The stuff of little boys' dreams by Tom Gaylord from Pyramyd Air” /> The stuff of little boys' dreams, airguns report post” />

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Western Haig
The stuff of little boys' dreams

by B.B. Pelletier


Western Haig was advertised in magazines little boys would see. It sold for $2.98, as I recall. Where else could a boy buy a gun that really shot for $3?


I'm writing this for Bob, who remembers the ads for the .12 caliber Western Haig handgun in magazines of 40-50 years ago. I saw those ads, too, and they lit a fire in me that still burns today. Only, today, I'm no longer a little boy. I'm an airgun writer and the subject of Wamo guns holds a particular interest for me. You see, although it was never marketed as such, the Western Haig has very close ties to Wamo.

Wamo or Wham-o?
It's either and both. I have tracked the name and history of this company and have literature with both names on the same document. The first product was the Wham-o slingshot. The company was originally located in South Pasadena, California, then moved to Alhambra, California. Later, they moved to San Gabriel, California. I still haven't pinned down the times during which either name was used.


There are numerous paper documents that join the Wamo name with the spelling Wham-o.


Tie-in to the Western Haig
Wamo was founded in South Pasadena, California, in 1948 by partners Arthur K. "Spud" Melin and Richard Knerr. Their first product was a slingshot they called the Wham-o, for the sound it made when it hit the target.

On Oct. 20, 1952, Arthur K. Melin applied for a patent on a toy pistol that used caps to propel a bullet or projectile down a ductile metal bore set inside a barrel. Patent number 2,778,136 was issued on Jan. 22, 1957. The patent drawing shows a western-style revolver, though it was a single-shot pistol. This is the same patent number molded on the plastic grip of the Western Haig pistol. So, Melin held the patent for the Western Haig, and he owned the Wamo Manufacturing Company (AKA the Wham-o Manufacturing Company) of South Pasadena, Alhambra and San Gabriel, California.


This is a detail from the patent held by Wamo/Wham-o founder Arthur K. Melin.



The patent number cast into the plastic grips of the Western Haig match those on the patent.


I go to these lengths to prove the identity of the company because Wham-o today vigorously denies even having made BB guns, or firearms (yes, they made three different .22 rimfire guns, too). In 1956, the Wamo Mfg. Co. advertised the WHAM-O B.B. pistol in Science & Mechanics magazine, proving that Wamo and Wham-o are the same company, owned by the same two men and one of whom held the patent on the Western Haig pistol.

Related to the Wamo/Wham-o Kruger pistol
I've written about the Wham-o .12 caliber pistol and the Wamo BB pistol in the past. Once you read that, you'll understand how the Western Haig pistol operates. The plastic hammer is cocked and one or two caps are shoved into a cap holder in the frame in the path the hammer will take when the gun fires. There's a small opening in the cap holder that lets the gas from the exploding caps travel into a metal tube that's held inside the plastic barrel.

The .12 caliber lead shot (No. 6 shotgun shot) is dropped down the muzzle of the pistol and theoretically rolls down to rest opposite the cap hole. The exploding cap(s) drive the lead shot out the barrel with force. At least, that's the theory.

What really happens is the ductile iron cap holder and the tube that acts as the barrel start to rust after the first cap is fired. Within two days, both are rusted so much the hammer loses its force and the lead shot cannot travel down the barrel because of the rust. They gave you a ramrod to force the ball down the bore. That will keep you in operation a while longer, but with so little power coming from the cap it doesn't matter. What you have is a nice replica sixgun that doesn't do much of anything except cock and snap the hammer when the trigger is pulled.

Bob, I'm not trying to ruin your dream, for it was mine, as well. But I actually owned a Wamo Kruger pistol that operated in much the same way. I don't think I ever got a BB going faster than 100 f.p.s. with that gun, and even that fast seems a stretch.

If any of our readers owns or has ever owned a Western Haig, please tell us about it. I would like to hear what others have experienced.

54 Comments:

At March 19, 2008 6:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More on the old and weird. Good article. I remember the ads.

 
At March 19, 2008 7:57 AM, Blogger JoeG said...

