Ruger has long had a popular product in their Bearcat single action revolver. At the 2013 Shotshow they unveiled their latest version of it, the Shopkeeper. The new little birdshead model is unique and has lots of panache right out of the box.
The Bearcat Legacy
In 1958, Ruger began construction of their Bearcat revolver and it proved a fast favorite with hikers, campers, and plinkers. Chambered for 22 rimfire (LR, Long, and Short/CB), this single action revolver was lightweight at just over a pound. Reliable and compact but still offering a
4-inch barrel with the safety of a modern and efficient single-action trigger, it took a licking and kept on ticking. Now in its 55th year, the solid framed Bearcat with its standard 4-inch barrel is still popular with used models bringing in $400 while newer models are a couple hundred higher.
What was the original Shopkeeper?
In 1877, William Mason of the Colt factory in Connecticut designed their first double-action revolver, which became named appropriately enough, the Colt M1877. This gun six-shooter could be fired very fast and soon became a favorite of outlaws such as Billy the Kid, John Wesley Hardin, and lawmen such as Jerome Caminada. Benjamin Kittredge, one of Colt's major distributors, though the gun was so fast that he nicknamed it the 'Rainmaker' (in 32 Colt)
the 'Lighting' (in .38 Colt) and the 'Thunderer' (in 41 Colt). Kittredge also sold shot barrel models that he dubbed the 'Shopkeeper'. These guns, with just a 2.5-inch barrel and no ejector rod, were some of the first double action snub nosed revolvers. Like the nickname alludes to, these were often billed as being just the thing to keep in your cash drawer should some wayward ragamuffin show up in your shop looking to make a quick dollar. Colt kept these in production well into the 20th century when the Colt Detective picked up as the next generation of snubby revolvers.
Ruger's new model
Taking inspiration from Colt's old M1877 snubbies and the frame of their already popular third generation Super Bearcat, Ruger has introduced the Bearcat Shopkeeper. With a 3-inch barrel and a 7.5-inch overall length, the Shopkeeper is more compact than it's older, nearly nine inch long brothers. At 22.7 ounces, it's about the same heft as the 3rd Generation Bearcats. The neat thing about the little revolver is the birdhead grip, crescent shaped steel extractor rod (instead of the aluminum ones used on other Bearcats), and overall styling that includes engraving on the cylinder. With a gentle trigger pull in single action of a little over 3.5 pounds, and almost no felt recoil even with the stoutest of rimfire rounds, it is a joy to shoot.
Lipseys has these guns as an exclusive for this year at least with a MSRP of $649,
which seems a deal.
And you don't have to be a shopkeeper yourself to realize that one.