32 Auto vs 45 Auto self defense, recoil, and accuracy issues

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32 Auto vs 45 Auto self defense, recoil, and accuracy issues

Post by timmy » Sat Jun 17, 2023 4:05 am

This post refers to the thread started about the New Light Arms CF007 pistol. Several issues came up and it seemed best to address them in a separate thread, rather than to divert the OP's intent in posting on the subject.

I want to address the thread beginning from this point:


First of all, I would point out that the use of pistols is somewhat like dentures: one wouldn't offer his dentures to someone else having trouble eating, as one's dentures fit only one's self.

This is not an exact analogy, since dentures are made specifically for one person and guns are not (unless we're talking about target grips made for one person, which would be like dentures), but it is intended to highlight the point that, for many reasons, what handgun works for one person may well not work for another.

For instance, the case has been raised that, for a second follow-up shot, the recoil of the first shot from a 45 Auto pistol would make acquiring the sights for a second shot more difficult than for a similar case with a 32 Auto pistol. I don't think that everyone's experience in this matter would be the same, since we need to consider the size and shape of each person's hands, the size, weight, and configuration of the gun, the gun's action (e.g., blowback or short recoil), and the power of the cartridge in question.

(Here, I'd mention that the comment regarding the greater importance of disabling an attacker with the first shot as opposed to one of being able to successfully place a second shot, because the first one didn't accomplish its task.)

For me, I would have to shoot my CZ70 (32 Auto) back to back with my 1911 (45 ACP) to examine this more closely. However, I almost always shoot the CZ70 with two hands in the isosceles stance (noting that others may use different stances). I almost always have shot my 1911 in the "Bullseye," or one handed stance. (A note about the CZ70: it is very similar in size and weight with a Walther PP.) I'm basing my comparison here on some combat type shooting I did with my 1911 many years ago.

The CZ70 is a "jumpy" little thing in my hands and I don't get nearly as good of a hold on it as I do the 1911, which I consider the best and most comfortable handgun I've shot. Where the short, relatively light CZ70 jumps around in my hands, the 1911 lays in my hand, and due to its weight, length, and the hold I have on it, rolls when fired, compared to the CZ70 jumping.

Several issues are at play here that may not be the same as the experience of others. 32 Auto pistols are almost always blowback actions, and those who have shot shot recoil action 32 Auto pistols, such as the Llama or the Keltec P32, always note those pistols having less recoil than others with a blowback action. So, one factor is what kind of pistol is being shot.

Next, the 1911's long barrel and heavy frame add weight to the end of the gun keep the 1911 pretty stable, where the CZ70's stubby frame and barrel and relative lightness contribute to it being harder to control for me.

Another matter is the way the gun fits the hand. I have a large hand, with moderately long fingers and wide, long palms. There's a lot of "meat" around the grip, in other words. Most folks seem to prefer the "short" 1911 trigger and have difficulty reaching the slide release. I like the long trigger (and so I fitted one to my 1911) and have no problem with the slide release.

The CZ, on the other hand, seems to make me think of wrapping a long string around a small stick. I once had a 25 Auto that really was a problem: I could only get one full finger around the grip under the trigger guard, and the gun jumped around when fired, making it hard to control. The CZ70 is much better in this regard, somewhat like comparing driving a Tata Nano to a Honda Civic, whereas the 1911 is like driving a Bentley.

For me, that is. Now, for anyone else, with different hands and different guns, things might be different or not. The only way to find out is to shoot whatever gun is in question. Those who think that they can find out what works best for them by reading internet prattle, magazine articles, or listening to fantastic stories from members of the Old Stove Society (even if they might be true!) are only kidding themselves.

My point here is that what works for some may not work so well for others.

Another point i'd like to make here is that it sometimes seems to me that folks think of shooting a 1911 in the way they would think of shooting a light rifle in 458 Winchester. I don't think that this is so. I've shot my brother's S&W Model 29 in 44 Magnum, and my own Ruger Blackhawk in 45 Colt, using my very hot handloads. This is a step beyond the 44 magnum. I find the 1911 a pussycat compared to these other two. If one has sent a lot of lead flying down the range, what to expect when the trigger is pulled is different from those with more limited experience. There's no problem with that: the idea of things is to find the gun that fits one's pocketbook and one's ability to shoot it well, not to tell macho stories about how much one has done. But those who suggest that the 1911 might be the next thing to an elephant gun might be making a mistake slightly less wrong than the blowhards who've been everywhere, done it all, and seen everything. Judging these matters is best done with good data, and what works for one is pretty good data.

