.327 Federal Magnum A Viable Self Defense Caliber?

Ever since Ruger and Federal introduced the .327 Federal Magnum in November of 2007, I have been intrigued by the potential of this caliber.  Granted, any new firearm caliber has a serious uphill battle to be accepted by the general shooting public.  But, the .32 has been around and used for self-defense since the 1800s.  Let’s be honest…the .32 has never been known as a “man-stopper,” but is has had a small portion of the firearms market. Could the .327 Federal Magnum make the .32 a serious self-defense caliber?

After Ruger’s introduction of the SP101 chambered for the new cartridge, Charter Arms released the Patriot series of revolvers chambered for the .327 Federal Magnum. In the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of American Handgunner, John Taffin tested the Patriot and gave his opinions on the gun and caliber.  Out of the 2.2″ barrel on the Patriot, the 115 grain Speer Gold Dot was smoking along at about 1230 fps for more than 385 foot-pounds of energy.  The milder-recoiling 85 grain Federal JHP was in the 1220s with more than 280 ft-lbs of energy.

Those are respectable numbers for a self-defense firearm, especially when you consider they are coming out of a 2.2″ barrel.  In a short carbine, I imagine the .327 could be a fantastic small game gun.

To my knowledge, no one has been forced to use a .327 Federal Magnum in a self-defense shooting.  Without a stack of positive results from “the street,” I’m hesitant to recommend this caliber.  However, if you prefer a .32 caliber firearm, the .327 is a vast improvement over the .32 H&R Magnum and its predecessors.  With speeds in the 1200’s, the bullet will expand after striking, unlike the bullets out of the weaker .32’s.

Update – Speer added another Gold Dot load for this cartridge. The new load uses a 100-grain bullet that is rated at a blistering 1,500 fps. This is exceptionally fast. I would imagine that this load in a lever-action rifle would be incredible. It should be more than adequate to provide for home defense and could even be a decent combination for taking small to medium size game.

Another Update – Ruger no longer makes the SP101 with a 3″ barrel for this cartridge. They do make the gun with a 4.2″ barrel for it now. While you get the benefit of additional velocity, I wonder how much harder it is to conceal the gun. In an IWB, it should not be a problem. However, in an outside the waistband rig, the extra barrel length may be visible from under a short jacket.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

14 replies on “.327 Federal Magnum A Viable Self Defense Caliber?”

If you buy a .327 Federal Magnum revolver, the good news is that you can shoot all the smaller and lower powered .32 caliber rounds with it. This prevents you from having to soak your hand after a day of shooting and gives you cheaper options of ammo for target practice. The round has little recoil, but is more powerful than the .38 and has more velocity than the .357.

I think this round is the future!

I shot this round from the Ruger SP 101. I does have more recoil then the normal .32 but seems to be a very accurate round. I intend to buy this gun and ammo for the wife for home defense.

I put a deposit on the SS Ruger SP-101 .327 Mag. with a 4″ barrel more than a year ago but didn’t finalize the purchase because my (forsighted) research revealed that the ammunition for this good looking, nicely balanced, well designed, beefy but comfortable small revolver was as scarce as hen’s teeth. I couldn’t find ammo ‘in stock’ anywhere in the U.S. per the internet. Gun shops had the S&W, Charter Arms and Ruger in .327 cal. in stock to sell, but folks were buying them and then trading them in, UNFIRED, as used merchandise toward the purchase of something else because of the ammo scarcity. I finally found ammo and grabbed 10 boxes… then paid for and took the gun home and I’m 110% glad that I did.

I didn’t expect the absolutely ear busting report that the Federal AE327, 100 gr. metal jacketed soft point provided… a BOOM that makes my 9mm sound like a toy cap gun. Even more surprising was the genuinely MILD recoil that keeps the muzzle pointing down range on target rather than up toward the clouds. Not having adjusted the dealer installed Crimson Trace in-grip laser sight, I was able to shoot a very nice 2″ group with the first six rounds, a couple inches right of dead center bulls eye. Would have been dead-on like the Crimson-Trace literature said it should be, if the wife hadn’t decided to play with the adjustment screw on the laser sight as soon as the box was opened.

Federal and Ruger say that ammo “is” being produced and “should be readily available” but I find those words to be ‘corporate speak’ as opposed to truth. I was told that the .327 ammo was produced at the end-of/first of the calendar year and that particular timing proved correct when my prepaid order arrived through a gunstore by Fed-Ex.

I bought this gun for my wife, but I am so impressed with it, that I am seriously considering selling or trading my S&W 9mm and purchasing the longer barrel version of the Ruger in .327 Mag. The only drawback would be the difference between the higher priced .327 ammo and the moderately priced 9mm rounds.

I forsee this round becoming extremely popular due to it’s small size and easy concealability, it’s power (higher muzzle vel. than .357 Mag.)and it’s gentle recoil… something that the ladies and smaller men will certainly appreciate. Presumably, ammo will be more plentiful as the caliber gains acceptance. On the other hand, availability of ammo now, is probably the only way the gun will sell and become more popular. Market share and consumer demand drive availability.

All I can say is that I am very impressed and can find no negatives re: the
RUGER SP-101, .327 cal. 6 shot revolver.

Hi Neil,

Thank you very much for your hands-on report with the .327 and the SP101. You are right regarding the relative scarcity of the ammo.

Thanks again for taking the time to post your experiences!


I own an SP-101. It’s beefy and I for one am glad for that. I qualified with it at my CCW class. It out shot most of the semi auto guns everybody bought. This gun cracks them out there! Any question about using this for self defense went right out the window. This is a powerful combo. I ordered 250 rounds online without any problems. I’d feel darn sorry for anyone hit with this round.

10-10-11 –I recently purchased a S/W mode/632 3 inch 327 mag. At this time ammo is easy to obtain. I use Federal Premium low recoil personal defense. they kick about like a standard 38 sp, but have the engery of a standard 357 mag. The full house load that American Eagle puts out 85 grain at 1500 fps advertized really rocks ! that load kicks like a 357 in a full sized pistol. All this coming out of a small frame pistol thats easy to carry . At 50 feet I have no trouble keeping all rounds in a 4 inch group ,Im sure the gun is more accurate than I am . A friend of mine who is a retired State police officer tells me that he has heard a lot of good things about this round. The gun will also fire the 32 H&R mag and the 32 S&W long. I doubt the 327 will ever replace the 357 ,but for people who a 357 is too hard to handle the 327 may prove to be the answer.

Thanks for the feedback Daniel. I’ve been looking at getting the Centennial .327 Magnum (looks like the 640) for a back up/pocket pistol. Six rounds vs. the five I have now in my .38. Tempting…


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