Early Ruby .45 ACP Pistol

The Spanish company Gabilondo y Urresti, later to become known as Llama, introduced this locked-breech .45 ACP copy of the Colt 1911
in 1924. It was not a slavish copy, however, and introduced a captive recoil spring which would be the inspiration for that feature in the Polish Vis-35 and many later pistols.

By 1927, fewer than a thousand has sold, and it was decided that a new very that was a closer copy of the 1911 was introduced (in several calibers, including .45 ACP, 9×19, and 9×23) which would become very popular as the Llama pistol.


  1. I have examined several broken Llama pistols, and they all had a common problem. Very soft, mushy steel, and poor hardening of vital parts. Safeties that were so smeared over that the pistols could be fired with the safety in the “on” position. Be very careful with any of them. On the positive side, the Llama 1911A1 copy can use Colt parts for repairs.

    • As old Spanish pistols such as this, despite their relative rarity in the US, tend to sell dirt-cheap, maybe that’s a major reason why.

      If Llama/Ruby pistols were plagued by weak, substandard steel, then it’s a good guess that most of the Spanish guns, regardless of brand, made within that time span were constructed from the same poor steel coming from the same suppliers. While those companies probably could have easily switched to higher quality steel imported from Germany or wherever else, that’s obviously not the way to win military contracts.

      • It’s a bit of dilemma: soft steel is easy to chip but result is crap; when carburizing it is twists and result is – crap too.

        Nowadays they can use pre-heat-treated one and kill two birds with one stone. Yeah, it needs carbide bits – true.

        • I’ve wondered why sintered powered-metal parts never came to dominate in the firearms industry. Compared to casting or machining, it’s by far the cheapest way to make small steel parts, and perfectly well suited for anything that doesn’t require ultimate strength or extremely fine dimensional tolerances.

          • Most of small gun parts weighting up to 70 grams have been going to be manufactured by MIM which is a member of metal powder sintering technology. It is said, even some companies are present making slides though this method. MIM produced parts are subject being shrinked some one fourth in all dimensions from start to end.

          • Essential parts such as barrel and slide (and whatever else)still have to be made out of wrought/ malleable materials. Material for barrel being steel once and now is probably of similar specification; basically chrome-molybdenum steel. Barrel must stay tough, not hard in conventional sense.

          • Resember Caracal failure… That might be a result of such an attempt to make slides through MIM process. However, some slide examples carrying the traces of said technology have been manufacturing on without trouble by a well known brand.

      • Traditional manufacture of Toledo swords in well known.

        In new industrial era also Spain had their own iron and steel industry starting shortly after 1900. One such producer was directly in heart of Basque country – in Bilbao.

        But then of course, not every type of steel is good for guns. As I recall Italy was importing gun steel from Poldi Kladno located in current CR.

    • In Firearms Identification, Investigation, and Evidence (3rd Ed.), Hatcher reported a case in which a young man murdered his next-door neighbor’s daughter with a Llama .38 Super automatic which he had fitted a 1911A1 .45 slide/barrel assembly and magazine in.

      The pistol operated perfectly normally with the substituted parts, and if he hadn’t been caught with both sets of components, it would have been rather difficult to explain how he had used a .38 Super-caliber pistol to kill the victim with a 230-grain .45 ACP bullet.

      As it was, when cornered by the local authorities, he used the reassembled .38 pistol on himself.



      • Now I’m really confused…… I had assumed that the “9×23” cartridge of the Ruby/LLama, as mentioned in the article, would have been the 9×23 Largo, even though there are many other 9×23mm pistol cartridges in existence — 9×23 Steyr, 9×23SR [.38 ACP & .38 Super], 9×23 Clerke, as well as the more recent 9×23mm Winchester. So it seems the “9×23” here is designating the .38 Super … or maybe Ruby/Llama made more than just one type of 9×23?

        It’s kind of funny the way that inch-measured calibers often fib slightly in order not to be confused with other cartridges of the same numeric caliber. If I could go back in time, I would propose that the metric designations do likewise in order to make mis-identification less likely — but too late now.

        • There are numerous .44, .38 and .32 caliber cartridges that require some kind of additional qualifier to differentiate, so it’s not a problem just with metric designations. The “Y×Z” cartridge case designations are not official in any case, even though sometimes they are used simply as abbreviations, and also to better describe the size of the cartridge, for example it is easier to write “9x19mm” than “9mm Luger” or “9mm Parabellum”.

          • It must be notice that metric designation (most often) refer to inner barrel diameter (lands), when inch designation refer to bullet diameter.