BB,
Back in the 70's I remember an ad that featured 3 pistols. If I remember correctly one was a look alike 38 snub nose; the 2nd was a .357 look alike; and the third was possibly the Luger type. I remember a super low price on them and thinking how they could not possible shoot anything. A few years later Dad and I started getting Crosman CO2's, I was so satisfied the thought of those pistols never came about again untill now.

Thank you as always.

Joe G from Jersey

 
At March 19, 2008 8:04 AM, Blogger JoeG said...

BB,
Now after you shook my memory up a bit. I remember Dad had a Hahn 45 in gray with simulated Ivory grips and no CO2 lock nut; also a Daisy Targeteer that cocked but BB's never fit. Now I know why. I might have to look for them at the house one day. Both looked old at the time. Lets just hope I did'nt wreck them further as a kid.

Joe G from Jersey

 
At March 19, 2008 8:12 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Jersey Joe,

If the ads you saw were in the 1970s, the guns weren't made by Wham-o. By the 1970s, the California complex (anti-gun) had set in and the company was denying they ever made guns.

Now that Daisy Targeteer is interesting, because it was made in two calibers - .118 and BB. The .118 was the older style and I have blogged it a couple of times.

http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2005/05/bb-pistol-that-didnt-shoot-bbs.html

http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2005/06/daisys-targeteer-rest-of-story.html

B.B.

 
At March 19, 2008 8:55 AM, Blogger JoeG said...

Hia BB
Yes I saw the blogs, they where extreamly helpfull. Thanks to you I was able to identify the pistol.

Joe G From Jersey

 
At March 19, 2008 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

B.B.

Now, I see why the company was trying to deny making guns. This story brings back memories of a whole bunch of cheap cap guns that I owned. Some involved the feeding of a kind of red paper tape that would go off; others I never figured out. Never did think that I would be shooting real guns one day. The toys just keep getting better.

Would you say that the quality today is better than before?

Matt61

 
At March 19, 2008 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB,

My SS-1000H seems to like heavier pellets. I had been shooting CPLs without much success. In looking for a heavier pellet the other day I picked up a tin of Beeman Ram Jets (they didn't have much of a selection).

The gun seems smoother, more thunk than twang. The Ramjets also seem to have a little smaller head and fit the breech a little better.

You shot a nice group in .177 with JSB Exacts. Were these 10.2 grain? Does it make sense that the gun would seem "smoother" with the heavier pellet?

TC

 
At March 19, 2008 1:41 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Matt61,

Quality is up for some things, but down for others. Caveat emptor still applies.

B.B.

 
At March 19, 2008 1:45 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

TC,

The heavier pellet may dwell in the bore long enough to create backpressure that the piston seal needs to open. That's my theory. Do you understand how a parachute seal works?

B.B.

 
At March 19, 2008 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This brought back some memories, thanks BB. Back in the early sixties when I was a young boy and very much into cap guns, I had something like this. Mine had imitation stag grips, and loaded just like a real SA Colt. It was also made of die cast metal and came with two types of "cartridges" that looked just like real ones, only smaller, and you stuck the round stick on caps on the ends. This fired them when they were struck by the hammer. The other ones had a grey plastic bullet that had little legs at the base which fit into the cartridge case base, that contained a small spring. When "fired" , the bullet would fly out the barrel for a couple of feet. Does anyone remember these? Since I had six other siblings that came after me, it didn't survive, like most of my stuff.

 
At March 19, 2008 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB,

I'm not sure about parachute seals. I've never seen the guts of a springer, but I guess this seal is much thinner and flexible than I imagined. What is the typical thickness of these seals?

Also, are the Exacts that you shot in your review 10.2 grains?

TC

 
At March 19, 2008 3:13 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Older brother,

You had a Mattel Fanner 50 that used Greenie Stick-em caps. Go on ebay and type that it and you will see your past.

B.B.

