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Reloading the .327 Federal Magnum

by Lane Pearce   |  January 4th, 2011 1


Many readily available .32-caliber bullets are suitable for handloading in the .327 Federal Magnum, current Lyman and RCBS .32 die sets will accommodate the new round, and load data is now available from Hodgdon.

Looking back at my recent columns, I noticed I hadn’t written much about reloading handgun cartridges. That’s probably because the market bias has been toward new rifle products. However, the new .327 Federal Magnum presents the opportunity to share reloading information for an effective personal-defense round and an excellent hunting round for small game and varmints.

First of all, I confess that I like revolvers, especially single-actions. As I’ve gotten older, shooting big-bore, magnum firearms has become less interesting to me as it used to be. Actually, I became a fan of .32-caliber revolvers soon after Federal introduced the H&R Magnum almost 20 years ago. Back then, I bought an early-production Ruger Single-Six Magnum and, at my wife’s request, mounted a 2.5X Bushnell scope on it. Shooting five-shot, 25-yard groups under an inch from the bench soon became the norm. I eventually added several S&W and Dan Wesson double-actions and .32-20 single-actions to my repertoire.

Of course, other projects took precedent, so I hadn’t fired any of them for quite a while. I visited CCI-Speer last year and learned about the new .32-caliber magnum handgun cartridge they and Federal were co-developing. As the moniker suggests, the earlier .32 H&R Magnum’s performance specs were tailored for Harrington & Richardson’s less-than-robust small-frame revolvers. That’s why the .32 H&R’s maximum operating pressure (MAP) of about 22,000 psi is substantially lower than typical .357, .41, and .44 Magnum levels at approximately 35,000 psi.

The new .327 Federal round is a stretched version of the .32 H&R round, having a case about 1/8 inch longer. It has a thicker web at the base of the case, and heat-treatment is different. It has different metallurgy to accommodate the significantly increased operating pressures. At a whopping 45,000 psi, the .327 Federal’s MAP is nearly 30 percent greater than the aforementioned magnums and double that of the H&R Magnum. Ruger’s rugged SP101 compact revolver was selected as the development platform for the new round. As you can see in the accompanying charts, ballistic performance of the three available factory loads is impressive. In fact, the .327 Fed. Mag. nudges .357 Mag. energy levels with approximately 20 percent less recoil.

Soon after Federal officially announced the new round, I ordered an SP101. I also had Hamilton Bowen make a .327 Fed. Mag. cylinder for an old model Ruger .357 Blackhawk that he had converted to .32-20 several years ago. What a deal: a custom, .32-caliber, single-action convertible! When I received the retrofitted revolver, I only hoped I could match Bowen’s excellent workmanship with comparable performance at the range.

But first, there was just one little problem: There was no .327 Fed. Mag. loading data. And there wasn’t anything closely comparable from which I could safely extrapolate suitable recipes. I had several different bullets to load, including a roundnose, flatpoint Magnus cast bullet. Federal and Speer sent factory ammo, a double handful of primed brass, and even samples of three factory bullets. I shot up most of the factory ammo in the SP101, but there was just enough left to shoot a few five-shot groups in the custom Ruger Blackhawk.

To get started, I rationalized that the .32-20 case had about the same volume, so I checked out earlier editions of Lyman’s reloading manuals for .32 WCF, high-velocity data. Generous charges of 2400 or Unique and lighter bullets seemed most appropriate. Fortunately, before I could get into too much trouble, Chris Hodgdon sent out an announcement that Hodgdon’s online Reloading Data Center (RDC) had new information for the .327 Fed. Mag. A quick look suggested other promising candidates like Hodgdon Lil’Gun, IMR SR4756, and Winchester 231.


Lane used a factory-original SP101 and an old model Blackhawk customized by Hamilton Bowen for test-firing his .327 Federal Magnum handloads.

A week or so later, I called reloading guru Bob Forker. While we were chatting, I discovered he was working on a similar project. He had a 6-inch pressure barrel and was waiting for a Ruger SP101. I sent him some samples of the factory bullets, and he offered to share the pressure test results. Sure enough, a week or so later, he e-mailed a chart of .327 Fed. Mag. recipes he had developed using an Oehler Model 43 PBL ballistic-testing system. The limited load data situation had improved significantly.

I eventually assembled, fired, cleaned, trimmed, reloaded, fired, cleaned, etc., more than 500 .327 Fed. Mag. handloads. I initially shot both guns off bags at big targets mounted 25 yards from the bench. Then I mounted the SP101 in a Caldwell HAMMR machine rest to avoid the aging-eyes factor, and I chronographed every shot. I e-mailed the data to Forker before calling him to discuss the preliminary results. However, instead of talking about reloading, the conversation immediately segued into politics.

Forker lives in California, and it seems that the responsible government agency hasn’t yet performed the mandatory safety assessment of this “new” Ruger revolver. Only after the state approves the SP101 in .327 Fed. Mag. can Forker provide said certificate of approval to Ruger so the company can ship a T&E gun to him. The logic that this model is only slightly different from the half-dozen other SP101 variations Ruger may have shipped to California during the past 20 years doesn’t wash.

