32 Gauge Shells

32 Gauge Shotgun Ammo: In Depth

The 32 gauge shotgun shell is a lesser-known but intriguing option in the world of shotgunning. Known for its light recoil and precision, the 32 gauge is often overshadowed by more popular gauges like the 12, 20, and 28 gauges. However, it offers unique advantages for specific applications, particularly in small game hunting and target shooting. This article explores the history, performance, applications, available firearms, ammunition options, and comparisons of the 32 gauge shotgun shell to provide a comprehensive understanding of its role and potential benefits.

History and Development

The 32 gauge shotgun shell has its origins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was initially developed in Europe and gained a modest following among hunters and shooters who appreciated its light recoil and sufficient power for small game hunting. While the 32 gauge never achieved the widespread popularity of other gauges, it maintained a niche presence, particularly among European hunters and sport shooters.

The advent of more powerful and versatile gauges led to a decline in the use of the 32 gauge. However, it has experienced a resurgence in recent years as enthusiasts and collectors rediscover its unique characteristics and historical appeal. Modern manufacturing techniques have also improved the performance and reliability of 32 gauge ammunition, making it a viable choice for specific applications.


The 32 gauge shotgun shell offers a balanced performance profile, characterized by light recoil and adequate power for small game and target shooting. Key characteristics include:

  • Velocity: The muzzle velocity typically ranges from 1,200 to 1,300 feet per second (fps), depending on the specific load and shot size.
  • Payload: The 32 gauge can handle shot loads ranging from 1/2 ounce to 3/4 ounce, providing a light but effective spread for small game and target shooting.
  • Recoil: The 32 gauge generates very light recoil, making it comfortable to shoot, especially for younger or smaller-framed shooters.
  • Effective Range: Effective out to 30-40 yards for hunting applications, with consistent patterns and sufficient energy for small game.


The 32 gauge shotgun shell excels in several applications, including:

  • Small Game Hunting: Ideal for hunting small game such as rabbits, squirrels, and upland birds, where its light recoil and sufficient power are advantageous.
  • Target Shooting: Suitable for skeet, trap, and sporting clays, providing a pleasant shooting experience with minimal recoil.
  • Youth and Beginners: The light recoil and manageable size make the 32 gauge an excellent choice for younger shooters or those new to shotgunning.
  • Collector's Choice: Enthusiasts and collectors appreciate the historical significance and unique characteristics of the 32 gauge.

Available Firearms

Several manufacturers produce firearms chambered in 32 gauge, catering to niche preferences and needs:

  • Beretta 486 Parallelo: A high-quality side-by-side shotgun known for its craftsmanship and performance, available in 32 gauge configurations.
  • Franchi Veloce: An over/under shotgun offering a balance of performance and aesthetics, popular among upland bird hunters.
  • Fausti Class RDX: A finely crafted over/under shotgun that combines elegance with reliable performance, ideal for collectors and enthusiasts.
  • CZ Sharp-Tail: A modern side-by-side shotgun that offers excellent value and performance in the 32 gauge category.

Available Ammunition

A variety of 32 gauge ammunition is available, catering to different applications and preferences:

  • Lead Shot: Traditional lead shot is effective for small game hunting and offers various shot sizes from #6 to #9, suitable for different game birds and small game.
  • Steel Shot: An environmentally friendly alternative, steel shot is available for regions where lead shot is restricted, providing good performance for hunting.
  • Bismuth and Tungsten: Non-toxic alternatives to lead and steel, offering higher density and improved ballistic performance for specialized hunting needs.

Popular brands like Fiocchi, RIO, and Nobel Sport produce a range of 32 gauge ammunition, ensuring availability for various needs and preferences.


Comparing the 32 gauge with other shotgun gauges highlights its unique attributes:

  • 12 Gauge: The 12 gauge offers greater power and versatility but generates significantly more recoil, making the 32 gauge a better choice for small game and recoil-sensitive shooters.
  • 20 Gauge: The 20 gauge provides a good balance of power and recoil, but the 32 gauge offers even lighter recoil, making it ideal for youth and beginners.
  • 28 Gauge: The 28 gauge is similar in recoil and application, but the 32 gauge provides a unique option with a slightly lighter recoil and different historical appeal.

32 Gauge Shotgun Shells FAQ:

The effective range varies by load and target but generally extends to 30-40 yards for most hunting applications.

Yes, its very light recoil and manageable size make it an excellent choice for beginners and younger shooters.

The 32 gauge generates very light recoil, making it comfortable to shoot, especially for those sensitive to recoil.

While it can be used, the 32 gauge is less ideal for waterfowl hunting compared to more powerful gauges like the 12 or 20 gauge. Non-toxic shot such as steel or bismuth should be used where required by law.

While not as common as other gauges, 32 gauge shotguns and ammunition are available from various manufacturers and retailers, particularly those catering to enthusiasts and collectors.