Sunday, March 23, 2008
Sunday Smith #40: Model 432, 2004.
In 1984 a new cartridge was introduced to revolver shooters. The Harrington & Richardson company, a maker of inexpensive small- and medium-frame revolvers, collaborated with Federal Cartridge to develop a higher performance variant of the old .32 S&W Long cartridge that wouldn't overtax the weaker design of their wheelguns. By lengthening the case slightly to 1.075", they ensured that the new hotter round could not be loaded into small revolvers chambered for the older .32 cartridge and that any revolver with a cylinder window long enough to accept .38 Special could be chambered for the new offering.
Officially named the .32 H&R Magnum, it wasn't long before other companies, such as Ruger and Smith & Wesson, were cataloging revolvers chambered for the "Poor Man's Magnum". Smith offered adjustable-sight K-frames for target shooting and small game hunting, but it was in small J-frame revolvers that the new round showed its best advantage: Where the J-frame in .38 Special could only squeeze five charge holes into the cylinder, the .32 Magnum J-frame was a true sixgun. Not much of a surprise, really, to those who remembered that the "J" was based on the old I-frame, which was designed as a .32 in the first place.
The all-stainless 631 and 632 Centennial fizzled out of production after only a couple of years, and only a very small number of black "032's" were made. Smith made another, more successful, run with the caliber in the late '90s, with the titanium cylindered 331 and enclosed-hammer 332 Centennial, but those models finally succumbed in 2003. They were briefly replaced by the blackened-alloy frame, steel-cylindered 431PD and 432PD for the '04 and '05 model years before Smith & Wesson finally stopped production of .32 H&R Magnum guns altogether after an on-again, off-again run of sixteen years, although overstock caused them to be available from wholesalers almost to the end of 2006.
The revolver pictured above is a Model 432PD, with "PD" standing for "Personal Defense", which is S&W marketing department-speak for "Airweight revolver with blackened finish". It was purchased new in early 2005 for not too much over $400 and has served as this writer's pocket-carry backup ever since. The grips are Crimson Trace lasergrips. Far too new and common to have any standing as a collector's piece, a nice used 432 could probably be found for somewhere around $350 without too much looking.