.32 rimfire is a family of cartridges which were chambered in revolvers and rifles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were made primarily in short and long lengths, but extra short, long rifle and extra long lengths were offered.
Manufacturers in the USA generally discontinued making .32 rimfire ammunition after the country's entrance into WWII in 1941. It was available from old stocks for some years afterwards but it has been made only sporadically in the last 70 years. Occasionally, special limited runs of .32 rimfire ammunition are manufactured for gun collectors with shootable specimens but the round is not considered a current commercial cartridge. Navy Arms Company has periodically imported .32 Rimfire Long, made by CBC in Brazil, but stopped doing so several years ago.
The .32 Short was designed in 1860 by Smith & Wesson for their Model 2 revolver. In 1868 they introduced the .32 Long in the Model 1½ Second Issue revolver.
The .32 Short fired an 80 grain lead bullet at 945 feet per second from a 24-inch rifle barrel. The .32 Long fired a slightly heavier 90 grain bullet at approximately the same velocity. Remington rifles in .32 rimfire listed a bore diameter of .304 inch.
The .32 Short and Long rimfire bullets matched the external dimensions of the .32 Colt Short and Long centerfire bullets; the Marlin Model 1891 lever-action repeating rifle was shipped with two firing pins, one rimfire and one centerfire, to allow use of either the rimfire or centerfire cartridges. Revolvers and single shot rifles chambered for one of the longer .32 rimfire cartridges would chamber and fire the shorter cartridges.
During its lifetime, the .32 rimfire was loaded with black powder followed by semi-smokeless and smokeless powder loadings. While it was popular as a very effective small game caliber, it was considered obsolete by the late 1930s, in part due to the introduction of high velocity versions of the .22 Long Rifle using smokeless powder.
^ abcdefghBarnes, Frank C. (1997). M.L. McPherson, ed. Cartridges of the World (8th ed.). p. 386. ISBN0873491785.
^Kinard, Jeff (2004). Pistols: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. p. 115. ISBN978-1851094707.
^Phillip B. Sharpe, The Rifle in America, William Morrow and Co., 1938.