Fresh Look: .327 Federal Magnum

The .327 Federal Magnum cartridge was introduced to the market back when I was about to quit take a break from blogging, so I never got to try it out for myself.  However, following a link from Bill Quick (who is unconvinced about the .327, mind you), I got this information about it:

The 100-grain Speer Gold Dot load for the .327 Federal Magnum will penetrate more than 16 inches in 10-percent ordnance gelatin and expand with a frontal diameter of almost a full half-inch. The DoubleTap 75-grain TAC XP load will penetrate almost as deep and expand almost as wide but will do so with less than .38 Spl. recoil. It has lightning-like velocity, even from short-barreled revolvers. The 130-grain hardcast load from Buffalo Bore Ammunition is even suitable for bear defense. You can expect almost 3 feet of penetration from this hard-hitting, powerhouse, .32-caliber load.

And:

When you compare a .357 Mag. load that will deliver the same level of terminal performance as the .327 Federal Magnum, you’ll find it does so with about a 50 percent increase in recoil. The .327 Federal Magnum performs so well because it operates at a higher pressure than the .357 Mag.—45,000 psi as opposed to 35,000 psi. But recoil is reduced because it fires smaller diameter and slightly lighter bullets. The .357 Mag. is a great cartridge, but with 125-grain bullets, the .327 Federal Magnum can match its velocity and terminal performance without the wrist-twisting crunch.

And finally:

The true beauty of the .327 Federal Magnum is its ability to fire four other cartridges. You can shoot .32 ACP, .32 Long, .32 Short and .32 H&R Mag. ammunition in any .327 Federal Magnum revolver.

To me, that’s quite compelling.  So why isn’t the .327 flying off the shelves?

That’s from CheaperThanDirt.  And there’s not much else out there.  Worst of all, nobody seems to be offering cheap practice ammo in .327 FedMag, only the spendy self-defense loads.  And yes, the other .32 loads are out there, but they’re not that cheap to shoot either.

It’s even worse when you look at guns to shoot this stuff.  Here are the Ruger LCR and LCRx which are nice, but weenies:

and the tried-and-tested SP101 (one of my favorite revolvers of all time):

…and that’s it.  Nothing else with a longer barrel, and neither S&W nor Taurus list any revolvers chambered for the .327 FedMag, which means that aside from the SP101, the .327 is doomed to be limited to the backup role only.  Seems a waste, in my opinion.

That said:  as Henry is now making their Big Boy lever carbine and rifle in .327 FedMag:

 

…I might be persuaded to get a Henry and SP101 as a rifle/pistol combo, but only if someone starts making practice .327 ammo*.

Anyone from Winchester, CCI/Speer, UMC or the big reloaders listening?  Otherwise, I’d just go with the same guns chambered in .357 WinMag, and be with Quick in the “Undecided” column when it comes to the .327 FedMag.


*I’m not about to start reloading, so don’t even go there.

13 comments

  1. Pocket revolvers in this chambering make a lot of sense. You get a small pocket gun with much the same punch as a .38 spl, but with six bangs and less recoil.
    But people tend to stick to the tried and true.

  2. I remain unconvinced that reducing “recoil”– or as I like to call it “Americoil”– has any advantages whatsoever. Follow up shots? Why bother. If you’re sending enough energy, and ideally, a fireball the size of Nebraska towards the bad guy, everything should work out as nature and physics intended.

    Hence I’ll stick with my beloved 10mm, and its downright patriotic fireballs of freedom(tm).

  3. Speaking of orphan cartridges, why not look at the 9x23WIN; you can (very) safely load it up to 46K psi in Winchester brass (125 gr JHP flying out at 1435 fps) with (almost) no recoil. And Colt made a nice carry in their MK IV/Series 80.
    A lot of handloaders (Oops: there’s that danged word again – just means those of us with terrible OCD who don’t like to spend a lot of money) have even pushed it higher. And Silhouette (~8+ grs) and 9mm boolits are sooo cheap!

  4. So what you’re saying is that not only will it fire the overpriced and difficult to find .327 mag caliber, it will also fire 3 other underpowered, overpriced and difficult to find calibers as well?

    Well, that’s quite a sales pitch but I think I’ll stick to my easy-to-find and cheap-to-feed .38s and .357s.

    Sometimes there’s wisdom in the crowd, and when it comes to cartridges “good enough” is good enough. There’s also value in ubiquity – more people shooting the same cartridge = more people working on making the cartridge better.

    BTW I feel the same way about the “better mousetrap” rifle calibers like the short magnums and the other fancy new stuff I occasionally read about (when I care to – which isn’t often.) .30-06 seems to work fine for me and can hit a target farther away than I ought to be shooting anyway, so the “better moustrap” gives me no value other than being more expensive and difficult to find at the local gas station/sporting goods store/video rental/sex shop one is likely to find in Rural America.

