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Another .12 caliber airgun?

by B.B. Pelletier

What do I mean ANOTHER .12 caliber airgun? When did I show you the first one? Well, it was back on May 23 – The BB pistol that didn’t shoot BBs. In an earlier article – Have you ever seen a rubber band gun? – we looked at the Sharpshooters, which were also .12 caliber. Today we have another one.

The Kruger ’98 was Wham-O’s idea of
cleverly suggesting a Luger without copyright infringement.
A pity they didn’t know the Luger is really an ’08 and the Mauser is the ’98!

Wham-O made airguns?
The Wham-O company gave us lots of fun toys in the 1950s, but there were a few that I’m sure most people aren’t aware of. Among them, the Kruger pistol was the only BB gun they made, as far as I know. It was a black styrene (plastic) handgun modeled after the famous Luger – hence the name. Most of the external parts were plastic, but there were some internal parts made of what was probably a low-carbon plate steel.

It shot birdshot with caps
The pistol was a single shot that used the explosive power of the common toy cap to launch No. 6 birdshot down a rolled steel “barrel” and out into the atmosphere. The instructions said you could use several caps for more power, so you know what all the little boys did! They loaded the firing mechanism with enough caps to send the shot into space, then they learned that the collective cushioning effect from dozens of paper caps was enough to slow down the hammer, causing the gun to misfire.

Inside the box lid, a sales pitch helped storekeepers move the guns.

Caps don’t have much energy
By eliminating caps one at a time, little shooters eventually discovered that a brand-new Kruger had enough oomph to fire three caps at once – for a couple of shots. That was enough force to expel the tiny lead ball all the way out the muzzle, and in some cases several dozens of feet beyond! However, the act of firing set another force in motion that taught the junior shooter his second important lesson.

The guns turned to rust!
Caps, when they fire, leave a residue that is both corrosive and hygroscopic. So, after a few days of soaking up moisture from the air, the gun’s mechanism was thoroughly rusted! Not only would the tiny shot no longer fit through the now-encrusted bore, the hammer mechanism refused to move through the built-up rusty scale along its sides. Most Krugers wound up in the trash in pretty short order.

Looking inside the firing mechanism,
where the caps went, we can see the rust.
This one is actually pretty nice.

But, Wham-O persisted!
Not content to rest on their laurels, Wham-O later brought out a real BB pistol they also called the Kruger. This pistol may have replaced the .12 caliber gun. It looked and functioned the same, but there was one important difference. If toy caps had a hard time pushing tiny .12 caliber lead shot out the barrel, they were completely unable to deal with a steel BB having three times the mass! This made the “big” Kruger the world’s weakest BB gun.

Of course, those guns rusted just like the earlier ones, so there was soon no more evidence of what a bad idea this had been. Wisdom would have let sleeping dogs lie, but wisdom is sometimes in short supply. In Mexico, the Cabanas and Mendoza companies brought out their own cap-fired guns. Cabanas used round Greenie Stick-em caps in their revolver, while Mendoza had their own proprietary percussion caps and BBs!

Hey, these aren’t really AIR guns at all!
Before someone takes me to task, I will admit that these are not really airguns. In fact, they are firearms in the strictest sense. But their weak and often ambiguous performance has placed them in the bottom tier of airguns, so I decided to report on them. And, they do share a projectile that some of our airguns also use.

The next time you’re at a garage sale, estate sale or flea market, you might find one of these Wham-O guns. Pay about $5 or $10 for one – and not a penny more.

25 thoughts on “Another .12 caliber airgun?”

  1. As the only comment to this posting I guess you and I are the only two people in the world who care about these strange guns. There are actually many more cap-fired BB guns like these, so if you are interested there’s more territory to explore.


  2. B.B.

    I am looking at one of these as I write this. My Grandmother kept it by her bed for protection,I am not sure from what. I googled the brand just to see what I could find out and got your article.Thanks very much as I am glad to have some information about the gun.


  3. The ram is a short piece of wire that looks like a standard Allen key. any stiff wire that you can bend an angle on the end would be fine. First put it down the barrel to determine correct length then bend a 90 degree angle on it and cut it off with snips leaving about half an inch or so.

  4. I have a Kruger in original box with cleaning pin, target, small booklet, and caps. The actual gun is in near perfect condition, no dents or scratches but very little rust inside as pictured. I am considering selling it but am unsure what to ask for….please advise. Thanks so much.

  5. I’ve got one too! I have the gun with little rust, the rod, a box with caps and BB’s, and a small box it was in from Anaheim, Calif. postmarked 54′. A toy collector wants to buy it from me and wants me to give him a price. Any suggestions out there? Hurry, my time may run out!! Thanks, Patti

  6. Patti,

    I paid $40 for the boxed example seen here, if I recall correctly. I recently bought a similar gun off Ebay for $35 boxed. That one, a Western Haig, was postmarked 1952.

    But I have also seen this gun offered for $100 boxed and this past weekend I saw the Haig I mentioned priced at $165 at a collector’s show.

    Somewhere in that range.



  8. The Kruger 98 I have is missing the "trigger", the flat spring steel strip is fine. If anyone has a broken body, and has the parts, please let me know.

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