Ruger Security-Six

With a robust frame capable of withstanding high-volume shooting of magnum ammunition, simple internal sub-assemblies and solid sidewalls, the Ruger Security-Six set the standard for dependability and innovation.

By Rick Hacker (RSS)
August 15, 2012

The late CEO of Continental Airlines, Robert Six, used to buy practically any gun with a “six” as its serial number or as a model designation. So it’s a pretty safe assumption that he would have owned a Ruger Security-Six, the first double-action revolver produced by Sturm, Ruger & Company after coming off of a whirlwind .22 semi-automatic ride and a flurry of single actions that pretty much revolutionized the handgun world. Now Ruger was about to do the same thing with double actions.

Bill Ruger, always on the competitive edge, knew his now-prosperous company had made tremendous inroads with civilian shooters, but it was losing out on the lucrative law enforcement and self-defense handgun markets by not having a double-action revolver. So he set his sights on what he rightly determined would be his two biggest competitors—Smith & Wesson and Colt. Both dominated the law enforcement field with medium-frame wheelguns.


Ruger started analyzing the double actions of these two stalwarts, and perceived what he considered to be common flaws in their designs. Both revolvers incorporated side plates, which Ruger viewed as a structural weakness. In addition, their lockwork, although different, basically dated from the late 19th century. As such, they were complex, expensive to manufacture and required labor-intensive hand fitting.

As early as 1966, Ruger, along with designers Harry Sefried and Henry Into (who eventually left to work for Colt), began perfecting what would finally be introduced in 1971 as the Security-Six. Starting with a basic concept Ruger sketched out on a sheet of paper, the handgun slowly, methodically began to take shape. It was to be like no other double action that had come before it, with Ruger and Sefried eventually holding patents on various mechanical components, though Ruger is credited with the wheelgun’s basic design.

Initially, the Security-Six was offered as a blued version with an investment-cast frame, a ribbed barrel and cylinder forged from solid bar stock, adjustable rear sights and a pinned, Baughman-style quick-draw front sight. Some very early models were also made with fixed sights (not to be confused with Ruger’s later Police Service-Six). A stainless variant, using the company’s proprietary Terhune Anticorro steel, was brought out in 1975. Aside from commemorative and custom issues, three basic barrel configurations were produced: 2.75-, 4- and 6-inch lengths. As might be expected, the gun was chambered for the lawman’s favorite, the .357 Mag. cartridge, which could also handle milder .38 Spl. loads. In addition, a few early production Security-Sixes were chambered solely in .38 Spl.

Following Ruger’s vision, the new wheelgun had no sideplates. In fact, the only screw held its oil-finished, checkered American walnut grips to the backstrap, which was integral with the frame—a carryover adapted from Ruger’s earlier single actions.

Unlike conventional cylinder latches that are pushed forward or pulled rearward, the Security-Six’s pushbutton latch used direct pressure on the mechanism to release the cylinder for loading and unloading.

The Security-Six was a solid-frame revolver that incorporated overengineered, dome-shaped recoil shields (also reminiscent of Ruger’s single actions). The hammer, with its transfer-bar safety—as opposed to Colt and Smith & Wesson’s rebounding hammers—was accented by its polished sides and physically more prominent than those found on the competing Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers, suggesting this was a double action equally amenable to single-action shooting. The fact was, with its 3- to 4-pound single-action trigger pull, the Security-Six was much more practical to shoot by manually cocking than in double-action mode, given its lengthy pull requiring almost four times more pressure. Shooting the Security-Six double action was tantamount to using a grip exerciser.

No matter. As with all Ruger handguns, the Security-Six was affordable. Ruger’s use of investment-cast chrome-molybdenum steel—a process pioneered with the company’s Single-Six—brought the Security-Six in at an extremely competitive price of only $89. Even a few years later, when the cost of a Security-Six rose to $121, Smith & Wesson’s Model 19 was going for $143 and a Colt Trooper listed for $161.

Also helping to keep costs down was the Security-Six’s completely modular construction. This resulted in ease of assembly, which sped things up at the factory and made it equally convenient to disassemble the revolver in the field for maintenance.

After verifying the gun was empty, all one had to do was remove the grips, cock the hammer (which exposed a hole in the bottom of the hammer strut) and, using a disassembly pin stored in the left grip panel, the revolver could be broken down into five basic parts. They consisted of: barrel, frame and grip assembly; cylinder and yoke assembly; trigger-action assembly; walnut grips; and hammer strut and mainspring assembly. Music wire and stainless steel coil springs were used throughout. All of the small, internal parts were made of stainless steel, thus practically guaranteeing maintenance-free longevity. The gun’s only failing—aside from its hefty trigger pull—was the less-than-ergonomic grip shape.

