50th Anniversary Ruger Bearcat .22 Revolver

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

April 6th, 2008

 

 

 

The 1950s were a wonderful time for gun owners, then and now. Lots of old guns produced in that era are still with us. Many fine and historic firearms were introduced back then, with several designs streaming from the fertile mind of William B. Ruger. In the 1950s, Bill Ruger gave us the Single Six, the .357 Magnum Blackhawk, the .44 Magnum Blackhawk, the .44 Magnum Super Blackhawk, and the subject of this piece, the .22 Bearcat. Differing from Rugerís earlier single action designs, which were based on an improved Colt design, the trim little Bearcat more favored the 1858 Remington Police revolver in appearance and feel, with influences from previous Colt and Ruger components.

The petite little Bearcat had a frame of aluminum alloy, resulting in a weight of only seventeen ounces or so. Chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge, the versatile little revolver could also fire .22 Short and .22 Long cartridges, which were both pretty popular back then, making for an excellent little trail gun that could ride all day long on the hip without being a bother to the wearer, and capable enough to collect some meat for the pot or to dispatch a venomous snake if needed.

The little Bearcat was named after the Stutz Bearcat automobile, as Bill Ruger was an avid enthusiast of fine motor cars. A cougar and a bear were roll-engraved upon the unfluted cylinder of the Bearcat, adding to the fine appearance of the little jewel. The Bearcat was met with immediate success, and Ruger sold many thousands of the sixguns from 1958 to about 1970, when production ceased with a delay of several months before the introduction of the heavier Super Bearcat.

What has endeared the Bearcat to the hearts of shooters, hunters, fishermen, and other outdoor types for decades is its light weight and superb handling qualities. The little sixguns fit most hands very well, despite its diminutive size, and the hammer falls right under the shooterís thumb for easily and quickly firing the weapon. The trigger blade is thin, as it should be on a single action revolver, which gives a good feel of the trigger to increase the practical accuracy of the revolver.

The Super Bearcat wore a steel frame, making for a heavier weight of twenty-three ounces or so, and enjoyed great success in its short production run, which ceased in early 1974.

The Bearcat was re-introduced in 1993 with an internal design change that utilized a transfer bar safety to preclude the gun from firing if dropped on its hammer. Any original style single action revolver, including the original Bearcat and Super Bearcat sixguns, should always be carried with an empty chamber under the hammer, unless it has been retrofitted with a transfer bar safety. The New Bearcats can be safely carried with all six chambers loaded, as it cannot fire unless the trigger is pulled. Unlike other New Model Ruger revolvers, the New Bearcat still loads and unloads in the traditional manner of placing the hammer in the half-cock position.

For more information on the New Bearcat and Stainless New Bearcat, I refer you to my previous reviews of those in our Archive section. For  a detailed look at the original Bearcat and Super Bearcat revolvers, you can find articles on each in our Collectorís Corner section that were written by our resident Ruger Collector, Bill Hamm.

This brief history of the Bearcat revolver brings us to today, the year 2008, with Ruger producing the 50th Anniversary Bearcat. This little commemorative will be produced in limited numbers in 2008 only, and has its own special serial number range, beginning with serial number SBC-00001 and continuing to whatever number is achieved in production. The one pictured here is number 639, and I received it just a couple of days ago. My brother and illustrious webmaster and resident photographer, Boge, also received his, and is in the 500 serial range. Boge is a Bearcat Nut, and being the wonderful brother that I am, let him have the lower number. In fact, reading this review will be a surprise to him, as I havenít told him that the guns had arrived yet. Like the original Bearcat, the wood grips wear no medallion, as can be seen in the pictures comparing the anniversary model to my 1960 vintage Bearcat. The front sight is also .250 inch tall, as it was on the originals. This caused my Anniversary Bearcat to shoot a bit low for me, but careful work with a file will bring the impact point up to match my shooting style and preferred ammunition.

