduced by Federal in 2007.

It is a 141-year journey from the original .32 Colt cartridge to this most powerful of all .32-caliber pistol rounds. Every development in the history of the .32-caliber cartridge had been to increase case length and volume as well as maximum chamber pressure and ballistic performance. The question many may ask is, why bother? The answer is ballistic performance and lower comparative recoil.

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The .327 Federal Magnum achieves a maximum average breech pressure better than double that of a .32 H&R Magnum and ballistic performance rivaling the .357 Magnum from barrels as short as 3.06 inches in length. Put that into a small six-shot revolver and you have a pocket-sized powerhouse with less felt recoil than a .357 Magnum and one big advantage over the Ruger LCR .357 Magnum—the .327 Magnum model chambers six rounds, while the .38 Special and .357 models carry only five.

The .327 Federal round has the same 0.312-inch-diameter bullets as .32 H&R Magnum, .32 S&W Long and .32-20 Winchester. In fact, .327 Magnum is nearly a re-invention of the Winchester .32-20 with a case only slightly smaller and very similar in performance. Federal regards .327 Magnum as a “defensive cartridge,” and as such the handful of guns chambered for the .327 (they can also load and shoot .32 H&R Magnum) are primarily defensive handguns, including the Ruger SP101, S&W Model 632 and new Ruger LCR 327.

Snag-Free Snubbie

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It is difficult to compare any Ruger LCR, regardless of caliber, to other snub-nose revolvers because of their design and construction. At the point in time when Sturm, Ruger & Co. embarked on developing the LCR, the company took everything, aside from the dynamics of a revolver’s operation, and tossed it out the window. While LCR models are fundamentally the same concept as any other wheelgun, Ruger has its own novel approach with multi-platform construction around a polymer frame.

LCR revolvers are comprised of three major build components: a stainless steel cylinder frame subassembly with the barrel shroud as an integral part of the frame; a polymer frame that contains the trigger, hammer, sear and mainspring; and a cylinder/crane subassembly. For the .327 Magnum, .357 Magnum and 9mm models, the frame assembly is made from blackened 400 series stainless steel. Large Hogue Tamer Monogrips (secured to the frame’s grip peg by a single screw through the base) fill the hand without becoming a burden for concealed carry and help reduce felt recoil, even with larger-caliber models like the .327 and .357 Magnum LCR. The contoured Hogue grips and LCR frame allow the strong hand plenty of gripping area, a thumb rest and enough triggerguard to allow a solid two-handed hold.

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The revolver’s fully shrouded hammer also streamlines the Ruger for snag-free carry and draw. The LCR’s pinned ramp front sight is replaceable and features a white insert for improved target acquisition with the integral U-notch rear sight. This is definitely preferable to the black front ramped sight on most LCR models.

For a small, lightweight revolver, the LCR is well balanced with a long but smooth double-action-only (DAO) trigger pull that averaged 9.25 pounds on the .327 Magnum model. The LCR’s deeply curved trigger travels 0.875 inches to rotate the cylinder (counter clockwise) and cycle the shrouded internal hammer. The trigger mechanism is designed to generate less friction than traditional DAO revolvers, thereby mitigating some of the stacking generally experienced in firing compact double-action revolvers.

Magnum Test

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By comparison, the LCR chambered in .357 Magnum and firing Remington Golden Saber 125-grain JHP ammunition generated an average velocity of 1,450 fps, while Speer Gold Dot 100-grain GDHP .327 Magnum clocked an average velocity of 1,350 fps. Federal American Eagle 100-grain jacketed soft point (JSP) .327 Magnum cleared the ProChrono screens at an average of 1,270 fps.

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The test was conducted at a distance of 7 yards. The best five-round group with the Speer Gold Dot ammo measured 1.5 inches. The Federal American Eagle was not quite as tight with a best five-shot group at 2.5 inches. Recoil was lighter by comparison than the LCR .357 Magnum, which produced a best five-round group with Remington Golden Saber measuring 1.63 inches. Thus, the .327 Magnum is as accurate with almost equal velocity.

As for recoil, the .327 Magnum is still pretty snappy and you quickly come to appreciate the Hogue grips. So what is the advantage of the .327 Magnum over the .357? With the LCR, it all depends on the value of that sixth round. In every other respect the .327 Magnum is the same ruggedly built revolver, and that is a very good place to start when making caliber choices.

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