Obscure Object of Desire: Ruby Pistol

by Vern Evans

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One of the most common, recurring themes in warfare from the dawn of organized armed forces is a lack of weapons, equipment and ammo when you need it. The French found themselves in need of weapons, a lot of weapons, right around 1914. That pesky Great War raged on, and the French needed guns. The French turned to numerous sources, and one such source was Spain. Right before the war, a company called Gabilondo y Urresti (who later became Llama) designed a pistol named the Ruby.

It’s a little Spanish pistol (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The Ruby pistol would prove to be quite sturdy, and the French wanted more. A lot more. They called the Ruby the Pistolet Automatique de 7 millimètre 65 genre. The French ordered 10,000 a month, then 30,000, then 50,000, and Gabilondo couldn’t produce enough. Subcontractors came in and began producing the pistol, with Gabilondo being the company in charge of quality control and delivery. There were seven total subcontractors, and one was a company called Beistegui Hermanos. These contractors were all in the Basque region of Spain.

The creators of this gun would become the famed Llama company (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Beistegui Hermanos made bicycles, and they still make bicycles. In addition to producing high-end racing bikes, they made Ruby pistols, Mauser C96 clones, and revolvers, including the Ruby pistol you see here.

Inside the Ruby

The Spanish liked the Colt M1903 and saw a business opportunity. In terms of engineering, they essentially copied it, but they made some external differences and some interesting design choices. The barrel is 3.25 inches long instead of 3.75 inches, and the grip has been extended and capacity increased. The Ruby pistols famously held nine rounds of .32 ACP compared to the typical seven.

The barrel unscrews from the gun for dissassembly. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The gun looks odd, with the barrel and slide shorter than the grip. To me, it looks like the world’s first X-model gun. Unlike the M1903, the safety is right behind the trigger and doubles as a slide lock when placed in the safe position. The magazine release is the typical bottom-of-the-grip design popular among guns of this era.

The Ruby series features lanyard loops and typically plain wood grip angels. My model has had some terrible fake stag grips placed that don’t fit well. Someone seemed to have used some adhesive around the screws that hold the grips onto the frame. It’s ugly and something I want to replace.

The fake stag grips are in need of replacement (Travis Pike for TTAG)

One of the interesting design problems and the problems with subcontractors is that the magazines weren’t always compatible. The Beistegui Hermanos magazines might not work with the Armeria Elgoibaressa y Cia magazines. The French required markings on the bottom of the magazine so the wrong mags never got matched with the wrong gun. The magazine on this gun bears an AK marking.

Handling the Ruby

The little gun is remarkably heavy for such a small gun. When loaded, it weighs about two pounds. I can easily reach the safety device with my thumb and push it up or pull it down. The magazine release is ridiculously stiff, and getting the magazine out takes some effort. To hell with speed reloads. Hey, in 1914, having nine rounds was pretty good.

Nine shots, not bad for 1914 (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The Ruby’s grip is just long enough to fit your entire hand. The magazine base plate holds your pinky on the gun quite nicely. The slide is somewhat hefty to manipulate and doesn’t glide rearward like a Colt. The grip angle has a very sharp downward design, but it’s not uncomfortable.

I loaded the magazine with nine rounds of Aguila .32 ACP and got ready to hit the range.

Blasting Off

You know that old advice, “You’ll never see your sights in a gunfight.” That came to be because of the sights on these old pistols. When Fairbairn and Sykes wrote Shooting to Live, they used guns with these sights. I believe you can’t see them in a gunfight because I can barely see them at the square range. The sights are a small notch with a small front blade.

The gun barely moves when fired. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

You have to take your time to align them; when you do, you can get reasonably good accuracy. It’s certainly no marksman’s pistol, but I could easily hit the broadside of an Imperial German with a Ruby. At 15 yards, you can easily keep your group inside the A-Zone of an IPSC target, but I wasn’t punching out one ragged hole with the gun.

A two-pound, .32 ACP gun has almost no recoil, even if it’s a blowback-operated design. The gun just barely burps. It’s like a rimfire handgun. The little .32 ACP is a fun cartridge; in a gun like this, it’s a nothingburger. I could see the benefits of the little gun in the trenches. Close-quarter fighting calls for rapid-fire weapons, and the little Ruby can be fired quickly without much stress.

The ancient pistol proved reliable (Travis Pike for TTAG)

It’s fun to shoot and seemingly reliable. I didn’t torture the gun, but it always fed, fired and ejected without any drama.

The Little Spanish Pistol

The Ruby handguns are quite common. Almost a million were made for the French. Their popularity has ensured they tend to be priced fairly low for MILSURP pistols, with a price point that’s often less than $300. If you want a fun MILSURP pistol that doesn’t break the bank, then the Ruby is a great way to go. It’s not fancy and doesn’t have the same fame as something like the Luger, but it’s still a neat little piece of history.


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