Pistol: French Ruby Mle.1915

French Pistol Ruby M1915 right

 

Pistol Mle.1915 “Ruby” Manufacturer Various
Cartridge .32ACP Overall Length 6.2″
Action Blowback Barrel Length 3.4″
Magazine 9 rnds removable Weight 1.9 lb

 

 

 

 

 

 

WWI was a maelstrom no one fully expected and the French quickly ran short of small arms.  They turned to nearby Spain for cheap and plentiful stocks of these simple pistols.

John Browning’s 1903 was a major success and in many ways sealed the overall shape and operation of what we consider the modern semi-automatic pistol.  The design proved particularly popular in Spain which, at the time, had an unusually high demand on copyright holders.  Without domestic production in Spain, the FN and US companies could not uphold their copyrights past 4 years (or fewer).  So a number of small shops in the Eibar region began producing modified copies for sale locally and internationally.  Almost all of these conformed to a single, general design known as the “Eibar Type.”  Credit for this modification has been given to both Pedro Careaga and the company Esperanza and Unceta, as both have modified patents on file from 1911 and 1912.  But it’s not entirely clear who sat down and reworked the 1903 to be more easily assembled by simpler machinery and hand tooling.

Like the 1903, the Eibar Type pistol is a shrouded hammer, single stack detachable mag, slide operated, blowback action, with an under barrel spring.  It features a slightly modified barrel that is still held in place by interlocking lugs on the underside and disassembles the same way as the 1903.  Most of the differences are more cosmetic as the Eibar Type is a thicker, chunkier design meant to use rougher manufacturing and inferior metal.  A clear example would be in the safety/takedown lever which, unlike the 1903, was done by hand and moved much further forward on the frame.  The most outstanding difference is that the complicated-to-manufacture grip safety was ignored completely.

Ruby scaled with Swedish

A French contract Ruby alongside the Swedish m/1907, derived from the FN 1903

Eibar Type pistols are generally found chambered in .32 or .25 ACP and were produced in a wide variety of styles with extended or shortened barrels, magazines, slides, internal or external hammers, etc…  These pistols were produced by shops that became internationally recognized and fly-by-nights who changed names frequently.  They were marketed under a variety of names such as MARTIAN, COBRA, IDEAL, DESTROYER, and many, many more.  These pistols are so myriad and unique that a collector could happily (and cheaply) focus on them for a lifetime.

Our French story, however, comes into focus with a producer known as Gabilondo y Urresti, who would later become the better recognized “Llama.”  GyU had an Eibar Type branded as “RUBY”, chambered in .32ACP, and fitted with a lanyard ring, and seating a nine round magazine which it marketed as a military pistol in the Balkans.  The French had not prioritized the handgun in their war plans but early trench fighting made them very desirable accessories over a cumbersome bolt action rifle.  After snapping up batches of commercial pistols from Spain, Belgium, and the U.S., France began large contracts with foreign suppliers to keep a steady flow of semi-automatic pistols.  With the discovery of several French manuals dated before the Ruby contract, we know that they had taken in significant lots of Spanish Eibar Type pistols and must have found them acceptable.

French Pistol Ruby M1915 POVIn May of 1915 a contract was opened up with GyU for the production of their “RUBY” pistol.  This called for 10,000 units a month.  Within four months it was upped to 30,000, and again to 50,000.  GyU was overwhelmed but did not want to miss any opportunity for money, so it contracted with four other producers: Iraola y Salaverria, Echealaza y Vincinai, Hijos de Angel Echeverria, and Aremeria Elgoibaressa.  These four were expected to produce a minimum of 5,000 a month while GyU took up the balance.  Any missed quota would cause a fine and any surplus would be bought up.  All of these were sent to, inspected, and branded by Gabilondo y Urresti before going out.

The overwhelming French demand soon had other manufacturers flooding into the market.  Independent contracts began with the French military and a second tier of major producers appeared which included: Royal Vincitor, Retolaza Hermanos y Compania, S.A. Alkartasuna (founded just to produce these pistols for France), and Esperanza y Unceta (later Astra).  Even after the intervention of these larger players, more and more small shops entered the market.  Roughly 45 producers are believed to have been involved in supplying the French and soon after the Italians!  It would appear the major players in Spain kept in touch as there was not much in the way of price competition.  Each producer simply went along with the standards of the original contract with GyU: 9 rounds, walnut grips, fixed rear sight, .32ACP, etc.  One exception has been noted as a few French-marked short grip, short barrel examples have surfaced.  It is believed these were bought in one lot and provided to Chauchat gunners as an easy backup.  They are rare finds.

Overall roughly 900,000 or more Eibar Type pistols were produced for WWI contracts.  This small arms gold rush didn’t always fuel the best manufacturing standards and Ruby pistols could be treated with some caution.  Most problems are not entirely catastrophic but generally center on poor fit or finish.  Poorly fit firing pins seems to be a more common issue, causing rapid-fire magazine dumps if not corrected.  These are very isolated incidents today as most of the worst offenders never cleared post-war inspections.  One major complaint was that the large safety levers would catch in the holsters when drawn.  This meant a gun set for “Fire” would accidentally switch over to “Safe” at the worst possible moment.  Post-war,  a single large rivet was punched into the side of the slide of many of the remaining pistols.  This brutally simple solution kept the leather holster from dragging on the safety.

French Pistol Ruby M1915 letter code

One clear problem with accepting nearly one million hand-fitted pistols from over 40 manufacturers was a lack of uniformity in parts.  Repairs would have been troublesome, but were likely not undertaken often with such a stream of replacements.  But a swapped magazine wasn’t an uncommon thing and since these could vary radically in small, but very important, dimensions they needed to be kept with their proper host.  So the French instituted a one or two letter code for each supplier and stamped the rear left frame of the pistol and the toe of the magazine to match.  We have included a list of known letter codes at the end of this article.  French pistols are also, usually, marked with one or two stars on the heel of the frame.  Letter coded examples have been found without though, so it is not certain if these were done as they were accepted or as part of a post-war refurbishment process.

