Gun Collecting: The Ruby Pistol

The Ruby Pistol’s Features

The Eibar/Ruby pistols’ most distinctive identifying features are:
• A shrouded hammer
• A lumpy-looking safety lever above the trigger
• Longitudinal grooves around the muzzle for disassembly, and
• A long nine-round magazine with a heel release.

Any two different makers’ versions can vary in the details of other features, including slide length, slide serrations, lanyard loop, sights, magazine releases, grip panels and exact frame profiles. Mechanically, they are all straight blowback and lack a last-round hold open feature or grip safety. French officials quickly became aware that few of the Spanish Ruby-types had interchangeable magazines, and insisted the manufacturers mark the base of all magazines. This was to prevent the possibly fatal consequence at the front line of either not being able to insert a new magazine, or having a loaded magazine detach from the gun in action.

There are a few ways to determine if a particular one was made for a French WWI contract. Pistols made for the French Army typically had a one- or two-letter mark in an oval on the rear left of the frame. These letters identified the manufacturer, irrespective of trademark name (see below for a list of these markings). In addition, pistols were supposed to be marked with a star or pair of stars on the bottom of the frame alongside the magazine well when they were formally accepted for French service. Not all of them received this depending on how urgent the need for guns was when a shipment arrived, but it is a useful marking to look for.

One feature that can be tied to wartime service is the addition of a large rivet-looking knob on the left side of the slide. This was added to address the reported problem of tight French military holsters catching and disengaging the safety lever when the guns were drawn, which was blamed for a number of accidental discharges. The added knob held the holster material away from the side of the gun, and prevented it from catching. The knob was clearly added after manufacture, as it will typically cover part of the serial number or other markings on the slide.

The trade names used on Ruby-type pistols are nearly as numerous as the guns themselves. At least 45 different small companies made these pistols, sometimes marked with a company name and sometimes with names like “Liberty”, “Destroyer”, “Venus”, “Modelo 1916, “Trust”, and others. In addition to French sales, many were also sold to the Italian Army as that country struggled to keep up with domestic production of military pistols. Some companies manufactured the guns from scratch, while others subcontracted some or even the entire component parts to other suppliers. Production of the guns continued into the 1920s, and all in all about a million Ruby/Eibar-type guns were made in Spain.

The Ruby is not a strong seller on the American collector market. At this time a nice Ruby might sell in the $125–$250 range, with French marked examples bringing the higher prices. A lot of these ended up in the U.S. over the years and were common war souvenirs from World Wars I and II and even Vietnam. Many thousands more were imported with the surplus Spanish Civil War guns brought in by Interarms in the 1950’s.

At such a low price and for a person interested in collectible or historical arms, the Ruby makes a neat little addition and depending on the condition and who actually made it, can still be quite fun to shoot.

This article appeared in the February 25, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Click here to learn more and load up on a subscription.

Resources for Military Gun Collectors

Standard Catalog of Military Firearms, 6th EditionThe Standard Catalog of Military Firearms

The Greatest Guns of Gun Digest

Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values

Gun Digest 1944 – 2013 3-Disc Set

Gun Digest the Magazine

Gun Digest 2013

One thought on “Gun Collecting: The Ruby Pistol

  1. bhp0

    I recently had the misfortune of acquiring one of these pistols. The slide was extremely soft and although the gun appeared to have been fired very little the inside of the slide had mushroomed out just enough to make the gun very difficult to take down. A vigorous back and forth movement was necessary to slap the internal hammer down far enough so the slide would travel forward off of the frame. The gun itself did function perfectly after I reformed the bent magazine lips that the former idiot owner had damaged.

    The recoil spring really was what I would call a captive unit as it was permanently attached to the forward portion of the slide. Why they did this makes no sense whatsoever. Recoil springs are notorious for wearing out after a few thousand rounds even on high quality pistols like the 1911 .45 acp. I have had them go bad after only 2,000 rounds of full power loads and 5,000 rounds of mid-range wad cutter loads so being able to replace a recoil spring is mandatory. I guess the thinking back in those days was that the pistols would seldom be fired much.

    If you happen to be short of cash these pistols can generally even today be picked up for very little money and contrary to popular belief the .32 will kill if you can shoot straight. Collectors of early European automatics will also be interested in having one for there collection. Just do not attempt to shoot them too much.

    As an addendum the outside finish of the slide and frame far surpassed the “modern crude” finish you find on many of today’s modern roughly finished slides and frames. The Ruby’s metal may have been soft but they did have one thing many modern pistols do not have and that is, first class workmanship.