These days, I see a lot of shooters who seem to have forgotten how much fun shooting is. They are too caught up in the serious side and even make competition seem deadly serious.
Having drive and concentration is fine, yet you also should take time to relax and have a little recreation. Sometimes, shooting needs to be fun and uncomplicated.
What was the first gun you owned that introduced you to the pursuit of accuracy, small-game hunting or simply plinking?
Odds are it was a .22-caliber handgun. One that provides much enjoyment and reminds me of my youth is the Ruger Bearcat .22. I often use it to teach marksmanship basics to young and old alike. The Bearcat is a good trainer, and a friendly handgun that came out in 1958, the year I was born, although it seems to have aged better.
Features of the Bearcat
The Bearcat is a great first handgun because it is light and does not recoil much. It is also a good gun for hikers, fishermen and small-game hunters. It is about as light as I care to go and still consider myself armed. The Bearcat suffered a setback when production ended in 1973. Fortunately, it sprang back to life in the 1990s.
While not as popular as the larger Single Six, the Bearcat is a much appreciated handgun. Bill Ruger designed it to be similar in appearance to the Remington revolvers of the Old West, and he got it right. The classic looks belie a revolver of modern manufacture, well made of good material.
- The Bearcat is a 4-inch barrel, single-action revolver chambering the .22 Long Rifle cartridge.
- The revolver features a blue finish and walnut stocks.
- The sights are fixed with a notch in the top strap and post front sight.
- The Bearcat is light—about 25 ounces.
- The unfluted cylinder gives the revolver a clean appearance.
- The finish is a very nice, and even displays a rich, blue.
- It features a modern transfer-bar safety that allows you to safely carry the single-action revolver with six rounds in the cylinder.
- The transfer bar does not rise into place when the hammer is at rest, and the hammer cannot contact the firing pin. When you cock the hammer and press the trigger completely to the rear, the transfer bar rises and the hammer falls and strikes the transfer bar, transferring energy to the firing pin. As soon as the trigger is released, the transfer bar falls to its safe position.
To load the Bearcat…
- Place the hammer on half cock.
- Open the loading gate.
- Rotate the cylinder by hand.
- Load each chamber individually.
To eject spent cases, follow the same steps, and the ejector rod mounted beside the barrel presses to the rear to eject each case, one at a time. This is a revolver for those who enjoy single-action shooting and deliberate use. You must manually cock the hammer for each shot.
Loadings for the Bearcat
I have fired my personal Bearcat with many different loadings. The versatility of the little handgun cannot be overstated. It fires the inoffensive and quiet .22 Short cartridge. The Remington .22 Short is accurate enough to take a squirrel from a tree and is inoffensive, with a modest report.
For dusting off rodents and reptiles at a few paces, the CCI .22 shot shell is useful. The hottest load I have fired is the .22 Long Rifle CCI Stinger. Most of the ammunition used in this revolver has been whatever is least expensive. It has given good results with practically every one. Like all quality revolvers, the Ruger Bearcat prefers one load to the other, although it is not the type of handgun I am likely to fire off a bench rest for accuracy. I use it for off-hand shooting.
The Bearcat is accurate enough for taking rabbits and squirrels to about 10 yards, perhaps 15, in a steady hand or from a brace. The light weight does not promote pinpoint accuracy, and neither do the short sight radius and fixed sights. If you need more accuracy, then a Ruger Single Six is a good choice. For use as a light-packing kit gun, the Bearcat excels.
One tip: watch for glint on the front sight. If the sight is in direct sunlight and light reflection is present, it fires away from the glint. Perhaps smoking the sight or applying black maker is a good idea.
The Bearcat feels good in the hand once you have acclimated to the small frame.
- The sights are bold, if small.
- The trigger action is a bright spot; clean, crisp and free from creep or backlash, it breaks at a sharp 4 pounds.
I could not resist firing the Bearcat for groups at 10 yards. With the Winchester M22 and DynaPoint, a five-shot group of 2 inches is average, with a few smaller when I was lucky. This is not a target gun, yet it is decent for a 25-ounce, .22-caliber revolver.
The Ruger Bearcat is more than a good revolver; it is a finely made revolver that is versatile and useful, with plenty of pride of ownership.
Have you fired the Ruger Bearcat? What do you think? Does it add the fun back to your shooting? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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