Ruger's "Old Model" Single-Sixes


by Bill Hamm

photography by Bill Hamm




In the next several series of articles I will attempt to provide a general overview of each of the Ruger Single Action revolvers made from 1953 through 1972.  These guns are known as the “three-screw” model or just “old models”.  I will also list some of the major types and variations of these guns.  I hope these articles will be interesting for the readers and especially the beginning Ruger collectors – and hopefully they will influence some of you to begin to collect Rugers. 

I must give credit for much of my Ruger knowledge to my many collector friends from whom I  have learned so much over the years.   Without them I would not have been able to even attempt to pen these articles.  A hearty thanks to Rich Machniak, Jim Schafer, Lee Newton, John Dougan, Mike Stewart, Chad Hiddleson, Don Findley, John Krukenberg, Ken Sawyers, Bob Campbell, Allen Daniels, Dale Dalbotten, Carl Laco, Lee Sundermeier, Henry Bone, Budd Given, and the host of others that I have failed to  name who have shared your knowledge with me – and a lot of good Rugers that you allowed me to purchase!  Also much of my knowledge came from the RCA Journals, Red Eagle News Exchange (RENE), and the other fine books that are listed on this web-site as suggested reference materials on collecting Rugers (see Bill's article at Collecting Rugers - Part 1). They are worth their weight in gold when it comes to building your collection.

There are many advanced Ruger collectors that could easily add much more to these writings.  However, I did not feel the need to go so deep and into so many details that it might become confusing and overwhelming to the beginners.   I think that it is much better for the new collectors to obtain and read as much research material  as possible on their own. By reading on your own and then handling examples of these fine guns you will learn faster and have a much clearer understanding of these guns and their many variations.

I would appreciate any better or updated information, additional noted variations, corrections or just general comments regarding these articles.  I am still learning more about these guns and their variations every day.

In the following articles you will see several terms used that are registered  U. S. trademarks of  Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc.  They are the Sturm, Ruger & Company Eagle Logo, Single-Six, Lightweight, Bearcat, Super Bearcat, Blackhawk, Super Blackhawk, Old Army, and Hawkeye.


PRODUCED  1953 - 1972


Sturm, Ruger & Co. introduced its first single action revolver in June 1953.  It was a six-shot .22 caliber called the “Single-Six”.  Bill Ruger had recognized that, due to the popularity of the early 1950’s TV and movie westerns, a “cowboy type” gun should be desirable to the gun public.  Thus the Single-Six was developed and proved to be a huge success.  Its introductory price was $57.50.

Less than 100 guns were actually produced in 1953 but in a short time production was firmly established .  About 10,000 guns were produced in 1954 and about 20,000 guns produced  1955, and production steadily increased thereafter. 

The first production guns were roll-marked on the left side of the cylinder frame “RUGER  .22 CAL. SINGLE-SIX ”.  These guns had a 5-1/2 inch barrel, a steel cylinder frame, three cylinder frame screws, fixed drift adjustable rear sight, fluted .22 caliber cylinder ( long rifle, long, or short ), flat cartridge loading gate, small serrated ejector rod button, alloy Colt-style XR3  black anodized grip frame, and  Black checkered hard rubber grip panels with the trademark Black Eagle medallions.  These early production guns are known today as “Flatgates”.

Early on in the Single-Six production, stag and ivory grip panels with the Ruger Black Eagle logo could be purchased from the factory for $8.50 and $16.50, respectively.  Varnished Walnut grips later became available around 1955 for $5.00.  These varnished Walnut grips actually became the standard about 1960 with the Black checkered hard rubber grips still available but costing $1.00 less.  The ivory grips were dropped from the catalogs about 1958 and the stags were dropped when the grip fame was redesigned in 1962.

The original “flat cartridge loading gate” was changed to a “contour or round” Colt-style gate in early 1957.  These guns are known as “Roundgates”.  The 4-5/8 inch and 9-1/2 inch barrel lengths were introduced around mid-1959.  Both of these barrel lengths turned out to be fairly rare and scarce when mated with the early style XR3 grip frame.

The standard Single-Six with dual cylinders (without the “Magnum” marking on the cylinder frame which will be covered in a separate series on the “Magnum Only” Single-Sixes) began to appear around 1961 in the 4-5/8, 5-1/2, and 9-1/2 inch barrel lengths.  Both the .22 caliber cylinder and the .22 Rim Fire Magnum cylinder were fluted.  The extra cylinder, the .22 Magnum in this case,  had the last three digits of the serial number stamped on its front face near the cylinder base pin hole.  During 1963 Ruger began  numbering the extra cylinder with an electric pencil rather than stamping the numbers.  Normally you will find both cylinders numbered with the last three digits of the serial number when the electric pencil procedure began being used.

