Bowen Classic Arms "Perfected Bearcat"


by Boge Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn & Jeff Quinn

May 23rd, 2011


Click links below for video!

640x480 WMV format (99.3 MB)

YouTube Video





Click pictures for a larger version.


Bowen Classic Arms "Perfected Bearcat". Based on Boge's one-of-a-kind custom Bowen Old Model Bearcat 22 Long Rifle / 22 Magnum conversion, the Perfected Bearcat package is available for steel-framed Bearcats only.





Sights are a vast improvement over standard Bearcat sights, consisting of custom front sight base with pinned-in blade (top & center) and pre-War S&W style fully-adjustable rear (bottom).



Ruger's standard Bearcat fixed sights, as shown on this Old Model Super Bearcat, consist of a rounded blade front (top) and groove rear (bottom).



New Bearcat features Ruger's patented transfer bar safety system.



Bowen subtly contours the Bearcat's frame to evoke the elegance of S&W's early-twentieth-century M&P revolvers.



Belt Mountain No. 5 style base pin.





American Elk stag grips by Sack Peterson.



The Perfected Bearcat proved to be very accurate, as these 25-yard rested groups show.





As it has been firmly established here on, as well as other places, I love the Ruger Bearcat. No other single-action 22 sixgun has the feel, the balance, and the perfect size as it relates to the cartridge. In my opinion, only the double-action S&W "Kit Gun" compares to the Bearcat for handiness, ease of use, and packability in the field. Still, while I own several S&W 22 Kit Guns and appreciate them all, the Ruger Bearcat holds a place in my heart that is uniquely above all others, and I own so many of them that the guys down at Brigham Hardware in Dover, TN get a chuckle every time another comes in with my name on it. Let 'em laugh, says I - as long as availability and economics allow me to indulge my whims, my Bearcat stash (I hesitate to call my stash a "collection" because, horror of horrors, I SHOOT mine) will continue to grow.

As has also been firmly established both here and elsewhere, I consider Hamilton Bowen to be among the finest custom revolversmiths extant, as well as one of the most important revolversmiths in our history. Not only has he earned his place in the pantheon of revolver lore for his impeccable craftsmanship and artistry, but he has been a standard-bearer for bringing the custom revolver into the mainstream of shooters' consciousness. Not one to rest on his laurels, Hamilton Bowen still seeks constantly to hone his craft, and to offer new products and services to revolver aficionados who appreciate the very finest.

In February of 2008, I wrote a Gunblast article on my Bowen Custom Old Model Ruger Bearcat 22 LR / 22 WMR convertible. Building that sixgun was quite an ordeal - for Hamilton, anyway, not for me - my only ordeal was getting Hamilton to agree to doing the conversion in the first place. I will refer the reader to the original article for details on that conversion - suffice it here to say that I am still extremely pleased with that project. That Old Model convertible numbers among my very favorite sixguns, and since I received the gun in early October of 2007, I have never been on a shooting trip where that sixgun did not accompany me. I have shot it quite a bit, but it still looks like it did when I received it back from Bowen. At next month's Shootist Holiday, that beloved Old Model Bowen Bearcat will come to reside with a far better man: one of my closest friends, brother Shootist, and fellow Bearcat aficionado, Terry Murbach. Thus will Murbach and I further cement the bond between us that has grown over the years with shared experiences; campfire tales; civilized sippin'; lead flung downrange; lies; music; and swapped, as well as gifted, sixguns.

Anyway...back to the subject at hand: the Bowen Classic Arms "Perfected Bearcat".

After completing the Old Model Bearcat project, Hamilton made it clear to me that this was a one-of-a-kind project, and that there would be no more like it to come from his shop; there was just too much work involved in the project to justify the prices that would have to be charged, and it was just too aggravating and time-consuming an undertaking for such a busy shop as Bowen's. 

But the seed he'd planted had begun to germinate in his mind.

Then, in August of 2008, Hamilton advised me that he was still mulling over how nicely my Bearcat turned out, and that he was considering offering Bearcat services as a standard catalog item. An inveterate tinkerer, Hamilton turned over in his mind how wonderfully that project had come out, how the shortcomings of the Bearcat platform could be overcome, and how he could offer a similar package to other shooters who appreciated what a fine little sixgun the Bearcat could be. Over the ensuing years, from time to time I would hear from Hamilton that he was still thinking about offering Bearcat services, and that the future might hold the possibility of a standard Bowen Classic Arms Bearcat.

