By John Taffin, GUNS Magazine
That wonderful year was 1958. Ike was in the White House and thousands of young girls all around the country wept as Elvis was inducted into the Army. The Yankees beat the Braves in the World Series, a really nice house would cost the buyer $8,500, Chuck Berry told us about Johnny Be Good, and Connie Francis asked Who’s Sorry Now? My teenage life was changed dramatically as I met a blonde teenage girl now known as Diamond Dot. On the sixgun scene Ruger brought out the slickest little .22 single action which not only fit very small hands, but somehow even felt good to someone as ham-handed as I.
The .22 Bearcat had standard fixed-sights such as those found on the Colt Single Action, and did not even have the windage-adjustable rear sight of the Single-Six. The problem with fixed-sighted sixguns is the fact they do not always shoot to point of aim, and even if they do with one type of ammunition, they may not with another. Everybody does not see and hold a sixgun in the same way, which also affects point of impact. For whatever the reason, Ruger never saw the need to put adjustable sights on the little Bearcat. Several gunsmiths have corrected this problem over the years, however, every Ruger Bearcat, whether it was the original, the steel Super Bearcat, or the stainless steel Super Bearcat, came with standard fixed sights. This has gone on for well over 55 years.
Kids and .22’s go together. They always have and they always will; that is, unless political correctness totally corrupts us. Great memories come from friends and families enjoying things together and firearms and being outdoors are grand memory builders. No firearm is as good as a .22 for building those memories. Inexpensive to shoot and having low recoil, they are great for families on a budget and with young kids not ready for anything larger.
My first revolver was a .22 Ruger Single-Six in the mid-1950’s and in the 1970’s, my son was 10 years old and ready for his very own revolver. I knew it had to be a .22 single action and it had to be a Ruger. The bargain we struck together then was I would pay half if he would save up the other the other half. It took him quite a few odd jobs to come up with his bucks, but on his 10th birthday we walked into The Gunhaus and bought a brand-new Ruger Bearcat.
The shop owner threw in a box of .22’s, I fashioned a belt and holster, a friend made custom grips, and another generation was ready to enter the satisfying world of sixgunning. He still has that Bearcat. My granddaughter, his youngest, also has a Bearcat as her first firearm as I presented her with one of the Lipsey’s Ruger stainless steel, roundbutt Shopkeeper’s Models. Diamond Dot also has a Super Bearcat and my old Bearcat is well-worn but still shoots the way we expect any Ruger to do.
If there is anything more enjoyable—and at the same time more simple—than shooting .22’s at tin cans, I do not know what it is. If I could somehow capture the enjoyment we experienced as teenagers gathering together to shoot Marlin lever action .22’s and the then-new Ruger Single-Sixes and spread it from one end of the country to the other, it would certainly have a most positive effect on people’s attitudes. We must not listen to those who would have us believe times have changed to the point that kids and guns no longer go together. That is total nonsense. Kids and guns have always gone together, at least since the invention of the .22 rifle and the later advent of so many wonderful revolvers and semi-auto pistols chambered in this most popular of all cartridges.
I can’t emphasize enough that kids, and quite often women who are beginning to shoot, should be started on the right track with revolvers that do not beat them up. I remember from my silhouetting days how often men would have their kids shooting their big-bore Unlimited handguns. Daddy may have been proud, but junior, and often Mom, were getting beat up and quickly learning that shooting was not for them. Kids should be started young, but they should also be started easy.
When Ruger switched to New Model production with a transfer bar safety in both the Single-Six and Blackhawk series, they elected to drop the Bearcat rather than adding a transfer bar. The Bearcat was resurrected in 1993 complete with a transfer bar safety, however, unlike the Single-Six and the Blackhawk sixguns, the Bearcat features a 1/2-cock notch on the hammer.
Many of us repeatedly requested adjustable sights over the years, however, no one seemed to pay any attention. Then this past summer Ken Jorgensen of Ruger contacted me to see if I would be willing to be interviewed to be on the Ruger Inside and Out TV show. I expected Ken to show up at the house with a handheld video camera, spend a half hour or so, and be gone. Instead the cameraman filled my family room and most of my office with equipment and we spent the whole morning filming, then went out for a very satisfying Mexican lunch, and then it was off to the range for an afternoon of shooting and filming. It was a most enjoyable day.
As we talked during the morning, Ken asked if I could have any Ruger what would I like to see produced. I did not hesitate to say an adjustable sighted Bearcat. Ken’s immediate response was: “It’s coming.” He made my day! Little did I know how quickly it would be coming and what the occasion would be.
Two of my friends worked for nearly a year contacting others in the industry and result was an elk and buffalo hunt for me followed up by an appreciation dinner two weeks later. I was stunned and humbled when over 250 people, both local and from around the country, showed up for the dinner. Ken Jorgensen of Ruger went to the podium, looked down at me sitting with all my family, and asked, “Do you remember what Ruger you said you’d like to see when you are interviewed a few months ago?” “An adjustable-sighted Bearcat,” I replied. And with that Ken left the podium, came down to my table, and presented me with the very first adjustable-sighted Ruger Bearcat. I was stunned. After nearly 60 years we now have the finest little .22 single action “kit gun” which is now a Petite Perfect Packin’ Pistol.
Ruger did not just adapt the regular Bearcat frame to accept an adjustable rear sight as many gunsmiths do by removing metal from the top back of the frame to accommodate the sight. Instead, Ruger redesigned the frame to incorporate the same ears on both sides of the rear sight as found on all of their Blackhawk Models. The sight is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation and mates up nicely with the ramp front sight.
I said “fully adjustable,” however, there were two minor problems with the adjustment. The elevation screw would not go down far enough to bottom out the rear sight, and if it did the rear sight prevented the hammer from going all the way forward. My gunsmith Tom at Buckhorn quickly fixed both problems. Now the sight is fully adjustable and it does not interfere with the hammer.
The Bearcat is a joy to shoot and, as I have mentioned, it is basically a one-size-fits-all as it’s a rare hand that doesn’t feel comfortable wrapped around the Bearcat grip frame. It shot very well with many of the 5-shot groups in the 1-inch range at 20 yards. CCI Mini-Mag HP’s really stood out clocking over 1,060 fps and grouping in 5/8 inch.
The Bearcat is rarely seen in holsters. Instead in can be found in backpacks, fishing tackle boxes, pockets, anywhere a small space is encountered which will accept this diminutive .22. The reason very few Bearcat holsters are seen is because it is very difficult to make a holster for such a small revolver. When my son got his Bearcat I managed to fashion a belt and Threepersons-style holster for it. There is so little cylinder and frame to wrap the leather around it takes a special leathercrafting skill to come up with a holster. Chisholm’s Trail specializes in historical style leather and came up with a beautiful rendition of a Mexican-style holster for the little Bearcat. There is nothing more worthless for carrying a firearm, especially when roaming the sagebrush, foothills, forests, or mountains than a loose fitting holster. Chisolm’s Trail makes tightfitting leather, which secures the sixgun in practically any situation. The Bearcat will not fall out of this exquisitely built little holster.
By the time you read this I expect the adjustable-sighted Bearcat will be in standard production. My son started his shooting with a Bearcat and many of the grandkids also spent learning time with the little .22 single action. Not only did I have a fabulous hunt, a very humbling dinner, and the presentation of the first adjustable sighted Bearcat this past year, my grandson and his wife also presented us with our first great grandchild. As Miriam Rebecca grows she will learn to shoot with this new Bearcat, and when she is old enough it will become hers. The family tradition will continue.