Homebrewing for the .327 Ruger LCR

One of the advantages of Ruger’s .327 LCR is its versatility, thanks to the plethora of cartridges it chambers.

Pre pandemic, factory ammunition could take care of any conceivable snubby chore by just changing cartridges. Need barn burning magnum power? The .327 Federal Magnum had you covered. A controllable but effective self-defense round? The .32 H&R Magnum hits the sweet spot there. An easy shooting, accurate plinking round? The .32 S&W Long has done that for well over a hundred years. Normally, this gun doesn’t benefit as much from handloading as lots of other guns/calibers do, but these are not normal times, and it’s hard to find ANY factory ammunition.

cobwebs on the shelves

A web search last night revealed slim pickings. Buffalo Bore showed heavy loadings for the .32 H&R and .327 Federal using 100 grain JHP’s and 130 grain Keith bullets (that .327 100 gr. JHP leaves a 3” barrel at 1315 fps, a little more horsepower than I need from the LCR). They also had 100 grain hard cast wadcutters and 115 grain flat noses in .32 S&W Long. Their ammunition is premium, and the price reflects it.  Midway USA had Lapua .32 Long wadcutters at 1.28 a round. That was it. Nothing in .327 or .32 H&R Mag. Selection is slowly getting better, but it’s still not good if you’re looking for affordable practice ammo or self-defense stuff with lighter bullets.

loading in .32 H&R cases

Over the last six months, I secured some Starline .32 H&R Mag brass and a few different bullets by checking internet sources frequently. It paid off to check them diligently and often, because items would show up and sell out quickly. Experimenting with the .32 Long a while back left some bullets in my inventory, too. Fortunately, I had a stash of small pistol primers and powder that would suffice for the .32- these items are scarce. The ammo shortage has bled over to components and even reloading dies.

Trail Boss powder and coated bullets make an excellent combination for building easy shooting and economical practice fodder for revolvers.

I’m in the habit of loading cast bullets of roughly the same weight as carry projectiles for practice ammo in the revolver calibers I shoot. Hodgdon Trail Boss powder is the go-to for this type of ammo. It was developed for launching lead bullets at modest velocities for cowboy action shooting. It works great in double action revolvers, too. It’s odd-looking stuff, like fluffy little green doughnuts. It operates at low pressures, and you can’t fit enough of it into a pistol case to create an over pressure situation. As a bonus, Trail Boss produces virtually no flash.

I use coated bullets for this purpose when I can find them. The advantages of the baked-on polymer coating are many. It totally covers exposed lead, making bullets indoor range friendly and subjecting you to less lead exposure while handling them. It makes bullets slick and easier to load in cases. The coating acts as bullet lubricant and eliminates or reduces lead fouling in barrels. Combined with clean burning Trail Boss, these bullets extend the round count before cleaning is required. I can keep a DA revolver running smoothly longer with homemade cowboy loads than with factory cast bullet ammo.

Trail Boss doesn’t look like “normal” gunpowder. It operates at low pressures and is very forgiving to work with.

I’ve had good luck with coated bullets from the Missouri Bullet Company. Thankfully, they offer them in .32 caliber. I scored some of MBCs’ Cowboy #18 bullets from Midway USA (I found a thirty-minute window when they had some in stock).

The #18 is a 78-grain .313 coated RN. I could find no data on this bullet with Trail Boss in the .32 H&R Mag. A good rule of thumb is measuring where the bottom of the bullet will sit in the case and fill to just below that point, leaving a little air space between powder and bullet. Trail Boss gives more consistent velocities when it’s not compressed. So loaded, the charge is about 3.4 grains (Trail Boss is the only smokeless powder that can be handled liked this- measure powder charges when using conventional smokeless powders). It averages 806 fps from the LCR and hits basically to the same point as Hornady’s .32 H&R Critical Defense. It makes for economical and enjoyable training ammunition.

more recipes

You can use .32 Long or .327 Federal cases to build similarly performing loads. I use H&R cases so my practice load handles like my carry ammo. If you use .32 Long cases, make sure to inspect chambers after firing for a carbon ring from the shorter round that can make chambering magnums difficult.

115 grain RNFP’s at 1000 fps from the LCR make a great outdoorsman load. Sasquatch studies ballistic tables, and won’t scoff at the .327 Federal Magnum with flat point cast bullets.