        • “would propose that the metric designations do likewise”
          Notice that metric designation, was historically popular in Germany and German-influenced countries, which simply do not like chaos (Ordnung muss sein) and would be reluctant to such solution.
          Just lets see some example of American cartridges:
          .32 – what it might mean:
          .32 S&W (Long or not Long) revolver cartridge
          .32 Auto – rimless automatic pistol cartridge
          .32-20 – another revolver cartridge
          .32 Winchester Special – repeating rifle cartridge (which SHOULD NOT be confused with .32 Winchester Center-Fire, which is another designation for .32-20)
          .32 Remington Autoloading – rimless self-loading rifle cartridge
          .32-40 Ballard – rimmed rifle cartridge
          And BTW: .32 S&W, .32 Auto and .32-20 are not truly .32 as they fire .312″ (this logically should be .31)

          • But the big chaos is with number after – (dash), if such can be found in designation.
            Traditionally it indicate (black)powder charge as in .45-70. Later it was also applied to smokeless powder (.30-30) and 2 last digits of year of introduction (.30-06). But there are example which don’t comply with none (as .22-250 Remington, .250-3000 Savage, .41-100 and other)
            In case of European cartridge you might quite safely assume that after x is case length (or rough case length) in mm.

          • Another .32 caliber (.312″) is the .327 Magnum, which would appear to be a completely made-up number which does not correspond even remotely to any dimension (or perhaps just trying to steal the name from the Chevrolet V-8 engine of racing fame).

        • According to The Handgun by Geoffrey Boothroyd (the real-life model for “Q” in the James Bond movies), Llama’s “Large Frame” autopistols of the 1911 pattern were made in 9 x 23 Bergmann-Bayard (9mm Largo) for Spanish government service, and in .38 ACP, .38 Super Auto, and .45 ACP for export.

          The .38s were exported both to the U.S. and South America. Most South American countries had laws restricting civilian ownership of “military-caliber” small arms, so .45 ACP and 9 x 19mm were prohibited to non-official citizens and “tourists”. Thus .38 ACP and .38 Super Auto-caliber Colts and “clones” were popular “down south”.

          (They just didn’t tell the “authorities” that the .38 Super round was a better killer on almost any animate target than the .45 or 9 x 19mm, due to its near-.357 Magnum ballistics.)

          The 9 x 19mm pistol, the Llama Model IX, was a smaller-dimensioned pistol with a differently-shaped grip and no grip safety. Parts were not interchangeable between it and the Llama Large Frame automatic.

          I suppose that some Large Frames might have been made in 9 x 19mm, but when you see references to a typical one in “9mm”, that generally means 9 x 23mm, or else .38 ACP or Super Auto.



      • Sometimes you don’t even have to change all the parts. Mine shoots .38 Super and 9mm P just fine with only a barrel change. No need to use either a different magazine nor recoil spring nor even a different slide. But you can’t load .38 Super into a 9mm mag, it’s too long.
        Oddly enough, you do need to use an entirely different barrel/slide assembly as well as different magazine to convert from 45 ACP to about anything else as the dimensions are too different.
        But what really trips up most (shall we say,) hobbyists is that one has to exchange the ejector in the frame for the proper one. Caution! They’re easy to mix up.
        There’s more to this “swapage” business…a lot more, but as is said, grasshopper, a Sensei never discloses ALL that he knows…
        Later, we’ll discuss conversion of your 1911 to .22 LR but that, as they say, is a story for another day…and perhaps another time…
        [cue weird musical overlay, fade to black…]

        • Actually, .38 Super and 9 x 23mm are exactly the same length. The main reason .38 Super rounds won’t go into a 9 x 23 magazine is the semi-rim, which won’t fit in the slightly narrower rear part of the 9 x 23mm magazine.

          They often won’t chamber properly in a 9 x 23 barrel unless the barrel hood is relieved slightly to allow the semi-rim to “seat” as on a Colt .38 Super barrel. This in no way affects the barrel and pistol’s functionality or safety with 9 x 23mm Largo.

          A .38 Super Auto pistol’s magazine and barrel should handle 9 x 23mm Largo perfectly well with no modifications. The main reason to change barrels is that the rimless 9 x 23mm headspaces on the case mouth like a 9 x 19mm or .45 ACP, while the semi-rimmed .38 Super or .38 ACP headspaces on the semi-rim.

          This is why .38 ACP/Super Auto pistols tend to have poorer accuracy than .45 ACPs or the “other” 9mms. The .38 rounds are less consistent in their position relative to the leade’ of the riling, resulting in irregularities in the bullet’s entry into same on firing.

          Bar-Sto Precision used to make stainless-steel replacement barrels for Colt .38 Super Autos that had the same “square-cut” chamber forward shoulder as their .45 ACP and 9 x 19mm barrels, allowing the .38 Super round to headspace on the case mouth just like the others.

