.32 Rimfire: Getting a Long Obsolete Round Back into Action

by David LaPell
Someday some ammunition maker will realize that there are scores of these old guns in .32 Rimfire out there, without ammunition to shoot out of them.

The .32 Rimfire
The .32 Rimfire: Getting a Long Obsolete Round Back into Action

USA -(Ammoland.com)- Ask most shooters what they know about the .32 rimfire and you’re bound to get more than a few confused looks as they try to grasp the fact that at one time, rimfire cartridges didn’t stop after .22 caliber. In fact, at one point in time .32 rimfire rounds were popular for both self-defense and small game hunting.

Smith & Wesson 1 1/2 Revolver
Smith & Wesson 1 1/2 Revolver in .32 Rimfire.

The first .32 rimfire was designed for the Smith & Wesson Number 2 revolver which was introduced in 1861 and was a larger version of their popular and sought after Number 1 in .22 Short.

The Number 1 was chambered for what was known as the .32 Long and in 1865, Smith & Wesson brought out their Number 1 ½ revolver in .32 Short.

Smith & Wesson made these revolvers until 1865 with more than two hundred thousand produced.

While Smith & Wesson began switching over to centerfire cartridges to keep up with guns from Colt and others, rifle manufacturers started adding guns chambered in both .32 Long and Short to their lineups.

Stevens had their Tip Up rifle which later led to their Ideal and then the Favorite models. Remington chambered a couple of different versions of the Rolling Block in the .32. Marlin had one of the rare repeaters with the Model 1891 lever action, Winchester their legendary 1885 Low Wall and some off-brand revolvers and other single shot rifles as well.

.32 Rimfire

I remember first hearing about the .32 rimfire about twenty years ago from some older hunters, sadly many of whom aren’t with us anymore. The one thing I remember hearing from them was how great the round, both in Short and the Long version, were for small game and varmint hunting out to about 100 yards.

This makes sense because the .32 Long had a 90-grain bullet with an advertised muzzle velocity of 1,080 fps. That was similar to the .32-20 cartridge with its 100-grain bullet and velocity of 1,100 fps. Even the .32 Short with its 80-grain bullet and somewhat pedestrian speed of 945 fps was no slouch on small critters within a short distance.

32 Rimfire
The .32 Rimfire: Getting a Long Obsolete Round Back into Action
Navy Arms .32 Rimfire Ammunition
Navy Arms .32 Rimfire Ammunition

Sadly the .32 rimfire began to fall out of favor in the 1930’s when the high velocity .22 Long Rifle rounds started to come out. One by one gun manufacturers stopped chambering the little .32 and when World War II began ammunition for them stopped being produced and never really caught on again once the war ended.

The last American box of .32 rimfire was made in 1972. Canuck brand imported it until the 1990’s, and Navy Arms offered Brazilian made .32 Long and Short until 2014.

Today a full box of fifty rounds will fetch over $100 or more.

The tragic part is that there are hundreds of thousands of .32 rimfire guns out there, Stevens made about one million Favorite rifles, and a good chunk of those was chambered in .32 rimfire.

Add that to all the other companies that chambered rifles and revolvers in it, and there are a lot of guns that you can’t use today without converting them to centerfire, ruining any value as a collector’s item or paying a big chunk of change for a single box of cartridges.

So have all those .32 rimfires turn to wallhangers, never to be shot again? Not so fast.

I have always held a soft spot for .32 rimfire rifles, buying my first more than fifteen years ago.

It was a Remington Number 4 Rolling Block, one of the most popular even to this day. At that time you could get the ammunition from Navy Arms, but it wasn’t very cheap then either. I can remember paying thirty or forty dollars for a single box of fifty rounds.

I hunted with the little Remington a few times, but I was never able to get a shot at either the squirrels or grouse I had hoped to take with it. I later sold that gun to an elderly gentleman who had owned one just like it in his youth, so I gave him all the ammunition with the rifle. I always hoped he had better luck with it.