I loaded some 115 grain round nose flat points (RNFP’s) into the small pile of once fired .327 cases I’d generated. Sitting on 5.4 grains of Alliant Power Pistol, they clocked a consistent 992 fps from the LCR, grouped well, and (curiously) also hit to the sights at 10 yards. Recoil and blast were not a factor with this load. It would make an exceptional choice for the LCR if you chose it for a backpacking trip and wanted deep, straight line penetration against critters. Gas checked versions of this bullet are currently available on-line. The gas check allows for pushing bullets faster without leading the bore. Adding a gas check on a commercial bullet also adds to its expense. Heavy for caliber plain base FP bullets provide through and through Sasquatch penetration at the velocity that I have them loaded. Additional velocity improves long range trajectory but isn’t needed for an LCR in a tackle box.

The author’s .327 LCR sends 85 grain bullets to point of aim at common handgun ranges. Happily, 115 RNFP’s at reasonable velocities hit there, too.

I had a stock of Hornady’s 85 grain XTPs left over from the .32 S&W Long, and I bought the last two boxes Cabela’s had locally right before supplies dried up. I have not seen any since then. Loading that bullet on a maximum charge of 12.0 grains of Hodgdon Lil’ Gun produced excellent results in the LCR. Thusly loaded, Lil’ Gun produces notably lower pressure in the .32 H&R Magnum than other propellants. The 2021 Hodgdon Reloading Manual shows that combination to be producing only 16,800 CUP, yet it yielded the highest listed velocity in their test gun: 1263 fps from a 5” barrel. It averaged 1106 fps through the LCR, and while velocities fluctuated more than I like, the load grouped well and hit to the sights. Almost equaling the .327 Federal Low Recoil Hydra-Shok, it demonstrated better accuracy with less blast. This load is what the boys from Federal envisioned when they came up with the .32 H&R Mag.

85 grain Hornady XTP’s fueled by Hodgdon Lil’ Gun allow the .32 H&R Magnum to perform from a small revolver like its founders intended.

The other bullet I was able to purchase from Midway USA was Lehigh Defense’s 75 grain Xtreme Defense monolithic copper projectile. Supplied Data from Lehigh shows 5.5 grains of Alliant Power Pistol to be a max charge with this bullet. They recorded 1210 fps from a 5.5” barrel. I loaded the max charge in virgin Starline .32 H&R Magnum cases, it averaged an extremely consistent 1064 fps. It hit just a tad low of sights but was easy shooting. This is the same bullet Black Hills uses in their “Honey Badger” line, but they don’t offer it in a .32 caliber.

Lehigh’s Xtreme Defense bullets can be purchased as components when availability allows. Handloaders can produce .32 caliber versions of Black Hill’s Honey Badger ammo with them.

These last two handloads would work well if the ammo scourge continues and defensive ammo can’t be purchased. The original specification for the .32 H&R Mag called for an 85-grain bullet at 1100 fps from a short-barreled revolver. The SAAMI limit of 21,000 psi made that spec realistic, but the H&R Revolvers produced in 1983 did not. Original Federal factory ammo was mellowed a bit to accommodate those revolvers.

The Hornady 85 grain XTP driven to 1106 fps shot accurately and hit to the sights from 7-20 yards in the author’s LCR.

The strength of the .327 chambered LCR (45,000 psi) permits loading .32 H&R Mag ammunition to its full potential with plenty of cushion. Ammunition in that power range strikes a good balance of controllability and power in the LCR.  The strength of the .327 chambering makes shooting max loaded .32 H&R Mag ammo like shooting .38 +P rounds through an L frame .357 Magnum. You’re not going to accelerate wear on the gun, and the weight of the steel framed LCR makes them easy to shoot.

Loving the LCR

The LCR was a joy to handload for and produced outstanding results. Alliant’s Power Pistol and Hodgdon’s Trail Boss and Lil’ Gun performed exceptionally with the bullets used. I was able to brew up a high-volume practice load that impacts to the same point as carry loads, a practical trail gun load and two defense loads that were completely satisfactory.

Hodgdon Lil’ Gun and Trail Boss and Alliant Power Pistol gave excellent results in the .327 LCR.

This little .32 continues to impress!


Note: This handloading data is provided for informational purposes only. Neither the author nor RevolverGuy assume any liability for using these handload recipes. The recipes discussed by the author may perform very differently in your personal firearm, even if it’s the same make and model. Readers should follow the instructions in the loading manuals provided by powder and bullet manufacturers, and use appropriate caution in the development of their handholds, monitoring closely for signs of excessive pressure or other dangers.