 
At March 19, 2008 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TC,
I see the same problem you are having with CPL. I have an HW50 that will shoot CPL's at 730 fps with a jolt at the end of the firing but if I use 8.4gr JSB's I get 755 fps with a much smoother, softer feeling. I have noticed that the crosman pellets seem to have a head larger than the skirt and when seated the skirt does not fill the chamber but the JSB's do. That and changing to a softer pellet is probably allowing a better seal. I must also note here that I still have some DIE# 2 CPL that do not have the problems of the newer crosmans. I believe that crosman pellet quality has dropped a bit over the past few years and have gone to JSB 8.4's as my benchmark.

Sam

 
At March 19, 2008 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall advertisements for these cap guns on the backs of the Bazooka gum comics that came wrapped around every piece of gum. If you collected enough coupons and sent in a small amount of money or its equivalent in postage stamps you could also have the excitement of getting that box in the mail. My Mom would get about a 6 week break from going down to the mailbox because I would almost always meet the mailman from the day after I mailed them away till it finally came.

Sam

 
At March 19, 2008 3:31 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

TC,

I am ashamed! In the 13-part spring-gun tune I should have shown and explained how parachute seals work.

http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2006/08/spring-gun-tune-part-13-range-testing.html

You have defined Friday's blog topic!

No, the .177 Exacts I shot while testing the Beeman dual-caliber rifle were 8.4 grains. It says so next to both the velocity figures and the accuracy test,

B.B.

 
At March 19, 2008 3:36 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Sam,

I never had enough gum to do anything like that.

Did you ever get a Haig?

B.B.

 
At March 19, 2008 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB and Sam,

Thank you both for you responses.

BB, I've been meaning to ask, do you prefer Pellet-TEE-a or Pellet-TEER?

TC

 
At March 19, 2008 4:17 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

TC,

I'm a yankee, so the second way.

B.B.

 
At March 19, 2008 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB

I do not remember it being a Haig, I was only 8. But I do remember stealing one of my Dads 12ga shotgun shells to break open for the shot, he was a little upset:)

Sam

 
At March 19, 2008 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick,

GREAT job on your blog yesterday. You're famous! I read it when you first published it and was blown away by your technical writing skill.


BB,

I'm still trying to recover my stolen air rifles. I DID track down the FWB 124D that I had loaned out 8+ years ago. I'll pick it up tomorrow. Your mention of it last week reminded me what a sweet shooter it was. I don't even have it back yet, and I just ordered a custom walnut stock...

You need to tap into Nick again in the future. He's got some incredible skills--and he's a nice guy.

Derrick

 
At March 19, 2008 6:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember those ads. But by 10 years of age I already owned a real Colt New Frontier in .22 S., L. & L.R. caliber, so they didn't get my juices going like other kids my age.

I, too, once owned a Fanner 50; I believe my cap pistol shot roll caps, but of course I'm 61 now and those were olden times for my memory. I also owned the cap pistol that had a 'bullet' with a cap stuck to the end that went into the cartridge case. It had a hole in the nose to allow the smoke and blast to exit. I lost interest in it because, although more 'authentic' than my old cap pistols, it took too long to load compared with my friends' (my cap gun 'enemies') roll cap guns. I also had a Range Rider two-gun rig, with twin holsters and pistols and the emblematic twin Rs on the belt buckle, one turned backwards so that the Rs stood back-to-back. My favorite cap gun however was the Japanese-made (I think) little pistol that had no trigger guard; the trigger was bent metal and was longer than usual. You could pull it with two fingers and after awhile you kind of had to because it was stiff. But the hammer hit the cap really hard and so you could count on it to fire each cap it hit, unlike my other pistols at the time. I carried one when riding my bicycle through the suburban of Cleveland, Tennessee and used it to scare off dogs who thought a small boy on a moving Schwinn was fair game for ankle biting.

--Joe

 
At March 19, 2008 6:47 PM, Anonymous Shooter said...

Derrick,

If you have any other guns that you want to loan out and forget for a few years, give me a call.

/Shooter

 
At March 19, 2008 7:05 PM, Anonymous nate in mass said...

Hey guys
Today i was watching the news and saw a story about a city worker who was shot at with a pellet gun. I tracked down the story for those who may want to read it.

http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/BO75734/

I share this because it is a great example of why people should be taught how to respectflly handle a pellet gun. Thanks

Nate in Mass

 
At March 19, 2008 8:17 PM, Anonymous Shooter said...