Ruger made several changes in their single action revolvers in 1962/63.  Three of the most notable changes were the new redesigned black anodized grip frame (marked XR3-RED) versus the original XR3 grip frame, the change to oil filled  Walnut grips versus varnished Walnuts, and an aluminum alloy ejector rod housing versus the steel housing. 

The 6-1/2 inch barrel length was added to the standard Single-Six line around late 1962/ early 1963.  Thus these gun were available in four barrel lengths ( 4-5/8”, 5-1/2”, 6-1/2”, and 9-1/2” ) from about 1962/63 until the end of old model or “three screw “ production in 1972.  The 9-1/2” and 4-5/8” are the most scarce.

The first Single-Sixes came in black and red two piece boxes that was to become the standard throughout production of these old model guns.  Through the years, these boxes had various forms of identification marking its contents on the end of the box but the basic box remained the same.   The boxes were normally numbered by hand on the front left hand corner in lead pencil or grease pencil or the right side in grease pencil on the later guns.  These guns also came inside a cardboard shipping sleeve or “bookwrap” that had the model stamped on it and the serial number handwritten in pencil on the side.  Pristine complete packages are very hard to find today since most people tended to throw  away the box or especially the shipping carton.  Today these complete pristine packages will bring a premium from the discriminating collector.

The so-called Old Model or the three screw production ended in 1972 and the New Model Super Single-Six went into production in 1973 and is still in production today.




Single-Six, Standard Revolver:


Flat loading gate or “Flatgate”, single .22 caliber cylinder, early XR3 marked black anodized grip frame,  Black checkered hard rubber grips, 5-1/2” barrel.


Contour loading gate or “Roundgate”, single .22 caliber cylinder , early XR3 marked black anodized grip frame, Black checkered hard rubber or varnished Walnut grips, 4-5/8”, 5-1/2”, 9-1/2” barrels.


Roundgate, dual (.22 cal. & .22 Magnum) cylinders, early XR3 marked black anodized grip frame, Black checkered hard rubber  or varnished Walnut grips, 4-5/8”, 5-1/2” and 9-1/2” barrels.


Roundgate, dual (.22 cal. & .22 Magnum) cylinders , the later redesigned XR3-RED marked black anodized grip frame, oil filled Walnut grips, 4-5/8”, 5-1/2”. 6-1/2” and 9-1/2” barrels.

As you can see from the above, you would need to collect several guns in order to have a representative of each of these major types and variations listed for this revolver.  It is a challenge to find these in top collectable condition since these guns were considered “working guns” and most were used extensively.

There are numerous additional variations of the Single-Six that the collector can move into.  For instance, there are four distinct variations of the “Flatgate” alone.   I will not  attempt to try and cover them and other variations here.  This will require considerable study by the beginning collector to understand the make up of these guns and what to look for.

These additional variations include such things as: different ejector rod housings, different ejector rod buttons, different front sights, different grip medallions, different mixtures of old and new improved parts or “transition guns”, different packaging or boxes, different serial number sizes, or just serial numbers themselves, etc., etc.

As you can see, when it comes to collecting Rugers you can go in several directions or as deep into the variations as you like.  That is one of the reasons Ruger collecting is so much fun, you are never truly complete, always something else to learn and some other gun to try and find, always looking to upgrade, etc.   It is truly a challenging and satisfying hobby.

My next article in the series will cover the Single-Six “Lightweight” .22 caliber revolver.

Bill Hamm

Read more about Bill on the "About Us" page.

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(Click pictures for a larger version)


Ruger Single-Six Type One Flatgates #239 & #666



#239's original open box with oil wrap, first instructions & warranty



Examples of early Single-Six with XR3 grip frame, 4-5/8" barrels, and Black rubber and Walnut grips



Examples of early Single-Six with XR3 grip frame, 9-1/2" barrels, and Black rubber and Walnut grips



Examples of original factory boxes



Examples of 4-5/8", 5-1/2" & 6-1/2" convertibles



Single-Six type One Flatgate #239



Single-Six Type One Flatgate #666 with Ruger's original "Red Barn" factory



Plum color 5-1/2" with Ruger patch and belt buckle



6-1/2" Roundgate convertible with XR3-RED grip frame



9-1/2" barrel model with XR3 grip frame & Walnut grips