Have you ever had a gun store give you a gun? As in, you walk in to buy some 9mm ammo and leave with a free gun (minus the $6 extortion fee to have them run a background check.)
Until a few weeks ago, neither had I. I get along well with the owner of my local gun store and even attended his wedding.
One day while talking about more than buying, the owner said he had something for me. He returned with a single shot .22 LR pistol that was beaten to hell. He told me to take it if I wanted it. It was too dangerous to sell.
The frame read Powermaster on one side and WAMO on the other.
The WAMO Powermaster?
Wham-O — the company known for classic toys like Frisbees, Superballs, Hacky Sacks and the Slip N’ Slide, apparently had a second division called WAMO.
WAMO produced a variety of non-toy products, including crossbows and slingshots. On top of that, they made three single-shot .22 LR guns in the 1950s. One being the Powermaster we see here. They also made a rifle with a vague resemblance to a Tommy gun and a very cool single-shot .22 LR pistol made to look like a percussion gun.
Information on the rifle and Hamilton percussion pistol is limited, and they had a tiny production run. The WAMO Powermaster you see here was more popular. It had a price of $14.95 to $19.95 depending on the production year.
The design is unmistakably that of a Hyde automatic BB pistol, which is also a design Daisy used in the Daisy 100 pistol. WAMO basically turned an airgun into a .22LR. Wham-O/WAMO eventually killed the line early and wouldn’t respond to any emails regarding why, when, or any technical questions about the gun.
How Does the WAMO Powermaster work?
The WAMO Powermaster is a single shot .22 LR handgun. To load it, you lock the bolt to the rear and load a round into the chamber. You then guide the bolt forward. The bolt cocked the striker, which sticks out of the gun quite a bit. There is no manual safety or decocker.
The weapon is blowback operated, and a flat spring keeps the bolt closed until the firearm is fired. Once fired, the gun ejects the shell and the bolt cycles. That’s how the gun is supposed to work…in theory.
What’s So Dangerous About It?
Immediately I could see why the gun was unsafe. The bolt didn’t lock to the rear very well and would randomly spring forward with the firing pin, too. This slamming action could easily cause the weapon to slam fire. The flat spring doesn’t do a great job of holding the bolt rearward.
Part of me was excited to give the gun a try. I knew it could be unsafe, so I was particularly cautious with it.
Since I couldn’t trust the bolt not to slam forward, I held it to the rear with one hand and loaded a cartridge into the chamber. Then I slowly walked the bolt forward. The striker is exposed at the rear of the pistol and quite long, as you can see below, so there is no mistaking when the weapon is cocked.
I aimed and fired, and saying it has a hair-trigger is an understatement. A light breeze could set it off.
I tried it again, loading the chamber the same way, letting the bolt forward in the same way. This time, however, the striker flew forward before I ever touched the trigger. The gun was orientated downrange, so there was no hazard presented beyond giving me a scare.
At that point, I decided the live fire portion of the experiment was over. Instead, I wanted to see if I could replicate that issue with an empty weapon. It took me no time to do so.
With the chamber empty and the gun cocked, I could shake the gun, and the striker would spring forward. All I had to do was squeeze the gun slightly, and the same thing would happen.
Needless to say, it’s not a gun I’m going to use as anything other than a conversation piece.
Were They All This Dangerous?
That’s a good question. Is my beaten-up model dangerous because it’s defective because it’s been abused? Perhaps, but when doing some research for this article, I did find several posts on popular gun forums with stories of danger being presented with the firearm.
It seems like the bolt slamming home and firing the gun appeared to be a somewhat common issue with the Powermaster. The light trigger and lack of a decoking device or manual safety also caused some concern, but those are nothing compared to a gun firing without the trigger being touched.
The WAMO Powermaster is a fascinating gun. It seems like they were made in relatively small numbers, and weren’t very successful. A few have popped up on auction websites for prices well beyond what I’m prepared to pay. The bolt slamming forward seemed to be a common enough problem that some sources list the gun as a slam fire weapon.
While it’s interesting, the WAMO Powermaster seemed to be built much more like a toy than a gun.