Author: Kevin McPherson

Kevin McPherson began his career as a police officer in New Mexico in 1987. He served for 23 ½ years, the last 19 ½ with the New Mexico State Police. There he worked in the uniform bureau and narcotics enforcement section and did two tours in the NMSP Training Bureau, retiring as a Sergeant in 2011. Kevin ran the firearms program and was the chief armorer for NMSP for 13 years. He served as a member of the NMSP Tactical Team (SWAT) for 10 years, eventually becoming the counter sniper team leader. He was commander of the NMSP Pistol Team and competed with a revolver throughout his career. He is a master firearms instructor through NMDPS and continues to instruct in retirement. He has had several articles published in American Cop Magazine, SWAT Magazine, and the NRA Law Enforcement Quarterly. He started his career carrying a revolver and has always been partial to them.

21 thoughts on “Homebrewing for the .327 Ruger LCR”

  1. Thank you for a well written article! I am a fan of the .327 FedMag for the exact reason, it is so versatile. I have a Taurus 6 shot stainless in .327 and it performs very well. It allows the revolver to be used with .327FedMag, .32H&RMag, .32S&WLong, .32S&W and lastly the .32Auto(ACP) as it is a semi-rimmed ctg

    1. You’re welcome- Thanks for reading it! Yes sir, the .327 chambering makes these little guns extremely versatile. The sixth shot your Taurus allows (like the Ruger) is a real bonus, too.

  2. Many people ask: “What is a safe loading limit for the .32 S&W Long cartridge when used in revolvers chambered for the .32 H&R Magnum?” “How much above factory velocity can I go safely in a modern .32 S&W Long revolver like the S&W Model 30 or 31 without loosening it up?”

    SAAMI and CIP established the maximum sample average pressure for the .32 S&W Long cartridge at 15,000 psi in deference to the many existing pre-WW2 revolvers. CIP states that the maximum probable individual pressure (1.15*Pmax) for the .32 S&W Long not exceed 16,680 psi.

    For comparison the SAAMI MAP for the .32 H&R Magnum 21,000 psi. This represents a safe loading limits for strong, modern post-1957 Colt D-frame and Smith & Wesson Models 30 and 31 revolvers, with the understanding that the maximum probable individual pressure should not exceed 23,300 psi. In load development you must be concerned with ballistic uniformity as well as the averages.

    The factor most greatly influencing revolver longevity is the back-thrust of the case head against the revolver frame. The head area of a .32 S&W Long or .32 H&R Magnum case head is about 0.11 sq.-in. so at 21,000 psi, back-thrust against the revolver frame is 2310 lbs., and at 23,300 psi, it is 2563 lbs. A .38 Special case head has an area of .152 sq.-in. and in standard pressure loads of 16,000 psi back-thrust is 2432 lbs., whereas for a +P load at 18,000 psi it is 2737 lbs. Therefore, if you want your S&W Model 30 or 31 to not shoot loose keep loads under t 21-22,000 psi.

    Larry Gibson of Lake Havasu, AZ conducted pressure tests firing .32 S&W Long hand loads in his ten-inch T/C Contender barrel chambered for the .32 H&R Magnum and equipped with a strain gage interface for the Oehler Model 43 Personal Ballistic Laboratory. Keep in mind the listed velocities are measured from the 10″ Contender barrel, NOT a revolver.

    Lyman #311008 bullets cast from wheelweights + 2% tin weighed 116 grains sized at .312” and lubed with 50-50 Alox-beeswax. I normally expect to lose about 150 fps compared to a 10-inch Contender pistol when the same loads are fired in a 3” revolver or about 100 fps when fired in a 6” with tight, minimum cylinder gap of 0.003-0.004″

    Cases were R-P .32 S&W Long loaded on Hornady dies. Primers were Winchester WSPs. A mid-range charge was selected for each powder and was also tested using CCI 500 primers for comparison. The cast bullets were seated to an OAL of 1.257 and a slight roll crimp was applied just under the front drive band.

    Accuracy of all the loads except the 3.8 gr load of Unique was 2” or less at 50 yards from the scoped Contender. The 3.8 grain Unique load with its higher pressure upset the bullet base in the longer 32 H&R chamber, causing leading in the origin of rifling throat and first few inches of the bore, while 50-yard groups opened up to about 5”.