The .32 Rimfire: ready to fire in an old Remington Number 4 Rolling Block
The .32 Rimfire: ready to fire in an old Remington Number 4 Rolling Block

Fast forward to today, and recently I encountered another Remington Number 4 Rolling Block in .32 rimfire, capable of shooting both the .32 Long or the .32 Short. It’s an earlier takedown version in very good condition, and the gun shop had a hard time selling it because of the lack of ammunition. I bought it with the determination that I was going to find a way to shoot this gun.

Dixie Gun Works .32RF Brass Rimfire Case for 310 Round Ball
Dixie Gun Works .32RF Brass Rimfire Case for 310 Round Ball

Enter Dixie Gun Works, who makes a way, albeit a little unique, to get .32 rimfire guns shooting again. They offer reloadable brass shells in both .32 Short and .32 Long. The key is that the casing uses .22 blanks as a primer and black powder as the propellant. Dixie recommends a .310” roundball, and since I happen to own a .32 Squirrel rifle, I happen to have plenty of those on hand. So I ordered a few .32 Long cases to try out.

There is another company that offers a way to load and shoots .32 Rimfire and that is a kit made by HLE Books in Belgium. The kit comes with a die, tools, twelve cases and twenty-five bullets, but at a cost of $215, that’s almost what some .32 rimfire guns sell for. I found the cases simple to load and prime without the need for tools.

After doing a lot of research of people who have used the cases that Dixie sells, I found that a couple of people recommended .22 Short cases with the bullet and powder removed instead of .22 blanks which with its crimp, was not as reliable for ignition. I happened to have a reasonably large supply of .22 Shorts on hand, so I decided to try them as well.

For the powder charge, I went with Hodgdon’s Triple 7 Black Powder substitute in FFG instead of real black powder. One, I have used Triple 7 for years and found it to be excellent as long as you read all the handling rules.

When you load the case, like black powder there can be no air between the projectile and the powder, but you can only compress Triple 7 at a maximum of .100”. Make sure you know what you’re doing when you use it and like anything else when handloading, safety is imperative. ( **proceed at your own risk )

For a better seal between the powder and the .310” roundball, I filed down a flat spot on them so that they would seat better. I then filled the cases, slowly tapping the case down after inserting the empty .22 Short rounds.

Remington Number 4 Rolling Block .32 RF Markings
Remington Number 4 Rolling Block .32 RF Markings

Fill slowly, a little at a time, tap the case until it is filled where the .310” roundball can just start to compress the powder. It might take a little getting used to, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. After about twenty minutes I had a few cartridges ready to be used.

I set the Remington up at 25 yards from a rest and aimed. The group of five shots was not all that impressive, but this was more of a test to see if it would work, and it does. I am hoping to experiment with some smaller .32 caliber bullets to see if they will work, and I might also weigh each of the .310 roundballs to get a more consistent weight between them.

Each of the cases worked without any issues, there was no splitting or swelling, and I used the head of a small hobby paint brush to knock out the spent “primers”. The sound and smell of the little.32 rimfire rounds going off though was a treat in itself.

Considering the costly alternatives trying to find ammunition, with some work I think the little .32 can be a great shooter once more. The .32 rimfire was a cartridge that at one time enjoyed a great deal of success but was given up and left for dead decades ago.

With these cases from Dixie Gun Works and a little time and tinkering it’s not hard to see the potential in one of these old guns.

.32 Rimfire Loaded with Hodgdon’s Triple 7 black powder.
.32 Rimfire Loaded with Hodgdon’s Triple 7 black powder.

Hopefully someday one of the ammunition makers will realize that there are scores of these old rifles and handguns out there, collecting dust in a closet or a cabinet without ammunition to shoot out of it.

David LaPell
David LaPell

Even a small run would turn that ammunition company into a hero for many collectors, but until then, the reloadable cases from Dixie Gun Works offer an excellent solution for the time being to get the .32 rimfire out of the graveyard and back into the realm of the living.

  • http://www.hlebooks.com/32rfkit/prices.htm
  • https://www.dixiegunworks.com/product_info.php?products_id=8155&osCsid=7hlbs07mvi23rjsilmpa9a5mk3
  • https://www.dixiegunworks.com/product_info.php?products_id=8154&osCsid=7hlbs07mvi23rjsilmpa9a5mk3

About David LaPell

David LaPell has been a Corrections Officer with the local Sheriff’s Department for thirteen years. A collector of antique and vintage firearms for over twenty years and an avid hunter. David has been writing articles about firearms, hunting and western history for ten years. In addition to having a passion for vintage guns, he is also a fan of old trucks and has written articles on those as well.

