Ruger’s New Bearcat Revolver – Review

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.

Ruger’s New Bearcat makes an ideal plinking and carry revolver, especially for young or small-framed shooters.

PROVENANCE

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.

Spanning six decades of rigorous use and counting, the Bearcat has carved a name for itself as an All-American rimfire six-shooter.

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.

The New Bearcat design features Ruger’s transfer bar safety system. It renders the revolver safe for full-cylinder carry, or in other words, you can safely carry with all six chambers loaded.

AMERICAN QUALITY

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.

Dust, grime, rattlesnakes? No worries. The Bearcat will handle ‘em all.

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.

Bisley-like grip profile, polished hammer and trigger, and nice bluing renders this little six-shooter an attractive weapon. Function, of course, was flawless.

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.

Tested: the author’s 4.20-inch New Bearcat. And yes, he likes it almost as much as he likes his hat. Maybe more.

TESTING

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.

The Bearcat was accurate and comfortable to shoot. Here you can see the detail of the wide hammer spur – a nice feature.

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.

Trigger break is clean, but with just a hint of smooth creep preventing it from being crisp. Average pull weight: 4 lbs. 3 oz.

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.

Several of my five-shot groups, fired at ten yards, were small enough fit inside the little revolver’s trigger guard.

CONCLUSION

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.

Aside from BB or pellet guns, nothing is as cheap to shoot as a .22LR. Get a Bearcat and 5,000 round of ammo – after shooting all of it you will be a good shot with a handgun.

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

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • willie November 3, 2019, 4:51 pm

    just found a neglected NIB blued New Bearcat at the LGS that had been under the counter for six years – it came home with me and performed very well at the range

  • Matt Cuddy September 2, 2019, 6:00 pm

    Great article. I’ve had way too many Ruger wheelguns in my life, why I sold or traded them for an automatic transmission TWICE is beyond reason. This is a little beauty, with the rolled hunting design on the cylinder, and the copy of a Colt Army in design insures Ruger will sell a boatload. Hell, I want one myself. And all my cars are stick shift now by the way.

  • Jerry S. August 20, 2019, 8:13 am

    Have had a stainless version for many years now. It fits my wife’s small hand rather well. She is quite Annie Oakley with it too.

  • JCitizen August 19, 2019, 5:41 pm

    I liked it better with the brash trigger guard.

  • Big Al August 19, 2019, 2:56 pm

    Didja eat the snake?? Em’s goooood eatin’!

  • Mike August 19, 2019, 2:38 pm

    I would have liked to see a photo with the Bearcat and the Single Six for contrast.

  • Troop Emonds August 19, 2019, 12:17 pm

    Always loved Ruger’s Bearcats. Have bought about six or seven and managed to get them either given away in trades for parachute jumps or had them stolen.

    Really like them, but always wished for one with 7” barrel. Article mentioned availability with 6” barrel?

    How about a range on the 6” barreled Super Bear/Cat?

    Have still one old model Bear/Cat and one Super Bear/cat in Stainless steel.

    Also have a new Wrangler. Paid $190.00 new for Wrangler, but Wrangler no where near as accurate as my Bear/Cats. Would love a longer barreled Bear/Cat..

    troop

  • Godfrey Daniel August 19, 2019, 12:06 pm

    Never did see the point of the Bearcat when the Single-Six with all it’s variations was available.

  • Arthur H. Aske August 19, 2019, 12:06 pm

    When I lived in Wyoming, I carried bird shot in every other chamber while fishing.

  • Theodore Tower August 19, 2019, 11:28 am

    Nice presentation, but not worth the msrp. Perhaps half that.

  • Lloyd Dumas August 19, 2019, 11:24 am

    I am proud to have one in collection but at 600+ it would not be there. Bought mine used but like new condition paid about $350 for it, mine was manufacture 1967 when they had the brass look frame which made for a better looking pistol. Also mine never had the hammer update for the safety bar also like that better just careful to load five rounds, I hear four distinct clicks when the hàmmer is pulled back which I like, that’s why I don’t want the upgrade safety bar. The grips fit near perfect on my bear cat but I wanted pearl grips got them from J Scott and they fit perfect better than Ruger. I love it for plinking and snake charming. I don’t care for the new model since they took away the brass look frame it isn’t attractive to me. Much more could be said of this model that was not mentioned like the shop keepers model they are the most expensive but can be had for about $500 good looker but can’t pay that much. All in all the bear cat is just a nice little number if you don’t have large hands.

  • Johnny L. Thomas August 19, 2019, 8:55 am

    The article should have referred to Sam Colt who designed and made the Patterson revolver. I have an old bearcat I bought when I was 14 years old. That was 56 years ago. I paid $39.95 for the bearcat. Prices have sure gone up.

  • Landis T. August 19, 2019, 6:23 am

    Six hundred is too much for a 22. Pistol

    • Andrew August 19, 2019, 12:14 pm

      That’s MSRP, so figure closer to 500.
      It’s called “inflation”.

      “This is where we are. Imagine where we will be.”

  • Frank Mitchell August 18, 2019, 4:17 pm

    He failed to.mention that there is also a 3.5 inch barreled model.

  • Mark N. August 18, 2019, 1:55 am

    The grip frame and shape of the grips is a take-off of the old 1858/1878 Remington, and in these models it is not at all unusual to have the wood proud of the frame. But $600 for a plinker is a bit much, it seems to me.

    Didn’t Ruger make one of their .22s with interchangeable cylinders to allow for .22LR and .22 mag?

    • Art Couture August 19, 2019, 8:53 pm

      When Ruger reintroduced the Bearcat around 1993 it was offered with two cylinders (22 LR & 22 MAG). Ruger quickly had a safety recall due to the Magnum cylinder. Many customers sent in their Magnum cylinders for “repair” at Ruger’ request. Instead they got back a small check and never saw their Magnum cylinders again. Finding an original Bearcat with both cylinders would probably have some collector’s value, but I would not utilize the Magnum cylinder.

  • Will Drider August 16, 2019, 11:27 pm

    I liked them but too small for my hands. I’m suprised the wood was not fit well but that could be a slight attempt at a enlarging the grip. Still a $600+ MSRP normally delivers a better quailty product from Ruger.
    I also see Ruger competing with their own new Wrangler. Steel verse alloy & finish but almost a $300 difference in price point. I was really suprised that no mater the barrel length, the BC has a 1:16 twist while the W has a 1:14.
    .

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