S&W 432 Ultimate Carry: A Range Review

— James MaybrickCADRE Dispatch

Although it has largely been replaced in a duty capacity — and autoloading pistols have since become a default for the concealed carrier — the revolver platform may never be stronger.

There are more revolver makers now than there have ever been and there is plenty of variety that simply did not exist in their heyday. But greater availability is sometimes undercut by a lack of originality.

Snub-nosed revolvers, like the Smith & Wesson J-frame, are the most popular but there have been very few changes to the design over the decades. That is a testament to how rugged the design is, but there have always been aspects that left us wanting more.

Although the weight of the snubbie has been reduced through the additions of polymer, scandium, and aluminum frames, most revolvers of this type are hard-kicking five-shot .38 Special models with low profile sights that are hard to see and a trigger pull that some users can’t pull. This is juxtaposed with the idea that the snubbie, because of its lack of safeties and switches, is an ideal defensive tool for the new gun owner.

In 2024, leading revolver manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, in cooperation with Lipsey’s, launched the Ultimate Carry series. These revolvers were intended to solve the gravest criticisms of the snubbie while retaining all the benefits.

s&w ultimate carry
The 432 UC is one of four new revolvers from Smith & Wesson in 2024.

The Ultimate Carry series includes upgraded versions of the popular Model 442 and 642 .38 Special revolvers as well as a reintroduction of the discontinued 432 and 632 in the .32 H&R Magnum.

I carry a stock Model 442 and enjoy shooting it, but typical for snub-nosed .38s, it is not the easiest gun to shoot well from the start. I have always been a fan of older, milder-shooting .32 caliber revolvers, so I jumped at the chance to run some rounds through the new 432 UC in .32 Magnum.

While it might not be the gun for everyone, 300 rounds downrange with the 432 (or the 632) prove that this is the snubbie you should own.

S&W 432 UC Features

The Ultimate Carry line has a few features that take direct aim at the weaknesses of the platform. The most noticeable departure is the inclusion of high-profile and removable sights.

The rear sight is a dovetailed U-notch. The front sight is a brilliant XS tritium front sight post that is pinned in place. This allows you to change the sight setup to your personal preferences instead of having to make do with the milled and fixed sights on most guns of this type. This setup is not only changeable but easy to pick up quickly and in lower light conditions.

Smith & Wesson 432 Ultimate Carry snub nose revolver sights
The sights are the standout feature, but not the only feature.

Smith & Wesson also included an action job on the trigger, hammer, and internal parts and used tough and lubricity-friendly titanium pins in the construction. All of this reduces the trigger pull weight to a smooth, predictable, yet safe, eight pounds.

The Ultimate Carry revolvers are available as a five-shot .38 Special, as usual. But the inclusion of the .32 Magnum in a six-shot package is another benefit. You get six rounds in the same package as the usual five-shooter and the versatility and controllability of a .32 caliber cartridge.

The UC also comes with a beveled cylinder for easy holstering and wears a pair of VZ G10 grips that allow for a high grip for the best possible recoil control.

s&w 432 uc right side
The G10 grips are hand-filling yet don’t spoil your reloads by catching on speedloaders.

The Model 432 UC wears black cherry grips and has a black anodized aluminum frame. Like some other newer revolvers in Smith & Wesson’s lineup, it has a fully-shrouded ejector rod and a sleeved 1 7/8 inch barrel. It also comes from the factory without any sort of keylocks or manual safeties.

The 432, like the others in the UC line, are double-action-only revolvers that have a concealed hammer for a snag-free draw and can only be fired by pressing the trigger.

Quick Specs

  • Model: 432 Ultimate Carry
  • Caliber: .32 H&R Magnum
  • Capacity: 6 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 1 7/8 inches
  • Overall Length: 6 1/2 inches
  • Height: 4 1/2 inches
  • Width: 1 1/4 inch cylinder width
  • Weight: 18.2 oz. loaded

On the Firing Line with the 432 Ultimate Carry

Until recently, Smith & Wesson had a long and continuous line of .32 caliber revolvers. Their first modern revolver debuted in 1896 alongside the then-new .32 S&W Long.

I have long been a fan of the long-discontinued I-frames in that cartridge. My range work with the 432 was a mix of reacquaintance and learning something new with the upgrades of the UC and the more powerful .32 H&R Magnum cartridge.

Smith & Wesson 432 Ultimate Carry revolver, loaded cylinder
The 432 UC has a six-shot capacity. The 442 and 642 .38 Special models hold five rounds.

Although .32 caliber ammunition tends to be more expensive, revolvers chambered in it can chamber a wide variety of cartridges.

The .32 H&R Magnum is, itself, a higher-pressure version of the .32 S&W Long with a longer case. The same rule applies to the elderly .32 S&W round as it can be chambered and fired in .32 Long revolvers. With the 432 UC, you can chamber all three rounds.

The only .32 that is commonly available that you can’t use is the newer .327 Federal Magnum cartridge. I initially questioned why the 432 was not offered in this round, but aside from a bit of extra versatility, I came to understand that powerful of a round might turn off a new shooter when popped out of a 16-ounce revolver. The .327 also generates much higher pressures that would require a more expensive scandium or heavier steel frame to manage.

