Ruger Gets it Right with the Bearcat .22 Revolver

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms

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.

Black barreled, brown gripped Ruger Bearcat on a white background

The Bearcat is a neat, handy and accurate little handgun.

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.

Ruger Bearcat with focus on the sights on a white background

The Ruger’s sights are pretty doggone good for a kit gun.

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.
Black barreled, brown gripped Ruger Bearcat half cocked  on a white background

The loading gate is open for loading or unloading. Note that the hammer is at half cock.

To load the Bearcat…

  1. Place the hammer on half cock.
  2. Open the loading gate.
  3. Rotate the cylinder by hand.
  4. 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.

.22 Ammo for Ruger Bearcat

The world of .22s is a pretty big place.

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.

Ruger Bearcat with focus on the sights on a white background

The front sight is pinched in place; it is not going anywhere.

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.

Ruger Bearcat on left compared to a Taurus  small-frame revolver on a white background

For reference, a side-by-side comparison of the Ruger Bearcat and a Taurus small-frame 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.

Click Here to buy a Ruger Bearcat online





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 Shooter’s 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.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (10)

  • Daniel Prince


    I inherited two Ruger Bearcats, and I purchased one myself, so I own a total of three Ruger Bearcats. One is very old, and is an early 60’s model, so I never shoot it and I put it with my distinctive originals collection (Along with its bigger brother the Blackhawk, that one being an older one as well). My second Bearcat is nowhere near as old as the other, so I shoot it often, and the one I purchased is very recent so I shoot it the most when I train or teach others with a .22 and I love them. No firearm owner should call themselves decent if they don’t own a Ruger Bearcat, it’s just that simple. It is the finest most beautiful looking, simplistic in every way possible, elegant and functional .22 caliber revolver ever manufactured. The mere fact that it’s produced by Ruger should tell you everything you need to know, which is that it’s an amazing firearm and absolutely worth owning.


  • Art


    I would trust this pistol with my life. The .22 is way under rated as a self defense weapon, and the Ruger Bear Cat is a weapon which will function well, is easy to carry, and at close range will be effective for self defense.
    Larger calibers are obviously more effective, nevertheless this pistol is the best in its class.


  • Roger


    I have 2 of these little Ruger .22’s. I like to load them up and start shooting with one in each hand. you can start to feel like Kevin Kosner in Silverado. A tip for those “quick draw” guys, lean out over that holster side leg a bit when you draw so you don’t shoot your self in the foot or leg. I have seen it done, no fun.
    Another feature I like is the Mag cylinder mine came with. It turns into a good side arm for more serious situations, ( if you can get the ammo ).


  • Whiskey Delta


    Enjoyed shooting my Bearcat, but could not shoot it well, as it was so light. Needed a heavier barrel.


  • Hogglegg44


    The Bearcat was the first revolver I ever owned. Bought one new in 1965 for $39. Like a big dummy I traded that gun a few years later, but I pickup another Bearcat that was made in 1971. It’s simple. It’s sweet, and it shoots just about any 22 ammo you can put in it. I just might have to put some CB caps in it for the raccoons that are trying to take over. I love the Bearcat! It’s the reason the next handgun I bought was a 3 screw Super Black Hawk. Love it too.


  • Jarhead80


    Bob, This I liken to hearing about an old girlfriend. In ’58 I bought a Blackhawk .44 Mag s/a for protection against wild dog packs and upset bear that roam the area that I walked thru. It was to much of a gun for just plinking so I bought the .22. Had a lot of fun with it plinking and shooting rats in the garbage dump. I moved the company from N.H. to the peoples republic of Massachusetts and still hadn’t unpacked everything when kids broke into the office and stole quite a few things including the .22 which at the time was unknown to me. One of the kids threaten to shoot another and the cops search his room and found the gun. The end result was that I give the gun to the cops or face the 1 year mandatory jail sentence. Now that I have a CC permit you can understand what my decision was. Oh the kid because his dad was a town VIP got a slap on the wrist. Shortly after that I finalize plans to move the company to Florida, retired and moved to a good gun state AZ. J.


  • Kevin


    I think it’s rather sad that all of the firearms companies are manufacturing .22 LR firearms when the regular shooter that walks into Walmart or a big box sports store can’t even get 22LR ammo. It is non-existent.


    • bji


      AGREED!!! I have 2 525 Bulk Packs Remington Golden Bullets I purchased in July 2011@ Dunhams on sale for $15 per box!!! I was in my local Ds today and the clerk says it comes in VERY RARELY and IS GONE INSTANTLY! I have seen the GB 525s on the internet for as much as $150!


  • Merle


    “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.”

    That’s because your eye sees “more light” on the bright side and automatically tries to equalize it. Back in my IHMSA days all the experienced shooters smoked their sights for this very reason.

    Merle Morrison


    • PJ


      The problem with the front sight is due to the curve of the sight, with the result that no matter where the sun is, you get a reflection. I took a dremel tool to mine and cut off the rear corner of the front sight, leaving a flat 45 degree surface at that point. The top of the cut coincides with the highest point on the front sight. Then I blued it with Oxpho Blue. Now it is a MUCH better front sight, no reflections, yet still looks appropriate to the gun. Ruger ought to fix that.


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