The WAMO Powermaster .22LR Pistol: One Dangerous Gun

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.

It looks more than a little bit like a Colt Woodsman, no? (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

The Powermaster (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

WAMO (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

Bolt locked to the rear (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

See the Striker? (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

comments

  1. avatar RedFlagRising says:

    Now we see where Taurus gets its inspiration.

    1. avatar Rev. Philip E. Evans says:

      Come on! Taurus is not that bad! Yes, there were a few questionable revolvers like their early Model 10s, but that was many years ago and the problems were solved! They got better over the years and today make some truely fine weapons! My Taurus Millennium G2 is a great EDC, and I have several TCP 738s that I’ve put several thousand rounds thru and they still function fine with no problems. The 738 is still a great CC. There are many fine handguns out there, and Taurus makes many that most people can readily afford!

      1. avatar m says:

        Taurus M85 all the revolver you need for close action 10 yards or less

        1. avatar James Campbell says:

          So true.
          A different class of gun. Even an AMT Backup will get the job done at “bad breath” range, also fits in a fob pocket of jeans nicely. All stainless to boot.

      2. avatar RedFlagRising says:

        G2 is OK if you have really small hands since the break on the trigger is WAY back towards the grip.

        Milleniums have better triggers but are like prison soap, dont drop it.

        Revolvers are a mixed bag, crane misalignments, timing problems and general inaccuracy are endemic.

        Then sometimes you find a PT99 that has an almost custom quality to it and works great.

        They really are like a box of Exlax, you never know what kind of turd youre gonna get.

        1. avatar Geoff "Trolls, the other white meat" PR says:

          “Milleniums have better triggers but are like prison soap, dont drop it.”

          Something tells me you have extensive, personal experience with that subject, to make that kind of an observation… 🙂

        2. avatar P.M. says:

          You’re all over Taurus, have you ever had one or is this just what you read on the internet eight years ago?

      3. avatar LazrBeam says:

        I’ve got a SS Model 85 And it’s a well made revolver. I’ve also got two TCP 738’s and they are tough, dependable, reliable pistols. In fact, one of the 738’s came with foldable, “cocking wings” at the rear of the slide. A GREAT IDEA!! I wish others would do this.

    2. avatar Coolbreeze says:

      Times and things change. 1950-60. “I’ll never buy a Jap car. Everything made in Japan is cheap junk. “Buy a Ford. It’s made in America.” True then. Not since 1980, though.

  2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    a bloomberg sponsored design meant to cultivate distrust at the entry level.
    sheesh, what a piece of crap.

    all of the early air gun reviews here were very enjoyable.

  3. avatar TheUnspoken says:

    Wow, so it is a Nambu clone then…

    Cool greeting it for free, these days even almost any rusted, busted gun costs $150-200, hard to find much under the $100 that price point.

  4. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Very cool obscure object of desire.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      I’m not sure I would even want it, knowing what it’s capable of, Tom.

      I’m not concerned about me, I’m concerned about who may get their hands on it after whoever I inherit it to sell it, or otherwise dispose of it…

      1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        Yeah, I see your point well.
        My thoughts went into fixing it to make it safe and reliable.

        If I couldn’t, I’d save it for one of those “buyback” events, knowing it would get destroyed and I’d get money for it.

        1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          Well, it would make an interesting project gun, and if it didn’t work out, crunch it with a China 20-ton shop press…

  5. avatar Bob says:

    Had one years ago, threw it in the river along with a crappy glock & a break open s&w

    1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      I find it hard to believe that there is any mechanical failure on a Glock that cannot be repaired much more cheaply and satisfactorily than throwing the whole thing into a river.

      And what was the problem with the break-open S&W? Those are collector’s items.

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        Considering some of the metal detector or magnet fishing YouTube video channels I’ve seen, there’s a very good chance someone may pull it up, and put it back in service…

    2. avatar Enuf says:

      Not the best solution.

      That crappy Glock could have gone off, drilling a hole in the bottom of the river and draining it. Then where would people go fishing? The fool thing is probably down there lurking still, biding it’s time, waiting for an opportunity to raise all manner of heck and bad craziness.

      And heck yes, old Smith & Wesson top breaks are and have long been collectible. I used to collect top breaks, various brands. Eventually sold them all to buy modern guns and lots of ammo. An excellent investment.

  6. avatar flynbenny says:

    That looks more dangerous than the homemade shotguns from Nigeria that Y-man has shown us.

    1. avatar Whoopie says:

      Royal Nonesuch got a woody just looking at the pics.

    2. avatar Swarf says:

      Wonder what happened to him? I liked his take, and it was super interesting to see the perspective from half a world away.

      He also had pics of amazing home-built firearms from his country.

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        At one time, he was with Mark Serbu’s daughter, Valarie, but I don’t know if they are still together.

        I have to admit, it would be *sweet* to have a father-in-law with a SOT, and a chance to one day inherit the business…

  7. avatar Imayeti says:

    Any survivors to get information from?