I arrived on the range with 300 rounds of .32 H&R Magnum, .32 S&W Long, and a few rounds of .32 ACP. Instead of putting it on paper at first, I set up a steel torso and eight-inch plates at a distance of 10 yards and proceeded to ring them with the 432 stoked with .32 Magnum ammo. There was a slight amount of blast I could feel on my face, but the 432 hardly moved in my hand. Each round went where the sights were pointed.

I dumped the empty cases with a brisk thumbing of the ejector rod and loaded up some .32 S&W Long 100-grain wadcutters. These lead rounds were smoky and had the recoil of a .22 rimfire but it moved the plates decisively.

I went between my different ammunitions and backed up continuously, stretching the distance out to 25 yards. At that distance, the front sight started to loom large on my plates but I had no problem indexing and squeezing off six for six in semi-rapid succession.

Ordinarily, the need to control recoil, find my sights, and remember my trigger control would slow me down with my 442 in .38 Special. While the trigger pull could probably be reduced further with different springs, it is light enough and smooth with no stacking. It represents a typical J-frame with hundreds of rounds of break-in. But the biggest help is that I didn’t have to fight the gun for follow-up shots.


But by the time I got to my next range trip, I began to wonder if the 432 was too comfortable. I began to wonder just how effective the little .32 was. I fired five-shot strings over my chronograph using the same ammunition I used throughout my testing.

BrandMuzzle Velocity (five-shot average)
S&B .32 S&W Long 100 gr. WC646
Hornady Critical Defense .32 Mag. 80 gr. FTX902
Federal .32 Mag. 85 gr. JHP936
Black Hills .32 Mag. 90 grain. FP722

I did not expect stellar ballistics with a short-barreled revolver but I was pleasantly surprised. The .32 S&W Long wadcutter feels about as powerful as the chronograph told me.

The Black Hills 90-grain lead round is downloaded for use by cowboy action shooters, so it is the most sedate .32 Magnum to be had. But the Hornady and Federal defensive hollow-point ammunition exceeded what I would get from .38 Special loads out of a similar handgun.

When the math was crunched, the .32 Magnum yields energy on par with standard pressure .38 Special and superior to .380 ACP. However, these .32s use heavy-for-caliber bullets compared to something like a .32 ACP in a pistol cartridge.

To see how deep those bullets would go, I did a quick test using a 16-inch block of Clear Ballistics 10% gelatin and four layers of denim. At a distance of 10 feet, both the S&B .32 Long and Hornady Critical Defense .32 Magnum ammunition I shot penetrated clear through the cloth and gel and kept going, leaving puckered wounds behind that indicated tumbling.

Accuracy and Reliability

After the novelty started to wear, I put the 432 UC on paper. This is normally where I prefer the small, fixed sights on snubbie revolvers. Small sights mean my targets are not covered up. The combat sights on the UC are certainly not for target work but it was not hard to hit where I was aiming. The Black Hills 90 grain load yielded me 3.5-inch groups at 10 yards, but the other loads were not far behind.

Smith & Wesson 432 Ultimate Carry with target shoting shot group
Six rounds of .32 Wadcutters posted offhand at ten yards.

I did test some PMC Bronze 60 grain .32 ACP ammunition in the revolver as well. .32 ACP is a semi-rimmed semi-auto cartridge and is not meant for a modern revolver. The .32 ACP uses a .311-inch bullet, instead of the .32 Mag’s .314-inch projectile. These rounds fed and ejected from the 432 UC, but accuracy was poor and velocity abysmal. It is also potentially unsafe. In other revolvers, I have seen the skinnier .32 ACP cases fail.

When all was said and done, I had a pile of brass big enough to justify getting back into reloading .32 ammo and I can report that the 432 UC performed well on the firing line without any dud rounds or mechanical problems.

s&w 432 ultimate carry disassembly
The Ultimate carry package includes an action job. The hammer and rebound springs are not Stock.

Aftermarket Support

Despite its caliber, the 432 Ultimate Carry enjoys an immense amount of aftermarket support consummate with a design that has been around for over seventy years. It takes any number of round-butt J-frame grips if the G10 grips do not suit your fancy. It shares the same internal parts and springs as any other recent production J-frame.

The XS sights are customizable but their high profile might make them a challenge to seat in current production J-frame Kydex holsters set up for revolvers with fixed sights. The venerable Safariland leather Model 25 pocket and Model 27 IWB, as well as the Bianchi Lajatico OWB holsters are supple enough to fit the Ultimate Carry revolvers securely.

Final Thoughts

The Ultimate Carry series brings the snubbie revolver to its most shootable. Whether you like the shootability of the .32, as I do, or you prefer to stick to the logistics of .38, the Ultimate Carry is a true product-improved J-frame.

While the short barrel and light aluminum frame make the platform easy to carry but challenging to shoot compared to larger guns, the UC balances this with a pair of grips that are comfortable and allow for a high purchase, a pair of excellent sights, and a trigger that is not onerous to pull.

A snub-nosed revolver is not the best answer for all situations, but if the platform is appealing, the Ultimate Carry series, and the .32 H&R version in particular, might be worth a hard look.

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