          This did not adversely affect functionality, and did radically shrink the typical groups fired from a Colt .38 Super. (I speak from personal experience.)

          Such a barrel should fit a Llama Large Frame with at most minimal gunsmithing and fitting. Allowing use of .38 Super and 9 x 23mm interchangeably without having to constantly swap barrels.

          Not to mention improving bullseye scores with the .38.




  2. As narrator correctly said, it is the .32cal at which is most public awareness of Ruby is fixed. This is actually good looking pistol, in my mind ahead of original. Shame that Gabilondo did not make it first time, much like with Mondragon’s attempt. Obviously, both were innovative designs.

    Hat down for Spanish/ Basque interwar gun design capability.

  3. I am curious to find out a little more on the 1911 copies made by Llama during the Spanish Civil War. I have a Llama “EXTRA” from 1934 and I am curious about it’s origin. The firearm has a much longer slide and barrel than a traditional GI 1911, did Llama create the first long slide 1911 for mass production? Also how can one determine if the weapon saw service during the Spanish Civil War? Are there specific markings? And one last question is the 9mm Largo a European version of 38 super?
    Thanks for these wonderful videos that tell the stories behind the development of small arms.

  4. Unless I miss my history, the captive recoil spring was not the only mechanical innovation on this gun. The linkless barrel cam predates Browning’s decision to use it on the FN High-Power by four or five years! (The French M1935 pistols both had swinging links, despite the wonderful simplification of using the ejection port as the barrel-to-breech lock on the 1935S). Browning didn’t believe in double-stack magazines, either, despite the examples of Mauser C96, Savage 1917, and that 7.65 22-shot Ruby that Mr. M showed us a year or two back. The Spaniards deserve even more credit than given here!

    • The Polish Vis (aka Radom) 9 x 19mm autopistol design team also developed the FN-style “cam nose” independently, with no knowledge of Browning and Saive’s work.

      Browning’s objection to double-column magazines had more to do with customer cartridge choices. The French government in 1920 asked for a .45 ACP pistol with a double-column magazine holding 15 rounds, before they changed their minds and decided that the 7.65 Longue (.30 Pedersen) was the cartridge they really wanted, to economize on barrel tooling (same for rifle and pistol as with the USSR’s Tokarev).

      Star (Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A.) in Spain actually made one prototype, which also had a concealed hammer like a Colt 1903 pocket automatic. (Exactly why, nobody seems to know.)

      Browning thought a double-stack magazine for the portly .45 round would make the grip too big for most people’s hands. Grip size was a factor in the engineering needed on the double-column Caspian and Para Ordnance 1911 .45 frames.

      The Star’s grip was slightly wider side-to-side than that of the later IMI/ Magnum Research “Desert Eagle”, so Browning was apparently pretty much correct on this.

      The P-35’s double-column magazine was Browning’s idea, and is actually not appreciably wider than that of the 1911 with its single-column “box”. But then it was designed around the skinnier 9 x 19mm round, stipulated by the Belgian Army who were the ones who wanted the pistol to begin with.

      BTW, one of the early “High Power” prototypes was in 7.65 Long, with a single-column, nine-round magazine, and a double-action trigger complete with Walther P.38 style drawbar. JMB’s DA system for the HP was much simpler than most later DA “conversions” of same, but might not have been adaptable to a double-stack magazine frame.

      Please note that Browning’s DA lockwork predated Walther’s. Which makes the similarity between the two rather interesting.



      • As a regular viewer to this channel, I must record my disagreement with one item stated above. According to Mr. M, FN offered Poland the P35, and the Polish authorities refused it after troubles having to do with purchase of the FN-made BAR. So the VIS barrel cam seems to have been designed with knowledge of the Browning-FN cam. The question is: did Browning see Gabilondo’s version? Though granted, great minds think alike, and sometimes totally independently. The process for making affordable aluminum by smelting with hydroelectricity was independently patented the same year in the US and Switzerland by two unrelated chemists who were genuinely ignorant of each other’s work.

  5. PS: Don’t have time to look this up, but I read somewhere that one of these Spanish .45s further simplified production by eliminating the hammer strut. The hammer was powered by a vertical spring dropped into a hole drilled into the backstrap from above! Not sure if it was this gun — Mr. M should have taken the grips off, too. Of course in the standard Ruby, the hammer spring was also the magazine catch spring, doing dual duty; perhaps that was the case here.

  6. Since someone mentioned Toledo swords, I recall that some were found in samurai hands after a bit of Dutch trading went on (along with Portuguese match-locks setting the standard for Japanese muzzle loader qualities). Perhaps the warriors of the east found that the one-handed western swords were just as good as their own weapons, if used in a different style of fencing. By the way, most real sword fights avoid blade to blade contact unless necessary, because the stress is bad for the cutting edge and for the blade’s overall structural integrity.

