What is the best .32 ACP guns?
We asked a top expert to give us his picks.
As always, if you have other ideas, please let us know in the comments below.
When it comes to pocket pistol calibers, the .32 ACP (7.65mm) is nowhere near as popular in America as it is in Europe, as I’m reminded every time I go to a brick & mortar gun shop to find ammo. The .380 ACP is simply more popular among Yanks as far as sub-caliber cartridges go. That’s a bummer in the eyes of semiauto pistol authority J.B. Wood, who said in an issue of Shooting Times magazine back in about 1990 that, “For accuracy, a .32 will outdo a .380 every time. And the .32 is more pleasant to shoot than the .380.” (Not that the .380 is unpleasant to shoot by any means, but I digress.)
That said, there are quality .32 ACP pistols out there for American gun enthusiasts and collectors with the patience to deal with the greater challenges of shopping for the ammo. Let’s narrow it down to what Your Truly considers to be the Top 5 choices in the caliber.
Naturally I had to go with the most famous .32 caliber pistol in the world, Agent 007’s sidearm. Being the big-time James Bond fan that I am, I myself chose the .32 ACP chambering of the PPK over the relatively more powerful .380 version for my Orr-senal of Democracy. It’s the only .32 I’ve ever owned.
The PPK is a traditional DA auto with slide-mounted hammer dropping safety catch that allows the slide to be cycled while the safety is engaged. Being a 1929 design, the DA pull is not one of the more refined ones on the market — quite heavy and grating to be brutally honest — but them’s the breaks for owning such a culturally iconic pistol. Single-action (SA) pull is decent enough for good practical accuracy, and there’s certainly no doubt about the concealability factor. They’re also delightfully easy to field-strip and reassemble, thanks to the fixed barrel. (It is akin to the 9x18mm Makarov in that regard).
My particular PPK is one made over a decade ago by the joint venture of Walther and Smith & Wesson with an extended grip tang that eliminates earlier PPKs’ proclivity for hammer bite.
Current MSRP is $849.
An ex-girlfriend of mine chose this as her CCW pistol, but I don’t hold that against Kel-Tec! A platonic friend of mine who works in an administrative capacity for an East Texas police department also uses a P32 as her CCW piece, and she’s quite fond of it. Here’s what this anonymous friend has to say about it:
“I personally love my Kel-Tec P32…fly loaded with one in the chamber, it’s just over a pound. I’ve run well over 1000 rounds through mine at ranges and have used it to put down injured small & medium sized animals. I don’t recommend it for a purse gun though…it’s so small unless your purse it’s a clutch you won’t be able to draw it quickly. I agree with ankle carry!”
The downside is that field-stripping can be a bit of a pain: “It does get easier after the first field strip. I use my thumb nail but my nails are pretty thick. You can use a gift card or ID card to get it started, just don’t fling it across the room. YouTube search ‘field strip Kel-Tec (insert model here)’ & watch it a couple times to make sure you don’t force anything in or out that you shouldn’t.”
The P32 is a double-action only (DAO) autopistol with a barrel length of 2.7 inches, an overall length of 5.1 inches, a height of 3.5 inches, and a width of 0.75 inches. Current MSRP is a very reasonable $360.
Next to the PPK, the DAO Seecamp is arguably the most iconic pistol in the caliber. It is, moreover, the pocket pistol equivalent of the Holy Grail and Unobtanium all rolled into one, due to the relatively small numbers in which it’s been produced. The gun has no sights, with the designer’s rationale being that this reduces the likelihood of snagging, and it’s going to be used in extreme close quarters anyway. It’s designed specifically to work with the 60-grain Winchester Silvertip hollowpoint, which is reportedly the most effective round in the caliber.
To quote one anonymous friend of mine who was lucky enough to obtain one, “It’s a mouse gun that kicks like a mule, and it’s definitely not fun to shoot. However, it’s the best thing ever for concealed carry. I’ve carried it wearing a swimsuit and sarong.”
The manufacturer’s website doesn’t provide an MSRP, instead directing prospective buyers to “contact any one of our distributors listed below.”
Beretta 3032 Tomcat Inox
Hey, I’ve gotta include at least one entry from the world’s oldest existing gunmaker, right? The Tomcat is a traditional DA auto with a 7+1 capacity. As the manufacturer’s official info page says, “The same dedication to advanced design, uncompromising quality and strict quality control that make the 92FS, Cougar and Cheetah such international standouts is found in all Beretta small caliber, pocket-size pistols. Simplicity, safety and practical use are their best qualities.” MSRP is $649.
Colt Pocket Model 1903 Hammerless
And for good measure, gotta include at least one old-school surplus gun, right? Especially one designed by the late great John Moses Browning — the same genius who gave us the M1911 .45 auto and the “Ma Deuce” .50 caliber machine gun. This model was good enough for Gen. Patton, who generally eschewed semiauto pistols.
According to Sam Hoober in a September 2020 article for The Truth About Guns, “If you can’t afford a collectible original Colt 1903, US Armament Corp. began manufacturing them under license a few years ago, so you can actually buy a new one, though it will cost you. MSRP starts at $1275.”
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Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.