Regarding effectiveness as a defense round, the 45 Auto beats the 32 Auto fifty ways to Sunday -- nobody can, or should, seriously question this. Where the 32 Auto can barely reach the 305 mm penetration requirement of the FBI when shooting into ballistic gel, the 45 Auto can do this and much more, depending on the bullet used. The 32 Auto ammo should be chosen, if possible, for meeting at least the 305 mm limit. Here, there's a problem: I've never come across anyone running reliable ballistic gel penetration tests of IOF ammo in India.

About all one can do is think about what the performance of IOF ammo might be, compared to other ammo, and take what one can get. If one questions whether IOF 32 Auto ammo can make the 305 mm level of performance (and I'd certainly question that it can), then some thinking should be done about how one uses the gun -- at what range is it effective, and at what targets can it be effectively used against -- when one contemplates carrying.

I will mention that, lest one think that I'm adopting a superior attitude because I have a 1911 (and other handguns, as well), may I point out that I carry my CZ70 in 32 Auto 95% of the time? I recognize that there are limitations to the gun and cartridge, and try to take that into account. I've also recently acquired a large batch of 32 Auto brass, and will begin to cast my own bullets and load my own ammo, and really get down to putting lead downrange with plenty of my own ammo, rather than small quantities of expensive store-bought ammo. I'm trying to work with the best thing I can obtain to make the gun and cartridge work for me. Many here won't have that opportunity, I realize, and I'm very sorry about that. But each of us can do something to improve one's chances of surviving and unfortunate incident.

There's no question that, in military use that requires full metal jacketed bullets (no hollow points, exposed lead noses, or "Dum Dum" bullets) the 45 Auto was a more effective man-stopper than the 9 x 19 mm Luger round. This was remarked upon by the Germans in WW1. The 45 simply makes a larger hole than 9mm. This changed in civilian use when bullets with new technology made bullets with reliable expansion available. Even now, the later 40 caliber rounds fade because superior bullets make 9 mm a practical cartridge for self defense. Bullets have enough energy to expand to deadly diameters, and pistols with capacities up to 18 or 20 rounds are possible, compared to smaller capacities for 40 and even smaller capacities for 45 caliber pistols.

Anyway, the Thompson LaGuard tests scientifically determined the superiority of the 45 Auto in military use by extensive trials of performance against animal tissues, and these results were verified by the 1911's performance in many conflicts during decades of service.

Note here that I'm addressing civilian self defense issues, where hollow point expanding bullets are not prevented by international treaties on war. But regarding military use, it's also true that handguns do not account for a very high percentage of casualties, compared to rifles, machine guns, artillery, and other weapons. the military has other requirements than for the optimal killing sidearm.

Still, having said all of this about the effectiveness of self defense pistols, within a year I may break down and acquire a 9 mm self defense pistol. The problem here for me has always been that, when money was available, I bought guns that interested me, rather than a practical self defense too. Maybe it's time for me to join the modern world on this matter. I realize that, unfortunately, this option isn't available to the great majority of us here at IFG, so it's no solution to most people's self defense requirements.

Now, a word about accuracy: the 1911 has dominated many types of handgun competition for years, and the 45 Auto cartridge is part of that enviable performance. The notion that it gives something up in the accuracy department to the 32 Auto is a proposition that is hardly credible.

One big issue here is headspacing: Headspacing is the dimension that measures how deeply a loaded cartridge fits in the chamber of a gun. It is a very critical dimension! It the cartridge seats too deeply in the chamber, the firing pin may not strike the primer reliably, or at all, resulting in a failure to fire. If the cartridge does fire, it is possible that the brass may expand more that it is designed to, and crack or split. This will release the high pressure gas from the firearm, which is undesirable.

