As a rule I don’t haunt the shops looking for some blast from the past. Modern revolvers offer good accuracy superior sights and more choices in configuration. However- there are a few vintage revolvers that offer certain utility that isn’t present in modern offerings. I admit that nostalgia sometimes is a factor and that’s fine as long as function and reliability is present. Among the best revolvers of the previous century is the Ruger Speed Six. Built on the old Security Six frame but with fixed sights rather than adjustable sights this six shot .357 Magnum revolver is among the best balanced and useful of all Ruger handguns. Built on a medium frame the Ruger Security Six features a rugged lock work. It is plenty accurate. The Speed Six is modified with a round butt and fixed sights to facilitate concealment. The improved GP100 has proven stronger and more durable than most revolvers while the faster handling Speed Six has much merit. The modern fixed sight versions of the GP 100 are too large and heavy for good concealment.
The example illustrated was no beauty queen when new. But then ability makes a firearm attractive! The Ruger has been refinished in a durable non reflective phosphate finish. The round butt revolver feels good in the hand and allows cupping the grip for fast work. The design, like the square butt Security Six in standard figuration, is the reason Ruger went to rubber grips on the GP100. Recoil stings and becomes uncomfortable with Magnum loads. Most of my revolvers wear Hogue Mono Grips. Hogue grips change the handling qualities of the revolver. The Ruger Speed Six is now comfortable to fire and use with Magnum loads. The revolver is fired more often with fully interchangeable .38 Special loads. Magnum loads feature a cartridge case about 1/8 inch longer to prevent chambering in the .38 Special cylinder.
The Speed Six had fired thousands of handloads. Most have been hard casts bullets from 140 to 160 grains. For most practice a modest charge of Titegroup provides 800 fps of velocity. This a good small game load as well. I occasionally fire a stout load using Matt’s Bullets 160 grain SWC at 1,060 fps. This +P loads makes for good practice for Magnum loads without Magnum recoil and is very accurate. As for accuracy this isn’t a match grade revolver or something for hunting, but for defense use. I have tested several of Buffalo Bore’s hard hitting .38 Special loads. With a 125 grain JHP or all copper Barnes bullet at over 1,000 fps, some as fast as 1,100 fps, these are excellent defense loads with comparatively mild recoil and superb accuracy and control. For most defense shooters this is a fine home defense choice. For outdoors use the Outdoorsman load uses a 158 grain SWC at over 1100 fps. This isn’t a poor copy of Elmer Keith’s semi wadcutter but the real thing with a flat meplat and sharp cutting shoulder. For animal defense this loading will give the shooter confidence in the heavy .38.
If you are willing to practice to master the .357 Magnum the philosophy is to get one hit that stops the attack. A string of shots with a hard kicking Magnum is feasible. At least with a revolver the size and weight of the Ruger Speed Six. Get on target, press the trigger is a smooth rolling arc, and get a hit. The 125 grain .357 Magnum is a tremendous asset in personal defense. This load breaks about 1400 fps in the Ruger. The 140 grain loading is an excellent compromise with greater penetration at 1330 fps. For a combination personal defense load that is also useful against feral dogs and the big cats the .357 Magnum is a good choice. I don’t fire the Ruger Speed Six often perhaps a box or two a year. But the piece remains on the front line as one of the most trusted handguns in my battery.