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March 27, 2013

Ruffin: The best double-action revolvers out there? Rugers

HUNTSVILLE — The first modern revolver I ever owned was a used stainless-steel .357-Magnum Ruger Security Six, which my ex-wife bought me from a Huntsville pawn shop.

I immediately fell in love with that thing. First of all, it fires the powerful .357 round, formidable enough in bullet velocity and weight to lay flat almost anything intending to do you harm or any kind of animal you plan to clean and assign to freezer or table. It also fires the .38 Special, itself a respectable round for self-defense but much cheaper for plinking.

To this day I love the feel of that pistol: hefty, clean lines, comfortable in the hand. When I got it home, though, I discovered what I believe to be Ruger’s most impressive contribution to the double-action revolver: a disassembly mechanism that all revolver manufacturers could learn from. (Do note that these pistols are classified as double-action, although they also function in single-action.)

If you’ve ever taken apart a Smith and Wesson or Colt (the two leaders in DA revolvers for years) for cleaning, you know what a pain in the aspidistra they can be. You have to take off a side-plate by removing two or three screws and then worry about pins and springs bouncing across the room or not getting them back into proper position. The absence of a side-plate on Ruger revolvers means that the frames are a lot stronger from the get-go.

With the Security Six (and subsequent DA models from Ruger), you simply remove the grips, fish out the mainspring assembly and hammer, press a little release button up inside the handle section of the frame, and the entire trigger group slides right out as a unit. It is easily flushed clean with Gun Scrubber or carburetor cleaner or brake cleaner or whatever and then lubricated and reinserted in the pistol. Everything is neatly locked into position, so no pins and springs go flying.

If you want to take the trigger group apart, have at it. You’ll have to keep your eye on a few little plungers and springs, but the process will become second nature after you disassemble it a couple of times. The cylinder likewise is easily removed for cleaning. I gotta tell you, if anybody can make a revolver easier to maintain, don’t hoard your cash waiting around for it to happen: t’ain’t likely.  

Like most Ruger firearms, the Security Six and its predecessors are built to last. Everything about them is engineered for strength and durability. You’ll hear people say, “They’re built like a tank,” or “Those things are as tough as an anvil,” and once you’ve fired and cleaned one a few times, you’ll understand why they have that reputation. Bad to the bone is what.

Whereas it is true that the Ruger DA revolvers are not as refined in appearance as Smiths and Colts, neither do they cost as much, and most authorities agree that they are considerably stronger, so much so that Ruger DAs are often used by ammunition manufacturers to test their high-pressure loads. Heavy trigger pull? You bet. Polish the critical components, and you’ve addressed that problem, if you regard it as one.

In 1972, in an effort to address the double-action revolver needs of the military, law-enforcement, and the civilian self-defense market, Ruger introduced the medium-frame Security Six and expanded their line of revolvers from the single-action pistols they had been known for, utilizing for the first time the transfer bar, a safety feature that prevented the pistol from firing when dropped on the hammer with a round in the chamber. From that point on the transfer bar became a standard feature in most revolvers manufactured in this country.

Until 1975, when they introduced the stainless-steel version, Ruger offered Security Sixes only with blued finishes. They were manufactured in 2 3/4-, 4-, and 6-inch barrel lengths and usually chambered in .357 Magnum or .38 Special, with some variation in grip design later on when they added the Speed-Six and Service-Six revolvers to the line.

The Security Six line enjoyed a long and illustrious tenure with Ruger, who ceased producing the pistols in 1988 after introducing the GP100 in 1985. The GP100 was an even beefier six-shot double-action revolver, designed to run through an unlimited number of the highest-power magnum loads without any weakening of components. Ruger changed the method of locking the crane, thereby strengthening the design, and reconfigured the frame to allow easier accommodation of different styles of grips.

Though still regarded as a medium-frame revolver, the GP100 is an astonishingly strong pistol capable of handling just about any kind of hot load an owner might fire in it. It is available in a number of barrel lengths and several major calibers, and it comes in blued or stainless versions.

In 1980 they introduced the Redhawk, a large-frame six-shot revolver that presumed to be an improvement on the Security Six. Available in both blued and stainless versions, the Redhawk came in .357, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and the .45 Long Colt and quickly became a favorite of handgun hunters. It is a massive pistol, weighing in at around four pounds, with barrel lengths from 4.2 inches up to 7.5.

In 1989, in order to accommodate even more potent calibers, like the .454 Casull and .480 Ruger, the company added the Super Redhawk to their line. Though fundamentally the same internally as the GP100 and Redhawk, the SR has a more robust fame and an integrated scope base, and it comes with barrels typically up to 9.5 inches. The shortest barrel length available is the 2.5-inch on the Alaskan. The Super Redhawk is arguably the strongest double-action revolver currently in production. (Yep, I know about the S&W .500. I stick to my gun.)

In 1989 Ruger introduced a stainless small-frame double-action revolver, the SP101, which sports most of the features of the GP100 and comes in an even greater number of calibers, including the fine little .22 kit gun. Designed more for concealment purposes, the SP101 revolvers have a five-round cylinder in all but the .22, which holds eight rounds.

That’s all I’ve got room for here. Tell you what, though: If you are in the market for a double-action revolver, and you want to be sure that you are getting the most gun for your money, go on out to Able Ammo — no, I’m not on the payroll, but I am helping support it — and see what ol’ Colby and the gang can find for you in the way of double-action Rugers. They’ll beat any prices you’re likely to find anyplace else, and they are friendly, knowledgeable folks to boot. And they’ve got ranges ...

Paul Ruffin is Texas State University System Regents’ Professor and Distinguished Professor of English at SHSU.


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