Nonetheless, the Security-Six was quickly embraced by its intended audience, which included countless branches of the U.S. government ranging from the Border Patrol to the Post Office Police. The number of law enforcement agencies that adopted this pistol can be indicated by the number of Security-Six commemoratives produced over the years, including the M.C.O. (Minnesota Conservation Office) 1979 Special Edition, the Police Marksman Association two-gun set—in which a Security-Six was cased with a Ruger Redhawk—a stainless California Highway Patrol model which, ironically for a law enforcement commemorative, was chambered in .38 Spl. and the Government of India, Border Security Force, chambered for the .380-caliber rimmed cartridge.

In time, 3- and 4-inch bull-barrel variants were produced. The Security-Six also sired two variants, the aforementioned Police Service-Six, chambered in .357 Mag., .38 Spl. and 9 mm, and the Speed-Six, which featured fixed sights, a rounded butt and came in the same three calibers, as well as .38 S&W. With slightly more than 1.2 million guns produced, the Security-Six was discontinued in 1985. It was replaced one year later with Ruger’s GP100, while the Police Service-Six and the Speed-Six stayed in the line until 1988.

The Security-Six was a workhorse, and a few Ruger salesmen were said to delight in running their samples over with their cars, after which they would fire some impressive scores with these same guns. Even today, after multiple thousands of rounds, a Security-Six will rarely wear out, which is why you don’t see many of them for sale. When you do, they may be battered externally, but internally they remain functional. Although the Security-Six was built like a tank, perhaps it is more fitting to say a tank was built like the Security-Six.

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10 Responses to Ruger Security-Six

  1. Andy says:

    Great article on the Security Six. I’ve seen many at gun shows; I guess it’s time to break down and buy one.

  2. Chuck says:

    I bought my 6′ way back in ’78. One of my favorites.

  3. Denny says:

    I just bought a fixed site security six and it has an S after and a bit lower then the serial #. I’d love to find out what it stands for.

  4. Denny says:

    Incase anyone wants to know, I’ve been told the S after the serial # stands for factory second.

  5. Ssglobell says:

    Just got me one I was going to buy a stubbie and saw her in the used section mine is stainless 4 inch 357 love it new grips are a must!! Midway USA 20 bucks

  6. Max says:

    I own a Ruger Secuity Six with a 4 inch barrel. I have owned this gun since 1972. And it still is the BEST gun I have.

  7. Mialynne says:

    I had one of these .357′s with a four inch barrel and I sold it. It was a great gun and I wish I’d never have let it go, but at the time I let somebody talk me out of it. Got what I paid for it but now I rue the day. Excellent revolver, I truly miss it. If you can even find one, buy it because you won’t be disappointed.

  8. Pat says:

    I bought a blued 6″ new in the early eighties. It was my first handgun. Was very inaccurate. Worked with if for years before selling off. Running double action you could watch the yoke swing out of the frame slightly. Firing jacketed bullets left jacket material on the frame around the barrel stub on all sides. Not knowing any better I should have boxed it up and sent it back to Ruger for them to solve the issues. I have heard it said that many of these guns had forcing cones that were undersized. A little cleanup with a reamer would solve their woes. My second revolver was a little 4″ Rossi in 38 Special that shot groups four times smaller than the Ruger (38 wadcutter ammo). I wish I still had the Rossi.

  9. Ginzo says:

    I just came across a 1981 Security Six 4″ in April as a project gun that was abused on the outside. Within 4 months of filing this, and sanding that, and a re-bluing. Checked tolerances as needed. I don’t think this gun had 100 rounds through it in its life. I think I now have the best pistol I have ever owned.

    1st range trip several weeks ago, shot from a rest, dead on accurate! This gun is “NOT FOR SALE”. I will be scanning for others in the back corner of gun cases as I think these were not very sought after and are a well kept secret!!

  10. Earl Roberts says:

    Has anyone noticed that the new lighter-weight GP100 Match Champion looks A LOT like a 4″ stainless steel Security Six? Perhaps Ruger has finally realized that the GP100 is too heavy for most people and that we need to take a step back to the Security Six size.

    ALL the GP100s should get the weight loss treatment that the Match Champion has – and even about 3 oz more would be good. Some of the Match Champion trigger tweaks should also be used to produce better, more consistent DA trigger pull in all the GP100s.

    The GP100 was reall a step sideways from the Security Six, with only the cylinder lockup, and slightly simpler mechanism being much of an improvement. The increased bulk and weight were a step backward, since they were not needed from a strength standpoint.

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