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Ramblin Gambler

New (to me) pocket pistol

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IMG_20200801_2340040.thumb.jpg.78da0d883569fc0fd0675451f7c7b0a3.jpg

 

 

Just picked this up at a gunshow for $250.  Not a great price but not bad.  And definitely less than what I've been seeing them listed at.  This one  even functions right as far as I can tell.  But I do need to find a gunsmith to check it out and slick it up. 

 

I would like to verify a couple of things that I've picked up from you guys over the years. 

 

1.  The direction of the owl indicates it's built after 1900 and is smokeless proofed, right? 

 

2.  It was listed as a 32 cal (though I cannot find it written on the gun anywhere), is that the same as 32 SW short? 

 

 

 

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I don't know what gun you have, but in guns like this made by H&R  ..... no printing on the barrel would mean 'black powder' only.

Yes, it would be .32 short.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

32 S&W short.  Lee makes a nice set of dies. Also they come with a dipper and a little bit of load data

 

Don't be afraid to shoot real BP in it. You can get bullets from Whyte Leather Works.

 

Even if it is rated for smokeless remember the pistol is over 100 years old and should be shot with light loads.

Edited by Sedalia Dave
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Take the grips off.   If it has leaf springs it's black powder.  If it has a coil spring, it's safe for smokeless.    [Driftwood Johnson will confirm that if he sees this post.]

 

Most likely .32 Smith and Wesson.   Even if they fit, do NOT try .32 Smith and Wesson Long.   It is an odd quirk of these guns that sometimes the longer cartridge will fit in the chambers.   Using such ammo in them, even if safe for smokeless, is a bad idea that will cause trouble over time.    One way to be sure is to look at the length of the extractor.  If it's shorter than the Long case, that's an indication that the gun is for the shorter one.

 

I learned this the hard way.   No catastrophic failures, but I am embarrassed by my early ignorance on the subject.

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Unless, of course, somebody changed the grips out at some point. 
 

For me, I only use real BP or APP in pocket pistols.  These are old guns. The S&W were pretty well made. The Iver Johnson’s  and a few others not so much. 

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Thanks everyone for the responses. 

 

 

14 hours ago, Sawhorse Kid said:

I don't know what gun you have, but in guns like this made by H&R  ..... no printing on the barrel would mean 'black powder' only.

Yes, it would be .32 short.

 

 

 

What do you mean by no printing?  On top it says "Iver Johnson Arms and Cycleworks : Fitchburg Mass USA".  I just don't see caliber markings. 

 

10 hours ago, Sedalia Dave said:

32 S&W short.  Lee makes a nice set of dies. Also they come with a dipper and a little bit of load data

 

 

I probably should have mentioned that I don't reload.  So initially I'll need some commercially loaded ammo. 

 

9 hours ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

Take the grips off.   If it has leaf springs it's black powder.  If it has a coil spring, it's safe for smokeless.    [Driftwood Johnson will confirm that if he sees this post.]

 

Most likely .32 Smith and Wesson.   Even if they fit, do NOT try .32 Smith and Wesson Long.   It is an odd quirk of these guns that sometimes the longer cartridge will fit in the chambers.   Using such ammo in them, even if safe for smokeless, is a bad idea that will cause trouble over time.    One way to be sure is to look at the length of the extractor.  If it's shorter than the Long case, that's an indication that the gun is for the shorter one.

 

I learned this the hard way.   No catastrophic failures, but I am embarrassed by my early ignorance on the subject.

 

I have 32 SWL ammo, forget the extractor, it won't even fit in the cylinder.  It sticks out about 5/16ths of an inch.  I took the grips off and it's a coiled spring. 

 

5 hours ago, Hoss said:

Unless, of course, somebody changed the grips out at some point.

 

I wondered that when I was looking at it.  But I read a post somewhere (probably by driftwood) where someone described the double lugs on the latch of smokeless guns, whereas the black powder guns only had one.  I didn't have any pictures but it sure looked to me like there was 2 contact points on the latch so I got it. 

 

 

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Doc Silverfinger used to shoot .7g of Bullseye in his .32s. That is 7/10 of a g. Almost no powder at all. I would not use a magnum primer.

kR

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8 hours ago, Ramblin Gambler said:

Thanks everyone for the responses. 

 

What do you mean by no printing?  On top it says "Iver Johnson Arms and Cycleworks : Fitchburg Mass USA".  I just don't see caliber markings. 

 

 

Sorry, when I said printing, I meant Caliber Markings.

 

Where H&R brand guns are concerned, the lack of caliber markings means that it is a Black Powder frame.

If it had caliber markings, it would be Smokeless Powder frame.


I do not know if Iver Johnson follows the the same principle. 

 

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I love mine. Shoot BP in those tiny 32 cases. (Hopkins&Allen)IMG_20190216_085948.thumb.jpg.3c5665f5bd7d2f54e28df5586c6277a6.jpgIMG_20190216_085857.thumb.jpg.073cf2b08f1126df5a33ed3558dcaaff.jpgIMG_20190216_085741.thumb.jpg.1a37601c8425b1da8adebd1d25218c22.jpg

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When I was looking for ammo, I got kind of excited because I saw someone had some black powder rounds in stock. 