    1. I’m with Staff Martin, I have a S&W model 19 with a 6″ barrel and Federal 158 grain Hydroshocks don’t seem to kick that much at all. At least not as much as my FNX .45 with Remington 230 grain JHP.

      1. I’ll third the motion; 327 Mag numbers may be good (for various values of “good”) but it is, and will continue to be, a boutique caliber, and as such, fails the “Billy Bob’s Country Store” test: Can you walk into Billy Bob’s store 30 miles from nowhere and find a dust-covered box of it, in any grain weight, on the shelf?

        The 327 may be revered by those to whom 20% of Very Little is a huge number and those suffering from synovial joint inadequacy, but 100+ years of field testing and resultant development be denied.

  5. I don’t think the .327 does anything *significantly* better than other cartridges on the market.

    The recoil of a .357 in most full sized revolvers isn’t bad, and the recoil of a .327 in one of the ultra-light pocket revolvers is still going to suck.

    It may hit a sweet spot for a small number of people–go go capitalism, fill all the niches–but unless something stupid happens 9mm/40/45 and 38/357 will continue to fill the Self Defense space, with .380 coming in underneath. That’s “always” going to be where the bulk of the demand is for ammo, which means that’s where the cost per gram of lead, brass and powder are going to be optimized.

    If I was going levergun/revolver combo I’d go 44 mag. Then again I live within 20 miles of bears.

  6. In the Classic Era of post WWII gunsmithing, there’d be a plethora of medium frame revolvers out there, that would find their barrels and cylinders drilled, sleeved, chambered and re-rifled for this superb cartridge.

    And the more talented, “all around” ‘smiths, could also weld over the caliber markings on the barrel, work the bead down to an exact “as new” flushness with the barrel, re-stamp the “.327 Fed Mag” in the correct font, and polish and blue the thing to a perfect match.

    I’ve no doubt Turnbull could do this. I also have no doubt I could not afford his fee to DO so.

    Last such ‘smith I knew, was the late Bob Day of The Powderhorn, in San Antonio, TX. If you’ve ever had your mitts on a Day Arms 1500 (S&W K frame PPC revolver), you’d know what I mean.

    His son still runs the store, but alas, isn’t a gunsmith, and their last ‘smith returned to Canada a few years back.

    *sigh*

    Jim
    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  7. You say you don’t want to reload, but I bet you’d enjoy it. There’s just something… American, about loading your own ammo. Bonus kudos for those who cast their own bullets (I don’t).

    I have a beautiful S&W Model 16 in .32H&R, and seriously considered getting a lever gun in that caliber. Also have the dies, lots of empty cases, a few thousand bullets… I reloaded a lot for it because the 20 round boxes from Federal, even the LRNs, was close to a buck a round 15 years ago. It was and is a joy to shoot. It also shoots the shorter rounds you listed (though you get that nasty carbon ring in the cylinder that has to be scrubbed out before you can chamber the long cartridges again.

    Its also the reason I never considered the .327 at all. I already made my investment in a .32 revolver.

  8. I was working with a serious, competitive wheel-gunner when the .327FM was announced, and he started working up data on it thinking it might be the perfect wheel-gun answer for a small-caliber, major-power, 10-round revolver.
    Don’t know what he ever did, as we eventually both went on to different things in different states.

  9. So a ways back, I acquired a Charter Arms “Bonnie.” Its a .32 Mag, six shooter that was part of a set dedicated to Bonnie and Clyde. Its a big, heavy,well-worn-but-beaten-to-shit clunking and clanking example of the inherent beauty of the revolver. Its a bit larger than a Colt Cobra and has a Smith and Wesson style cylinder catch, and it is one of my favourite pieces in my collection. Its the ugly-duckling, red-headed-step-child in my collection that I would be very hesitant to part with. Fast forward a few years and I had the opportunity to purchase a new-in-box S&W 451pd. An airweight j-frame snubby, chambered in 32 mag(of which I had acquired an ample supply)? Naturally I said yes, and paid waaayyyy too much. I think I’ve shot maybe a box of 32S&W Longs and two cylinders of federal 32mag through it. It shoots better than I do, carries wonderfully, and sits in the safe all the damned time. In fact, if I could find a buyer, its one of the few that I’d be willing to part with. That Bonnie though? She’s a sweet shooter who always joins me at the range.

  10. I have a Ruger single six in 32 H&R magnum. Also have a friend who works for the owner of Federal Arms … Got me over 400 rounds of .32 H&R mag for $1.10 per box … Also got me the RCBS die set for $25.
    I’d be all over a .327 pocket revolver …

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