Can You Shoot 30-30 In A 32 Special?

Many new shooters are tempted to mismatch their ammo and guns. However, that is not always the best idea. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should! In this post, we will explain if you can shoot a 30-30 in a 32 special rifle. The answer might surprise you!

Can You Shoot 30 30 Ammo In A 32 Special?

picture comparing the 32 special vs 30 30

Yes, you can shoot 30-30 ammo in a 32 Special rifle. However, we do not recommend trying this because it has the potential to impact your accuracy and damage your weapon. Other than in emergency situations, avoid mismatching ammo.

Some shooters think because the 32 Winchester special is closely related to the 30-30 ammo & they can use them interchangeably. This is NOT the case! Even though the ammo can be chambered and fired, it is not wise & can permanently damage your rifle.

Solution: Pick the correct ammunition for your weapon!

Summary Of The 32 Special

The 32 Winchester special ammo is a rimmed cartridge was originally inspired by the 30-30 cartridge (sometimes called the .30 Army). Winchester manufactured this round to meet a very specific customer demand. More specifically, there was for a larger caliber round & smokeless powder cartridge than the .30 Win, but not as powerful as the .30-30. We saw in our comparison of the 30-30 and 44-40 ammunition how strong this round can be!

  • Loaded with 30 grains of smokeless powder
  • Popular for its combination of portability and accuracy
  • Centerfire round that was first marketed in 1895

Pros & Cons

Now that you have a bit of background, you need to decide if this black powder round is right for you! Here are some of the major pros and cons of the 32 Winchester special. Just like we saw in our analysis of 270 vs 270 wsm, no 2 rounds are exactly the same.


  • Smokeless powder cartridge
  • Larger caliber than the .30 Winchester – Just like we saw in our comparison of 223 vs 3006, larger calibers normally have more stopping power!
  • Shoots flatter at ranges of more than 200 yards
  • Easier to be reloaded (This is not common today)


  • Hard to find – Just like the 35 Remington ammo shortage, the 32 special has become increasingly difficult to find.
  • Less powerful than the .30 Army

32 Winchester special for Deer Hunting

picture showing will a 30 30 kill a bear

Although the 32 Winchester special is far from new, it can still be used for deer hunting. I have family members that love old-school weapons & rounds and use the 32 Special to hunt whitetail deer! Remember, the rounds won’t travel like a 22LR, so you need to stick to short or medium-range hunting.

Will A 30-30 Kill A Bear?

Yes, you can! A 30-30 round is more than powerful enough to take down a bear. However, I would stick specifically to black bear. If you want to hunt larger and more dangerous bears (i.e. Grizzly) than you’ll want a more powerful round like the 300 Blackout or 6.5 Grandel to be safe!

32 Special vs 30-30 Ballistics

For those interested in a ballistic comparison of the 32 Special & 30-30, here are some of the main differences.

Muzzle Velocity

  • 32 Special: 2,280 – 2,400 (ft/s)
  • 30-30: 2,227 – (2,496 ft/s)

Muzzle Energy

  • 32 Special: Greater than 2,100 (ft-lbs)
  • 30-30: Greater than 2,046 (ft-lbs)

You can see that the 30-30 is the more powerful round. Now, it is not as strong as black tip ammunition, but it packs a punch. Also, it should be noted that the 32 Win shoots with a flatter trajectory than the 30-30 from more than 200 yards.

Frequently Asked Questions

What ammo does a 32 Special use?

The 32 Winchester special is essentially limited to a 170-grain bullet. This means a specific type of necked-up 30-30 Win ammo will work. For some background info, the muzzle velocity range is between 2,280-2,400 fps, and the muzzle energy range is between 1,900-2,100 foot-pounds.

How powerful is a 32 Special?

The 32 Winchester special is a powerful round that is best used for short to medium-range shooting. This Winchester model cartridge is very comparable to the 30-30 ammunition. However, plain base lead bullets like the 32 Winchester special can produce a higher muzzle velocity!

Is there a substitute for 30-30 ammo?

Yes, the 32 Winchester special is a substitute for 30-30 ammo. The rifle twist ratio is the largest difference between these similar rounds. The .30-30 has a ratio of rifle twist of 1:12 & the .32 Special has a 1:16 ratio of rifle twist. You can see the 32 Winchester special has a slower twist that can effectively reduce fouling retention.

What grain bullet is best for 30-30?

The best grain bullet for a 30-30 cartridge is between 150-170 grains.

Why is it so hard to find 30-30 ammo?

The 30-30 ammunition is difficult to find because it is in such high demand. Many hunters love to use these cast bullets for medium game hunting. This round was designed for smokeless powder and is great for small sporting rifles. This rounds popularity makes it difficult to find.

The Bottom Line

As a general rule of thumb, you should not mismatch ammunition! Shooting rounds with the wrong bullet diameter can work in emergency situations, but it can also damage your weapon permanently. I do not recommend shooting a 30-30 in a 32 Special. Just like I don’t recommend shooting a .303 British in your 30-06 rifle! Just because the ammo fits in the chamber does not mean it should be fired!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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