by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Covered this subject before
  • How to begin?
  • Because I couldn’t have them
  • I couldn’t afford them
  • Got a paper route
  • The point
  • Why do this?
  • Not the only reason
  • Summary

Reader William Schooley requested this report and I need to do it today for a special reason I am going to explain. On Wednesday I go into the hospital for surgery, so I am writing a lot of blogs to cover the time when I can’t be online. When Edith was with me, something like this was seamless, but now I am the only guy in town and I have to do things differently. Therefore, this week’s blogs will be shorter and, starting Wednesday, I won’t be able to answer comments for awhile. I’m supposed to be home on Thursday sometime, but we’ll see how that goes. Now let’s get into today’s report.

Covered this subject before

This is not the first time I’ve addressed this subject. Just last year a reader named [email protected] asked me what made an airgun collectible. Several other readers wondered the same thing, so I wrote a 3-part report titled, Collecting airguns: What is collecting? that is a very good introduction to the subject. Today we have a slightly different question that touches on the same subject.

How to begin?

William’s question — Why collect airguns? — is entirely subjective. It’s like trying to answer the question, “Why do you like the color blue.” Still — there are a lot of people who do collect, so there must be something to it. Why do they do it?

I thought the best way to answer would be to explain why I collect. Maybe something will come of that.

Because I couldn’t have them

When I was a kid two things prevented me from having airguns. First, my mother didn’t permit it. That ended all hope for me, as long as she felt that way. She had been terrorized by some neighborhood boys with BB guns and didn’t want me to do the same. She wasn’t anti-gun, just anti-breaking windows.

My father died when I was 9 and he wasn’t much on gun instruction, either. About the only thing he ever said was, “You’re too young for this” (a Benjamin pump pistol). “When you grow up I’ll show you how to shoot it.” Well, that never happened, though I did inherit the pistol and discovered on my own how it worked.

I learned to shoot from my neighbor, Duane. He owned some sort of Daisy that had no forearm and he knew that gun well. He seldom let me shoot it, but I got to watch him a lot, because it was always in his hands when we weren’t in school.

I couldn’t afford them

When I got older (11 or 12) my mother relented and bought me a BB pistol — or at least that is what it said on the outside of the box. In truth it was a cruel joke. Toy caps were said to propel BBs when fired from a plastic Luger-looking pistol. I got it to “work” a couple times on the day I got it but never again after that. The caps left a hygroscopic residue on the few metal parts inside the gun and they rusted to the point that they no longer would function. It wasn’t a great loss, though, because I could actually throw a BB faster than a cap could propel it.

Wamo ad
This is how the Wamo pistol was advertised in 1956.

Kruger box
Yeah, the box promises everything, but the gun inside doesn’t deliver.

Kruger rusty breech
Once those breech parts rust like this they stop moving very fast. Then the caps don’t detonate.

Got a paper route

Then I got a paper route, delivering the Akron Beacon Journal to about 58 homes. That brought me close to $10 each week, and that was when I had the money ($5- used) to buy the most powerful BB gun of the day — a Daisy Number 25 slide-action. I bought it and enjoyed it for a few days until it lost power. Then I took it apart and couldn’t get it back together again and sold it to a friend whose father repaired it. It turned out that BB guns have to be kept oiled to maintain their power.

Daisy 25
I owned a Daisy Number 25 just like this when I was a boy. I didn’t oil it and the power was lost.

The point

The point of these two stories is that, because I was fascinated by the Wamo Kruger, I collected 4 of the cap-firing Wamos (they are still quite cheap) and wrote the longest expose of the Wamo company’s involvement with guns that has ever been written. It was published in Airgun Revue number 5). Turns out Wamo made 6 different BB guns and one potato gun that all used caps. I have proved their connection to some oddball BB guns like the Western Haig with patent numbers and Post Office box addresses. I also identified three .22-caliber rimfire firearms that were made by Wamo.

Western Haig
Wamo made lots of cap-firing BB guns, like this Western Haig that sold in comic books.

And the Daisy Number 25 that got the better of me as a youth built in a lifetime attraction for that gun. I wanted to own one, and then another until a few years ago I owned one example of every major Daisy 25 variation made before Daisy moved from Plymouth, Michigan to Rogers, Arkansas. I have since gotten rid of most of them, because apparently that itch has been scratched.

Why do this?

So, William, why did I do all of this? It boils down to one thing — I detest being lied to! Wamo lied about that Kruger BB gun working and they lied again more recently when I contacted them for information regarding their former involvement in the BB gun and firearm trade. This was when I was gathering information for my article. They told me they were never involved with BB guns and that it was a different company that had done that. Well, the company has changed hands a few times over the years and they have changed the spelling of their name from Wamo to Wham-o, but the lineage is there. The ad from 1956 that I show above has both name spellings in the same document.

Not the only reason

These two experiences shaped a portion of my life, but they aren’t the only reasons I collect airguns. For example, seeing ads for the Sheridan Model A (the Supergrade) multi-pump pneumatic as a kid made me want one of those. Heck, just seeing the ads for the regular Blue Streak in Boy’s Life made me want one that I could never afford. So, when I returned from Germany in 1977, I bought one as an adult for $39.95. I still have it.

Sheridan Blue Streak
My Sheridan Blue Streak has been with me since 1977.

Summary

This report sort of wrote itself. I got it started and then my memories took over and wrote the report. And knowing that allows me to answer William Schooley. Why collect airguns? Because something in your life has set you up for it. Perhaps it’s a fascination you have or perhaps it was some specific incident that caused you to associate with one or more airguns in an intimate way.

The report I linked to at the beginning of this one talks about what makes a thing collectible. Read all three parts of that report to answer that question. But as for why we collect, I think I have addressed that today.