Lipsey’s Ruger .22 Bearcat Storekeeper
In 1953, the first Ruger revolver, the Single-Six .22 arrived. The Single-Six was a slightly smaller version of the Colt Single Action, however, it had virtually unbreakable coil springs and was chambered in a cartridge everyone could afford to fire. Then in 1958, Ruger looked back into history once again and patterned the .22 Bearcat after the Remington New Model Police Conversion of 1858. It is even smaller than the Colt 1848 Pocket Pistol.
Unlike most single actions the Ruger Bearcat has a main frame and grip frame which is all one piece. Weighing all of 17 ounces, this little 6-shot .22 found immediate acceptance with anyone wishing to travel light and armed. Hikers, fishermen, hunters, backpackers, campers, and others who traveled off the beaten path readily took the Bearcat to their sixgunning heart.
Firearms are extremely important to many of us and for many reasons not the least of which is building family memories. Some of our finest Taffin Family memories come from the Ruger Bearcat.
The old Bearcat (top) emphasizes the smaller size of the new Storekeeper.
In the April 2003 issue of this magazine, I shared in my Campfire Tales column something about the Bearcat; something quite important as it was my son reminiscing about his first handgun. This came from a letter he wrote to me on my 61st birthday: “I remember how excited I was, nearly trembling, when we went to the gun shop run by the short man with black, horn-rimmed glasses and a noticeable limp to pick out my first handgun. I was 10 years old, and as I invested my life savings of $26—which was equally matched by you, probably pulled from that black leather wallet chained to your belt—to meet the price tag of the Ruger Bearcat, I was in awe of my new purchase.
“Imagine how I felt then when the gun shop owner leaned over and with a wink dropped a box of .22 shells in my hand and lifted a finger to his lips in a gesture that I knew meant I wasn’t to tell anyone of his generosity. Later, when you made the belt and holster I voted myself the coolest kid in the world. And why wouldn’t I be? I have a dad that could shoot better than anyone I knew, let me carry my sidearm like a real cowboy, molded his own bullets, and reloaded his own ammo.
“My friends couldn’t believe stories about shooting big-bore handguns. They were playing with chrome-plated guns worn in plastic holsters. They would fire a few caps until the cap pistol jammed and usually ended up popping the caps on the sidewalk with a rock that was a more reliable way to ensure the caps properly exploded. My gun was real, the bullets were real, and the holster was real leather stitched by hand. Having my name carved in my belt truly completed the ensemble.”
The Ruger Bearcat Storekeeper was tested with a variety of .22 ammunition.
All these years the Bearcat has been the same basic 4-inch barreled, traditionally styled .22 single-action sixgun first in blue and then in the stainless steel. Now thanks to Ruger and Lipsey’s we have a completely new Bearcat, the .22 Storekeeper. Lipsey’s is a distributor specializing in special edition firearms. This little-er Bearcat has a 3-inch barrel and instead of the standard grip frame it wears a miniaturized birdshead, both of which make this a very handy, or I should say even handier pocket pistol.
With the shorter barrel and smaller grip frame the Bearcat becomes even much easier to conceal. Yes, it is a .22, a true 6-shot .22 and shooters have been arguing for more than 150 years over the little .22 as a defensive cartridge. Of course, there are dozens, which are better suited to the task, however the number one concealed pistol chosen by officers during the Civil War was a .22. In fact it was a .22 Short and did not have the advantage of the excellent .22 Long Rifle hollowpoints available today.
With its small dimensions and weight just barely over 1 pound the first thing I noticed when handling the Bearcat was its totally unacceptable trigger pull. Weighing in at just over 6 pounds, it was simply not going to work for the little Bearcat. So before I ever loaded it, I had my gunsmith Tom at Buckhorn Gun take it down to right to 3 pounds. It was certainly worth doing as shooting at 7 yards with seven different loads resulted in an average of well under 1 inch groups. Moving out to 20 yards with the same seven loads resulted in the groups just over 1-1/2 inches, which is about as good as I’ll ever do with such a short sight radius on such a small pistol. Even though the grip frame is even smaller than the standard Bearcat frame it still fits my hand very well and I don’t feel cramped shooting it. I normally do not care for birdshead grips on full-size pistols, however it mates up very well with the small frame of the Bearcat.
John shot targets at 7 yards (above) with the Bearcat Storekeeper
and at 20 yards (below) with pleasing results.
The Lipsey’s/Ruger Bearcat Storekeeper is the first major modification of the Bearcat in more than a half century. The Bearcat is also unique in that it is the only Ruger single action, which has both a transfer bar and a 1/2-cock notch. Other Ruger single actions from the Single-Six through the Single-Nine and Single-Ten, all the Blackhawks, Super Blackhawks, and Bisley Models have a transfer bar and load and unload by simply opening the loading gate which releases the cylinder to rotate. With the Bearcat even when the loading gate is opened the hammer must still be placed on the half-cock notch before the cylinder will rotate.
With the shortening of the barrel it was also necessary to shorten the ejector rod. I found it was much more convenient to remove the cylinder and tap out the empty cases with a small punch than it was to try to eject them in the normal way. The cylinder pin removes very easily and the head of the ejector rod is hollowed out to allow the cylinder pin to move all the way forward so there is no problem whatsoever in performing this operation.
The cylinder of this Bearcat Storekeeper has very tight chambers and some factory ammunition required some effort to seat the cases in each chamber. For convenience I will also have Tom the gunsmith polish out each chamber so less effort is required for loading. The ejector rod may also work much easier doing its job if the brass is not so tight in the cylinder.
I’ve always liked the little Bearcat even though I could not come close to shooting it as well the much larger and heavier Ruger Super Single-Six. They are simply different sixguns for different purposes. With its diminutive size I like the Storekeeper version even better than the original. It slips so easily into just about any jacket or pants pocket and with the stainless steel finish is well-suited to a backpack or tackle box.
Another fine single-action sixgun from Ruger. If interested in the Bearcat Storekeeper have your dealer contact Lipsey’s directly, not Ruger.
By John Taffin
.22 Long Rifle Factory Ammo Performance
|Load (brand, bullet weight, type)||Velocity (fps)||Group Size* (inches)||Group Size** (inches)|
|American Eagle HV HP||988||1-1/8||1-3/4|
|CCI Mini-Mag HP||976||7/8||1-1/4|
|CCI Mini-Mag +V||1,089||3/4||1-5/8|
|Federal Classic HV HP||1,063||3/4||2|
|Federal Champion HP||1,027||1/2||2-1/2|
|Winchester Power Point||999||7/8||1-1/2|
Notes: Chronograph set at 10 feet from the muzzle. *Groups the product
of five shots at 7 yards. **Groups the product of five shots at 20 yards.
Caliber: .22 LR
Barrel Length: 3″
Overall Length: 7.6″
Weight: 21 ounces
Finish: Stainless steel
Sights: Traditional fixed
Grips: Laminated Rosewood Birdshead