Here's an excerpt from a little chronograph testing I undertook last summer and posted on a small private forum. It was mostly about the .41 Long Colt but some various .32 revolver ammunition was tested as well as the Nagant with both its proper ammunition and with some factory .32 S&W Long ammunition. The other .32 revolvers and their performance is given here for comparison to the performance of the Nagant revolver.
The .41 wasn't the only Long Colt cartridge in attendance at the range today. I included a little 4-inch Colt New Pocket (transition) revolver that I have and a box of both .32 Long Colt and .32 Short Colt ammunition. This revolver dates from 1905 and is in reasonable shooting condition with a fair bore and a nice, tight action. It went head's up in competition with a couple of other elderly revolvers, both chambered for the .32 S&W Long. I think it beat out it's Smith & Wesson competition for load performance.
Ammunition used was late vintage Remington .32 Long Colt and late vintage Winchester .32 Short Colt.
Remington .32 Long Colt 82 grain lead round nose
783 fps MV
112 ft./lbs. ME
Winchester .32 Short Colt 80 grain lead round nose
763 fps MV
103 ft./lbs. ME
I fired the Winchester .32 Short Colt load first. The Remington .32 Long Colt load fooled me into thinking that I could perceive a significant increase in power when I was firing it. It was longer and had a heavier bullet. The chronograph revealed how wrong perceptions may be.
The Remington .32 Long Colt load billowed great clouds of white smoke, both from the muzzle and from the barrel/cylinder gap. It didn't hang in the air like black powder smoke but dissipated in a wink. I thought this a bit unusual and excessive. I'm guessing it has something to do with the bullet lube used. The revolver was very sooty at the end of its session. I've not examined the bore closely yet but a cursory look in bright sunlight, without my reading glasses, revealed that rifling could still be seen so perhaps leading isn't too bad.
As may be seen there is very little difference in velocity performance between the .32 Long Colt and .32 Short Colt. Couple this fact with the whopping 2 grain difference in bullet weight and we effectively have identical cartridge performance.
My 1917 vintage Smith & Wesson Model 1903 .32 Hand Ejector was also carted out to the range and put through its paces with Aguila factory loads. This revolver is tight as new. It sports the 3 1/4-inch barrel which has a sparkling bright bore.
Aguila 98 grain lead round nose fired in the Smith & Wesson Model 1903
631 fps MV
87 ft./lbs ME
A Colt Police Positive .32 was also tested with the Aguila ammunition. This little revolver has seen better days but still has a little original finish and is serviceable. It has a 4-inch barrel.
Aguila 98 grain lead round nose fired in the Colt Police Positive
115 ft./lbs ME
The surprise here for me was that the Colt gave so much higher velocity than the Smith & Wesson. I can't imagine that 3/4 inch of additional barrel length on the Colt would make much difference with a low pressure load like this Aguila .32 S&W Long ammunition.
The Police Positive is much the better gun for pleasant shooting. It gives a fuller grip and is better balanced though it is still pretty small and concealable. For me, both the Smith & Wesson Model 1903 and the Colt New Pocket have stunted grip frames with thin panels that don't afford a truly adequate grip for my fairly large hands. I enjoyed the Police Positive so much that I shot it for a while at the "spinning quail" disc target I had brought with me. I forget about actually shooting this Police Positive from time to time and need to take it out more for some great .32 fun.
I also tried the Aguila in the 7.62 Nagant revolver that Chuck sent along to me last summer, just because so many claim that it is ok to shoot .32 S&W Long in the Nagant's factory cylinder. I've already tested the revolver for accuracy with .32 S&W Long and satisfied myself that it is a non-event to fire .32 S&W Long ammunition in it. All that remained was to test .32 S&W Long for velocity and consistency.
Aguila .32 S&W Long ammunition fired in a Nagant revolver
574 fps MV
72 ft./lbs ME
By studying the 7 cartridge cases in the above photo, one may see a slight bulge in the .32 S&W Long that forms when it is fired in a Nagant revolver. I've fired most of a box and have not had a split. It will be noticed that the ejector rod is extended in the photo. I failed to notice this and actually loaded and fired the revolver once over the chronograph with the ejector rod extended.
So, using the same ammunition, the Colt Police Positive gave the best efficiency. It is preferred for pleasant shooting. If I bear down and really strive to shoot both the Colt and the Smith & Wesson for accuracy they group identically for me. I feel that I may be more prone to fliers with the Smith & Wesson.
The Nagant will give a really good accuracy performance with the .32 S&W Long ammunition, better in fact than it shoots its own proper ammunition. It handles, balances, and points much better than it looks. It is hopeless to load and unload with any speed. Slower than molasses, it operates like a Colt Single Action Army but with a curious pivoting ejector rod that has no spring to retract it. If under attack or fighting hand-to-hand, in a combat situation, one would have it's cylinder's compliment of 7 shots with no reasonable way to reload in a timely manner. The gas seal system for which it is famous does work, but for no purpose since the ammunition is so feeble.
Here's a test of Fiocchi factory 7.62 Nagant ammunition with a 98 grain jacketed bullet.
672 fps MV
98 ft./lbs ME
The numeral 10 on the target was the aiming reference for the proper 7.62 Nagant ammunition. The numeral 6 on the target was the aiming reference for the Aguilla .32 S&W Long Ammunition. Distance was 10 yards.
When considering the operation of the Nagant, one would have been just as well off to try to beat back the German hoards in 1941 if he'd been armed with a Colt Police Positive .32.