December 07, 2015
By Joseph von Benedikt
Ruger's little Bearcat has always been my favorite .22 rimfire trail gun.
Sized to fit a tackle box or a daypack, the diminutive wheelgun is small enough for kids' hands but not too small for adults. My only beef with the traditional fixed-sight Ruger Bearcats I've had is that they didn't hit point of aim, at least with my ammo.
I don't need to worry about that any longer because Ruger recently offered a distributor-exclusive Bearcat with adjustable sights. It's marketed through Lipsey's and is available in blued or stainless steel. While I prefer the look of the blued version, I ordered a stainless model, knowing that it would be better for the hard use my kids and I are sure to put the revolver through.
The Ruger Bearcat is built on a one-piece grip-action frame. Unlike other companies' designs, the metal bones that hold the rosewood grip panels are not a separate unit that screws to the frame proper; they are machined integral to it.
The Ruger Bearcat's internal parts are installed at the bottom of the frame, and the trigger guard plate levers in and attaches via one screw at the forward end. As with most single actions, the cylinder rod is installed through the front of the frame just below the barrel. The cylinder is easily removed for cleaning and maintenance by putting the hammer on halfcock, opening the loading gate, pressing the retaining pin, and drawing the cylinder rod out.
Cylinder chambers aren't recessed for the cartridge rims, but the rear face of the cylinder is counterbored a bit, so with the cylinder installed, it looks almost as if the chambers are recessed. It's a nice bit of machining.
The Ruger Bearcat operates in the traditional manner when loading and unloading: First bring the hammer back to halfcock, open the loading gate, and load or unload. When finished loading or unloading, and after the loading gate is closed, the hammer is cocked all the way rearward before lowering it to rest, preventing the cylinder stop from scarring the body of the cylinder.
The original Ruger Bearcat model was discontinued in 1974, when Ruger began installing transfer bar systems in its revolvers to prevent accidental discharge if the hammer was bumped while in the rest position over a loaded chamber. Eventually, the company designed a scaled-down transfer bar for the Ruger Bearcat and put it back into production in 1993. The takeaway is that you can safely carry today's Bearcat with all six chambers loaded and the hammer lowered.
Fit and finish on the Lipsey's exclusive Ruger Bearcat is beautiful. The seams flow flawlessly, and the action is smooth and tight. As measured by my Lyman digital trigger gauge, the trigger averages 5 pounds, 12 ounces. Light it is not, but it is clean and crisp enough that it's not difficult to shoot well.
I ran several different .22 LR loads through the adjustable-sighted Ruger Bearcat, ranging from CCI Stingers to light Remington CBee loads. The revolver shot well with all, but it preferred Winchester's 40-grain Super-X load, averaging 0.73 inch at 15 yards. It sure was nice to be able to adjust the sights to put those bullets dead on point of aim. The sturdy sights offer a nice, clean sight picture.
This little Ruger Bearcat has a permanent place in my gun safe, but my guess is it's going to spend most of its life on the trail because all four of my kids will learn both the basics and the finer points of handgun shooting with it. We're going to keep it very busy.