French Pistol Ruby M1915 openBeing a Balkan favorite, the Ruby pistol also found its way into Serbian hands pre-war.  It was also produced locally post-war in the new state of Yugoslavia.  The French give a good many Ruby pistols to Greece during the war, although these seem to be indistinguishable from the French-issued guns.  Italy also purchased the Ruby in both 9 and 7 shot versions and these will be marked “TM” or “RP” on the trigger guard.

When the war ended the Spanish manufacturers tried, mostly in vain, to continue marketing the Eibar Type internationally and we see a number of additional commercial variations into the 1920’s.  Interestingly, Gabilondo y Urresti dropped the design the moment the French contracts dried up.  The Eibar would have still been a common sight during the Spanish Civil War as well.

Though they didn’t buy any more, the French still had a great many Ruby pistols in their inventories going into WWII, as their Mle. 1935s had not caught up in production.  The French also made use of a Ruby-copy: the Unique.

For a plain and rather rough little handgun in .32 ACP, the Eibar Type pistols played a large role in the war by providing France with an overwhelming number of replacement pistols.  Due to their crude form, poor reputation, and sheer abundance, the Eibars are still inexpensive collectables, so we’d recommend one for nearly anyone curious as their history is actually quite rich.

French Pistol Ruby M1915 top

A Arizaga GU Gabilondo y Urresti
AA Azanza y Arrizabalaga HE Hijos de A Echeverria
AE Armeria Elgoibaressa I (Izarra) Bonifacio Echeverria
AG Francisco Arizmendi y Goenaga IG Isidrio Gatzanaga
AH Acha Hermanos IO Industria Obrea
AK Alkartasuna IS Iraola y Salaverria
AL Aldazabal Leturiondo JE Javier Echaniz
AZ Arizmendi Zulaica LC Laplana y Capdevila
BA Bersaluzze Arieto-Aurena LH Lasangabaster Hermanos
BC Victor Bernedo MA Martin Bascaran
BH Beistegui Hermanos MB Martin Bascaran
EA Arostegui Eulogio MS Modesto Santos
EC Ergulaga RH Retolaza Hermanos
EU Esperanza y Unceta UC Urrejola y Cia
GB Gregorio Bolumburo VB Victor Bernado
GN Garate Anitua ZC Zulaica y Compania

 

14 Responses to “Pistol: French Ruby Mle.1915”

  1. CJ says:

    Very nice read about this little gun.
    I’ve got a Vulcain Ruby with no stars, no letter code, and is marked “Made in Spain”. Was this almost definitely a commercial gun?

  2. Wes says:

    Hello! My grandfather left me one of these. It has the two French stars indicating service as well as markings for the Alkartasuna production. The barrel is longer than your chart, coming in at 3.685″. I wonder if there is any significance to this? Also, do you know if there is a way too further track these by S/N? Thanks!

    • Othais says:

      Is the barrel serialed to the gun? There are plenty of small variations thanks to the production methods.

      Unfortunately I know of no serial break down.

  3. Nick Smith says:

    I have a double star marked ruby that came to me in its original leather holster, marked to the doughboy who “found” it in France and brought it home. This leads me to believe that the star markings were made during the war, as this pistol was out of French hands pre-1918.

  4. JOHN VALL says:

    WERE CAN I GET A MAGAZINE FOR THIS MODEL?

    • Roy says:

      I recently purchased a couple mags from Sarco for my .32 acp Alkartasuna AK marked pistol. Most pistols are marked on the left rear of the slide – mine is marked AK so mags need to be marked on the bottom AK. Marked for MFGR. They have a chart.
      they are $30 but are in decent shape and can be had by the correct magazine to frame marked type. Go here and read up on their study.
      http://www.e-sarcoinc.com/rubymagstudy.aspx

      Hope this helps

  5. Trey says:

    Have a Ruby by Astra good quality for the type, It is a very comfortable pistol to shoot as the all steel (and a lot of it) make the .32acp a gentle round indeed.

  6. Roy says:

    Nice Article for sure,
    I have an Alkartasuna. Nice sound pistol.
    Is the general opinion “the magazines -don’t or won’t interchange”?
    Only the circled “AK” marked mags then for this pistol.
    Thanks for the help.

  7. Roy says:

    Me again,
    I wondered if the Alkartasuna pistol I have should have matching serial number on the frame, slide, and barrel? Mine doesn’t – the barrel has the number 219 –
    which doesn’t match any part of the SN on the slide and frame.
    again thanks for the help.

  8. Michael Blum says:

    Triple K, in San Diego, recently provided me with two EU-marked magazines. I don’t know their inventory, but I believe they have others. On the “comments” section I requested the EU code, and that’s what I got!

  9. Matthew says:

    Where can I find a replacement barrel for a Spanish Ruby?
    Can a gunsmith make one?

  10. Ben says:

    I have no makers’ mark, slide marked with 1915 Patent “RUBY” Cal 7.65″
    Serial number **710 has a G after it. THere is no mark (GU) on the frame and no French stars on base plate. Which manufacturer made this?
    Quality is not great, soft steel, had to take the mainspring out to get the slide off. There is a ramp on the back of the slide that pushes the hammer out of line when the slide moves forward and off: the ramp is scarred up and no longer works, so will file and polish it back to get it to work. Also, any tips on getting the hammer pin out? All the others go great, but not this one. Thanks

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