Llama Firearms - The Ruby

The Ruby

In 1914, just before the start of the First World War, Gabilondo created a sturdy self-loading pistol based on the Browning Model 1903 and chambered for the 7.65mm Browning/.32 ACP cartridge. Unusually for the time, the magazine capacity was nine shots instead of the usual six or seven. The pistol was intended for export to the Americas, and despite the small calibre was designed with military and police sales in mind. Other Spanish manufacturers had copied the Browning since around 1905. These copies were less sophisticated than the original, but one was very similar to the eventual Ruby design, the "Victoria" made by Esperanza y Unceta. This was a seven-shot model incorporating improvements patented by Pedro Careaga in 1911, and Esperanza y Unceta in 1912. These are believed to have covered the frame-mounted safety (instead of a grip safety on the original Browning), and the substitution of an internal striker for a hammer.

In 1915 Gabilondo sent examples of the pistols to the French government, who were hard-pressed for all sorts of small-arms, even in this early stage of the war. After testing was completed in May 1915, the French decided to accept the Ruby as the Pistolet Automatique, Type Ruby and contracted Gabilondo to produce 10,000 pistols a month. By August the target had been raised to 30,000 and later still an incredible 50,000 a month. Despite its size, the company could barely cope with the initial contract and arranged for four partners to manufacture the Ruby for them:

  • Armeria Elgoibaressa y Cia (under the brand name Lusitania)
  • Echealaza y Vincinai y Cia
  • Hijos de Angel Echeverria y Cia
  • Iraola Salaverria y Cia

The contract stipulated that each company would produce a minimum of 5,000 pistols per month. Gabilondo would produce 10,000 guns, carry out overall quality control and arrange delivery to the French authorities. As the number of pistols required increased, the company agreed to purchase any pistols in excess of the agreed number at the same contracted price.

As the French became more desperate, the procurement process spiraled out of control. Eventually Gabilondo contracted with another three companies and at least 45 other companies contracted with the French directly to produce Ruby-type pistols in a variety of calibres, barrel lengths and magazine capacities.

Estimates of Gabilondo Ruby production are between 250,000 and 300,000 pistols in total. While most Gabilondo produced pistols were of good quality, others were less well made. 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. Many Ruby-types were plagued by poor finish and incorrectly hardened steel parts which after a short period of use wore so badly that pistols fired on full-auto. On other pistols, the safety mechanism wore out. The good quality Rubies were reliable and accurate, although some users were disconcerted by the lack of a visible hammer. About 710,000 Ruby types were accepted by the French from all sources and by 1920, about 580,000 were still serviceable and in French army stores. Many other allied nations, and some of the new nations created after the War such as Finland and Yugoslavia also used Ruby-type pistols. Gabilondo ceased production in 1919 and switched to more advanced models, but other firms continued to produce the Ruby-type until the Great Depression wiped out many arms producers.

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