Our collaboration on the .327 Fed. Mag. loading projects seemed to be in order.

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.327 Fed. Mag. In 3 1/16-Inch Barreled Ruger SP101

Powder
Bullet Type Grs. Primer Velocity (fps) Extreme Spread (fps) Standard Deviation (fps) 25-Yard Accuracy (in.) Comment
Hornday 60-gr. XTP-HP AA #5 10.5 CCI 500 1566 20 7 2.80
Speer 60-gr. Gold Dot Unique 10.0 CCI 500 1646 150 56 1.10 Easy eject.
Speer 60-gr. Gold Dot WAP 10.8 CCI 500 1861 131 41 1.20 Hard eject, flat primers.
Magtech 71-gr. JHP W540 9.7 CCI 500 1406 158 41 1.50
Federal 85-gr. Hydra-Shok W540 9.0 Fed. 205 1383 36 9 N/D Rest loose.
Federal 85-gr. Hydra-Shok W540 9.1 Fed. 100 1326 68 22 1.70
Speer 85-gr. JHP W540 9.1 Fed. 100 1320 62 22 0.90 Snug eject; flat primers.
Sierra 90-gr. JHC AA #7 10.2 Fed. 205 1325 70 21 1.80
Sierra 90-gr. JHC SR4756 9.2 Fed. 205 1416 53 17 N/D Rest loose.
Sierra 90-gr. JHC VV 3N37 8.8 CCI 500 1429 71 22 3.00 Snug eject; flat primers; too hot.
Hornady 100-gr. XTP-HP HS 6 8.4 CCI 500 1268 40 16 1.70
Hornady 100-gr. XTP-HP Lil’Gun 14.0 Fed. 205 1101 157 68 N/D Rest loose.
Hornady 100-gr. XTP-HP VV N350 8.9 CCI 500 1479 109 31 1.00 Snug eject; flat primers; too hot.
Speer 100-gr. JHP VV N350 8.9 Fed. 205 1405 26 9 2.10 Hard eject; flat primers; too hot.
Speer 100-gr. Uni-Cor HS 7 9.5 CCI 500 1297 64 22 1.40
Speer 100-gr. Uni-Cor Lil’Gun 14.0 CCI 500 1167 68 26 1.20
Speer 100-gr. Uni-Cor W540 7.6 Fed. 205 1093 28 15 3.40
Speer 115-gr. Gold Dot AA #9 12.8 WSP 1368 58 20 0.90
Speer 115-gr. Gold Dot SR4756 5.8 Fed. 205 1117 18 6 N/D Rest loose.
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP 700-X 4.1 Fed. 205 1167 36 17 1.60 Once-fired brass.
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP HP 38 4.5 Fed. 205 1168 36 13 2.10 Once-fired brass.
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP HP 38 5.2 Fed. 205 1142 21 9 N/D Rest loose.
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP SR4756 5.8 Fed. 205 1171 32 9 N/D Rest loose.
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP Titegroup 4.1 Fed. 205 1188 33 9 1.90 Once-fired brass.
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP Trail Boss 4.0 Fed. 205 833 137 39 1.80 Once-fired brass.
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP W231 4.5 Fed. 205 1175 81 21 2.30 Once-fired brass.
Federal PD 85-gr. Hydra-Shok Factory Load 1414 61 21 N/D Rest loose.
American Eagle 100-gr. Uni-Cor Factory Load 1499 55 18 N/D Rest loose.
Speer PP 115-gr. Gold Dot Factory Load 1361 60 19 N/D Rest loose.
Notes: All data are based on at least 10 rounds of each load. Accuracy is for one 10-shot group with the SP101 fired from a Caldwell HAMMR machine rest. No data (N/D) when rest was not adjusted properly. Factory ammo used Federal factory primed brass with Federal 205 primers.


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.327 Fed. Mag. In 7 1/2-Inch Custom Ruger Blackhawk

