My father and other family members were not impressed with handguns, so there was no chance that I was inheriting a Colt Bisley. Heck, my uncle was so anti-gun that he wouldn’t even stop and buy me a Luger when billboards in Oregon advertised them for $29.95. And, even way back, Colt Bisley’s sold for a heck of a lot more than $29.95!
Fortunately, Bill Ruger and his crew brought back the single action Bisley revolver. It wasn’t on my radar until my friendly neighborhood Federal Firearms License dealer bought one for himself; a small frame Bisley in 32 H & R magnum. The small frame was a poor fit for his big hands, and he offered it to me. When he dropped the price to about two hundred bucks for the gun and a couple of boxes of ammo, I was sold.
I don’t care for most single action grips, and generally don’t shoot well with them. This little Bisley was different; it had me shooting groups, rather than patterns. Based on this, I bought a large frame Ruger Bisley in 44 magnum. It seemed to fit my hand fine. Unfortunately, the groups I had been shooting with the small frame Bisley went back to patterns with the large frame Bisley, and it quickly became a safe queen.
I worked for the Division of Highways around 1970’, before firearm paranoia began in earnest. Occasionally, construction or field survey personnel would bring their pistols to work with them, and target practice at lunch time or after work. At that time, such conduct wasn’t prohibited, or even frowned upon.
Once, while working in a Design Squad, I was recruited for a field survey of a storm damage project on Route 96 near Hoopa. On the way out to the project, conversation turned to firearms. The leader of our group explained to me why he liked the Ruger Bearcat pistol. Saying that I wasn’t familiar with that pistol, he produced one from his coat pocket.
It was a cute little pistol, blued, with an aluminum frame, gold colored trigger guard, and a cylinder roll marked with a bear and a mountain lion. While bothered me that they didn’t have adjustable sights, I still wanted to buy one. They were unavailable at the time, so I asked a Federal Firearms License dealer, who also worked for Highways, if he could locate one for me.
Before he found a used Bearcat, I located a new super Bearcat at Rodgers Market in Mckinleyville. Fifty four dollars and a five day waiting period later, I had a new super Bearcat, all blued steel, with walnut grips. I have only fired this Bearcat a few times, but I took it on a couple of backpacking trips, in a holster. The last time I took it, the latch on the lap belt of my backpack took a sliver out of one of the walnut grips (outch).
Nearly a year later, the FFL dealer found me a first model Bearcat with an aluminum frame. It was original, with the exception of the grips, which had been replaced with aftermarket stag grips. Many first model Bearcats had plastic grips with no medallion, so the grip replacement was understandable.
Next year, in 1975, I bought a third Bearcat. This was a used super Bearcat, with a gold colored trigger guard. Looking back, I don’t know why I bought this revolver. It was the most expensive of the bunch at about $85. I must have decided that the gold trigger guard was unusual on a super Bearcat, and just couldn’t resist it.
Ruger came out with a stainless version of the Bearcat nearly twenty years ago. I toyed with the idea of getting one, but they were no longer an inexpensive little revolver. And, about five years ago, Ruger made an adjustable sight version available. With a dealer price in the five to six hundred dollar range, these Bearcats have priced themselves out of the range of this cheap old buzzard.