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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm curious how Ruger decided to use their Ser. #'s.
219--280--etc.
What do the first three numbers mean.
just curious?
 

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It just gives them a way to have more numbers in a given number of digits, like the prefix in a phone number. You can start with 345-0000. When it gets to 345-9999, you make the first three 346 and start over.

In Ruger's case, each model begins with a certain prefix that's not shared by another model. I think in some cases, a prefix has increased to where it caught up with another model's, and they had to use a totally new prefix on further production.
 

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Each two or three digit prefix is called a "series". Each series is unique to a specific model. Once a serial number gets to 99999, the next series is used. That could be one digit higher ie ... 123-99999 to 124-00001, or it could be a totally different series.

Back before the Gun Control Act of 1968, Ruger used the same serial numbers on all different models so it was possible to have a Standard Pistol, Bearcat, Hawkeye, 44 Carbine, Mod 77, 10/22, Single-Six, Blackhawk, or a Super Blackhawk, all with exactly the same serial number. BATF didn't like that so when the new law went into effect in late '68, Ruger started using a different two digit prefix on each model. After they ran out of two digit prefixes, they went to three digit prefixes but still maintain unique prefixes for each model. Many models are lumped together with the same prefixes, such as Security-Six, Speed-Six, and Service-Six, which were all in the same family.

You can imagine the confusion when a law enforcement agency did a NCCs check for a stolen gun. Any Ruger with the same serial number would come up as stolen when indeed it may have been a totally different gun. Now with the prefix, it would isolate the search to one specific gun, even if the person doing the initial input didn't include the model.

Edited to add: The Gun Control Act of 1968 also required all similar model guns from the same manufacturer to be serial numbered in the same uniform location with a uniform font size. Some guns, such as a Ruger SR1911, are S/N stamped on the lower frame whereas MK Series pistols are stamped on the barrel assembly. The serial numbered part becomes the "BATF controlled part", just as if it were the complete gun. In other words, you could legally buy a lower frame for a MK III without completing a BATF form but you could not buy a SR1911 lower frame. Each different manufacturer had to submit their serial number schemes to BATF for approval but I think Ruger is the only company that uses a prefix married to a specific model.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks everyone for the help.
My 22'45
lite prefix starts with 390-xxxxx.
All the Lites will be 390- 00001-- 99999.
Thanks again.
 

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If you want to know about all there is to know about the serial numbers and all other things RUGER then subscribe to RENE (Red Eagle News Exchange).
Contact the editor at: [email protected].
Or write to:
Red Eagle News Exchange
1945 Clover Av.
Perry, IA 50220
 

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Often thought about the same.
 

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I’m trying to determine what year my single-six was manufactured. I bought it used in the late 70s. The serial number is six numbers 826xxx. On the right side it has

ruger 22 cal
Single-six

With the Ruger emblem stamped To the right of that. It came with an extra cylinder for 22mag.

Thanks for any help
 

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BlueMountain, That reference only works for Rugers with a serial number prefix …. and not all of them either.

DSawyers, Your Single-Six was made in late 1968 and shipped in 1969, just before The GCA of 68 went into force (Jan 1, 1969). Soon after, Single-Sixes had a "20" serial number prefix.
 

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I'm glad this 2012 thread was revived -- found it in "New Posts" on a slow Monday evening, and it's interesting reading. Iowegan's post #4 was some interesting history.
 

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Thanks Iowegan, Wasn't aware of that.
Ruger's lookup link used to be better than it is now and even then it wasn't perfect, but still pretty good then.
 

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Boxwalker, My RENE shows all prefixed serial numbers start with 1 …. never 0 and are separated from the prefix by a dash (-) not a comma (,) ???

BlueMountain, When Ruger changed their serial number history charts, they left off all Old Model SAs, all guns without a S/N prefix, and many other newer guns with S/N prefixes that are not in current production.

In the not too distant past, Ruger used catalog numbers to ID each model. Now they use a model number that has no real meaning …. just a number. A catalog number would include valuable information. Here's an example: NR-4 is a New Model blued Single Six with a 4 5/8" barrel and adjustable sights. The same gun in stainless with fixed sights and a 6 1/2" barrel would be a KNR-6F. Models had additional features in their catalog number such K=Stainless steel, W=walnut grips, I=Ivory grips, B=brass grip frame, X=Convertible, F=fixed sights, G=high polish finish, plus many more. When Ruger went to model numbers, their history chart only lists guns with meaningless current model numbers.

Some more reasonably worthless info …. when the Gun Control Act of 1968 was written, some of the changes or additions were directed specifically at Ruger's poor internal control because prior to 1969, Ruger had a bad reputation for serial numbers. Sometimes they would totally skip a block of serial numbers …. Bill Ruger's trick making other manufacturers like S&W think Ruger was producing more guns than they really were. Nearly all other manufacturers shipped guns in S/N sequence but not Ruger. They were notorious for making a batch of guns and warehousing them until they had orders from distributors. This means when you research a serial number, Ruger's records indicate when a gun was shipped but not necessarily when it was made. Such was the case with DSawyers OM Single-Six above …. made in 1968 but shipped in 1969. Sometimes there was a decade or more between the date of manufacture and the date shipped.

As I noted earlier in post #4, all models that were in production prior to Jan 1, 1969, had the same serial number sequences. Further, Ruger's accountability wasn't so great so they sometimes produced guns with duplicate serial numbers. If they caught the mistake before the guns were shipped, Ruger hand stamped a "D" (for duplicate) before the serial number on one of the guns. Typically the "D" was a different font and didn't line up with the rest of the S/N. This turned out to make some guns very collectable, however it drove BATFE nuts. It's hard to say how many s/n duplicates are floating around without the "D".

One of the other requirements in the GCA 0f '68 was …. all gun manufacturers and importers were required by BATFE to report the actual serial numbers, and the quantity of each class of firearms, made or imported …. rifles, shotguns, pistols and revolvers.

Prior to 1969, it was normal for all handguns to be called a "pistol" but now BATFE separates the two types into Pistols and Revolvers. Further, BATFE now has a "legal" way to measure barrel length from bolt face to muzzle for all guns except revolvers, which are measured from the front face of the cylinder to the muzzle. This has been a traditional issue but is now a legal issue as well. It's hard to believe a company such as Ruger could get in trouble with BATFE for using a different sized font in their serial number or placing the serial number in a different location on the gun … but that's how strict BATFE has gotten. Another issue is mandatory markings where each gun is required to have the name of the manufacturer, the specific model, the type of cartridge, and naturally a unique serial number. Technically, if you remove the only marking for one of these requirements, it's legally the same as altering a serial number, however it is seldom enforced. A good example would be to remove "GP 100" or ".357 Mag" from the barrel of a GP100, leaving no other model or caliber markings. A registered trade mark is just as good as a brand name.
 

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Thanks Iowegan, a lot of great info I had no clue about. Great post, as always.
 
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