    Here is Larry’s test data for each powder:

    Bullseye Powder
    Increment .Vel………SD……….ES…..…psi(M43).SD……ES
    2.3 gr……….863 fps…7 fps…..20 fps….14,900…600……1,800
    2.5 gr……….908 fps…14 fps…36 fps….15,900…1,500..4,400
    2.5 gr……….902 fps…10 fps…35 fps….15,300……500….1,800…..CCI 500 primers
    2.8 gr……….977 fps…..7 fps….22 fps….17,800…400……1,200
    3.0 gr……….1028 fps…12 fps…43 fps…20,300…700……1,900

    Unique Powder
    2.5 gr……..…849 fps…21 fps…69 fps….13,600……600……..1,900
    2.8 gr………886 fps…19 fps…..54 fps….14,100……500…….1,400
    2.8 gr………886 fps…22 fps…..61 fps….14,500……900…….2,500….CCI 500 primers
    3.0 gr………951 fps…18 fps…..55 fps….16,300……800…….2,400
    3.3 gr……..1010 fps..15 fps.…41 fps….18,000….1,100……3,400
    3.5 gr……..1062 fps…15 fps….47 fps….21,400….1,500……4,200.Lyman max. in CBH #3 for S&W 30 and 31
    3.8 gr……1134 fps…10 fps….30 fps….24,700……1,100…..3,900..For .32 H&R Mag. and .327 revolvers only.

    Velocity results from Larry’s 3″ S&W M30 revolver with .006 barrel/cylinder gap;
    The 2.8 gr Bullseye load ran 827 fps with an SD of 17 fps and an ES of 45 fps.
    The 3.3 gr Unique load ran 850 fps with an SD of 19 fps and an ES of 50 fps.

    Firing the same loads in his 6-1/2″ Ruger Single Six
    The 2.8 gr Bullseye load ran 870 fps with an SD of 15 fps and an ES of 44 fps.
    The 3.3 gr Unique load ran 910 fps with an SD of 21 fps and an ES of 52 fps.

    Comparing revolver velocities to the ten-inch Contender from the S&W M30 with 0.006″ cylinder gap and 3″ barrel velocity loss was 150-160 fps. From the 6-1/2″ Ruger with tight 0.003″ cylinder gap velocity loss was only about 100 fps with both loads.

    I’ve recently been testing case-capacity loads of IMR4227 in the .32 S&W Long which approximate .32-20 Winchester velocity. Larry measured pressures of these loads at 23-25,000 psi, so they should be used in the Ruger Single Six and SP101 only:
    .32 S&W Long, R-P cases, Remington 6-1/2 small rifle primers, 9 grains IMR4227, with 1/8″ compression!

    __________1966 Colt Police Positive 3″ barrel with Cyl. Gap. Pass 0.004″/hold 0.005”
    85 Hdy XTP OAL 1.20″___967 fps, 5 Sd, 13 ES
    100 XTP OAL 1.20″_____964 fps, 24 SD, 51 ES

    Opening the cylinder, holding muzzle up and merely shaking the gun empty brass fell out of its own weight. No obvious signs of high pressure. There was some unburned powder, but less than when testing of Alliant #2400 at 7 grains producing similar velocity and pressure.

    100 XTP fired into water jugs expanded to .40″ and penetrated 4 gallon water jugs cracking far side of 4th jug, but not exiting.

    The above is provided for information only, for cautious and knowledgeable hand loaders to use at their own risk. Your mileage may vary.

    1. Thank you for weighing in, Outpost75! I was hoping that you would lend your expertise on this one. I am going to print out the provided data and use it at my own risk. I especially appreciate the info on case head back thrust you provided. this data gives solid reference for folks loading for I frames in .32 Long. I am one of those folks! Always grateful for your input.

  3. The versatility is why I love this cartridge. I have the LCRX and the 4.2″ Sp101. I love approaching 357 ballistics with a 6 round chamber for a small frame revolver but being able to plink with 32 s&w. Another major benefit for me, is that my wife CAN shoot a 38 special, but she doesn’t enjoy it near as much as 32 s&w longs through either of these Rugers.

    I tend to keep the 85 grain Reduced Recoil 327 feds in the LCRx and the Speer 100 gr full power Gold Dots in the SP101.

    My favorite target loads for us both at the range is a 95 or 100 grain hard cast over 2.7 grains of unique or 2.0 grains of titegroup.

    1. You nailed it. the power is there when you need it, but it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable shooter when you step away from the magnums. My daughter patiently awaits me handloading .32 Long level ammo so she can shoot it all (with a smile on her face). I think you have those guns loaded wisely- the Gold Dot is a better fit for that SP101, and that 85 reduced recoil is just right in the LCRX. Get those while you can, according to their website, Federal has discontinued the Low Recoil 85 gr Hydra-Shok. Bummer.

