We were trundling along on a placid Honda Rancher when we saw the snake; slithering its sinister way across a dirt ranch road. Greenish in color, we recognized it as a Mohave rattlesnake, widely considered the most toxic and dangerous of all rattlers due to its neurotoxic venom and aggressive attitude. They’ve been known to attack people, and while this one was more bent on escaping than attacking it was too close to the ranch headquarters for comfort. So my 10-year-old son Josiah slicked out his little Ruger Bearcat and put a .22 bullet through its head. Well, almost. Had the snake possessed whiskers that lead would have trimmed ‘em. The snake turned, hesitated, and Josiah’s second bullet decapitated it. Not bad shooting for a youngster.
America’s fascination with revolvers harks back to the 1840s when Col. Patterson introduced the first cap and ball revolver; a 5-shot .36-caliber black powder affair that proved to be the first effective repeating handgun in American history. Just over 100 years later, Ruger introduced their Bearcat, a capable little .22 LR six-shooter with an awesome name. It was destined for greatness, and along with its big brother, the Single Six, carved out a name as one of America’s best .22 single-action revolvers. First produced in 1958, the little handgun’s appearance is slightly reminiscent of Civil War era Remington revolvers. Paying tribute to its “Bearcat” moniker, the unfluted cylinder sports rollmark “engraving” featuring a bear and a cougar.
Originally, 1st issue Bearcats were made with a solid alloy frame and plastic grips, which were later changed to walnut. 2nd issue revolvers featured an upgraded steel frame and were called the Super Bearcat. In 1974 the revolvers were discontinued, reportedly due to a marketing oversight. Then, in 1993 Ruger introduced the 3rd issue of their little six-gun, now featuring Ruger’s very capable transfer bar safety system, and hardwood grips inlaid with a Ruger medallion. It’s called the “New Bearcat”, and production continues today. Stainless iterations were added in the early 2000s, and a fancy 50th-anniversary model was produced in 2008.
I’m personally a fan of “American made”, and the fact that Ruger firearms are made in the USA renders an automatic checkmark in their favor. Additionally, Ruger guns possess a reputation for rugged durability second to none in the firearms industry. I’ve owned several, and each has lived up to that reputation, performing reliably and accurately regardless of anything hard use in a challenging environment threw at it. I expect nothing less of the New Bearcat revolver.
FIT, FINISH, AND FUNCTION
Fit and finish on the Ruger New Bearcat were not perfect, but not terrible either. The wood-to-metal fit was less than ideal, with the stocks being slightly proud and not super well-fitted around most of the metal, especially in the region of the medallions. However, we’re not testing a Holland & Holland double rifle here, and in my assessment, the fit was adequate enough. All metal parts feature a nice, almost black, bluing except for the hammer and trigger, which are polished, creating a nice, eye-catching contrast. The hammer sports a wide(ish) thumb platform atop the spur, which renders the sixgun easy to cock. The grip shape is reminiscent of a Bisley profile, offering an almost straight grip and making the revolver feel quite natural to aim and shoot. Function throughout my testing was as expected of a Ruger revolver – flawless. The action is tight and relatively smooth, the loading gate snaps open and shut crisply, and the ejector works smoothly and with authority.
The New Bearcat is available in several iterations; including barrel lengths of 3-inch, 4.2-inch (as tested), and 6-inch. Fixed sights are standard, including frame-top square-notch rear and blade front sight. Certain models are only available as Lipsey’s Distributors exclusives, including some models that feature adjustable rear sights or birds-head grips. Some models are available in stainless steel.
The first stage of testing the little Bearcat involved plinking with my kids – after-all; it’s the perfect size and shape for youngsters to learn with. It proved easy for them to handle, simple to operate, and went bang every time they aimed at a target and squeezed the trigger. The older kids even printed some inspiringly tight five-shot groups. They universally loved the little six-shooter, so much in fact that I ordered two more Bearcats shortly thereafter.
My second stage of testing consisted of building a little Slim Jim cross-draw holster for the New Bearcat and carrying it with me, occasional plinking, and just getting to know the revolver. I especially like the balance of the 4.2-inch test model; it feels good in the hand, points naturally, and carries well. Josiah carried it more than I did, having it belted on when we encountered the rattlesnake mentioned above. While it doesn’t fill my hand quite as well as my Ruger Single Six does, it still felt good and handled nicely once I grew used to it. And it feels perfect to my wife and children’s hands; to them, my Single Six feels too large.
The third and final stage comprised accuracy testing three of my favorite .22 Long Rifle loads. Accuracy was good, with group size averaging less than one and a quarter inches at ten yards across all three loads. Not surprisingly, my groups impacted an average of two inches low. It would be a simple matter to file the front sight down a touch; a few minutes with a careful file, a polishing stone, and a bit of cold blue would bring the point of impact up perfectly and leave your Bearcat zeroed and looking good.
Ruger’s New Bearcat is an awesome, reliable little single-action six-shooter that’s perfect for kid and adult alike. The function will be stellar and accuracy is good. Best of all, every Bearcat is made in the USA. MSRP $639.
Note: Testing was performed from a rested position at 10 yards, with a Shooting Chrony chronograph set 10 feet in front of the muzzle. Three, 5-shot groups were fired with each ammunition, the results added together and averaged.
|Manufacture||Bullet||Velocity (FPS)||Accuracy (Inches)||ES||SD|
|Federal||40 Gr. Match HP||959||1.23||98||28|
|Winchester Wildcat||40 Gr. Copper Plated||978||1.12||55||18|
|Remington||36 Gr. Brass Plated HP||945||1.09||80||30|
Visit Ruger to learn more by clicking