Well, you may ask, am I just saying this, or do I know? I've had several cartridges open up on me (military surplus ammo in a 30-06) and I will guarantee you, it is not something one would choose do experience for fun more than once. Had I not been wearing shooting glasses, I'm sure I would be wearing an eyepatch now. Little burning grains of powder embedded in my face, and this wasn't at all pleasant, either. Short story: You don't want too much headspace!

But what about too little headspace? Ammunition that is too long won't let the cartridge chamber, and the action cannot close.

Headspace for each cartridge is defined by standards organizations. This dimension allows the gun to operate correctly and not exceed the properties of the cartridge case when fired.

All this leads up to the consideration of types of cartridges. 45 Auto is straight walled rimless cartridge. The rim that is used to extract the fired case is the same diameter as the rest of the length of the case, which is quite short, especially when compared to rifle cartridges.

(Here, note that cartridges that are descended from black powder days, like 32 S&W Long and 38 Special, are much longer than most Automatic pistols, like 45 Auto, 9 x 19 mm, and 32 Auto) which were designed for smokeless powder and are much more compact.)

The 45 Auto headspaces on the case mouth. Looking at a loaded cartridge, there is a distinct ridge formed by the case mouth that can be felt by running the fingernail over the bullet and onto the case body. This ridge is what the cartridge seats on when it is loaded into the chamber. The chamber has a corresponding ridge that keeps the cartridge from going further into the chamber and barrel.

Back in the "old days" of cartridge guns, the rims of cartridges were a wide flange that seated against the barrel or chamber, like one sees in the 32 S&W Long meant for revolvers. There is nothing wrong with using this flanged type of rim to control the headspace, but in certain kinds of repeating guns, the flanged rim created problems in feeding. Yes, the British made the 303 work in bolt action repeaters and machine guns (but not without some issues0 and the Russians made the 7.62 x 54r rimmed cartridge work with an elegant and simple provision in their bolt action rifles (even better than the British in their Lee Enfields!) and machine guns. So rimmed cartridges can be made to work in repeating weapons, but the rimless case is a better way.

Europeans used rimless cartrides in their semi-automatic designs (for instance, the famous C96 "Broomhandle"), but John M Browning's first designs were "semi-rimless," having a rim flange of very small dimensions. Browning's semi-rimless cartridges allowed reliable feeding, yet allowed headspacing on the rim. This is evident in his first semi-automatic cartridge, the 32 Auto of 1899, and also the 38 Auto of 1900 and the 25 Auto of 1905. However, when the US Army specified a 45 caliber cartridge for trials of semi-automatic weapons, Browning when to a fully rimless design, even to the point of the head of his new cartridge having the same diameter of the newly adopted US Army rifle cartridge: 12 mm. Less than coincidentally, this was the same diameter of the 7 x 57 mm Spanish Mauser cartridge that proved so much more effective than the rimmed 30-40 cartridge in the awkward Krag Jorgenson rifles fielded by the Army in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Browning also used a rimless cartridge for his later Pocket Pistol, the 380 Auto, in 1908.

Later, in 1929, the 38 Auto cartridge was loaded to much higher pressures and power. This cartridge was called the "38 Super Auto" and, while it can be chambered in older pistols, this is never done because the older pistols cannot safely withstand the additional pressure of the 38 Super Auto. The cartridge was introduced in a modified 1911 pistol, whe action of which could withstand the additional pressure of the new cartridge loading.

Like the 38 Auto, the 38 Super Auto chambered on the semi-rim, and this caused problems. The cartridge became popular again for pistol competition in the 70s, and competitors were not happy with the lessened accuracy of the 38 Super Auto, compared to the original 45 Auto.

The problem here was that the 1911 has a ridge over the rear of the barrel, and this provided the breech face that the 38 Super Auto semi-rim headspaced against. Here, the small rim, combined with the tolerance of the cartridge case in the chamber, sometimes let the cartridge rim slip under the headspace surface on the breech of the barrel. Headspacing on the case mouth, the original 45 Auto cartridge didn't have this problem, but the 38 Super Auto cartridge would sometimes chamber slightly cockeyed in the chamber, due to the rim slipping under the barrel ridge.