  8. avatar 10x25mm says:

    These pistols were safe when they were first made, but their plastic grips and zinc alloy frames have deteriorated over the years, and this compromises the lockwork which both retain. The pistols were supposed to be safe with the bolt in the rear position as the additional mass of the bolt diminished the firing pin blow below the level required to discharge a .22 lr cartridge.

    My Powermaster has a light, but not unsafe, trigger pull. I have not been able to get it to fire a cartridge with the bolt in the open position, but you generally have to rotate the cartridge in the chamber to get the cartridge to fire after releasing the bolt on it in the open position. The bolt & firing pin release does not have enough energy to ignite the priming, but it somehow damages the priming. Some such cartridges will not fire at all.

    The pistol was designed by Arthur ‘Spuds’ Melin, one of the two founders of WAMO Manufacturing. The company later adopted the name of its then most popular toy, the Wham-O slingshot, as their corporate name. The pistols were made around 1955 – 1956 and went out of production when the firm was inundated with (and consumed by) Hula Hoop orders.

  9. avatar former water walker says:

    Interesting article. I had no idea there was a WAMO. Since I’m still an antique/ whatever dealer I’ll be on the lookout…yeah I knew about Nambu. Another reason Japan had NO chance😏

  10. avatar Wiregrass says:

    That grip reminds me of a High Standard Sport King I inherited from my father. Interestingly it has a manual safety, but no slide lock. So while being a sentimental piece from my childhood and a fun plinker, it’s worthless for any shooting sport where you have display the action open and unloaded to a range officer.

    1. avatar BASHer says:

      Use a chamber flag perhaps?

      1. avatar Wiregrass says:

        We use those already, but trying to insert one while holding the pistol and the slide back at the same time is a pain. No worries though, I have another pistol better suited for that.

        1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          It’s a stinking .22, man. It doesn’t have a stout slide spring…

  11. avatar TommyJay says:

    I had the Wrist-Rocket sling shot as a kid, and I think it was a Wham-O or WAMO product.
    It had an arm braced frame with some serious rubber on it.
    Photo here.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      They sell those at WalMart, not made by Wham-O, but some other company. Same surgical tubing…

  12. avatar Mac says:

    I shouldn’t think the writer is a big Nancy who could be bullied by my niece. So congratulations are in order I guess.
    Yes, it’s definitely an unsafe “range toy”… As in, you treat it as a silly example of poor workmanship, and only ever load it when it’s pointed down range at the range.
    It’s the type of awful that made the Imperial Japanese Military really stand out in the field of shotty equipment.
    But it’s not an example of why soaking you firearm in concentrated and heated chlorine is a terrible bad idea. It’s not going to go bang and blow off your fingers. Which is the unsafe to fire you pretended this gun was. I wouldn’t of given away the courage you’d expect from a small girl with ringlets, not for a weapon that should make you jump and give you the giggles.
    There are plenty of Type 94 Nambu pistols that see constant range time because it suffers the same poor workmanship. You have an example you can show off that you got for free. One even safer than a Nambu because of its a single shot only.
    But I guess your short term memory is so poor you’d never ever be able to remember to only ever load it at the range. Maybe avoid watching any videos of grownups having fun with weapons so poorly built, you’ll probably faint and ruffle your pretty dress falling down.

    1. avatar Travis Pike says:

      Is this English?

      1. avatar Ebuf says:

        … parts of it, yes.

    2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      thank very for mind example lucidity you much that bending of.

    3. avatar Jason(Possessor of 2.5 TTAG points) says:

      Please don’t drink and internet.

  13. avatar John Galt says:

    It’s a safe gun and a great shooter. Yours has problems.

    I have a dozen of them and I have watched them go from $15 to $400 ( and I am sure they will go up from there).

    This is a very accurate (formerly) cheap single shot 22 and a relic of the day when boys weren’t treated like girls.

    All this hypervenilating………it’s not attractive.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      good to know. pass.
      imagine tossin’ twenty at this when a new model ruger was 37.50

    2. avatar Pariah says:

      A dozen? Yeah right! God sometimes the bull shit sure does fly on this sight!

      1. avatar John Galt says:

        Because no one could collect them. Give me a freaking break. Idiot.

        1. avatar John Galt says:

          …….For what it’s worth. This is a highly collectible gun and rare considering how many were manufactured. It’s a period piece. See how many you find on gunbroker in a year. As I said, they have appreciated significantly over the last 50 years.

        2. avatar John Galt says:

          Show me other guns that have appreciated 3000% over the last 50 years. I’m listening.

        3. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          “Show me other guns that have appreciated 3000% over the last 50 years. I’m listening.”

          Pretty much any pre-’86 NFA select-fire weapon. From 400 bucks to 20,000 is some serious ROI… 😉

        4. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          if these were cool i wouldn’t wanna sell. but they’re not.
          much rather have something substantive. rather a 10mm hipoint if doing zamak.
          or any naa.

  14. avatar Specialist38 says:

    A friend of mine has one of these. Basically new when he got it from an uncle.

    It too would fire at random times.

    The Sheriden Knocabout was a much better gun.

