As an NRA and 4H Shooting Sports instructor, I am often asked, "at what age should I teach my kid to shoot?" Introducing kids to firearms and firearm safety at an early age is very important, but the level of interaction with firearms and shooting by each child should be determined by responsible parents and adults who select and provide appropriate instruction, firearms, and equipment based on the abilities and maturity of each child.
While my daughter was introduced to our firearms and basic firearm safety at the age of three, including the NRA's Eddie Eagle program, we didn't have her try shooting until she was around five years old. At age seven, she was given a single-shot youth-size rifle with traditional sights. She also enjoyed shooting our Ruger Mark II Government Model .22LR pistol, but it was too heavy for her to use without a bench rest, so we purchased a stainless steel Ruger New Bearcat for her eighth birthday.
The Ruger Bearcat has been around since its introduction in 1958. The original Bearcat had an alloy frame and Ruger added the Super Bearcat with an all-steel frame later on. The Ruger New Bearcat with an all-steel frame and transfer-bar safety feature was introduced in the early 1990s. The Bearcat name comes from the Stutz Bearcat, a favorite car of Bill Ruger, Sr., and the bear and cougar "cat" rollmarks around the cylinder. The wood grip panels create a classic western-style look, are nicely finished, and have held up well over the years with proper care.
Sometimes a little .22 like the New Bearcat is called a "kit" gun because of its small size which makes it handy to throw in your "kit" such as your backpack, tackle-box, tool-box, or even your grub or lunch-box. The small size, 24-ounce weight, 4.2-inch barrel, and single-action operation also make this a terrific handgun for a child to learn the basics.
Similar to a youth-size bolt-action rifle with iron sights, the Ruger New Bearcat allows a child to build confidence and learn to handle a firearm safely. Loading each cartridge and ejecting each case one-at-a-time, cocking the hammer for each shot, and using the iron sights allows learning of the shooting fundamentals while building motor skills and muscle-memory which provides a foundation for basic gun handling.
My little gal's hands aren't so little any more as my little gal is growing up very fast, but she still loves to shoot her Ruger New Bearcat, and I must confess that my wife and I love to shoot it too. It's just plain fun. After several years now, our little Bearcat must have had several thousand rounds fired through it. It shot dead-center with the fixed sights right out of the box with most .22LR ammunition and will also shoot .22 Long and .22 Short rimfire cartridges too. Off the bench rest, it will hold one-inch to two-inch groups at 25 yards with just about anything you feed it.
My little gal is a country girl so we picked up a Hunter western-style holster and cartridge belt for her one year for Christmas. She likes to wear it when we go hiking or while we're out back on the range plinking. The quality leather belt and double-loop holster by Hunter will lighten your wallet by about $120 at Cabela's.
Bottom Line: Whether you're looking for a handy little gun to take camping or throw in your "kit", or you need a handgun sized for a child who is ready to take the next step in shooting... you can't beat the Ruger New Bearcat in stainless steel. It's not the cheapest nor the most expensive little pistol out there, but it is a quality firearm that will last forever and be passed down through the generations in any family.
Besides, I dare you to buy one for a son, daughter, or grandchild and try to resist not shooting the daylights out of the little gun yourself... can't be done!