Ruger's classic .22 single-action revolver becomes even more compact with this bird’s head grip version available from Lipsey’s.
Enter the Shopkeeper
Some new-age guru said if you wish hard enough the things you desire will eventually come to you. Thanks to the psychically attuned folks at Ruger, the bird’s-head Bearcat I've been thinking of is now available. It's called the Shopkeeper, in honor of those businessmen who preferred the more easily concealed bird’s-head revolvers for protection in the old days.
The Shopkeeper is based on the current Ruger New Model Bearcat single-action .22 revolver, but with a few key changes. Unlike other versions of this revolver that contain some aluminum components, this one features an all-stainless-steel construction, including the ejector rod housing. The sights consist of a rounded blade up front, and a fixed square notch rear sight that's milled into the top strap. The barrel and ejector shroud have been shortened from 4 to 3 inches.
To accommodate a shorter distance for the ejector rod to travel, the rod's lever has been cut into a crescent shape. This allows it to move past the top of the reduced cylinder pinhead, all the way to the frame. The nonfluted cylinder is engraved with the same nature scene that graces other models. The bird’s-head grip is fitted with medallion rosewood grip panels. Like the other Ruger New Model single-actions, the Bearcat has a transfer bar safety that allows the gun to be carried with all six chambers loaded.
As expected, the fit and finish of the Shopkeeper are excellent. Some manufacturers provide factory-installed dings and scratches in the finish of their guns. But Ruger made sure this one arrived in pristine condition, as is only proper. The fit of the trigger guard to the receiver is so nicely done you have to look for the seam.
The shorter barrel and rounded grip of the Shopkeeper look terrific, and even better, proved to be fun to shoot as well. The hammer and trigger were both smooth operators, with the short, crisp trigger tipping the Lyman's digital trigger gauge at 4 pounds, 2 ounces. The bird’s-head grip seats itself comfortably and intuitively in the hand. The revolver's excellent balance and mild recoil make it a shoot-all-day kind of handgun.
The Shopkeeper was test fired with several flavors of .22 Long Rifle ammunition, ranging from bulk-box varieties to high-performance hollow points. Every round inserted and fired properly, but early on some would not eject, even with repeated taps from the ejector rod. This was not due to the shortened ejector. Removing the cylinder and tapping at the stuck cartridge cases with a cleaning rod showed they were stuck because of some factory-fresh chamber roughness. Over the course of testing, the rough chambers smoothed out and ran as expected.
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Since the .22 revolver is technically a sub-compact handgun, accuracy testing was conducted using five 5-shot groups fired from a bench rest at 15 yards. This also happens to be a good plinking distance for new shooters. Groups hovered right around the 1.5-inch mark, with the best groups at the 1.25-inch range. Working from a bench rest at 25 yards was also a satisfying experience, with groups hovering comfortably around the 2- to 2.5-inch range.
What makes the Shopkeeper just that, a keeper, is that it offers both good looks and provides top-notch functionality. This version of the Ruger New Model Bearcat is a Lipsey’s exclusive item. So if you would like one, but you don't know which shops in your area are authorized Lipsey's dealers, then visit www.lipseys.com and click on DEALER FINDER to locate one near you.
Lipsey’s Ruger Bearcat Shopkeeper Specifications
Caliber: .22 LR
Capacity: 6 rounds
Frame: Satin Stainless Steel
Weight: 22 oz.
Options: Bird’s Head Hardwood grips, engraving
Suggested Retail Price: $649
Editor's Note: This article appeared in the October 21, 2013 edition of Gun Digest the Magazine.