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Modern Shooter: Is .32 ACP Sufficient?

The world of shooting is so dynamic and so large, that we’ll spend a couple of years doing these modern shooter articles breaking down everyone’s favorite types of ammo, before we ever even come close to finishing. This time around, I’m going to tackle the .32 ACP—a handgun round that has been around since 1899.



Feature | Gun with ammunition on wooden background | Modern Shooter: Is .32 ACP Sufficient?

The .32 ACP is not the biggest cartridge you can buy, but it’s a very capable round in modern shooting. Read on to know more!

RELATED: 22 Ammo Shortage | Lessons From The Recent Ammunition Shortage

In this article:

  1. A Classic Ammunition
  2. .32 ACP for Self-Defense: A Popular Choice
  3. .32 ACP Capable Round
  4. Other Things to Consider

.32 ACP Ammo | What Shooters Need to Know

A Classic Ammunition

The world of shooting is so dynamic and large. You can spend a couple of years doing these modern shooter articles breaking down everyone’s favorite types of ammo.

Even then, you can only come close to finishing. This time around, I’m going to tackle the .32 ACP — a handgun round that has been around since 1899.

Always more popular in Europe, .32 ACP pistols Automatic Colt (.32 ACP, .32 auto, 7.65 Browning, 7.65X17mm, etc.) is usually found in highly concealable pocket firearms. While the .32 ACP ammo ballistics are less than ideal, it does hold a place in a self-defense shooting.

Oftentimes, these small guns make great backups. That’s because they’re so tiny they can sit in the palm of your hand or comfortably in your pocket.

.32 ACP for Self-Defense: A Popular Choice

Some of the more popular guns that can be found today are the Kel Tec P-32 and the Walther PP. While the projectiles are less lethal than other self-defense cartridges, the .32 ACP can still get the job done.

In fact, it finishes the job many times over the years. It’s the weapon of choice for European police.

Much in the same way, a .22LR can kill a human being with correct shot placement, so can a gun in .32 caliber ammo kill with shots in the proper place. It gets even better in terms of a modern bullet and powder technology with hotter loads and bigger projectiles.

.32 ACP Capable Round

You’d always want to go with the most capable round you can accurately place on target, in a gun you can handle. Most people falsely think that just because it’s a small cartridge, it mustn’t produce a lot of felt recoil.

They also seem to think the biggest is always the best. Unfortunately, if you can’t hit your intended target, the biggest is not the best.

Having said all of that, with a cartridge this small, you’d likely need to unload an entire magazine into your attacker to get them to back off.

Even then, they may only die from their wounds after they bleed out, and not instantly. The 25th president of the United States of America, William McKinley, died from gangrene after he was shot twice in the chest with a .32 ACP.

When you also realize just how small these little guns are, it doesn’t really matter what size the projectile is because they don’t have anything to hold on to in order to contain any amount of recoil.

Again, the best idea is to always go with what you can train with, that also just happens to be able to put an attacker down.

RELATED: Shooter’s Guide To Choosing The Best Self-Defense Cartridge

Other Things to Consider

Perhaps more importantly than what you’re shooting or the amount of felt recoil you’re getting is reliability. I’ve heard many .32 ACP rounds don’t cycle anything but ball ammo. There are two considerations here, and I haven’t made up my mind on this.

If the projectile is too small, an expanding bullet may be a waste because it won’t create a deep-enough wound channel. On the other hand, FMJ (ball ammo) won’t expand and will cause more penetration with a narrower wound channel.

What Is an Expanding Bullet? These are projectiles that will expand once they hit an object or surface such as a body. In that case, a living target will be incapacitated faster.

For such a small projectile, I’m not sure which is best, but I’m leaning towards deeper penetration over a limit in wound channel. Please chime in below and leave a comment containing your thoughts on the matter.

If you ever decide to purchase a gun chambered in .32 ACP, make sure you do your diligence by making sure it feeds reliably in your gun of choice.

Make sure too you’re both willing and able to put more than a few rounds into your attacker to make sure the job gets done. Otherwise, what’s the point?


Watch this video by The Ballistician about a .32 ACP penetration test through magazines:

The .32 ACP is borderline capable. It fits into that category of being too small but is just the right size for certain occasions and people. Some people carry them as a backup in the pocket, while it may be your primary weapon.

All that really matters is you’re comfortable with its performance, and you can actually hit your target with it, and it cycles properly.

What can you say about the.32 ACP? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

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*Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for informational purposes only. Please read our full disclaimer here.*


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 8, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jose

    January 24, 2021 at 5:05 PM

    Hola seprodria comprar una pistola sig sauer 365 des de españa vía online por piezas cracias

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