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.