Text & photos by John Malloy
The Carpati .32, made in Romania, is a small, .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol patterned after the Walther PPK. It is imported by Century International Arms Inc. (1161 Holland Drive, Dept. GWK, Boca Raton, FL 33487; phone: 800-527-1252; fax: 561-998-1993; on-line: www.centuryarms.com).
In the early part of the last century, the .32 Automatic (.32 ACP) cartridge was perhaps the most popular centerfire cartridge chambered in autoloading pistols for personal protection. Then, as time went by with the .380 and other options available, it began to fall out of favor as a self-defense pistol.
However, just recently, in the last few years-perhaps because of the convenient size of many 32s, or perhaps because of more effective new loads for that cartridge-the .32 Auto has again become popular. Century began importing the Carpati a short time ago, in early 1999.
Because of its relatively low power level, bullet placement is important if a .32 is to be used as a personal-protection pistol. I soon learned that the little Romanian .32 will definitely place its bullets where they are aimed!
I began trying out the pistol at 10 yards, firing 5-shot groups from an informal bedroll rest. That short range would certainly be adequate, I reasoned, for evaluating a pistol designed for self-defense. Because of the short range, I did not even bother setting up a spotting scope.
I had several different brands of factory ammunition with me and selected one at random. The first hit right at point of aim, the bullet hole visible on the target even without a scope.
The second shot could not be accounted for. Had I missed the target completely? The third and fourth shots also could not be seen, but the first hole looked strange. Curious, I checked the target and was surprised to discover that the four shots had gone into one jagged hole, measuring 3/8s of an inch! This pistol was a shooter!
I hate to admit it, but in the excitement of the moment I resumed shooting, nervously threw the fifth shot out, and opened the five-shot group up to almost an inch.
However, small groups were to be the order of the day, and of the widely-spaced succeeding range sessions with this little pistol. The average of all five-shot groups fired during a year's time was between 1-1/8 and 1-1/4 inches.
This figure includes the largest group-2-1/4 inches-although I believe it was due to operator error. (The same ammunition had earlier put four shots into 5/8-inch before the fifth opened the group to over an inch.)
I was never able to actually put five shots into one hole, but did fire one group of 3/4-inch from a two-handed hold.
Pleased with the excellent accuracy at 10 yards, I decided to try the pistol at the traditional bullseye range of 25 yards. Firing one-handed at a timed-fire pace (5 rounds in 20 seconds), I fired 10-shot groups that ranged between 7-3/4 and 4-1/2 inches. The average 25-yard group was 6 inches.
Consider that the black aiming bull (9 and 10 rings) of the Timed & Rapid Fire target is 5-1/2 inches. Almost all shots hit the black and most groups scored better than 90 points out of the possible 100. This is exceptional accuracy for an 18-ounce pocket pistol with a 3-1/2-inch barrel.
The barrel is rifled with four grooves, right-hand twist. The lands are fairly broad, and are well suited for lead bullet loads as well as factory jacketed ammunition.
The .32 ACP
I fired a number of my lead bullet handloads in the Romanian pistol. I sometimes feel hesitant to even admit that I handload for the .32 ACP; it certainly is economical, but such interest in the little cartridge just doesn't seem manly, somehow.
However, it was reportedly one of John M. Browning's favorite calibers, so I feel in good company. Century's pistol liked my handloads just fine, turning in groups that were actually slightly smaller than the average of the factory loads.
There are two schools of thought on the use of the .32 ACP as a personal protection pistol. The first is that the .32, using a relatively small, light bullet, must penetrate deeply to be effective. A second, more recent, view is that the .32 should expand as much and as quickly as possible to be effective. Each view has its points.
Obviously, if the weather was very cold and an assailant was wearing heavy clothing, then penetration would be desired. In other circumstances, the shock effect of a rapidly-expanding bullet might be better. A variety of loads was used, including Winchester 60-grain Silvertips, which have shown an effectiveness far beyond anticipation based on size.
Handles It All
In addition, metal-jacketed 71-grain loads of CCI, Federal and Winchester brands were tried. And, of course, my lead-bullet handloads. Without any break-in period, every type of ammunition fed and functioned perfectly in Century's little .32. Whatever view of the .32 a person prefers-penetration or expansion-this pistol will handle the appropriate ammunition.
The pistol tested was an early one, marked M74, but apparently is mechanically identical with the ones sold currently under the Carpati name-although the newer pistols may be better finished. The mechanism is obviously patterned after the Walther PPK pistol, but sells for just a fraction of the cost of a Walther. It is not an exact copy of any Walther model. The Carpati has made some changes from the basic Walther design.
The pistol measures 4-1/4 inches high by 6-1/2 inches long. The action is straight blowback, and the barrel is fixed in the frame. The frame is of aluminum alloy. The trigger mechanism is conventional double-action (DA), that is, double-action for the first shot, single-action for succeeding shots.
The trigger pull is heavy and so-so in DA mode, but the single action pull is very good. The safety is a slide-mounted decocker, which blocks the firing pin and drops the hammer safely. The hammer mechanism is of the rebounding type.
Sights are small, but give an adequate square Partridge-type sight picture. The rear sight is drift-adjustable for windage. The top of the slide between the sights is slightly raised into a small rib and is serrated to cut down on reflections. The test pistol shot to approximate point of aim at both 10 and 25 yards, and no sight adjustment was necessary. Forward of the rear sight are two lightening cuts on the frame.
The magazine release is at the base of the magazine, thus it departs from the Walther PP/PPK style. I actually like this placement better than the Walther's, which is high on the frame forward of the grip and-to me, anyway-difficult to reach.
The Carpati magazine has long feed lips which make for reliable feeding. Loading the magazine requires a little bit more push to get the eight cartridges back in under the lips. The magazine fits flush at the bottom, and does not have the characteristic Walther finger-grip extension.
To me, the extension was not needed, the flush magazine still giving plenty of grip. The lack of the extension actually may make the little pistol a bit easier to fit into concealed carry options.
Still, the Carpati is close enough to the design of the Walther that it seems to fit just fine in holsters made for the PP/PPK pistols. I have two such holsters made for the Walthers, and the Romanian pistol felt right at home in both of them.
Like the Walther, the Carpati has an internal holdopen for the slide. When the last shot is fired, the slide locks back, the latch being tripped by a projection of the magazine follower. When a new loaded magazine is inserted in the grip, the slide can be pulled slightly rearward to disengage the slide lock.
Takedown is also like that of the Walther. With an empty gun, remove the magazine, pull the front of the trigger guard down, and let it rest against the frame. Then pull the slide all the way rearward, lift the rear off the frame, then ease it forward over the barrel and off the frame.
The grips are composition, flat and checkered except for a large thumbrest on the left. The thumbrest was added so that the pistol could meet the absurd ATF import requirements that award "points" for supposed target features such as thumbrests. However, the result is a handfilling grip that may be of some aid in one-handed shooting. The little pistol really doesn't need much help. The good trigger and excellent inherent accuracy make this little pistol shoot very well.
It also shoots very reliably. During several range sessions, using a number of different types of factory .32 ACP loads and some handloads, no malfunctions of any sort were experienced.
The .32 Automatic is a light-kicking, easy-to-control caliber that has appeal for many people. For some time, many shooters felt that the proper sequence was a jump from .22 Long Rifle to a .380 or a .38 Special. For some people, however, the intermediate step of a .32-caliber pistol makes sense.
If an affordable price is a factor-and if a very reliable, very accurate .32 is desired-then the Carpati pistol, imported by Century International, is worthy of consideration.
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