Nice trip down memory lane, BB!

I never had one of those wamo guns, but remember the ads for other things like x-ray glasses on the back of Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum wrappers, and hovercrafts and jet engines in the back of comic books. I had just a paper roll cap gun, and always lusted after my friend's gun that shot the plastic caps on strip. Those were so much louder! It wasn't long before we degenerated into buying rolls of caps to hit with a hammer. That was really loud! Then we'd go back to shooting our bb guns when our ears were ringing too much.

/Shooter

 
At March 19, 2008 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an old toy rifle and i wanted to know if you remember these or know anything about it. It was made by Replicas By Perris Savannah TN. And has the #4891 on it ? Thanks Dial Up Dave.

 
At March 19, 2008 11:28 PM, Anonymous db said...

Nate in Mass,
Luckily there are very few cases of people being hurt by airguns. But you're right safety should be everyones first thought when they pick up a gun.

Some of my hunting buddies laugh at me because I always open my action and show them the chamber is empty when we come out of the field and things like that. Safety is something you have to practice with a passion.

I think there are more people like me than those very few that should not be allowed to shoot rubber bands in a public place.

DB

 
At March 19, 2008 11:35 PM, Anonymous db said...

All,
Great blog. Yes the red cap roles were so cool. Fired one at a time in your six gun or all at once with a hammer.

My dad gave me my first colt cap gun for my 5th birthday. Man was I cool... until the nieghbor got a 30-30 lever action cap gun. It had a lever that pulled the trigger when the lever was returned. Thus it could rapid fire as fast as you could pump the lever... just like the Rifleman on TV.

DB

 
At March 19, 2008 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

/Shooter,

Why do I have the feeling that you need a loaner like a hole in the head?

Has BB ever taken an informal poll?

Derrick

 
At March 19, 2008 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean as to how many airguns the readers have, not how many holes are in all our heads...

Derrick

 
At March 20, 2008 1:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol i remember as a kid playing with caps that i would hit the whole roll of paper caps with a hammer..heh heh,another good memory is in the kitchen when my dad took the co2 out of an old crosman 357 revolver when it got jammed and the co2 cartridge flew out like a rocket literally!it hung in the air for about a split second just stationary before it propelled into the wall making a hole,i still remember the look on my dads face!lol

 
At March 20, 2008 6:23 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Dial-up Dave,

Not only have I heard of the Parris toy guns - I blogged the BB gun they made in the 1960s.

http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2006/01/parris-kadet-trainer-strange-bb-gun.html

B.B.

 
At March 20, 2008 6:26 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Derrick,

A poll about the guns readers have? Might be interesting. But we have a lot of readers. How would we do it?

B,B.

 
At March 20, 2008 8:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you BB: I did go on E-bay as you suggested, and they had one of them, and the lever action rifle that used the same cartridges. My brother had the rifle. You could buy a new Ruger SA for what the sellers there want for just that cap pistol. Hindsight! LOL! Older Brother

 
At March 20, 2008 5:55 PM, Anonymous Shooter said...

Derrick,

8 holes. One of them seems to be constantly leaking some sort of gray substance.

/Shooter

 
At March 22, 2008 7:41 PM, Anonymous BG_Farmer said...

BB,

This blog reminded me of my toy muzzleloading set -- there was a rifle and a pistol, at least they seemed to go together. Both fired paper caps (one at a time) but would fire a cork ball, as well. If I remember correctly, my parents didn't aggressively point out the use of the balls, so by the time my brothers and I figured them out, the barrels were dinged and the ports from the breech were clogged with cap junk. I don't know how well they might have worked under other circumstances.

 
At March 23, 2008 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

B.B.
I had a Haig when I was a kid, and recently, I found one on E-bay. I now have one again, 40 years later! It got me interested in cap guns and pop guns.

 
At March 24, 2008 11:51 PM, Anonymous Bob said...

B.B.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Now I have one more thing to get alerts about on ebay. I never would have thought there would be any Haigs left alive after all these years.

 
At March 27, 2008 9:33 PM, Blogger Dan said...