On October 3, 2008, I received what was to be the prototype of Bowen Classic Arms' "Perfected Bearcat", but I was once again sworn to secrecy until Hamilton decided whether to offer Bearcat services on a regular basis. Thankfully, I can now tell you what a great sixgun the Bowen Perfected Bearcat has proven to be, because now, at last, Bowen Classic Arms is offering a couple of Bearcat packages on their newly-redesigned web site

The "basic" package, catalog #BC01, is available for both blued New Bearcats and stainless New Bearcats, and is in most cases also applicable to steel-framed Old Model Super Bearcats. Old Model alloy-framed Bearcats need not apply. The BC01 package includes a basic set of mechanical and cosmetic upgrades: the action and trigger are tuned for ultimate reliability and crisp, smooth action; a Belt Mountain No. 5 style base pin is fitted to tighten the fit of the cylinder, to allow for easier grasping, and to improve appearance; a Bowen steel ejector housing is added to improve balance and appearance; and finally, the front sight blade is serrated for a greatly improved sight picture in all lighting conditions.

The Bowen Classic Arms "Perfected Bearcat", catalog #BC02, is likewise available only on steel-framed guns. The BC02 package includes everything in the BC01 package, and adds the following enhancements: the wonderful pre-War S&W style rear sight, fully adjustable for windage and elevation; simple contoured front sight base with pinned-in blade (choice of serrated ramp, Baughman ramp, or Patridge blade); top strap beautifully modified in the style of the old S&W M&P sixguns; and rebluing of blued guns. 

As nice as the basic Bearcat package #BC01 is, the Perfected Bearcat package #BC02 is definitely the way to go; if you've never handled a custom Bearcat with a really good set of adjustable sights, there's just no way to tell you how much difference it makes. Both packages are affordable, with the BC01 package surprisingly so; the price of the Perfected Bearcat package is naturally higher, but still very reasonable given the amount of work involved.

My Perfected Bearcat is beautiful; if anything, it's even a bit nicer in appearance than my treasured Old Model custom Bearcat. The frame on the Old Model Bearcat is aluminum rather than steel as on the Super Bearcat and New Bearcat, so the original Bowen Bearcat lacks the subtle frame reshaping of the Perfected Bearcat. The satin finish on the original Bowen Bearcat is as beautiful in its own way as the nicely-done blued finish on the Perfected Bearcat. The front sight base on the Perfected Bearcat is longer and ramped, with a more streamlined and modern appearance than the original's. Finally, the hammer on the New Bearcat has a wider spur than found the Old Model; the New Bearcat hammer gives a "Baby Super Blackhawk" appearance that I've always found appealing. 

I do prefer the lightweight Old Model Bearcat frame to the slightly heavier steel-framed versions, but even the steel-framed Bearcat weighs only 24 ounces, giving up a mere 7 ounces to the alloy-framed Old Model Bearcat. Bowen's steel ejector housing adds a couple of ounces to the overall weight of the package, but the slight balance shift to the muzzle, as well as the improvement in appearance, is well worth it. Bowen had not yet developed a source for steel ejector housings at the time my prototype was built, so mine bears a factory aluminum unit. Bowen is now producing steel ejector housings in-house, in both blue and stainless, so availability is no longer an issue. Incidentally, he also offers these ejector housings for sale on his web site; they are designed for the New Bearcats, but will fit most Old Models as well. 

Also, at the time my prototype was built, Belt Mountain Enterprises was not yet making their great No. 5 style base pins for the Bearcat; my Perfected Bearcat wears one of the first No. 5 style Bearcat pins off the line, sent to me by Kelye Schlepp of Belt Mountain. Bowen's catalog Perfected Bearcat package features this excellent and beautifully elegant base pin as a standard component.

Shooting the Perfected Bearcat was a pleasure. I always have a good time shooting any of my Bearcats, but a wonderful custom Bearcat with such greatly-improved sights is truly a ball to shoot. The older I get, the less I am able to do with such rudimentary sights as are on the standard Bearcat, and being able to actually get some match-grade accuracy out of those little sixguns is just a lot of fun. I've shot many different types of ammunition in this little Bearcat since I received it; accuracy has always been good and function perfect. On paper, this Bearcat proves how accurate the platform can be. Sub-2" groups at 25 yards is the norm, and is represented by the groups pictured: my favorite plinking load (Federal's 36-grain Bulk Pack) printed an excellent 1-3/4", while Winchester's 40-grain Dynapoint load shot even better, turning in 1-3/8". Group shooting was done at 25 yards from a rested position.

