Back at the beginning of June, I attended the Non-Permissive Environment/Counter Robbery class put on by Darryl Bolke of Hardwired Tactical, Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives, and Chuck Haggard of Agile/Training & Consulting.
Given the nature of the class, I brought all my smallest guns to flush out any potential problems that could manifest.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the 22 LR that gave me any issues, but my 32 ACP KelTec P32.
Now I’m sure nobody’s surprised that it was the KelTec that gave me issues, but you may be interested to know that it wasn’t a mechanical failure of the pistol, but an ammo-related malfunction: Rim lock.
For those unfamiliar, 32 ACP is a semi-rimmed cartridge (something uncommon in semi-auto pistols, for reasons that will soon become apparent), meaning that the lip of the extractor groove is slightly wider than the case diameter itself.
This matters because in a magazine-fed firearm that partial rim can create a shelf that’ll cause the top round in the magazine to hang up and not feed properly (rim lock).
When rim lock occurs, it’s not something that can be fixed with your typical immediate action (tap-rack-reassess). You either have to get the top round in the magazine clear, or you would have to replace it entirely with a fresh one. Given the nature of most civilian defensive encounters, neither of these are realistic propositions in the moment.
The better option would be to mitigate the risk altogether and stack the deck so that rim lock is less of a concern. How do you do that?
Chuck Haggard informed me that, as it turns out, not all 32 ACP casings are the same! Most Amerian-made 32 has a very angular profile at the rim, which creates a more pronounced shelf that’s more conducive to rim lock. European ammo (Chuck specifically called out the Fiocchi 74 grain full metal jacket) has a more beveled rim. This is preferable because that bevel creates a ramp that the top cartridge can skip over if it ends up behind the round beneath it. (Les Kismartoni is also fond of the Sellier & Belloit FMJ for the same reason)
Now some folks would say that the easiest fix for this would be to simply carry a .380 instead, but I will say that the 32 is far more shootable in these small pocket guns than .380.
Gear selection will always be a compromise. This isn’t intended to convince you to start carrying a .32 if you aren’t already, but if it’s part of your loadout, or if you’re considering one, this is information you should have before betting your life on one.