This problem was solved by making up barrels that didn't headspace on the semi-rim of the 38 Super Auto. Instead, the case headspaced on the case mouth, like the 45 Auto, 9 x 19mm, and other semi-auto cartridges.

32 Auto has been chambered in who knows how many types of pistols over the last 120 years, with various tolerances and designs. Originally meant to headspace on the cartridge semi-rim, I cannot say whether or what pistols might have been set up to use the case mouth for headspace, rather than the semi-rim. I just don't know. But my opinion would be that headspacing on the case mouth is supported for a full 360^, where headspacing on the semi-rim cannot have 360* support, because at least part of the barrel breech must be cut away for a feed ramp. Consequently, headspacing on the mouth of the cartridge will be more likely to position the bullet squarely to the bore, which is a key requirement for accuracy.

However, the 32 Auto is very small, and even minute powder fluctuations in loading the ammo will cause differing pressures, resulting in fluctuations in velocity, resulting in the bullet hitting the target at a different point of impact. Usually, in a light target load, a 45 Auto would use about twice as much fast burning powder than a full-power 32 Auto charge. Variations in loading charges are thus a higher percentage of 32 Auto charges than they are of 45 Auto charges.

Then, there's a wider range of powders suitable for larger 45 Auto case than for the tiny 32 Auto, giving loaders a wider range of powders to choose when testing for the load that provides the optimal accuracy.
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Re: 32 Auto vs 45 Auto self defense, recoil, and accuracy issues

Post by Peacefulguns » Sun Jun 18, 2023 8:40 am

Very practical issue of the grip suiting individually. Hopefully in India we will have a few options now.

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Re: 32 Auto vs 45 Auto self defense, recoil, and accuracy issues

Post by kanzakibullet » Sun Jun 18, 2023 2:00 pm

Thank you sir for explaining this issue. It was very insightful. I have a request, could you also shed some light on the differences between .22 LR and .32 ACP in a similar fashion?

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Re: 32 Auto vs 45 Auto self defense, recoil, and accuracy issues

Post by timmy » Tue Jun 20, 2023 3:29 am

kanzakibullet wrote:
Sun Jun 18, 2023 2:00 pm
Thank you sir for explaining this issue. It was very insightful. I have a request, could you also shed some light on the differences between .22 LR and .32 ACP in a similar fashion?
While the 32 Auto is a cartridge that was developed around the beginning of smokeless powder semi-automatic cartridges, the 22 Long Rifle and its antecedents stretch back to the beginning of cartridge rifles and handguns in technology.

The time line of firearms works out something like this: For a couple hundred years, the flintlock was the dominant type of firearm. Our current firearms still have some time to go, before they are as long-lasting as the flintlock. The percussion, or cap lock became dominant for only a few decades at teh start of the 19th Century, when cartridge weapons began to come onto the gun scene. There were different approaches to igniting a cartridge in a gun, and at first, the pin fire had a small time of acceptance, but was soon discarded for the rimfire. After the Rimfire, centerfire cartridges, with a separate primer, began their reign, the period we are still in today.

The 22 Long Rifle cartridge is a vestige of that rimfire technology, which ranged from small cartridges all the way up to large military cartridges in the 11 mm to 14 mm range.

The priming compound of a rimfire is deposited in the folded rim of the cartridge, thus the name. This has proven to be a cost effective way of doing things, thus the wide use of the 22 Long Rifle cartridge today. But there is a downside: the rimfire priming system isn't quite as reliable as the centerfire primer system, whether this is by the Berdan or the Boxer priming method.

Also, given the need for a rim to serve as the priming method, headspacing also uses the rim to locate the cartridge in the chamber.

Yes, there's also another aspect of the 22 Long Rifle cartridge that is the remaining example of another old technology: The outside lubricated "heeled" bullet. You will notice that, unlike all of the cartridges that we use today, the bullet of the 22 Long Rifle is the same diameter as the cartridge case. The bullet has a smaller diameter section at the base of the bullet, the "heel," that is loaded into the cartridge case and crimped into that case.