The 50th Anniversary Bearcat, like all New Bearcats, has the internal transfer bar safety. The frame is blued steel, making the weight closer to the Super Bearcat and all New Bearcats. The test gun weighed in at exactly twenty-four ounces. The wide hammer spur and thin trigger blade make the little sixgun easy to shoot. The trigger guard is a gold anodized aluminum unit, and the ejector rod housing is also aluminum, but wears a black finish. Gold lines run around the cylinder fore and aft, and it wears the traditional bear and cougar roll mark. The sights offer a good square sight picture, and are pretty easy to see well, even with my aging eyeballs. The trigger pull measured a crisp four pounds average exactly, varying only an ounce each way. "Ruger Bearcat" is applied in gold upon the cylinder, and a gold-filled roll mark reading "50th Anniversary Bearcat 2008" is applied atop the slender four-inch barrel. The other barrel markings are applied near the bottom, slightly to the left to clear the ejector rod housing.  "Ruger New Bearcat" is roll marked under the cylinder window on the left side of the frame, and has no gold-colored filling. The serial number is applied to the bottom of the grip section of the frame.

Shooting the Anniversary Bearcat was indeed a pleasure. These little jewels are so sweet to shoot! I canít shoot a Bearcat as well as I can a Single Six, but that bothers me none at all. The Bearcat is not meant to be a target gun, but it still displayed good accuracy with some loads. I tested for accuracy from a hand-held rested position at twenty-five yards, and the little Bearcat would group most ammunition into about two and one-half inches at that range, with favored ammo grouping into about half that. The bulk Federal hollowpoint ammo that I buy at Wal Mart performed the best in this particular Bearcat, which suits me just fine. It is a good squirrel and rabbit load, and is about the most inexpensive ammunition on the market. I would like to see how well this Bearcat will shoot with a better shooter or an insert for my Ransom Rest, but Ransom does not make a Bearcat insert at this time. No matter, as I am satisfied with the way this little gun handles and shoots just fine. Timing of the action is perfect on this Bearcat, with the bolt rising into the cylinder notches in the lead of the notch, thankfully not leaving a line on the cylinder as occurs on many revolvers.

My little buddy and only Grandson immediately fell in love with the little Anniversary Bearcat. He is barely four years old, but liked shooting the little revolver almost as much as his single shot .22 rifle. The Bearcat fits him well, but he hits better with a rifle.

The 50th Anniversary Bearcat comes with a special soft zippered case, instruction manual, padlock, and a special Bearcat pamphlet, all packed within a specially-marked Anniversary white cardboard box. Like all Ruger firearms, the Bearcat is made in the USA.

Check out the full line of Ruger products here.

To find a Ruger dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.

To order the Bearcat online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

Jeff Quinn

For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to: To buy this gun online, go to:

 

 

 

Jeff tested the Anniversary Bearcat with a good variety of ammo.

 

 

 

 

The Anniversary Bearcat proved to be quite accurate from the bench.

 

 

 

 

 Jeff's four-year-old grandson was vary taken with the fancy Bearcat.

 

 

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 Ruger's 50th Anniversary Bearcat.

 

 

 

 

 The Anniversary Bearcat comes with box, manual, pamphlet, soft case, instruction manual & lock.

 

 

 

 

 Thin trigger (top) makes shooting easy. Unlike the original Bearcat, the Anniversary Bearcat has a wide hammer (bottom) for easier cocking.

 

 

 Like the early Bearcats, the Anniversary Bearcat's wood grips have no medallions.

 

 

 Fixed sights are well-designed and offer a nice sight picture.

 

 

 Cylinder is roll engraved with a bear and a cat.

 

 

Anniversary Bearcat compared with author's 1960 vintage example.

 

 

The Bearcat is perfectly sized for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge.

 

 

Like all New Bearcats, the Anniversary Bearcat features Ruger's transfer bar safety.

 

 

Ejector rod has plenty of length to fully eject cases.