    I also,remember Daisy’s foray into cartidge (and non cartridge) firearms.

    Definitely a different skill set for manufacturing.

  15. avatar enuf says:

    Daisy played at making .22LR guns for a little while. They had a semi-auto rifle that took a ten shot rotary magazine, I’ve seen a couple for sale in gun shops over the years. Each came with a solid helping of sticker shock, being “collectible” and all that.

    1. avatar Alex in Oregon says:

      I have one of the Daisy rifles as well. Magazine doesn’t work right and good luck finding another magazine that isn’t way over-priced. I seem to recall being told that early on they could use a 10/22 mag but they were sued over that and had to change the dimensions of their magazines.

  16. avatar Hannibal says:

    Ah, WHAM-O! I have on of their powermaster crossbows, I think I picked it up at some flea market when I was a bit (lot) younger. I started researching what I would have to do to restring it the and it seems the aluminum-alloy prod (the metal cross that holds the string under tension) is unreliable and could break. The idea of that metal shattering a half-foot away from my face made me decide to keep it on the wall unless I decide to put a steel prod on there. Their pistol style crossbows apparently tended to go off on their own as well. Must have been fun to work in the QA section before the company got shut down.

  17. avatar M1Lou says:

    I was given a replica Springfield 1816 musket when I bought a rifle at a LGS. I drilled the flash hour out, but still need to proof the barrel before firing it from the shoulder. This pistol looks like quite the liability magnet!

  18. avatar Brett Lindberg says:

    I’ve only ever traded off two guns, a Taurus 9 shot .22lr Revolver and and a Rossi single shot .22lr/410 rifle/shotgun combo set.

    The Taurus was actually a very accurate shooter and had a decent trigger especially in single action. The only draw back to my particular sample was that the gap between the cylinder face and forcing cone was so tight that fowling would lock up the cylinder after shooting several cylinders full. On hind site I wish I had kept it and removed a couple of thousandths from the forcing cone with a flat file.

    The Rossi on the other hand I don’t miss at all. That POS’s .22lr barrel threw a wider pattern than it’s .410 barrel.

    I’ve made it a point to avoid any firearms with “Made in Brazil” stamped on them once I unloaded the above two.

    1. avatar Ing says:

      I’ve heard that Rossi guns are pretty decent nowadays, the general consensus being that they’re rough around the edges but reasonably reliable and accurate.

      I don’t have Henry money or even Marlin money, so a Rossi is tempting…but I’m still wary. Best to wait and get a better firearm if you can, I guess. It’s not like I’m going to need that revolver or levergun *right now* to defend myself; got the basics covered, so it’s just wants, not needs at this point. And I don’t want or need a lemon of a gun in any case.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      I had a similar problem with TWO consecutive Ruger SP101s. At least I think it was the issue, I can imagine no other problem that would be ‘solved’ by wiping down the cylinder front after a few shots.

      I wonder how common this issue is with wheelguns.

  19. avatar jakee308 says:

    I think we can see why they stopped manufacturing them and also why they won’t respond to your emails.

    1. avatar John Galt says:

      Wamo won’t respond to emails because They have been out of business for 30 years

  20. avatar John Galt says:

    Calm down girls

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      talking to your dozen little lady toys? did they all discharge inadvertantly simultaneously?

      1. avatar John Galt says:

        Idiot

        1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          says the cap gun fetishist.

  21. avatar Pa John says:

    “(minus the $6 extortion fee to have them run a background check.)”

    $6? Here in Pennsylvania that is $20 to $25 per NICS check at all the places I have been. I suppose that until they are ready to pompously and arrogantly pretend that our state constitution doesn’t say, “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned”, along with pretending that the 2nd Amendment is somehow an optional privilege instead of a right they are prohibited from infringing upon, they just have to find other ways to infringe and drive up costs however best they can.

    I’d see a $6 NICS fee as a $14 to $19 increase in spare change for more ammo reloading supplies!

    1. avatar Mark H says:

      There is no Federal NICS fee. There is only a fee if the state (instead of the Feds) run the check. So in most states no fee.

    2. avatar RidgeRunner says:

      One LGS in Tennessee charged me $70 for a transfer in December. Will never darken their door again.

      1. avatar Hannibal says:

        Yeah that’s the “we don’t want to do this” price they’re offering you

  22. avatar John Galt says:

    You’re right Geoff…….my bad…….the Wamo Powermaster is one of the only guns that has appreciated like machine guns……. this one pistol, with zero .gov controll, no tax stamps. Any other pistols appreciate 3000% in 70 years? Specific, attributed Colts? Any?

  23. avatar Chris says:

    Hell, those aren’t bad guns compared to Hipoints. They use the firing pin as the ejector.

  24. avatar Sam Hill says:

    This would make a wonderful gift for mr biden and mr bloomers.

  25. avatar randy shook says:

    have several powermasters one new in box, pair of hamiltons that are nice,tommygun that is super nice, makes wonderful collecting ,daisy 100 made from powermaster tooling ,also made several cap pistols which shot lead shot.

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