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Old October 17th, 2020, 02:12 PM #1
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Cool Swapping Barrels On A Speed-Six?

I've got a Ruger Speed-Six with a 3-inch barrel. I'm thinking of swapping it out for a 4-inch barrel, but I need to find someone in the Bethesda area who can do it. The gun started out as a .38Spc but I had it reamed out to take .357Mag. Back in the 70s, someone gave me this 4-inch barrel.

Some say it's not worth the sweat as there's only an inch difference, but the forcing cone is a polished 11° and so I'm wondering if I should do it as I mainly shoot jacketed ammo. I just like 4-inch barrels.

So does anyone know where I can have this done and how complicated this procedure is? Is it just a matter of putting the barrel in a vise and using a hammer handle to torque the frame until the barrel unscrews?

Is this more complicated than it's worth? What do you think?





This Ruger Speed-Six started out as .38Spc, but is now
a .357Mag.


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Old October 17th, 2020, 03:22 PM #2
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Funny you should ask. My buddy just dropped of his Ruger to Scott's Gunsmith in Glen Burnie. He is having a 4 inch Magaported barrel and .357 Mag cylinder installed. He's had the parts for like 15-20 years. Just don't be in a hurry, my last job took about 7 months.

good Luck

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Old October 17th, 2020, 06:35 PM #3
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Does Ruger heat treat the steel frame and cylinder for a .357 or only to the .38 Special level of strength? You should find that out before discovering you might have a stainless steel hand grenade in your hands.
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Old October 17th, 2020, 09:42 PM #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheOriginalMexicanBob View Post
Does Ruger heat treat the steel frame and cylinder for a .357 or only to the .38 Special level of strength?
No, Ruger heart treats all its models the same. I have two .38s and both are Speed-Sixes and both are reamed out. I had both of them converted to .357s. I got them for next to nothing. I was in Virginia at the time and Sandy Garrett did the job for $65 per gun. He's a stickler for perfection and he did a find job.

Speaking of heat treat, S&W tried to capitalize on its heat treat of forged steel back in the day. Here's one of its full page ads:



Alas, it blew up in their face. Turns out the investment casting process by Ruger was stronger than the forged steel process used by S&W. The size of Ruger's forcing cone was about the same on S&W's K-frame, and yet Ruger's forcing cones were lasting for tens of thousands of rounds of hot magnum rounds, while S&W forcing cones were splitting after only just about 2,000 or so of hot magnum rounds.



One NRA techie I knew loved to shoot such hot rounds through his S&W 19 K-frame. Its forged blued steel was beautiful, but after about 2,000 or so hot magnum rounds and many standard .38Spc rounds went through it, it needed to be re-timed. Afterwards, he put another 2,000 or so hot rounds through it; however, frame fatigue prevented his being able to repair it. So he retired it and only shot .38 rounds through it.

His next gun was a Ruger Security-Six, and he had it for years. It gave him the strength he was looking for, plus he was able to round the grips to get just what he was looking for, which was the rounded grip of a Speed-Six.



People back then were just finding out that S&W K-frames couldn't handle a steady diet of 125gr JHPs .357s, and frame fatigue and forcing cone splitting were problems. The K-frame S&W wasn't designed for the .357 diet. The Ruger Security-Six, on the other hand, was designed from the ground up for the .357 round, and people were shooting thousands of hot magnum rounds. Gun writer Skeeter Skelton claimed to know of three Ruger Security-Six revolvers, each of which had 30,000 rounds of hot magnum loads through them. One was a bit out of time, he said, but it was still serviceable.

So don't worry about Ruger. The only boneheaded things they ever did was coming out with the .357Maximum, which did eat up forcing cones, and replacing the Security-Six with the heavier GP-100. And it did the latter only because ignorant gun writers suggested in print that the "Six" revolvers might be subject to the same weaknesses as the K-frame S&Ws.



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Old October 17th, 2020, 11:21 PM #5
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I won't make a blanket statement about ALL Rugers , but there is some interesting history behind the Security/ Service/ Speed Six family .

Bill Ruger designed on purpose from the ground up as a .357 Mag , and his intention was to only sell them as .357' s . Turns out some large LE bid specifications called for .38 Only , and specifically unable to chamber .357 . ( .38 Only guns were primarily sold to agencies , and occasional contract over runs .)

They crunched the numbers , and it was cheaper to just use same steel, heat treatment , and magnum length cylinders , than to do seperate production runs of weaker / shorter cylinders .