This method of using a heeled bullet was once common in cartridges at the beginning of the cartridge era, both for rimfire and centerfire cartridges. It is one of the reasons why cartridge names can be so goofy and hard to understand. For instance, the 38 Special was modified by lengthening it and running it at higher pressures to become the 357 Magnum. But, despite the name, the 38 Special also uses the same 0.357" size bullet of the 357 Magnum! This is also the case with the 44 Special and the 44 Magnum: they both use a 0.429" diameter bullet.

The reason for this is because both the 38s (including the 357) and the 44s both descended from cartridges that used heeled bullets. This was true of many cartridges back in the latter half of the 19th Century, but these heeled bullet designs had a drawback: they were outside lubricated. Remember, this is back in the days before copper-zinc jackets were in wide use. (Jacketed bullets were pioneered by Colonel Rubin of the Swiss Army).

A pocket full of cartridges using outside lubricated bullets collected all kinds of dirt and made one's pockets messy as a bonus! Putting the lubricated part of a rifling groove-sized bullet, without a heel, inside the cartridge case made things nice and clean, both for the gun and the pocket, but now the bullet was the diameter of the inside of the cartridge case, rather than the diameter of the outside.

The story regarding the 38 Special and the 357 Magnum is somewhat convoluted, but here is teh gist of it: The 38 Short Colt cartridge used an outside lubricated, heeled bullet, and was lengthened into the 38 Long Colt using an inside lubricated 0.357" diameter bullet by Colt and used in Colt 1892 Double Action revolver, which replaced tho old 45 Colt Single Action revolver in Army service. During the Spanish American War, the Colt 1892 and its weak 38 Long Colt cartridge were judged by the Army to have insufficient stopping power. This was especially apparent in the Philippines, where Moro warriors would bind their arms and legs with tourniquets and use drugs to fortify themselves for suicidal charges against US Army troops. The problem was addressed by pulling old 45 Colt revolvers out of storage and issuing them to troops in the Philippines. (Note here that the ballistic properties of the 45 Colt were used by the Army to specify the semi-automatic cartridge used in the 1911 that replaced the 1892 Colt in Army service.)

Smith & Wesson wanted into the military contracts that Colt had dominated for decades, and so they developed a more powerful modification of the 38 Long Colt called the 38 Smith & Wesson Special. Note that they didn't use their own 38 S&W cartridge as a basis for the 38 Special, but they used Colt's 38 cartridge, as they were trying to gain an Army contract with their own revolver, which became the famous Smith & Wesson Military and Police model.

Here, a lot of confusion also exists, because the 38 Special used the 0.357" diameter bullet, but the 380 Revolver/38-200 cartridge used a 0.361" bullet, which is why these cartridges aren't interchangeable.

Then, in the 1930s, people like Elmer Keith in the USA started experimenting with very hot 38 Special loads, which led to Smith & Wesson introducing this cartridge as the 357 Magnum. (Keith and Smith & Wesson would later duplicate this process when the 44 Magnum was introduced in 1955.)

All this is to point out the confusion that the transition from outside lubricated, heeled bullets to inside lubricated bullets has caused. Some cartridges, like 38 Special and 44 Special and Magnum made the transition, and some, like the 41 Colt, didn't.

But the 22 Long Rifle didn't make this transition. The slightly less reliable rimfire priming was cheap to produce, and the outside lubricated bullet problem was solved with a waxy lubricant that was suitable for the 22 Long Rifle's slow velocity and low operating pressure. About the only technical improvement of the 22 Long Rifle over its long years of use has been to use smokeless powder, rather than the original black powder.

I'm leaving out the discussion of the 22 Long Rifle's ancestry beginning with the 22 Short, and the developmental fork of the 22 Long, which used the 29 grain 22 Short bullet on the Long Rifle case as an economy measure. Ultimately, while little bits of more expensive 22 Short and 22 Long have hung on here and there, the mass production and wide acceptance of the 22 Long Rifle, with its mass production, have made it the favorite of this class of cartridges today.

