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.

65 thoughts on “The Western Haig The stuff of little boys’ dreams


  1. 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


  2. 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


  3. 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.



  4. 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


  5. 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



  6. 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.


  7. 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.


  8. 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



  9. 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


  10. 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




  11. 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



  12. 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


  13. 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


  14. 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




  15. 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


  16. 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.


  17. 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


  18. 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


  19. /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



  20. 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




  21. 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



  22. 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.


  23. 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.


  24. 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.


  25. 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


  26. 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.



  27. 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.



  28. 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




  29. 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



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


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



  32. 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.


  33. 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


  34. 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.



  35. Tom,
    I still have my old Western Haig long barrel pistol, and it still works just fine! I got it sometime way back in the early '50s, and I had a lot of fun with it (mainly "target" shooting at a target taped over the open end of a one lb coffee can). A fond memory of "the way it was".





  36. Anonymous said…
    "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."
    Sounds like a Nichols .32 to me. I had two at one time or another. Turned one of them into a .22 zip gun quite easily, but I only fired a couple of shots out of it – didn't have much confidence in its durability.


  37. Well here it is 2011, and I found this article while trying to jog my memories of the Western Haig pistol. I bought one of these in the late 50's, but remember the caliber to be the size of a number 7 or 8 lead shot, a little smaller than the .12 mentioned. With the addition of a little more propellant, say 8-10 neatly trimmed black caps stuffed down the barrel, and a few rubber bands around the hammer to prevent blowback, it would shoot through a 1" pine board. It didn't last long with that abuse and the plastic started splitting apart about the time I lost interest in it!



  38. I had what I think was a Haig capgun. It fired a 12 Cal. lead shot with a cap. I decided to put a little gunpowder down the barrel, but when I fired it, the blast pushed back the hammer, released the blast into the body of the gun, and split it at the seams.I recently purchased one at an antique store, but I plan to take better care of it.
    Doc


  39. Doc,

    I have heard about this happening, and it is the reason that these "airguns" were not continued.

    Would you mind helping me writ an article about this for the blog? I would like to share your experience with others, so they can appreciate the dangers inherent with this kind of experimentation.

    You are the first person I have corresponded with who has actual experience with this.

    My name is Tom Gaylord and I am the airgun editor for Shotgun News magazine.

    B.B.


  40. Back in 1965 my husband was always wanting to buy something we couldn't afford nor did he need it so when he started talking buying another gun I saw an advertisement for the new western Haig pistol and ordered one. I thought this would be a nice birthday present for him. Being a typical wife when my husband pulled one of his stupid stunts it made me a little out of sorts therefore when the Haig pistol arrived I gave it a toss into the attic and forgot about it. After 14 years of marriage he still hadn't trained well so we parted ways. Since I had never given him the Haig pistol and being a typical wife I kept the gun along with attic and house. I forgot all about the gun until just a couple of years ago we had a terrible snow storm which destroyed the roof and permanent repairs could not be made until it warmed up. I pulled everything out of the attic and found the gun among lots of other items that I had forgotten were in there. The gun has never been fired. The handy re-order blank for Haig Mfg. Co., Dept. A, Box 24., Alhambra, Calif. lists the Western Haig Pistol @ $3.00 each; 700 #6 lead shot @ $.50 pkg; and 1500 #6 lead shot @ $1.00 pkg. By the way the postage was $.18 and dated Jan. 6, 1965 mailed from San Gabriel, Calif. I haven't the foggiest idea what this little treasure is worth now and I am still keeping everything! Any suggestions as to the value?


  41. As cheap as this little gun looks, what you have is worth at least $100 today. That's because it is new in the box. But it will be difficult to sell, because there aren't many who know what it is, and if they see it, they will not think it is worth that much.

    The best place to sell it in on this free classified website:

    http://www.network54.com/Forum/79574/

    B.B.


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