Ruger Single-Action Birds Head Bearcat “Shopkeeper” 22 Rimfire Revolver

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

February 5th, 2013

 

Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Base pin passes through crescent ejector to easily remove the cylinder, and to allow a slightly longer ejector rod stroke.

 

 

 

 

All New Bearcat revolvers have Ruger's transfer bar safety.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been almost fifty-five years since Ruger announced the introduction of the svelte little rimfire Bearcat. Ruger already had a great 22 caliber revolver in production, the Single-Six, but the Bearcat, also a single-action design, was smaller, lighter, and of a different design than its larger rimfire brother. That was back in August of 1958, a few months before I came kicking and screaming into this world backwards. Now, in early 2013, Ruger has introduced what just might be the best version of the Bearcat yet; the Shopkeeper.

I was privileged enough to be invited up to the New Hampshire Ruger factory a few months ago, along with a couple of other writers, the esteemed gun-craftsman Hamilton Bowen, and Jason Cloessner of Lipsey’s. We enjoyed a great couple of days jaw-boning with Ruger engineers and executives, with the subject being mostly single action revolvers. One of the ideas upon which there seemed to be total agreement was for Ruger to build a Bearcat with a bird’s head grip and a shorter barrel, and Jason clinched the deal by committing to buy a large lot of them, right on the spot. The earliest result of that fruitful meeting is this Bearcat Shopkeeper 22 revolver, and the folks at Ruger got it just right.

Pictured here, the most obvious trait differentiating the Shopkeeper from the New Bearcat is the shape of the sixgun’s grip. If ever there was a revolver that benefited from a birds head grip, the Bearcat is it. The Bearcat is slim and trim in every dimension, and the rounded butt of the Shopkeeper’s grip fits well with the overall design and feel of this dandy little sixgun. Ruger also shortened the barrel to a handy nominal three inches, and thankfully, the ejector rod housing on the Shopkeeper is made of stainless steel, which looks much better than does an aluminum alloy housing on these little jewels. The crescent ejector rod button is designed to pass by the base pin head, allowing a slightly longer ejection stroke, and the design also allows the base pin to be slid forward far enough to remove the cylinder easily. The slim barrel measures just .525 inch at the muzzle.

The revolver production team at Ruger has really done this sixgun up right. The fit and finish of this Shopkeeper is flawless. The trigger guard is fitted perfectly, and the grips also fit the frame very well. The barrel/cylinder gap is a bit wider than I like at six one-thousandths of an inch (.006), but I can live with that, and it does not spit out of the gap at all. The sights on the Shopkeeper are like those on the standard bearcat, with a rounded blade front and a square notch fixed rear that is integral with the frame top strap. The front sight measures one quarter inch in height, which is plenty tall enough to file down to suit any 22 Long Rifle ammunition that I tested, as this revolver shot slightly low at twenty-five yards, for me. Your shooting style might be different, but there should be no need for anyone to require fitting a taller front sight on this little sixgun. While this Shopkeeper has no lightweight frame as did the original Bearcat, the stainless frame is still trim enough for this little revolver to weigh a full pound less than a short-barreled stainless Single-Six. Yet, as compact and handy as this little gun is, it still fits my large hand very well. It balances perfectly, making it easy to shoot, and easy to shoot well.

Cylinder timing is perfect on this Shopkeeper. It does not have the cylinder bolt drag line between the notches which is present on many Ruger revolvers, as the bolt rises perfectly into the lead of the cylinder bolt notches as each chamber is rotated into battery. Perfect. The trigger pull is crisp, and averaged just a hair over three and one-half pounds resistance on this sixgun.

Specifications for the Shopkeeper are listed in the chart below. Weight is listed in ounces. Trigger pull is listed as pounds of resistance. Linear measurements are listed in inches. The cylinder length does not include the cylinder ratchet. Height includes the sights.

Overall Length 7.5"
Overall Height 4.17"
Weight Unloaded 22.7 oz.
Barrel Length 2.972"
Barrel Diameter 0.552" to 0.525"
Cylinder Length 1.4"
Cylinder Diameter 1.216"
Cylinder Capacity 6 cartridges
Barrel/Cylinder Gap 0.006"
Trigger Pull 3 lbs, 9 oz.

I tested the Shopkeeper 22 with several brands of ammunition for velocity and function. The results with each brand and type of ammunition are listed in the chart below. HP is a lead hollowpoint bullet. Solid is a lead roundnose bullet. Velocity readings were taken at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of 46 degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity in the 67 percent range. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second (FPS), and were recorded ten feet from the muzzle of the Ruger. Bullet weights are listed in grains.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Federal Bulk HP 36 869
Winchester DynaPoint HP 40 901
PMC Match Solid 40 790
Wolf Match Solid 40 844
CCI Mini-Mag HP 36 1013
CCI Mini-Mag Solid 40 999
CCI Velocitor HP 40 950
Remington Yellow Jacket HP 33 1081
Remington Hi-Speed Solid 40 898
American Eagle HP 36 956
PMC Zapper HP 38 842
Olin Solid 40 878
Aguila Super Maximum HP 30 1159
Winchester Wildcat Solid 40 943
CCI Blazer Solid 40 964

For accuracy testing, I held the Shopkeeper rested across a Target Shooting, Inc. handgun rest, and fired five-shot groups on paper at twenty-five yards. I was impressed at how well the little revolver performed, especially with me doing the trigger-pulling. As mentioned above, most ammunition shot a bit low for me, but groups measured in the two inch range for every group fired, with CCI Velocitor and Aguila Super Maximum ammunition grouping closer to one and one-half inches. I had the sun behind me, illuminating the target well, and the crisp trigger pull of the Shopkeeper had things going my way, and no ammo tested disappointed me at all. There were no failures to fire with any cartridge, and extraction of the fired cases was sufficient to pluck them from the chambers, if they failed to fully eject. At first, extraction was a bit sticky, and I had problems getting the little cases out, but after a few dozen rounds, extraction smoothed up, and a swift stroke of the ejector rod cleared almost every case from the chambers on the first stroke.

The Bearcat, and the Shopkeeper version in particular, is proportioned perfectly to the little 22 Long Rifle cartridge. The revolver balances very well, is easy to shoot, and plenty accurate enough for a trail gun, serving as a recreational plinker, for protection from critters in the woods, and to put game into the stew pot.

The Ruger Bearcat Shopkeeper is likely the best version of the Bearcat to date. There is just something about this little sixgun that is satisfying. It is not only comfortable to shoot, but is delightful to shoot, and built to serve well for several generations. Like all Ruger firearms, The Shopkeeper is built in the USA.

The Shopkeeper is a Lipsey’s exclusive, so if your dealer is not a Lipsey’s dealer, go online to www.lipseys.com and click on the DEALER FINDER to locate a Lipsey’s dealer near you.

For a closer look at this and other Ruger products, go to www.ruger.com.

To order the trim little cross draw holster shown here, go to www.barrantileather.com.

To order quality rimfire ammunition, go to www.luckygunner.com and www.midsouthshooters.com.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 

 

 

Bearcat Shopkeeper compared to 1960-vintage lightweight Bearcat.

 

 

Bearcat cylinder (left) is considerably smaller than a Ruger Single-Six cylinder (right).

 

 

Trim little Barranti holster.

 

 

The Shopkeeper has the traditional Bearcat roll-mark.