Anyone looking for a versatile, 6-shot J-frame revolver should check out Smith & Wesson’s relatively new (’09) model 632 Carry Comp Pro. This firearm features blackened Stainless construction (similar look and texture to S&W’s M&P models). It also features Smith & Wesson’s venerable front ramp-rear blade sighting combination. Up front, the slightly shorter than 3 in barrel acheives a more substantial side profile, offering a full lug barrel, and about a 1/2 inch-long compensator, designed to reduce muzzle flip and keep the gun stable.
My initial impressions upon seeing this gun in the store was that it was heavy for a J-frame, having become accustomed to S&W’s scandium framed (actually aluminum/scandium) airweight snubbies. Also, I did not realize this was a stainless gun, due to the blackened finish. At the same time, I was interested in the new 327 Federal Magnum chambering, having read about the other offerings from Taurus, Charter, and Ruger. Although I am partial to Charter’s overall rugged design, and Ruger’s durability, Smith and Wesson’s new 632 offers a notable advantage in trigger pull feel and firearm fit-and-finish.
The impressive ballistic profile of the 327 Federal Magnum is supposed to mimic 357 mag, without the recoil associated with it. This is not exactly the case, as in reality this chambering develops slightly lower energy from a slightly smaller bullet. The difference in recoil is definitely much improved from 357 magnum, however. An interesting fact about the 327 Federal Magnum is that the chambering is compatible with 32 S&W Short, 32 S&W Long, and 32 H&R Magnum. 32 S&W Long is readily available, as is 32 H&R Magnum, and Federal is ramping up their production of 327 Federal Magnum in an 85 Grain HP and a 100 Grain JSP (from their American Eagle brand). There is also a Speer round available, however I have not seen it in stores near me. Needless to say, there are plenty of ammo choices for this firearm, however somewhat more expensive on average than 9mm, 38 Special, and 40 S&W (but less than 45 Auto).
Upon taking this gun to the range, several things are apparent. First off, the sights are snag-free. This was a surprise to me, as I have always been wary of the rear blade sights “catching” on things. Since S&W’s new snubbie version of the 632 with low profile sights was not available as of this report (announced at 2010 SHOT Show), this is the option I had to go with, and was really surprised that even for pocket carry, the 3 inch barrel and 1/2 in compensator/expansion chamber, and blade sight of the 632 Carry Comp Pro was easily drawn from concealment.
I tried several loadings. First, Magtech’s 32 S&W Long. They have several types available, and the ones I used were the cast lead round-nose type. Since I am more of a plinker than anything, I did not keep track of the grain weight of that particular bullet. But all of the 32′s for wheelguns are around 100 grain, or a little less, and will work for target shooting or small game. Compared to 38 Special, the 32 S&W long is a pussycat round. In fact it was actually boring to shoot. Almost as boring as 22 LR, except way more expensive. On the upside, from 30 yards away, I was able to freehand 6 in groups about 3 in low from point of aim. This would equate to a bunny-sized target at 30 yards, one handed. I was shooting the gun single action.
Next up, I tried the Federal 85 grain 32 H&R Magnum. More like shooting 380 Auto or 9mm, still an easy shooter. With these, I was placing 3 inch groups at 30 yards at point of aim. I would not hesitate to say you could easily hit a stationary squirrel-sized target at 30 yards. My thought at this point, having shot nearly every other handgun caliber, is “why whould you ever need a recoil compensator on this gun.” There was so little recoil, that either the compensator was working really well, or simply not needed at all. I can see why the 32 H&R Magnum did not really take off, as a magnum caliber, but it is a hard hitting little round, per the ballistics tables, and the lack of recoil would make it awesome for women or small handed male shooters for defense purposes. The only reason I can think of for why the 32 H&R Magnum is a sleeper round, is economics, and how much it costs companies to “promote” a new round. The fact that it is wimpy for a magnum is one other reason, but it is not a wimpy round when compared to non-magnum rounds.
Last, I fired up the 327 Federal Magnum rounds, using the 85 grain JHP from Federal. These are the “low-recoil” variety, but they had significantly more “pop” than the 32 H&R Magnum. The case is 1/8 in longer than the 32 H&R Magnum, and the powder is used effectively to significantly increase bullet velocity. Out of a 3 in barrel, the bullets should achieve around 1400 FPS, so with an 85 grain hollow-point, we are now talking about a firearm which could/should be able to fight off/hunt a small bear, javelina, wild-boar, feral cat, small mountain lion, coyote, small whitetail, etc., and would be a good CCW or trail/hiking companion. This was the only chambering out of the S&W 632 Carry Comp Pro where, in my opinion, the compensator came into play, as I could tell that it was working to reduce muzzle flip. With this chambering, like the 32 H&R Magnum, I was easily hitting within a 3 in group with one hand at 30 yards, at point of aim. Recoil was similar to a 40 S&W, maybe a little less, but more than a 9, and about the same as a 38 Special +P.
Overall, I came away favorably impressed with the S&W 632 Carry Comp Pro. It was more accurate than any auto pistol I have fired except those of the 22 LR target variety. The full length guide rod helped extract all of the spent cartridges with ease, and the sights were easy to acquire. The 23 oz. weight was okay, because the grips are thin, as is the gun, and this would be an easy gun to take on a trip or for occassional field work, if not everyday carry. It conceals easily, but would be a little harder to conceal than a snubnose in the summer, due to the longer 3 in barrel and long grip. It was really fun to shoot in the 327 Federal Magnum chambering, and would also be a good choice for novices to learn their wheelgun skills, using the 32 S&W Long.
Not to get on the soapbox too long, but I think more people need to come around to the modern revolver in lieu of autopistols. They are simpler, more accurate, and nearly as fast as auto pistols, with a much lower chance of jamming when you need them. Yes, I have had a revolver lock up on me (once), but that does not usually happen on the first or second shot, and there is no such thing as a “stovepipe” jam when shooting a wheelgun. A lot of my friends think revolvers are just for “old guys,” which is mainly because old guys shoot them. In my opinion this is based more on marketing than the actual effectiveness of the firearm. In fact, I hope we can see a resurgence of the revolver for tactical ops at some point–maybe a new generation of the semi-auto Mateba revolver will be created, something to inspire people to recognize just how cool a revolver can be.