This beauty is a Ruger Bearcat "Shopkeeper" model — 3 inch barrel, round but, .22 LR. Apparently my friend Jason Cloessner, who's in charger of Lipsey's specials, had an epiphany while holding one of their dealer's custom 3-inch Bearcat, the smallest single action in the Ruger line-up. Of course Jason couldn't leave well enough along, so he talked Ruger into a birdshead grip and a few other custom features like the steel ejector rod housing (standard have aluminum). When he showed the gun at SHOT, apparently my eyes lit up like a little kid at Christmas, because before I could say anything he quickly said, "Yours is already on order, and, of course, you'll be keeping it."
D'uh! At least until Alf got hold of it. I just picked it up and haven't shot it yet, although I have shot many many Bearcats over the years (I started when I was 6 years old!). It's called a "Shopkeeper" because in the Old West and a lot of years after, shopkeepers and other businesspeople would use short-barreled, round-butted single actions for concealed carry in their businesses.
The Lipsey's/Ruger Shopkeer has the potential of being a wonderful little trail gun. Of if you've got young ones you want to hook on shooting, the Shopkeeper will work as well on them as it did on me. That first Bearcat instilled in me a life-long love of single action revolvers.
Here's why Jason knew I would be a sucker for the Shopkeeper:
The birdshead at the top may be my favorite single action revolver that I own...I've talked about it before...several years back there was a run of custom Ruger large caliber birdshead Vaqueros dubbed "The Last Cowboy." They were based on the short-live Ruger Birdshead Vaquero in .45 Colt/.45 ACP. I had one of the .45 Vaqueros I was going to have built into a super little 5-shot gun, but that's a long story. By the time I found out about The Last Cowboys, they were long gone.
In my heart, though, I pined for one of the Cowboys. One day I saw a set of The Last Cowboy grips offered for sale on a cowboy forum, and I snapped them up for $50. I had a couple of Ruger birdshead grip frames I'd gotten from Brownell's when they were available and cheap. The final thing I needed was already in the gun safe...a thoroughly beat-up Ruger Vaquero in .44 Magnum. It was one of the guns we used in the NSSF media education program, and it looked like it had been through the mill...dropped, abused, scratched, etc. I bought it when the program ended and actually shot my first cowboy action matches with it and an equally beat-up brother.
All I needed was genius, and that came in the form of Hamilton Bowen of Bowen Classic Arms. I've bought a number of Hamilton's guns over the years and you've seen him on SHOOTING GALLERY several times. He is the best revolver guy on earth and I do not doubt for one moment that he could carve a single action revolver out of a bar of soap and not only would it be beautiful, but it would run perfectly.
I sent Hamilton the old Vaquero and a sack of parts, and this is what came home:
...a 4-inch barrel, color case-hardened, Super Blackhawk hammer, black power cylinder chamfered, classic Colt front-sighted, special fitted base pin, flawless trigger pull and perfectly fitted "The Last Cowboy" grips...in short, a .44 Magnum Vaquero taken to its ultimate expression.
I know Alf would be happy with the Shopkeeper if she only had opposable thumbs! I would probably have to get body armor for Pokee the Tailless Cat, though...