The .32 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol), also known as the .32 Auto, is a popular centerfire cartridge that has made a name for itself in the realm of self-defense and concealed carry firearms. It's a semi-rimmed, straight-walled cartridge that was developed by the American firearms manufacturer Colt, hence its name.
The .32 ACP was invented by John Browning, a prolific American firearms designer who has over 128 gun patents to his name. Browning is famous for his contributions to the development of automatic and semi-automatic firearms. The .32 ACP cartridge was introduced by Browning in 1899 and was one of the earliest small-caliber cartridges designed for semi-automatic pistols.
The .32 ACP has garnered quite a few names over the course of its existence. In Europe, it's often referred to as the 7.65mm Browning, not to be confused with the 7.65mm Browning Long, which is a different cartridge. This naming convention pays homage to the cartridge's creator, John Browning. Other common designations include the .32 Automatic and .32 Colt.
Weapons Using .32 ACP
Over the years, a number of different weapons have used this cartridge, spanning a variety of types and manufacturers. These include the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless, Walther PP and PPK, the Beretta 81 series, the Seecamp LWS 32, and many others. Its size and performance made it an ideal choice for small, concealable pistols, which led to its widespread use among European police forces and military personnel.
Predecessors and Successors
Prior to the invention of the .32 ACP, the most common cartridge was the .32 S&W, a rimmed cartridge designed for revolvers. The .32 ACP, with its semi-rimmed design, represented a step forward as it was one of the first pistol cartridges designed for semi-automatics.
It's close cousin the .25 ACP is a very low-powered cartridge, often considered to be one of the weakest commonly available pistol cartridges. It typically fires a 50-grain bullet at a velocity of around 760 feet per second (fps). Its energy output is relatively low, making it suitable for short-range self-defense but not recommended for stopping power. The .32 is much preferred.
As for successors, while the .32 ACP remains in use today, advancements in ballistics and bullet technology led to the development of other cartridges that offer superior performance. These include the .380 ACP, another John Browning design, and the 9mm Parabellum. Both these cartridges offer greater stopping power and velocity, making them more suitable for modern self-defense situations.
While not the most powerful cartridge available, the .32 ACP is still a viable option for self-defense, especially in compact, concealable firearms. It has a standard bullet weight of 71 grains with a velocity of approximately 900-1,000 feet per second, delivering muzzle energy in the range of 120-130 foot-pounds. These numbers can vary based on the specific load and firearm used.
Despite these relatively modest numbers, the .32 ACP has a reputation for reliability and accuracy at close ranges, making it a popular choice for concealed carry handguns. It's also relatively mild in terms of recoil, making it a good option for shooters who are sensitive to recoil or those who prefer a more manageable shooting experience.
Despite being over a century old, the .32 ACP has remained a viable and popular cartridge. Its combination of modest recoil, decent accuracy, and suitability for compact firearms ensures its continued relevance in today's firearm market. While more powerful options are available, the .32 ACP still holds a cherished place among many firearm enthusiasts and concealed carry practitioners.
The author currently enjoys use of a Beretta 3032 Tomcat in this caliber. Its features exceptionally good accuracy and gentle recoil without being too small to handle. Ammunition in this caliber has been more available recently than in previous years, making it a good choice to take to the range, or use as a backup for concealed carry.
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