Ruger's New Bearcat


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn & Jeff Quinn


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 more bulk. 

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:

Jeff Quinn


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An old favorite of many who appreciate small trail revolvers, the Ruger Bearcat is once again being produced by our friends in Southport, CT. Its handy size and superb handling qualities have endeared the Bearcat to generations of sixgunners.



As demonstrated in the above pictures, the Ruger Bearcat is a very handy-sized package. Its small size does not detract from its handling qualities due to the gun's "old-world" ergonomic design. Even shooters with larger than average hands (such as the author) find the Bearcat a pleasure to shoot.



A key difference between the "Old Model" Ruger Bearcat and the new guns is Ruger's patented transfer bar safety mechanism. The transfer bar transfers energy from the falling hammer to the floating firing pin, and retracts to prevent hammer contact with the firing pin unless the hammer is held back. This Ruger innovation was the first safety improvement to the lockwork of a single-action revolver since the Colts of 1836. Unlike the Colts and "Old Model" Rugers, the Bearcat (along with all "New Model" Rugers) can be safely carried with all chambers loaded.



Unlike other "New Model" Ruger SA sixguns, the Bearcat frees the cylinder for loading on half-cock, not just by opening the loading gate. The author much prefers this system, as it not only maintains the mechanics of loading older sixguns, but the chambers line-up perfectly with the ejector rod on half-cock, making loading and unloading much easier.



The cylinder of the Ruger Bearcat is uniquely roll-engraved.



Despite its small size, the Ruger Bearcat sports a six-shot cylinder. The raised edge of the cylinder makes for a much cleaner exterior appearance.



Despite a fairly heavy trigger pull (which improved somewhat over shooting), the Bearcat performed at an acceptable level, showing a preference for RWS R50 ammunition and CCI Stingers. CCI shot shell loads (shown) make the Bearcat a deadly solution for snakes and vermin.



Author likes the little Bearcat as an inexpensive and nostalgic trail gun. For training young shooters in safe handgun handling, general packing around the farm, or just plain fun shooting, you won't go wrong with the Ruger Bearcat!