However, over the last few decades, the inside lubricated, heeled bullet design has offered an advantage: Because the bullet is the same diameter as the cartridge case, cartridge company CCI developed their famous "Stinger" ammunition by lengthening the case for more powder capacity and using a shorler 32 grain bullet to gain velocity and power. Since then, many other manufacturers have introduced 22 Long Rifle ammo using the same idea. Because the bullet and the case are the same diameter, a wide variation of cartridge length and bullet length can be used, as long as the loaded cartridge can fit into the 22 Long Rifle chamber. For instance, there's also a short case and long 60 grain bullet that shoots below the speed of sound that is available.

These "Stinger" type cartridges have their greatest advantage in a rifle, where the longer barrel allows all of the extra powder they use to be burned completely. The short of a barrel the gun has, the less advantage over normal 22 Long Rifle ammunition one will see. How to see whether this new "Stinger" ammo will give an advantage in a short barreled small pistol, or a revolver with the gap between cylinder and barrel? One must either use a chronograph to see whether there's a difference, or trust the reports of tests that are published to determine whether this kind of "hot" ammunition really is useful.

What about using 22 Long Rifle hollow point ammunition? The advantage of these hollow point bullets is that there's a slight increase in velocity, and of course they expand to create a larger and more damaging would channel in the target. This can be an advantage where small animals such as rabbits and squirrels are concerned, but in larger targets, this expansion requires power to expand the bullet and then push the larger diameter bullet through tissue. This means that the expanded bullet doesn't penetrate as far as a solid one will in a large target.

This problem of penetration versus expansion is present with all low powered cartridges all the way up to 380 Auto and standard 38 Special fired out of a snubby 2" barrel. Below this level, achieving the 305 mm penetration shown by FBI testing to be the minimum acceptable amount of penetration has not proven achievable. There just isn't enough power in the cartridge for effective expanding self defense rounds below this.

Then, we should address 22 Long Rifle power. The 22 Long Rifle cartridge isn't in the same league at all compared to the 32 Auto with regard to power. It is true, if you look up both cartridges on Wikipedia, you will see that hot, Stinger type 22 Long Rifle ammunition has power similar to the 32 Auto. BUT read the fine print! The power generated by the 32 Auto is obtained from a short 4" barrel as used by small 32 Auto pistols, but the 22 Long Rifle power data is obtained from much longer rifle barrels, not short pistol barrels.

Fired from a short small pistol barrel, the 22 Long Rifle is comparable the little 25 Auto, which has about half of the power of the 32 Auto.

Barrel length used for testing any cartridge is vitally important to understanding what that data means in your hand. A big second consideration is whether the cartridge is being fired from a pistol or a revolver. Revolvers leak a lot of gas pressure from the gap between the barrel and the cylinder, which means that velocity and power are greatly affected by the type of gun that's used to fire the cartridge. (This barrel gap is why you never want to have your hand around the barrel gap of a revolver when it is fired!)

Well, one might ask, why should one want an expensive to shoot 25 Auto pistol if it is only as powerful as a 22 Long Rifle small pistol?

The answer to this question has to do with what one wants to use the 22 pistol for. If the gn is to be used for target practice, then the advantage goes to the 22 Long Rifle, because it is inexpensive to shoot.

But, if one wants the gun for self defense, then one must consider why the 25 Auto was developed by Jon Browning for small "pocket" pistols in the first place, rather than simply using the then-available 22 Long Rifle cartridge. There are two major reasons:

Firstly, as pointed out above, center fire primers are more reliable: they go "bang" more reliably than rimfire cartridges do.

Secondly, the large rim on the 22 Long Rifle jams more easily and more often than a semi-rimless cartridge like the 25 Auto or the 32 Auto does.

So if you are only shooting at paper targets, cans, or things that won't kill you with a wounded attack, then the 22 Long Rifle's economy makes sense.

But, if you need to defend your life and/or the life of a loved one, then it is best to look for a cartridge that was designed to do this job, like a 32 Auto.
“We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

George Orwell

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Re: 32 Auto vs 45 Auto self defense, recoil, and accuracy issues

Post by Vikram » Fri Jun 23, 2023 12:00 am


Thank you for explaining the topic in such minute detail. It is worth going through several times to appreciate the information provided in this thread.
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