For several years there was a void in
Ruger's single-action revolver line-up. When Ruger re-designed
its single-action revolvers in 1973 with their patented transfer bar safety, the
Bearcat was left behind. The first Bearcats were shipped in 1958, and had been in Ruger's
catalog in one form or another until the safety change, with the last of the old style shipped in
1974. There were basically two versions; the alloy framed Bearcat and the
steel framed Super Bearcat, with an occasional variation of the same
design. The Bearcat and Super Bearcat were handy little revolvers,
reminiscent of the old Remington revolvers of the nineteenth century.
In 1993, Ruger corrected the oversight and
brought back the Bearcat with all the features and qualities of the
original, along with the addition of their transfer bar safety. The transfer
bar allows the Bearcat to be safely carried with a loaded chamber under the hammer. The gun will not fire
if dropped on the hammer.
Thankfully, the Bearcat still is loaded by placing
the hammer in the half-cock position. In this position, the chambers
easily line up with the loading gate for loading and unloading the
cylinder. This is a great feature, as the small size of the .22 long rifle chambers would be difficult to
line up with the ejector rod if Ruger had not retained this feature on
the new Bearcat.
While on the subject of the chambers, the new
Bearcat is offered on .22 Long Rifle only. A few of the new Bearcats were shipped with a .22
Magnum cylinder, but that is no longer an option. Of course, the Long Rifle
cylinder will also fire .22 Longs, Shorts, CB Caps, and Long Rifle
shot shells, making it a versatile little rimfire revolver.
With an overall length of just under nine inches
and a weight of 24 ounces, the Bearcat is Ruger's smallest, lightest
sixgun. The Bearcat has a steel frame and a four inch barrel, and
wears Rosewood stocks on its integral grip frame. It would seem that the small size of the
Bearcat would make it hard to handle for a shooter with large hands, but such is
not the case. The size of the grip portion of the frame and the placement of
the wide spur hammer make the little gun a delight to handle.
The new Bearcat that I received for testing and
pictured in the photos was very nicely finished in a dark blue steel
with some good figure in the rosewood stocks. Upon first handling of the
sixgun, the trigger pull was a bit on the heavy side for a single-action .22 but smoothed up after a
couple of boxes of ammo. If it were my gun, I would do a little work on
the trigger spring to reduce the pull to around two-and-one-half
pounds. I do understand however, that shipping a new handgun with a light pull would leave a
manufacturer open to civil litigation in today's society. It is somewhat amazing,
with the current anti-gun attitudes of some in Congress, that a gun can still
be sold in this country that will actually send a bullet out of the muzzle when the
trigger is pulled.
After plinking with the Bearcat for awhile, I settled
down at the bench to shoot a few groups. Bearing in mind that the
little gun is equipped with a rounded front sight and a fixed notch rear,
the groups were smaller than I expected. The best groups were fired using
RWS R50 ammunition, with CCI Stingers doing almost as
well. The little Bearcat shot these into one and three-quarters of an inch at 25 yards, with most
other brands of ammo holding less than two and one-half inch groups. With a little trigger work,
and possibly a better shooter, I am certain that this sixgun will do better than shown here.
The Ruger Bearcat is almost in a class by itself,
with its main competition coming from Ruger's own excellent Single
Six revolvers. The Single Six has a good set of adjustable sights and is
also offered in stainless steel, but at a cost of at least another half-pound of weight and a little
For a small, handy .22 to carry while enjoying
other activities such as fishing or hiking, the size and weight of the Bearcat is
ideal. This little gun will ride in a holster or hip pocket all day without
notice, and if needed to dispatch a rattler or harvest a cottontail for the stew pot, will be right
at hand. Another, and perhaps the best reason to own a new Bearcat, is just plain
shooting fun. The little gun is light, handy, and has little or no recoil.
With .22 long rifle ammo available for around nine bucks for a brick of 500, the Bearcat can be
shot all day long without breaking the bank. As a trainer for young children to learn to
handle a sixgun, I can think of nothing better than he Bearcat. The action
of this gun is about as safe as it gets. A child can be taught the fundamentals
of safe gun handling without the weight and recoil of a larger gun.
Check out the Bearcat along with Ruger's
extensive line of pistols, revolvers, rifles, and shotguns on the web at:
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