Hello, i have a question regarding filling PCPs with scuba tanks. If you have a scuba tank that has a 3500psi fill in it and your rifle tank should be filled to 3000psi, how do you keep the rifle tank from going to 3500psi when you open the scuba valve? Sorry if this sounds like a crazy question. Will i see the gauge slowly rise to 3000psi and then shut the valve off?
Thanks for any help.
Bobby D

 
At March 28, 2008 4:08 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Bobby D,

Yes, you watch the fill pressure on the gauge that's attached to your fill device. When it reaches the gun's max pressure, you close the scuba tank valve, stopping the fill.

This is another benefit of the new Benjamin Discovery. Imagine how many full fills you will get when the max fill pressure is only 2,000 psi.

B.B.

 
At May 25, 2008 9:47 AM, Blogger Robert Rochte said...

Here's an original Haig ad from the January 1968 Outdoor Life magazine:

http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j268/rochte/haig002.jpg

Cheers,
Robert

 
At May 25, 2008 10:35 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Robert,

Thank you! You have advanced my knowledge of the ending date of the Haig distribution by five years! I am writing a large article on Wham-o firearms for Shotgun News and this is very valuable to me.

Thank you,

B.B.

 
At May 25, 2008 11:23 AM, Blogger Robert Rochte said...

I'm happy to help out - feel free to post the image on your site (just credit with my name, if you would).

Since you're researching Wham-O in particular, you might be interested in this larger view of that page... Note the ad in the lower right corner!

http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j268/rochte/haig003.jpg

Cheers,
Robert

 
At May 25, 2008 6:48 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Robert,

That other add you posted is just as interesting to my research, because it absolutely links the Wham-o company with the shooting sports, something they have denied vehemently in the recent past.

I'd like to use it in my article and of course give you credit.

Tom Gaylord, aka B.B. Pelletier

 
At May 28, 2008 5:24 PM, Blogger Robert Rochte said...

Tom,

Feel free to use it - I'm happy to be able to help!

-R

 
At May 28, 2008 5:30 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Robert,

Thank you. I will credit you for everything I use.

Tom

 
At August 28, 2008 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the Wamo research! :-)At the bottom of the world we came across Wham-O slingshots and Powermaster crossbows.The Kruger and Haig were just adverts in magazines to the average kiwi.Now ALL is revealed!
Best wishes,
Trev Adams

 
At August 28, 2008 4:04 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Trev,

Thanks. It's too bad you don't get Shotgun News. I have a HUGE article about Wham-o/Wamos in the Sep. 20th issue.

B.B.

 
At August 28, 2008 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd certainly like to see that one!Nothing ventured,nothing gained,any chance of a scan please?(the cheek of him!)regards,Trev

 
At August 28, 2008 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woops!didn't realise your articles were online at the SN site.I guess the WAMO one will appear in due course.:-)regards,Trev

 
At August 28, 2008 5:22 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Trev,

Get a peek on my website:

http://www.airgunwriter.com/blog/blog.html

B.B.

 
At October 10, 2008 2:22 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

I think I still have some of those 1950's comic books with the original adds in them at my dad's house. I grew up with them but I think originally, they were his. They are very old and not in good shape but after reading about the WAMO pistols , I may go find them. I still remember wanting one of those pistols when I saw them in the old comic books. If I remember correctly, they were comics with and "Old West" theme.

 
At October 11, 2008 5:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Tom,thanks to Gaines I got my copy of Shotgun News today.Last time I saw SGN it was a newspaper-now it is a magazine.Thanks for a very interesting article.Wonderful advertising made these plastic fantastics "must have" guns eh?:-)
regards,
Trev

 
At October 11, 2008 6:37 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Trevor,

Shotgun News is still a newspaper, but 6 times a year they bring out a color magazine that's perfect bound. They have black & white articles in the newspaper, too, but not as many as in the magazine.

There is also an annual treasury edition that's a compilation of the best articles. That's magazine-style, as well.

B.B.

 
At October 11, 2008 9:39 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Robert,

When you find those ads, please go to my personal blog and read more about the Wamo firearms and BB guns. There is a lot more to be learned about this brand.

http://www.airgunwriter.com/blog/blog.html

B.B.

 

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