    Did I mess up?

    • Prior to the “classical” period, the predecessors of the katana and wakizashi were shorter, double-edged swords on the Chinese pattern, not that different from the gladius or spatha of the Roman/Byzantine legions.

      And they were used much like their Western counterparts; the Chinese “Zen sword” art was still in the future. (And then as now, it’s more a stylized ceremonial dance form than an actual fighting art, never mind MA movies.)

      The katana and wakizashi were developed for the later evolution of the specific and highly stylized fighting techniques of the samurai, the traditional “sixteen cuts”.

      A samurai would generally not want to get into a sword fight with a Western swordsman unless he could be sure that (a) he had his armor on and (b) he could end the engagement in the “traditional” way with a single, killing stroke right at the start.

      Otherwise, the “foreign barbarian” would very likely kill him. Rather messily.

      There is one modification which can make the Japanese sword significantly more lethal in any engagement. A sharpened false edge for the first 1/3rd of the back of the blade from the tip, rather like the sharpened “clip” of a Bowie knife.

      For an example of why this makes it more useful, see the Honor Harrington novel Flag in Exile by David Weber.

      As for blade contact, the Japanese sword is more resistant to damage due to the multiple layer folds in its forging. Some European blades can and do break off when used in this way, although rapiers and epees are designed and forged specifically to allow blade blocks and locks.

      Still, with the Japanese blades, contact should always be made with the side of the blade, or its back, never the true cutting edge.

      And watch out for that barbarian with a double-edged longsword with forged-in swordbreakers near the hilt. Even if he isn’t built like Ah-nold.



        • The tachi is much heavier than the modern katana and is always slung from a belt, cutting edge downwards (this is always done with a suit of armor). The gendaito katana which is generally seen on someone in plains-clothes is thrust into a belt, cutting-edge upwards, which allows the user to kill on the draw if needed.

      • The double-edged longsword, with or without the forged swordbreakers, is a powerful two-handed weapon that is also a heavy and comparatively fatiguing device to wield in prolonged combat, no matter how fit one might be (and that includes someone built like Arnold). It is also far less agile to handle and response time is slower, especially when one begins to inevitably tire over time. In contrast, a properly-made katana has an almost-perfect blend of metallurgical strength, flexibility, weight and balance that generally translates in real-world terms into a much quicker, more efficient and user-friendly blade that is far less tiring to use. It’s Damascus steel blade also gives away nothing in terms of sheer metallurgical quality and strength to the competition. Other factors in katana design that are frequently overlooked are the fact that the end point is designed for effective thrusting and deep piercing — even though the primary killing means is the cutting stroke — and that many subtle variations in blade design and balance are available that can provide the end user with significant advantages depending on the individual fighting style, including double-edged katana blades in lieu of the “traditional” single-edged blade that we normally think of.

    • Fencing techniques, namely from 15 century(renaissance) and forward, always intrigued me. I distinguish here between practise and actual combat though. As you say, the critical point is, how it was (or not) possible to avoid dulling a weapon before making fatal strike. I think Eon explains that part quite well; e.i. only the upper portion was sharp.

      There is so much information on development of Eastern sword now that most of attention goes that way. But, Western tradition is also worth of looking into. They were different approaches to achieve same end. I think that the latter had one additional aspect of it and that was ability of (often decisive) forward thrust.

      • If you look closely at any katana or wakizashi, you will see that the tip is also designed for a killing thrust that will penetrate very deeply, even through body armor.

        There seems to be a great deal of discussion about the merits of Japanese Damascus steel blades (as found in traditional katanas, et al.) vis-a-vis fine European blades such as the Spanish Toledo swords. It has been said that when the early European explorers first had a chance to get their hands on a katana, they were both surprised and chagrined to find that it was better-built than the famed Toledo blade.

        If one really gets into the subject of Japanese swords, one will find that there are multiple variations on the katana, as well as the wakizashi and tanto, each variation seemingly little different from the next but actually possessed of subtle changes in blade architecture and balance that make a significant difference in fighting utility. As an example, while the “traditional” katana that we normally associate with has a single-edged blade, there are other katanas that cater to a different fighting style with double-edged blades.

  7. “Eibar” pronunciation? Possibly my limited b/g in deutsch showing thru, but anytime I read it, the voice in my head says “EYE bar…” But you’re probably right w/ the long-A pronunciation: high school Spanish was a loooong time ago for me, & I can’t recall if we ever covered the “ei” dipthong in it…

    Llama, however, is a given: “LL” in Spanish is consonantal “y,” ie: correct pronunciation is “YAH-mah.” No Tibetan “Lama”s to be found anywhere close by… 😉

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. SayUncle » Gun Porn

Leave a Reply to eon Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.