Review: 32 S&W Old School

When we came up with doing reviews for new gun owners, one of the first questions that came up was, “What do new gun owners buy?” After a few hours of discussion, new buyers tend to be in two groups: people who buy recognized names and people who buy cheap. Today’s gun is from the later category, the Smith and Wesson .32 special.

This gun, like the bigger .38 special, is legendary, at least in lore. Used by police and crooks alike because of its small size, the .32 S&W is a reliable gun that was a great piece in its day. The question comes down to, how well does it hold up beside modern guns?


In its heyday, this was a state-of-the-art-pistol. It was small, compact and double action. This meant that it gave an advantage to those who had one, whether for crime or justice. In modern parlance, it is a cheap gun with no safety on it, which makes it a gun for collectors and those who are just looking for a cheap firearm. It could be an EDC, but it is not the best. Same for home defense. The lack of safety makes it dangerous to have bouncing around in your BOB. This earns it a 4.5 for market.


There is not learning curve on this firearm. You pull the trigger and it is loaded, and it shoots. This makes it a very easy gun for first time users to pick up. With the short barrel, it takes a careful aim, but since it is designed for use within 10 feet, that should not be a problem. To change out the shells, all you need to do is pop the cylinder and reload. Honestly, I do not believe that they could make it easier to use unless it was a semi rather than a revolver. 9.5 of 10.


This gun was made to be useful. There are not many parts which can fail (the trigger spring can be a little light), it was made for concealed carry, and the ammo is lightweight. This gun is made for use. I would note, however, that it has a small grip, which can be tricky with big hands like mine. Further (as noted above), the lack of safety makes it a danger in your bug out bag.

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At the range, it preforms well (4″ at 10 feet). This gun was made to be compact, not a sniper rifle. It has low kick and is easy to keep your line. This earns it a 6 for utility.


If you want to make your 32 special look cool, then your options are lasers and grips. That is it. Unless you count quick-loads, there is really nothing that makes this gun really stand out. This makes sense, however, because this gun was made to be concealed, not stand out. 3 of 10.

Cool Factor

These guns were legends of their time, and this needs to factor into their score. Other than that, they are nice little run-of-the-mill handguns you could use as an EDC with expensive ammo and short accurate range. This is not a gun you brag to your friends about, it is a workhorse that does its job quietly. 5 of 10.


With an overall score of 28 of 50, the 32 special comes right in on average for a firearm. Nothing to shout from the hills, nothing to spit at either. This is a good gun. With a cost between $75-$90 on the secondary market, this is a cheap gun to buy, but expensive to practice with as ammo runs up around $36 for 50 (before COVID).

For EDC, this is an old school gun but functional. If this is what you can afford, then there is no reason not to use it. The same for home defense, though I am leery to recommend a gun without a safety in a home around children: make sure you have a high-quality retention system. EDC and home defense are workable uses for this firearm.

For survival, this is not a bag gun; it needs to be on your belt. Even if you have a decent holder, likely it is an old school leather holster. If it comes out of the holster, it could go off in your bag, so I cannot recommend this as a BOB gun.

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Author Profile

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer
Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer
Dr. Christopher Smithmyer is a writer for NRN, the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management, and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.