 

Upon closer inspection, they were blanks. 

 

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20 hours ago, Kid Rich said:

Doc Silverfinger used to shoot .7g of Bullseye in his .32s. That is 7/10 of a g. Almost no powder at all. I would not use a magnum primer.

kR

RG I 'm glad you enjoyed the levity. Only problem is I was serious, that's the load he used to use and my wife uses now in her 32 S&W pocket pistols. She tops it off with a 75g bullet. Try it you may be surprised, after all it is a very small case. I think she has four of them and uses that load in all of them.

kR

 

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Posted (edited)

Lyman 44th Edition in the 1960's 

 

Quote

"For top break revolvers (if the gun is in good condition) use the suggested starting load. Do not go higher as these pistols are of a relatively weak design."

 

Quote

In his book "Pet Loads", Ken Waters made a similar "stick-with-the-starting-loads" recommendation when loading for top-break revolvers that were designed for black powder cartridges. (By the way, if you reload "older" calibers and don't have this book, you should get it while it's still in print).


4F23AE97-E17F-4464-AD2B-1BC3E5F0200B.jpeg.55d87dd838168b1535da81da0ceeff9b.jpeg

Edited by Sedalia Dave
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2 minutes ago, Sedalia Dave said:


4F23AE97-E17F-4464-AD2B-1BC3E5F0200B.jpeg.55d87dd838168b1535da81da0ceeff9b.jpeg

If you consider these little pistols may be as much as 130 or more years old then .7gs may be a much smarter load than even the minimum. You don't know what if any abuse the may have had in the past.

kR

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16 minutes ago, Kid Rich said:

If you consider these little pistols may be as much as 130 or more years old then .7gs may be a much smarter load than even the minimum. You don't know what if any abuse the may have had in the past.

kR

 

I found several references that 1 grain Bullseye, Red Dot or Unique worked well in the old top breaks.

 

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On 8/3/2020 at 3:49 PM, Kid Rich said:

RG I 'm glad you enjoyed the levity. Only problem is I was serious, that's the load he used to use and my wife uses now in her 32 S&W pocket pistols. She tops it off with a 75g bullet. Try it you may be surprised, after all it is a very small case. I think she has four of them and uses that load in all of them.

kR

 

 

It was the magnum primer that made me laugh.  Would it even fit in the cartridge? 

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1 hour ago, Ramblin Gambler said:

 

It was the magnum primer that made me laugh.  Would it even fit in the cartridge? 

Any small pistol primer fits, including the same magnum small pistol primer that goes in a hot .357 Mag H110/W296 cartridge.

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On a lark, I loaded some 32SW with 78 grn bullets and a magnum primer. Bullets would exit the barrel, but would not always reseat they primer, so gun wound jam. 

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Right. So in a small caliber, light load a magnum primer can make a significant difference. I used two different brands of regular (not magnum) primers in some 45 acp loads, these were scale measured powder loads exactly the same amount of powder in each cartridge. One brand chronographed between 45-50 fps faster than the other brand.

kR

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Posted (edited)

The gun in question posted by Ramblin Gambler is an Iver Johnson 4th model ( I believe) Safety Hammerless.  The frame shows 4 pins and the bolt cuts in the cylinder are straight on both edges.  Plus the owl is looking at you, not at the trigger.  And as Uriah said, under the grips there will be a coil mainspring.  All of these things are indicative of a smokeless frame.  Still as others have said, only light smokeless loads should be used and black powder is ALWAYs more fun, whether the gun will handle smokeless or not.  I have a number of small top breaks, all .38 S&W, and I mostly shoot bp loads, even in the guns that are ok for smokeless.

Edited by Snake River James, SASS #12523
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This is the only ammo I could find available right now.  I was hesitant because it's 'performance' ammo but I got it anyway.  88 grains at 680 fps seems a little hot.  Hard to say without knowing the powder and barrel length used.  I might have to save this ammo for my 32 SWL pistol and wait for other brands to come back in stock. 

 

 

Cheap 32 S&W Ammo For Sale - 88 Grain LRN Ammunition in Stock by ...

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4 hours ago, Ramblin Gambler said:

This is the only ammo I could find available right now.  I was hesitant because it's 'performance' ammo but I got it anyway.  88 grains at 680 fps seems a little hot.  Hard to say without knowing the powder and barrel length used.  I might have to save this ammo for my 32 SWL pistol and wait for other brands to come back in stock. 

 

 

Cheap 32 S&W Ammo For Sale - 88 Grain LRN Ammunition in Stock by ...

 

That is way too hot for your top break pistol.

 

All you need to load for it is a set of dies and a Lee Hand Breech Lock Press.  Use the dipper that comes with the dies and buy some 78 grain 32 bullets from Bullets by Scarlett.

You can load a years supply in about an hour.

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