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Christian bressette

How much powder do you load into the case???


I have a H.Piepher and would love to this ammo brought back

Lloyd Fjare

I to have a marlin 92 32 rimfire and would love to get a run of Kong’s made again! I will buy a case


I’ve seen a piece on converting the block of a No. 4 Remington RB to centerfire to shoot .32 Colt. I have one; the converted block is a repo. I also have the original unruined block. The Colt round is exceedingly expensive and only available new from one of the reloaders like Buffalo Arms or Black Dog. As a centerfire, however, it is reloadable. I’ve also found partial boxes of the Colt ammo at a gun show for less than $1.00 per round.

Eric Schofield

I have a Smith and Wesson model 1 1/2 five shot pistol I found some navy arms ammo but was worried about shooting it because the original ammo was black powder and navy arms used smokeless do you know if they accounted for the difference or am I just worrying for nothing the fire arm it’s self seem to be solid.

John Waters

I have shot a box worth of both 70’s Canuck and 90’s Navy Arms .32 rimfire cartridges (both smokeless) through my little Remington Smoot pistol from same era and there are no problems. The pistol mechanics are tight and bore is in great shape. I’d never put any ammo through an older one with a pitted or rusted bore for safety’s sake. A gunsmith told me that the smaller caliber stuff would probably be fine, but the larger pistol and rifle rimfire ammo from Navy might not. When in doubt about an old firearm, you should probably always ask your… Read more »

robert voll

I have S&W 32 rim break over 5 shot nub sn 96XX NEEDS HOME at best a 5
call 501 240 4415 Robert I’lll send images fwd to the xpert David Lapell

have several other guns Remington ammo plant 1 mile Lonoke AR> 72086

John zerbe

Looking for 32 rimfire shells where can I get them can they be sent throw the mail if so

John Waters

I posted this on the Navy Arms Facebook page. I am trying to start a collectors movement to get another run of the old rimfire cartridges started to market in US. Navy has been resistant because they are focusing on high-end reproductions of classics and they have a modern line out too. I just want them to either order another run for us or let me know who I can speak with to have another run imported here. If you are tired of paying $120 per box for these, please like my post or post your own request on their… Read more »

Lloyd Fjare

Please let me know if you ever make 32 rimfire! I will buy a case!!
Thank you!

Ron McCrea

I own a remmington rolling block in .32. I wish someone would advertise and make a production run…..

John Waters

I have four handguns and three rifles that use either the >32 RF Long or short rounds. I have spent hundreds on antique ammunition, boxes of Canuck Western, and Navy Arms Ammo. The antique rounds are mostly duds (3 out of every four don’t fire). The Canuck, Navy Arms and newer Western Ammo is still good and preferable to use for plinking. I spoke with folks from Navy Arms about a year ago and was told they were considering another limited run of these. I’d buy a couple of cases immediately, if they did. I suggest everyone go to their… Read more »

Patrick McWilliams

The Remington Stud Driver rounds have disappeared, too. They make good black powder .32 rimfire. .17 WSM would make a workable .25 Stevens, but I can’t find a good bullet. Fiocchi 9mm Rimfire can be worked into an acceptable .38 RF. Not sure what to do for a .41 RF.
Still looking for some more Remington Stud Driver rounds.

Christopher Johnson

Check at almost any menards. Just bought 4 new boxes for a construction project yesterday

32 rimfiretoday

I still have several hundred 32 s & L rimfire. I use a “defender”to shoot them made in 1885. Quite a kick! I would trade some for an 22 or 32 young america by HR

Daniel Reinhardt

Where are You? I got a 22 I would trade for a decent amount of 32 rf


Great article. Can you please describe how you remove the bullets from the .22 Short cartridges? Thanks


Simple as a twist with a small plier and pulling them out… I used to remove bullets from 22LR and play with small shot, using a newspaper ball as wad and candlewax as crimp… Just have to be a little careful not to distort the brass, but it’s moot if using them as “primers”, since you can cut the messed portion of brass.

