Almost as soon as Federal introduced its .327 Fed. Mag. cartridge, attention quickly turned to Smith & Wesson to see how the world's pre-eminent manufacturer of revolvers would respond. The Massachusetts-based maker's first offering in the new cartridge is the Model 632 based on its time-proven J-frame. It is especially noteworthy as Smith & Wesson didn't play it safe by initially introducing a basic gun; instead, it opted to launch a distinctive and elegant gun that may serve as the flagship of its subsequent .327 Fed. Mag. lineup.
The significance of the .327 Fed. Mag. is, of course, that by lengthening the .32 H&R Mag. case by 0.125 inch and thickening the case walls, Federal was able to create a cartridge of considerable muzzle energy, yet still narrow enough for six rounds to fit in a small revolver's cylinder. While that is an increase of only one round, it can also be seen as a 20-percent improvement. In any event, it is something wheelgunners have coveted for a long time.
A departure from typical J-frame revolvers, the Model 632's rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation.
Aside from the chambering, what makes this J-frame different? First, it has a 3-inch barrel that includes an expansion chamber and port to reduce perceived recoil and muzzle rise. The pinned-ramp front sight is necessarily set back from the muzzle. This configuration, called Carry Comp in Smith & Wesson parlance, has often been seen on Performance Center revolvers. Additionally, the barrel has a full underlug that tapers near the muzzle.
The profile is highly distinctive, appearing functional but also graceful. The barrel's length prevents the gun from having the stubby look of a true snub-nose. Further, it permits inclusion of a full-length ejector rod to completely clear spent cases.
Also departing from most small concealment guns, the rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation—not unheard of on Smith & Wesson J-frames, but rare nonetheless. The hammer is small, narrow and deeply knurled, and the trigger is broad and smooth.
It is a rather strange amalgam of features—the heavy barrel and adjustable sights of a target pistol, the porting of a hunting gun and the smooth trigger and snag-resistant hammer of a combat revolver. Yet it all works well together, both aesthetically and mechanically.
The full-size grip is actually a one-piece synthetic unit held by a single hex-head screw on the right side. It has finger grooves, a gentle palm swell and small oval-shaped texturing on the sides.
There is no such thing as a gun with universal fit, but the Model 632 comes as close as any small gun I've handled. Even those with very large hands won't have a sense of overwhelming the gun. Those with small- to medium-size hands will find it ideal. The Model 632 has an appealing matte-black finish, but it is actually built of stainless steel.
In addition to offering a highly concealable pistol with mild recoil, the .327 Fed. Mag. chambering boosts the J-frame's capacity to six rounds.
Overall dimensions dictate this is a holster gun, not a pocket pistol. It carried well in a Kramer Gunleather Horsehide Belt Scabbard. Strapping it on, one is tempted to compare the Model 632 to other J-frames, but that is a mistake. It is more appropriate to compare it to a medium-bore K-frame. The Model 632 compares favorably, having the same firepower and significant muzzle energy while being smaller, lighter and faster handling. It also compares favorably to many subcompact 9 mm semi-automatics. It's neither as small nor as light, but it provides six shots of 9 mm +P-class power, has a full-size grip, better balance and the option of single-action operation.
At the range, the Model 632 performed satisfactorily. Neither the adjustable rear sight nor the exposed (though diminutive) hammer created any problems drawing from concealment.
At the heart of the Model 632's versatility is its ability to chamber .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Mag. and .327 Fed. Mag. ammunition.
Though the Model 632's double-action trigger pull measured abot 9 pounds the pull was smooth, precise and exhibited little take-up. The excellent single-action pull felt lighter than the measured 2 pounds, 10 ounces.
Accuracy was typical for a small revolver, yet easier to achieve due to the adjustable sights and longer sight radius. Recoil was stout from full-power loads, but relatively mild from Federal's low-recoil Hydra-Shok. The tested Model 632 was something of a spitter. Upon firing, particles would lightly sting the cheek, regardless of the ammunition used.
Categorizing the Model 632 is difficult. It might best be described as a belt gun for shooters with small to medium hands who prefer a wheelgun. It would also make an excellent trainer, one that fits a broad range of shooters and can initially be loaded with a wide variety of cartridges including .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Mag. and .327 Fed. Mag. And that ammunition versatility, coupled with the gun's features, make it a good all-around gun that can take small game, plink, be carried concealed and even serve as a house gun that can be handled by both men and women.
* After publication, the author discovered that his trigger pull gauge was calibrated incorrectly. The double-action trigger pull was about 9 pounds and the single-action pull was closer to 2.625 pounds.