The lost Indian .380 Ruger Wheelguns

  1. Shooter
    Between 1973 and 1988, Ruger's best-selling double action revolver series was built around the Speed Six and Security Six model wheel guns. The company made these for military, police, and security forces around the world as well as for private sales for home defense and sporting purposes.

    (The Ruger Six series was THE company's DA wheelgun for two decades. Photo credit: Ruger Club)

    Well old Bill Ruger was well known to make special runs of guns for customers who would buy 500 or more of a particular semi-custom model. This led to a 2.75-inch barrel Speed Six made for the US Postal Inspectors and a run of stainless .38SPL Security Six's for the California Highway Patrol.

    And one of the most interesting and seldom seen of these special runs was one for India.

    The problem

    With a population of more than 1.2-billion, the Republic of India has a population more than four times larger than that of the U.S. As in every country in the world, India also has a crime problem. To help combat this scourge, the Indian Police Service as well as the state police agencies in the country are armed with less lethal weapons (batons, chemical sprays, etc.), rifles (locally made versions of the British Enfield in .303 and .308 as well as a locally-made version of the FN FAL battle rifle) and pistols.

    (Police in India are usually unarmed, and when they do mix it up, its often with surplus WWII-era Enfield rifles such as seen above. However, they also use a wide array of revolvers including Webleys, IOFs, Enfields, FIEs, and Rugers, all in .38S&W caliber. Photo credit Reuters)

    Now these pistols in the 1980s were largely former Commonwealth-made Enfield and Webley break-top revolvers as well as clones made in the country by the Indian Ordnance Factories. These revolvers were a mix of either old .455 Webley, or more commonly, .380/200 caliber.

    What is .380/200? Well here we call it .38 Smith and Wesson (or .38S&W) and don't confuse it with .38 Special. You see this round dates back to the 1870s and a lot of early Smiths, Colts, Iver Johnson, and Marlin (yes they used to make handguns) revolvers around the World War One era were chambered in this round. Now its pipsqueak bullet, about as powerful as a good .32 today.

    (38SPL left, 38S&W right, see the difference?)

    Which is why the Brits in the 1930s moved to it to provide a round that had a more manageable recoil. With a 200-grain lead bullet on its short case, it was known in the land of teatime and Big Ben as the .380/200

    Nevertheless, after the UK ditched the .380/200 Enfield revolvers in 1963, they sold huge supplies of surplus ammo WWII and everything they had to go along with it to India and other countries. This left Delhi with a legacy of being the last great user of the century-old round, and by the 80s, they wanted an updated design. That's when Bill Ruger stepped in.

    The Ruger Six series in .38S&W

    On an order from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs for issuing to the police, forestry service and other law-enforcement agencies in the huge subcontinent, Ruger made a number of semi-custom Security Six revolvers with 4-inch barrels and Speed Six revolvers with 2.75-inch barrels all in .38S&W caliber. Now since these guns had a shorter cylinder, they could not load the hotter and longer .38SPL rounds, but other than that, these guns were near identical to the rest of the company's line up.


    To figure out if you have one of these, look at the barrel. The barrel of these revolvers will be marked 'CAL. 380 RIM' in clear indication that they were made for the British/Indian .380/200 round, not to be confused with the rimless .380 Auto or longer .38 Special. While some of these guns included a regulation lanyard ring, as was customary on Commonwealth military and police revolvers, not all are seen with them.


    Ruger, being publicly traded, is kinda stingy with the exact numbers of guns they have made in various models over the years as a trade secret. With that in mind, we can't tell you exactly how many of these rare guns were made and the exact year they started, only that they are known to have stopped production of the entire Speed/Security/Police Six line by 1988 when the new GP-100 debuted.


    What are they worth?

    Well, the Indians believe in getting a lot of use out of their guns and images of these old Rugers still in hard service pop up from time to time with police in Mumbai, Delhi and other points south of the Himalayas. With this being said, it is unlikely that they will show up as hard-life surplused guns any time soon, after all, there are still 1930s era Enfield revolvers in active service in some state police forces there.


    However, Ruger did sell the Security Six in .38S&W in small numbers commercially to the UK as well as some production overruns in Canada and the U.S. These guns, without Indian unit markings, and with the box and manual extensively marked as being a ."380" revolver, go in minty condition for $500-$700 solely for collector's value.


    So if you ever see one priced to move and looking good, mull it over, then get home and have a nice cup of hot tea if you do pick it up.

    In the Commonwealth Tea Time is generally around 4 p.m.

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