Back in the early 1970's, some changes were on the horizon for Ruger. Namely, their patented transfer bar safety was changed, meaning a redesign of single action revolvers at the same time. This may seem like a small detail, but it had a large impact on the guns made by Ruger, specifically the Bearcat. After this change took place, both the alloy Bearcat and steel Super Bearcat fell to the wayside, becoming guns of the past. This remained the case for approximately 20 years, at which point the Bearcat was brought back. Upon its return in the early 1990's, the Bearcat was outfitted with an improved transfer bar safety mechanism.
These days, however, there is a new Bearcat on the block. This new addition has been dubbed the Bearcat Shopkeeper and has been commissioned by known Ruger distributor, Lipsey's. Much like the Bearcats that came before it, the Shopkeeper is a .22 Long Rifle caliber. It is a single action revolver with six shots, outfitted with fixed sights and a wooden stock.
The fact that the Bearcat was a favorite amongst outdoorsmen of all types and kind was not forgotten in creation of the Shopkeeper variety. The gun itself is entirely made of stainless steel, including the ejector rod housing, and the barrel was shortened from 4 inches down to 3 inches. The frame itself was changed to a birdshead grip and it was given an upgraded ejector system. This combines a button head cylinder pin and an ejector rod housed behind a convex thumb piece, making the ejector rod more effective as a whole for the purpose it serves.
Loading and unloading is done in much the same way as many old single action revolvers. The hammer must be half-cocked in order for the cylinder to move, at which point it can be rotated so that it lines up with the loading gate. Rounds can them be inserted or spent rounds ejected. The cylinder can also be removed entirely with a touch of the cylinder release pin followed by a forward pull to remove it from the front of the frame.
Some other specifications of the Ruger Bearcat Shopkeeper is rifling that is 1:16-inch and a weight of approximately 22 ounces. The overall length is 8 inches with a blade front sight and integral notch rear sight. Grips are hardwood with a rounded butt grip and the finish is satin stainless. Additional heft is present in the forward portion of the gun, but it fits well with the overall concept, making the Shopkeeper feel comfortable and natural in hand.
Photo: American Rifleman
All in all, it is a good fit for the pocket as you set out on a trek through the woods or any other type of activity in which having a .22 LR might be necessary to back you up. If you're interested in purchasing a Bearcat Shopkeeper, it will be necessary to do so through Lipsey's website (should you have your own FFL) or retailers who contract with them. The MSRP on this gun is $679.00.
Now, if you could just get your hands on some bricks of .22LR that don't cost an arm and a leg!
Are you a longtime fan of the Ruger Bearcat? Is the new Bearcat Shopkeeper on your wish list? Let us know in the comments!