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Ruger Security-Six .357 Magnum Revolver
By David Tong
Sturm, Ruger & Co. has always been a bit of a dichotomy of a gun company. They use the most modern of manufacturing methods, that of precision investment casting, much as would a jeweler or dental lab, to provide a near-final-sized raw part which thus requires a minimum of machining to become a completed arm. While doing so however, they have embraced neo-classic aesthetics in their arms; examples include the their Blackhawk single-action revolvers, the M77 bolt action and No. 1 fallling block sporting rifles and the Gold Label side-by-side shotguns.
In the early 1970s, when the double-action revolver was still the preference of most US law enforcement agencies, Ruger did not have a weapon to compete for this market, nor for civilian home protection users. They rectified this in 1972 with the introduction of the Security Six and Speed Six revolvers, building both of regular blued, carbon steel as well as their proprietary Terhune stainless steel. Security Sixes were generally .357s and had adjustable rear sights, while Speed Sixes were fixed sight guns that were made primarily in .357, but also in .38 S&W Special and 9mm Luger.
Both were so-called “medium-frame” revolvers, in much the same vein as a Smith & Wesson K-frame, or the Colt D-frame, exemplified by the Diamondback. However, the Ruger engineers took a good look at the competition’s designs and followed another path to ensure the new gun’s durability.
First, the engineers bulked up key frame dimensions, including the height of the frame, the thickness of the top strap and barrel shank support and the cylinder diameter. They also offset the locking bolt notches on the cylinder to provide added strength to that most-thin area of each chamber.
They comprehensively looked at the sometimes fragile and hand fitted lockwork of these designs, and in usual Ruger fashion, over-engineered all the working parts. If one were to do a comparison detail strip of a Smith, Colt and the Ruger, one would see that pieces such as the cylinder locking bolt, the hand, the size of the double and single-action sears on the hammer, one would see that the Ruger pieces are quite a bit larger.
In addition, the Ruger folks incorporated a transfer bar firing system. While both S&W and Colt used rebounding hammers to provide a drop safety scheme and S&W had added the sliding hammer block in 1943 to WWII production “Victory Models” and subsequently carried this change into civilian production post-war, Ruger felt that the use of a rising "transfer bar" of steel interposed between the flat-faced hammer and the frame-mounted firing pin was even safer. Only when the trigger was fully-depressed in a firing stroke would the transfer bar rise and allow hammer to strike it and “transfer” that impact to the rear of the firing pin, discharging the chambered round.
Ruger arms are also made of very good, fully heat treated steels. This means long component life. The frame itself dispensed with the usual side-plate design and the piece is easily “field-stripped” for detail cleaning of the lockwork.
The downside to this shooter is that the double-action stroke is problematic. Colt’s hand fitting and S&W’s selective-assembly methods meant that revolvers were fitted to the dimensional accuracy of the trigger and hammer pin locations on the frame. While this added to the cost of production, it means that the finished arm generally needs no trigger action job to make the stroke smooth from front to back.
The Ruger has notable glitches in its DA pull. While I admire the way their engineers over-built the revolver’s internals, and knowing that they were attempting to bulldoze their way into the marketplace via cost competitiveness by eliminating hand work, in my opinion the Security Six is a “single-action revolver capable of double-action firing.” Generally, the single-action pull is nothing to write home about either, usually at least four pounds with some creep, compared to the 2-3 pound triggers standard on period Colts or Smiths.
However, most shooters were willing to accept this for the strength and price paid. At its introduction, the Colt Trooper was sold for $161, while the Smith M19 went for $143 and the Ruger retailed for $121.
Thirty years on and a good used Security Six can be had in the lower $300 price range. I’ve fitted mine with the “Reduced” weight spring package from Wolff Springs, yet the DA pull must still be at least 14 pounds, with the aforementioned glitches. A prior owner had taken the factory walnut “target” stocks and cut finger-grooves into their front and reduced their overall girth, making them suitable for smaller hands, but very slippery with the not-inconsiderable recoil of a full-house .357 round. I will probably have to fit other stocks affording me a more secure grip, as it squirms beyond my ability to hold it consistently.
Ruger chambers are usually a bit oversized, easing extraction when dirty, if compromising case life somewhat. They are also usually razor-edged at the rear of the cylinder, requiring a light chamfer to ease the use of speedloaders.
However, and this is the real reason why these guns are a solid buy, they will simply out last any other DA revolver over thousands of Magnum rounds. (With the exception, of course, of Ruger’s follow-on piece, the GP-100.) If one bought a Security Six, one could expect a lifetime of full use and still be able to hand it to one’s children with nary a problem. I once knew of an indoor range that had one as a rental gun and it digested, by their estimate, some 1,400,000 rounds with no parts breakages and minimal maintenance. That is the essence of a good deal!
NOTE: This review is mirrored on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2008 by David Tong and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.