Powder
Bullet Type Grs. Primer Velocity (fps) Extreme Spread (fps) Standard Deviation (fps) 25-Yard Accuracy (in.)
Speer 60-gr. Gold Dot Unique 10.0 CCI 500 1900 127 37 2.40
Speer 60-gr. Gold Dot WAP 10.8 CCI 500 2063 139 51 2.50
Magtech 71-gr. JHP W540 9.7 CCI 500 1774 118 33 2.30
Federal 85-gr. Hydra-Shok SR4756 7.4* Fed. 100 1524 45 16 2.20
Federal 85-gr. Hydra-Shok W540 9.1 Fed. 100 1585 85 28 2.00
Sierra 90-gr. JHC AA #7 10.2 Fed. 205 1568 74 20 1.70
Sierra 90-gr. JHC VV 3N37 8.8 CCI 500 1600 48 16 2.60
Hornady 100-gr. XTP-HP HS 6 8.4 CCI 500 1471 70 25 1.60
Hornady 100-gr. XTP-HP VV N350 8.9 CCI 500 1598 69 19 2.00
Speer 100-gr. JHP VV N350 8.9 Fed. 205 1582 56 15 1.70
Speer 100-gr. Uni-Cor HS 7 9.5 CCI 500 1517 79 25 1.90
Speer 100-gr. Uni-Cor Lil’Gun 14.0 CCI 500 1268 120 39 1.70
Speer 115-gr. Gold Dot AA #9 12.8 WS P 1556 62 17 1.80
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP 700-X 4.1 Fed. 205 1167 36 17 1.60
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP HP 38 4.5 Fed. 205 1168 36 13 2.10
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP PB 4.3 Fed. 205 1147 40 13 1.90
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP SR4756 5.0 Fed. 205 1183 50 16 1.40
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP Titegroup 4.1 Fed. 205 1188 33 9 1.90
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP Trail Boss 4.0 Fed. 205 833 137 39 1.80
Magnus 116-gr. RN-FP W231 4.5 Fed. 205 1175 81 21 2.30
Federal PD 85-gr. Hydra-Shok Factory Load 1622 96 28 2.70
American Eagle 100-gr. Uni-Cor Factory Load 1672 40 13 1.50
Speer PP 115-gr. Gold Dot Factory Load 1517 77 22 1.80
*Hodgdon data lists 7.1 gr. maximum for this load.
Notes: All data are based on at least 10 rounds of each load. Accuracy is the average of at least two,-five-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest. Factory ammo used Federal factory primed brass with Federal 205 primers.

The range sessions proved successful–eventually. The first time I mounted the SP101 in the HAMMR rest, I forgot to pack my tools to adjust the rest. When it loosened up from the recoil, the groups did likewise, so I just recorded velocity data. When I finished with the SP101, I discovered I didn’t have the right grip insert for the custom Blackhawk, so I had to shoot it the old-fashioned way–hand held on sandbags. Despite these minor hurdles, I developed several excellent loads for the two Ruger handguns.

One of the most impressive is Speer’s 60-grain Gold Dot HP atop 10 grains of Unique. I rolled a cannelure on the bullets so I could lightly roll crimp them after seating. Load density is essentially 100 percent, and the muzzle velocities reflect the full case and light bullet combination. Later mounted in a properly adjusted HAMMR rest, the SP101 put 10 shots into 1.1 inches at 25 yards.

Accurate #9 and Speer’s 115-grain Gold Dot HP proved to be a winning combination also. Federal’s American Eagle 100-grain JSP factory ammo consistently delivered excellent performance.

The chart also lists several handloads that worked well in the custom Ruger single-action. Velocities ran from 100 to 250 fps faster in the Blackhawk’s 71/2-inch barrel compared to the 31/16-inch-barreled SP101. I also tested a half-dozen or so cast-bullet loads in the Blackhawk using Hodgdon’s RDC recommended recipes. As the chart shows, several of those performed quite well. In fact, while measuring them, I noticed that a single shot doubled the group size on several occasions. I’d like to think that Bowen misaligned one chamber, but it’s more likely these old eyes.

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.327 Fed. Mag. In 6-Inch Pressure Barrel

Powder
Bullet Type Grs. Primer Velocity (fps)
Hornady 60-gr. XTP-HP AA #5 10.5 WSP 2110
Hornady 60-gr. XTP-HP SR7625 9.0 Fed. 100 2050
Speer 60-gr. Gold Dot Unique 10.0 CCI 500 2000
Speer 60-gr. Gold Dot WAP 11.0 Rem. 1 1/2 2140
Federal 85-gr. Hydra-Shok SR4756 10.5 Rem. 1 1/2 1800
Federal 85-gr. Hydra-Shok True Blu 9.0 WSP 1725
Hornady 85-gr. XTP-HP VV N340 7.5 Rem. 1 1/2 1710
Hornady 85-gr. XTP-HP W540 9.0 Fed. 100 1750
Sierra 90-gr. JHC AA #7 10.5 Rem 1 1/2 1775
Sierra 90-gr. JHC VV 3N37 8.8 Lapua SP 1700
Hornady 100-gr. XTP-HP HS 6 8.5 Lapua SP 1575
Hornady 100-gr. XTP-HP VV N350 9.0 CCI 500 1650
Speer 100-gr. Uni-Cor HS 7 9.5 Lapua SP 1600
Speer 100-gr. Uni-Cor Lil’Gun 14.0 CCI 500 1620
Speer 115-gr. Gold Dot AA #9 12.8 WSP 1640
Speer 115-gr. Gold Dot Enforcer 13.5 Rem. 1 1/2 1700
Federal PD 85-gr. Hydra-Shok Factory Load 1685
Speer PP 115-gr. Gold Dot Factory Load 1610
Notes: All data are based on at least 10 rounds of each load. Factory ammo used Federal factory primed brass with Federal 205 primers.

  • Ken Baumann

    I got hi 1300s out of a 3" ported Taurus from the Amercian Eagle factory loads and pleasant to shoot. A quick but not hard recoil. I would like to duplicate this performance with a hand load. any suggestions? Ken kbpc1@knology.net

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