Tell me about the .38 Special Service Six

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KWYJIBO

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I'm looking at a used one... Says "Police Service Six" on the frame and ".38 Special ctg." on the barrel. Stainless. 4" barrel. Don't have the serial number to tell which gripframe it has. It seems in really good shape based on the pictures I've seen, but I haven't examined it yet. The seller is asking $400, but I think he'll come down a little, so I might make him an offer.

What's the deal with Service Sixes meant only for .38? I assume it is the same size as the .357 models in every dimension. I can't imagine that it's not strong enough to handle .357, so why is it marked for .38, and are the chambers different?

Of course, I would never fire .357s in a gun marked for .38 only, no matter how tough it looks. In fact, I like the .38 Special cartridge. I'm just curious why this critter exists. (Same thing someone said upon discovering the duckbill platypus!)
 

Glupy

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I have a Service 6 too, but it is not restricted to 38 SPCs.

My understanding is that the 38-only models are the exact same gun as the 357 except for the size (depth) of the cylinder.

I suspect, but don't know, that Ruger made the 38's only to satisfy some law enforcement organizations that allowed their officers to use revolvers but didn't allow the use of the hotter 357s. There were even some 9MM models and a 200 S&W made for overseas sales.

Ruger even made GP 100's restricted to 38s. I don't remember a 9MM version of the GP100. I think that there was a 9mm SP 101 in the late 80's though.

Your 38 model is more rare than the 357's. Got a picture to show us?

Anyone else have a better or different opinion?

Dave in Kuna, Idaho
 

Terry T

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"Glupy" pretty much said it.
We est. that only about 20 to 25% are in 38spl.
If it is an early 'low back' , it is quite rare. If it is a later heavy barrel, it is some what uncommon. If it came with Ruger rubber grips, it is also somewhat uncommon.
In any case, it is one stout .38spl and should handle any +P loads one would want.
Terry T
 

KWYJIBO

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Thaks for the responses. I suspected they were the same frame, barrel, grip, etc., but it didn't even occur to me that the cylinder might be a tad shorter. I think you're right on with your theory about LE departments requesting a .38 Special model.

I'm hoping to see this one in person tonight. I'll let you all know what it turns out to be.
 

Dienekes

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As mentioned, they were available for depts. that for one reason or another--usually a dimbulb chief or politics--declined to issue and use .357s. I well remember that back in the 1970s .357s and hollow point ammo ("dum-dums"!) were pretty controversial to some people. When I started in law enforcement in 1972 the issue round was the .38 Spl. RNL. Thank God that changed.

I have owned three Service Sixes in .38 Spl, all 4" guns. One was a blued square butt light barreled gun that came to me as a semi-beater, and two round butt HB stainless guns. I still have one of the latter, which might be marked as a Speed Six, and was made around 1985. Of all the Sixes I have--about 10 at last count--it is the best made and fitted, with very good sights. The rear sight trough is quite deep.

My info is that everything in the .38s was exactly the same as the .357s to include the cylinder steel. Only the chambering was different.

I have seen a couple of .38 cal. GP-100s, which were no doubt made for the same political/policy reasons.
 

Terry T

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"KWYJIBO",
The cylinder is not shorter, only the chamber in the cylinder. :shock:

"Dienekes"
The later, scalloped, fixed sight frame has a thicker top strap allowing for the deeper sight channel.

Terry T
 

KWYJIBO

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Terry T":1thoq7bm said:
"KWYJIBO",
The cylinder is not shorter, only the chamber in the cylinder. :shock:

Thanks, Terry T.

This is what I suspected, hence my original question, "are the chambers different?" Someone responded with a suggestion that maybe the "depth" of the cylinders is different. I assume he meant length. Looking at the pictures again, I see that is clearly not the case. The cylinder itself completely fills the opening in the frame. It would be possible to put a .38 Special-length cylinder into a .357 Magnum-length frame, but you'd have the barrel protruding further back into the frame. (Look at the .45 ACP revolvers that S&W makes with the short cylinders.)

I appreciate the link, dbarale. Those guns are priced better than the one I'm looking at, but not by much when you add shipping and FFL costs. If I can get the local one for $350, I'd be ahead with it. If the seller sticks to his asking price of $400, those you pointed out would be better.
 

VAdoublegunner

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Oct 24, 2006
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That looks like a pretty good deal on those 38 Special Service-Sixes.

They would be ideal to try some 38/44 handloads, forerunners of the 357 Mag, that were originally for the big Smith N-frames. I'm sure they would handle them with ease.
 

Blue Brick

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Nov 3, 2006
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I love mine.

DSC01919.jpg



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weaselmeatgravy

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There may have been more .38 Service Sixes than suspected simply because they were restricted to LE sales for years... Yup... restricted! But the reason they were restricted was because Ruger discounted them pretty significantly over the .357 in hopes of penetrating the LE market. This is stated on the old price sheets.

And since many LE agencies destroy rather than re-sell old sidearms, I reckon a lot of .38 Special Rugers met their demise.

No known old frame Police Service Six marked guns exist, so it should be the new frame. The same gun in the old frame was marked as Security Six in spite of having fixed sights. The stainless is another clue that it is a new frame as the very earliest Police Service Sixes were actually numbered in the high 150 prefix but all those new frame guns were blue. The stainless guns continued with the old frame into the 151 prefix but as far as I know, those were all adjustable sight Security Sixes.
 

KWYJIBO

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Thanks, WMG!

I was hoping our resident guru on the -Six series would chime in. As an avid collector, you are a veritable wellspring of knowledge on these guns.

(Good grief, I just used "veritable wellspring" on Ruger Forum. Admins, you're free to put me on probation for that.) :?
 

Terry T

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I remember "OldRugerMan" saying that at one time he had a low back stainless, fixed sight, square butt, piece. He called it a Service Six but I don't know if that is how it was marked. I didn't see it and I don't think he still has it.
Point is they may be out there. Wouldn't surprise me to find a low back stainless marked either Security Six or Police Service Six or an early high back stainless fixed sight marked Security Six..

I'm just getting to the point that I'll never say never when it comes to Ruger. I've been wrong too many times! :oops:

Terry T
 

edlmann

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Dienekes":2ibjrcd6 said:
As mentioned, they were available for depts. that for one reason or another--usually a dimbulb chief or politics--declined to issue and use .357s. I well remember that back in the 1970s .357s and hollow point ammo ("dum-dums"!) were pretty controversial to some people. When I started in law enforcement in 1972 the issue round was the .38 Spl. RNL. Thank God that changed.

I vaguely remember a PD somewhere in the '80s that issued S&W 19s that had the barrels swapped for Model 15 barrels marked .38 Spec.
 
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