One final upgrade to my Perfected Bearcat was made by once again calling on Sack Peterson for a set of his beautiful American Elk stag grips. The fit of these grips is great, and Sack made the color and bark coverage match very closely with the grips he made for my custom Bowen Old Model Bearcat. They look great, they feel great, they are sturdy, and they are affordable. To my mind, no custom sixgun is complete without custom grips. I have Sack Peterson grips on several custom sixguns, and I even bought a set for Jeff a while back. I highly recommend them.

In my earlier article on the Old Model Bowen Bearcat, I mentioned our pal Rob Leahy's Simply Rugged holsters; specifically his Chesty Puller chest harness, which allows any pancake holster to be easily adapted to chest carry. As a "full-figured" shooter, and as a guy who rarely wears anything except bib overalls, I seldom wear a gun belt; chest or shoulder rigs work best for me, both from an ease-of-carry and from a comfort standpoint. Rob is not just a craftsman in leather, he is a man who USES his guns for everything from daily carry and personal protection to hunting the biggest and meanest critters around; his Chesty Puller system is an ingenious way to adapt belt holsters for chest carry, and offers a comfortable and affordable way to carry a wide variety of guns using the same basic rig. Rob even offers adapters to allow traditionally-styled belt holsters (not just pancake-type holsters) to be carried on the Chesty Puller rig; using this adapter, one can use virtually any belt holster with the Chesty Puller system, making it an extremely versatile and cost-effective rig. Pictured here is a nice lined Bearcat holster from Don Hume in Miami, OK (a gift from a friend, Jim "Warhawk" Nelson) used with Rob's Chesty Puller adapter system.

For a fancier rig, Mike Barranti of Barranti Leather, located in Pittsburgh, PA, is the MAN. Mike is a true artist, and his leather creations are an expression of his artistic heart. I had Mike make for me one of his Signature Series "Northwest Hunter" shoulder rigs, with swappable holsters for either my Texas Longhorn Arms sixguns (which will also fit large-frame Ruger sixguns) or my custom Bearcats (which will also fit standard Bearcats), and he came through as always, in fine style. Not only did he produce exactly what I was after, he even surprised me with a bit of personalized hand-carving on each holster: on the TLA holster he carved a beautiful Longhorn skull, and on the Bearcat holster he carved a treble clef (musical symbol) as an acknowledgement of my rumor-overstated musical ability. This is a gorgeous rig, comfortable and well-balanced, tough enough to be suitable for field carry, and I am very proud of it. Mike runs a one-man shop and is not taking orders at this time due to his large backlog of work, but he is still happy to give quotes and answer questions. Do yourself a favor and get in touch with him, he's a great guy.

With his "Perfected Bearcat" package, Hamilton Bowen has done just that: taken one of the greatest little sixguns ever made, and elevated it to absolute perfection. Have a look at the entire catalog of one of the greatest revolversmiths ever at:

Check out Sack Peterson's sixgun grips at:

Rob Leahy's Simply Rugged leather line can be seen at:

Visit Barranti Leather online at:

Turn to Belt Mountain Enterprises for the finest cylinder base pins made:

For a wide variety of 22 Long Rifle ammunition (and other calibers) at excellent prices, go to:

Boge Quinn

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.



Click pictures for a larger version.


Simply Rugged's "Chesty Puller" chest conversion holster allows use of any pancake-style holster as a chest rig. With this belt adapter, virtually any belt holster (such as the Don Hume Bearcat holster shown here) can be easily adapted to the system. This makes the Chesty Puller one of Boge's all-time favorite rigs for its ease of use, ruggedness, comfort, cost-effectiveness and versatility.



Rob Leahy of Simply Rugged (left) wearing a Chesty Puller harness with a pancake holster, and Boge wearing a Barranti Northwest Hunter rig with full-sized holster installed.



Barranti Leather's Signature Series "Northwest Hunter" shoulder rig.



Barranti also provided a full-sized holster for Boge's Northwest Hunter rig, which uses the same harness as the Bearcat holster.