  4. Thanks for the article and all the excellent reply’s, 32 guy here also. I hate reloading but might have to get back too it, humm what to buy first 😎

    1. Thanks, Dave! It seems we aren’t the only guys that appreciate the .32! In normal times, you can get by pretty well without reloading .32’s, but it’s sure handy right about now.

  5. Hamilton Bowen thinks a lot of the .327 Mag, that’s saying something in my book.. A shame not many revolvers are chambered for it.

    Think of a Diamondback in .327…

    1. Hey Jerry, A Bowen endorsement is a good one, indeed! That Diamondback would be cool!!!! It would be really nice if the other manufacturers would step up for the .327…

  6. Great article! I’ve been very interested in 327 magnum, but it’s been hard to find inventory at the LGS over the last two years.

    I was curious about your experience with Hodgdon Lil Gun powder. I tried handloading some 357 rounds for my 6″ 686 Smith and my 1894 Marlin a few years ago. The Lil Gun powder worked well, but the barrels of my revolver and rifle were red hot after only firing a few rounds. I did a little research online, and I saw some reports from several people complaining about throat or forcing cone erosion. Not wishing to damage my guns, I stopped using it, and I’ve gone back to H-110 for my magnum loads. Have you had any issues with Lil Gun?

    1. Thank you! I feel your pain on the inventory, it has sure been hit or miss.

      Huh. Looking back through my notes, I have used Lil Gun with two cast bullet loads in the .357 Magnum with good results and the .32 H&R Magnum load. I have not noticed the hot barrel issues with Lil Gun, but I will certainly be on the look out for it. Maybe Outpost75 or other handloaders with Lil Gun experience can weigh in on this also.

  7. Your excellent article is a reminder of why I wish S&W would bring back the Model 16-4 in .32 H&R. This magnificent deeply blued full lug K-frame is in my opinion the nicest shooting modern S&W, and judging by their prices on the secondary market that’s a common opinion. I’m a bit biased towards Colt revolvers myself, but the .32 Magnums need a bigger home than just carry revolvers and S&W already nailed it once. They need to do it again.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Chambers. Yes Sir, magnificent is a good word for that gun! Every one I have seen has been way out of my ball park. I’d love to see Colt join in, too- and you are right, S&W needs to bring back their .32’s. K frames and J frames!

  8. I really enjoy my LCR 327. I haven’t been able to shoot it much because ammo is so hard to find for it, currently. Got some American Eagle 327 semi jacketed soft point for carry ammo, at nearly $2 per round! Been looking for some 32 H&R magnum, but no luck yet. I realize that I will probably have to get into reloading, eventually, so I’ve been saving all my brass.

    Kind of off topic, but what holster and speed loader combo do you use when you carry your LCR?

    1. Hey Jim, sporadic .327 Magnum is about all I have seen on the shelves, too- or the occasional box of .32 Long wadcutter.

      Speed loader choices are pretty slim. I like the 5 Star for what’s out there because of its minimal size and smooth operation. I rely on a Galco Tuck and Go 2.o frequently, and I sure like the looks of the Phlster City Special. I have no personal experience with that holster, but they are pretty highly recommended by folks I trust.

      1. Kevin, do you think the HKS 32-J* model would work? The table on their website says it fits the SP-101 in .32 H&R. Looks like you can find them for about $12 on the interwebs. I’ve always liked the HKS, and it turns the “right” way, for my habits.

  9. Hey Mike, I hoped for the best when I bought my .327 LCR as I have several .32-J HKS loaders in house for an I frame .32. I have had no luck making them fit. I suspect they would work in an SP101, but the LCR is just a bit different in Cylinder diameter. Same goes with 5-Star, if you order the R6 for an SP101 or J frame, it will not function right with the LCR. The J2-327 from them works perfectly with the LCR. It is not yet listed on their website- you have to request it.

    1. That’s right, I’d forgotten the difficulty you had with the SP-sized loader from 5-Star. It would make sense that an HKS loader set up for the same spacing wouldn’t work well, either.

      I think the two of us need to start a specialty speedloader company, for all these guns that don’t fall neatly into the J-K-L .357/6 bucket!

      1. That is pretty good idea, Mike! I am heartened to see that 5-Star and Speed Beez are putting out loaders for less common revolvers- bless em. If Safariland and our Austrian friends are not going to step up with Comp 2’s and SL Variants, maybe we should!!! 🙂

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