Airgun makers that spawned firearms
by B.B. Pelletier
I’m interested in all the shooting sports, but airguns are my special love. I especially like the fringes, where the airgun and firearm worlds come together, so I’d like to show you some airguns that spawned firearms – and some well-known airgun makers who also made firearms.
The Daisy – Whamo connection
In either the late 1950s or early ’60s, a company called the Floyd Hyde Engineering Corporation invented a semiautomatic gas BB pistol. The interesting thing about this company was it’s location – Alhambra, California, which was also the home of Whamo. Daisy bought the rights to the Hyde BB pistol and turned it into the Daisy model 100, which was only offered in 1963. But that’s not all that happened.
Sure ’nuff, the Hyde pistol looks like a Daisy 100.
This is the Daisy 100 for comparison.
Whamo ALSO used the frame of the Hyde BB pistol for their .22 LR single-shot! Yes, ladies and gentlemen – Whamo made a firerarm! It has a slam-fire mechanism, which means it fires from an unlocked bolt without any retardation. When this pistol fires, the bolt flies back, kicking the spent shell out like a semiauto. Because it’s a single-shot, nothing more happens until it is loaded once more. It’s a fascinating study in gun design because the frame is made of the same pot metal as the Hyde and Daisy gas pistols, yet steel parts are used where they are needed. Until Glock popularized reinforced synthetic pistol frames several decades later, this was a unique firearm!
Whamo’s only firearm was this single-shot .22, based on the same air pistol frame.
A Sheridan WHAT?
The .22 rimfire single-shot Sheridan Knockabout was produced from 1953 to 1960 and was hailed as the perfect tacklebox companion. You can get a sense of how simple the mechanism is from the pictures. There are plenty of Knockabouts around, but because of their simple, rugged design, they aren’t often in very good condition. When a nice one comes along, it commands a little more than the Blue Book of Gun Values’ maximum of $110.
Yes, Sheridan made a .22 single-shot pistol! It’s as simple as it looks.
The barrel pops up to load. The extractor is manual. Neat!
In 1968 Daisy, brought out a really strange gun. It was a .22 that fired caseless ammunition, which was ignited by the adiabatic heat of a conventional spring-piston airgun powerplant. That’s right, a pellet rifle that shot a 40-grain lead bullet at 1100 f.p.s. It was a firearm, of course; but, because Daisy built it, it had a plastic stock. The Daisy VL was never popular with anyone, and they’re still sluggish on the used market today. By the way, if you’re wondering if one could be used as a spring-piston air rifle – you can forget it. The bore is sized for the standard .22 rimfire caliber of 0.222″-0.223″ instead of the airgun size of 0.218.” Pellets shoot at 300 f.p.s. or less because of the excessive blowby. Daisy ceased selling the gun in 1969.
The Daisy VL looks like a cheap pellet rifle, which probably kept it from succeeding. The black and yellow box above the gun contains tubes of VL ammo.
Unable to resist the humiliation for long, Daisy climbed back into the firearms ring in 1987 with a bolt-action single-shot rifle called the Model 8. It was sold only at Wal-Mart, a small retail outfit one town over from the Daisy plant. A year later, they brought out a line of bolt-action single-shots and repeaters – their Legacy models. With both plastic stocks and wood, they were not well-received and can still be bought today for a low price. They stopped production in 1991.
Both these Daisy guns will probably start attracting some collector interest in the years to come. They’re currently very available at gun shows, though the VL is perhaps harder to find because few people know how to classify it.