And along the same theme , the rather rare Dan Wesson 15 in .38 Only were only sold on a comparitively few agency contracts , were likewise .357 guns with .38spl chamber reamer.
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Old October 17th, 2020, 11:33 PM #6
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But back on OP's original question :

It's simple , in the aspect that all dash 6 bbls used same shank lengths and threads , same front sight heights , etc .

But changing revolver bbls inherently has its complexities . To be done properly , needs a frame jig , either purpose built , or inlet in wood blocks by the 'smith . It looks intuitive to fit piece of wood into the frame window and crank , but that can potentially warp the frame . And for proper frame indexing , it is sometimes necessary to face off the bbl shoulder .

It doesn't require a Master Gunsmith , this was something done by Factory trained Armorers . It use to be a thing to seek a Dept Armorer from a local PD about a side job , but with the Revolver Era winding down 30yrs ago that talent pool is drying up , and revolver smithing is becoming an arcane art .
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Old October 18th, 2020, 07:54 AM #7
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I set back a barrel twice using the mark and file method on my Sec Six. Burned the breechface of the barrel out twice. I just rebarreled my Sec Six back to its factory 6” length. Brownells sells a barrel facing tool if you are interested in trying it yourself.
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Old October 18th, 2020, 10:02 AM #8
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Three inch barreled guns are so hot right now in the market, you could probably trade your gun for a 4" model and get some cash on top of that.

Last edited by python; October 18th, 2020 at 11:21 AM.
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Old October 18th, 2020, 10:16 AM #9
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I may have a 4” barrel for that speed six.

EDIT: I do...but its blued. Sorry about that.
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Old Yesterday, 09:16 PM #10
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Cool

Thanks for the replies. After mulling it over, I won't gain much by adding another inch, and the 11° forcing cone is only good for shooting lead bullets, not jacketed ones. I'd like to have the 4-inch, but it's a more difficult proposition.

The thing about the Rugers is that they were never as beautiful or as well finished as the Smith & Wessons. The Ruger Service-Six is a better gun. It's just as accurate, will shoot tens of thousands more of hot magnum loads than the Model 13, is about the same size and weight as the 13 and even uses the same holsters. It has a solid frame, making it more durable, is easily taken apart and reassembled, is handsome in blued or stainless steel, and with new springs and some serious dry firing, attain a wonderfully smooth action. But Bill Ruger sold it at such a reduced amount to get his proverbial foot in the law enforcement door that he barely made any money off them. He reportedly said he never made a nickel off the sale of them.



Scene from the movie, TERMINATOR, in which Sarah Conner travels with a Ruger Security-Six in her lap.

The S&W 13/65, however, was made using more expensive forged steel that, despite its claims wasn't stronger or more durable than investment cast steel. S&W's guns were, however, were more desirable. Despite being more expensive, one rarely ever saw them on dealers' shelves, especially in stainless steel. For every stainless steel S&W revolver I ever bought, I had to get on a waiting list, and I never saw a Model 19 or 66 on a dealer's shelf, ever, or I would have bought one. Especially a 66-no dash. Even today a perfect used Security-Six goes for about $600+/-, while a perfect S&W 66-no dash can hit a grand or more. And one thing I don't like on Ruger revolvers now and in the past are the sights. They're cheap and are easily marred. I thought they were aluminum but I just now checked them with a magnet and they stuck. Whether it was the sight blade and screw that was drawing the magnet or the rear housing I can't tell (If someone knows, please post and let me know). If it's steel, cold blue ought to be able to darken them. It's just that many used Rugers are fine, but their sights look like they'd been through the war.



Still, the Six-series revolvers are, to me, far more desirable than the boat anchors Ruger makes now. Still many people like 'em, but if I have to have underlugs on my .357, Colt, S&W or Ruger, I'd take the S&W 686, which I think is better than the Colt Python. It may not have a vented rib, which is cool, but if you screwed them all into a Ransom rest, I think the S&W would hold its own against the Colt. Pity no one's done that. Ruger would do okay with heavier bullets, I think, but not so well with lighter bullets. But who knows?

Anyway, I love the Ruger Speed-Six and that's why I've rounded the grips of one of my 4-inch Security-Sixes, but not my 6-inchers. I think Ruger should have sold all their Security-Sixes with rounded grips. It could have sold them with square-butt grips, but given people the option of using round-butt grips. I don't know if the GP-100s have that option.

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