Harold Hochstatter

had 100 32 rf stud gun rounds from the construction industry I loaded them with .312 80 gr bullets fired in allen & wheelock pistol from 1860s also am trying .17 rim fire mag cases for 25 stevens old main spring wont set off new tougher brass irnstead of soft copper cases also 9mm rim fire shot from midway is very loose in 38 rf pistols .355-357 bullets dont touch rifling use .363 makaroff 95gr lastly hilti 27 cal stud gun crimped power loads might heip some scientfic expermenter blow off a finger or two write soon while you can… Read more »

Jack H

You can find the 32 reloadable cases now on Gunbroker. I have been making the 32 Long Colt CF cases for a long time and now machine them to take the 22 blanks. Much less expensive than Dixie. also.

loyd kampf



Rob McGee

If you want loaded Ammo try Gunbroker. Dixie Gun Works has some cases that you can reload. They use a blank for a primer. Hope this helps.

Gary L Griffiths

Believe it or not, I know a law enforcement instructor in one of our southeastern states who pocket-carries a double-action revolver made in 1886 in .32 Rimfire as his “carry piece.” I’m betting there would be enough old guns out there to make a limited production run of ammo feasible, although much of it would languish on the shelf for years….

Mike Burcke

Aguila is probably the only company that might be willing to make a run of .32 rimfire…you should contact them and make a product suggestion.


I have a 1892 Marlin lever action rifle , in 32 colt . It shoots both the centerfire and rim fire rounds. I have 11 boxes of factory ammo Winchester and Remington. I shot a crow and a few rabbits with it,haven’t fired it in along time , due to the lack of ammo.

Sheila Tubman

I have a friend that owns a 1896 Marlin lever action rifle, in 32 colt that is the same gun as yours. I am trying to find some bullets for this gun for Christmas for him.
Can you please email me at [email protected] with any information you may have. Or perhaps a phone number and I will call you. This will make this fellow very happy if I could get some bullets for his gun.
Thank you and please enjoy your day!

Roger in Florida

A long dormant S&W model 1 1/2, second issue hangs on the wall right next to my computer. Round butt, 4″ barrel, its in very nice condition, ready for some ammo.

Scotty Gunn

They need to put 41 rim fire in production, too.


I think Dixie Gun Works has the reloadable 41.


HLE books gets his from H C collection, and marks them up. I suggest going straight to the source. They also offer assorted pinfire cases along with some other obsolete rounds.

Bob Shell

I have said for years that if some company started making rimfire ammo they would make a fortune. I use to sell that 32 RF made in Brazil at gunshows and couldn’t keep it on the table. That same company in Belgium makes pinfire components also. Would like to hear from author of this piece.

Bob Shell

I have been saying for years that if a company manufactured the 32 & other rimfires they would make a fortune. I use to sell the Navy brand at gunshows a few years ago & I couldn’t keep it on the table. I know of another method on how to make rimfire ammo especially the larger stuff,

Old Jim Estep

Rifle 32 rim fire short 1934 DEPRESSION DAYS my Grand Pa let me shoot the single shot rifle that at that time was very old. I had it until about 1963 when it vanished. It started to look like junk. I loved it. No name on it that I could see, the stock had been repaired and was rusty. The back lifted up and cartridge put in place cock the hammer and go.

Tim Nolting

Old Jim, Your Grandpa’s rifle may have been a Flobert, if it had a fancy trigger guard.


Manufacturer don’t care about ‘scores of guns”. Unless there are hundreds maybe thousand they wont maufacture rounds. I see enough trouble buying .32 H&R or .32 S&W. and they still make guns these fit.


I had discussed what it would take to start stamping, and forming .32, 41, 38, and other old time rimfire ammo. .32 S&W for those who do not know is a bull’s eye round world renowned for tack driving accuracy. I am still tossing around the idea of what will it take to form obsolete rimfire ammo? I also have a list of orphaned center fire too. (no parent cases)


Am I far off to say that 9X18 Makarov is pretty close ballistic-ly to .32 RF??