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Buy the book!

by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

• Problem — solved!
• Identify this airgun
• This blog can be a resource
• What happens when it isn’t in a book?

This report is a recurring theme with me. I see a person who needs information about an airgun, yet they have no library in which to research. This I cannot understand.

Last Thursday, the person needing info was me. I was out at the range shooting my AR-15, which, despite my feelings to the contrary, is the most accurate rifle I own — and perhaps have ever owned! Those who have followed my writings know I am not a fan of the AR design. I won’t get into that now, for this isn’t about them. But my dislike of the rifle has put me in the position of knowing very little about the gun — in spite of “owning” more than 100 of them in an arms room when I was a company commander in Germany in the 1970s.

Ah, but I have a secret weapon — a library! AR-15s may not turn me on, but I have 5 books about them — not because I’m interested in the gun, but because I need to know about them to keep mine running well. I also have a book about my F150 pickup that I rarely open, but it’s there when I need to know something arcane about my truck.

Problem — solved!
I was shooting groups at the range with carefully handloaded ammo when one cartridge failed to fire. I heard the hammer fall, but nothing more. No problem, just pull back the operating handle and the bolt will open, extracting and ejecting the round. It’s almost like a bolt-action rifle — except that it isn’t! An AR bolt is rotated and cammed into position, and to open it manually you must be able to turn the bolt so the lugs clear the receiver. A guy told me that an AR is just a different kind of bolt-action rifle, but I discovered why that isn’t the case. With a bolt-action you control the force of the bolt’s movement with the bolt handle. In an AR action, there are several parts between you and the bolt; and if the bolt doesn’t want to turn, unlock and open, nothing you’re going to do can make it.

That put an end to my day at the range. Fortunately, most of my shooting was finished. I considered kicking the operating handle to the rear, the way you would kick the changing handle on a jammed Garand, but decided against it, as there was a loaded cartridge of unknown status still in the chamber. So, I carefully packed my rifle into its bag and left the range.

That evening I consulted one of my AR-15 books. This one, written by Patrick Sweeney, has a short section on field fixes for malfunctions. Can you guess what one of them is? It’s when the bolt will not open. One minute to read the paragraphs and comprehend what he was saying and 15 seconds to do it. The round ejected and the rifle is back in operation. There are no broken parts, ruined finishes or embarrassing YouTube videos that end poorly.

The round in question had no powder — my fault. The primer fired, but there wasn’t anything for it to ignite. And, apparently, this will lock up an AR-15 so that it has to be opened in a special way.

primer strike
The primer was struck well, so it should have fired.

bullet base
Carbon fouling on the base of the pulled bullet shows that the primer did ignite.

Now I know. And I know because I have a library. My buddy, Otho, tells me he never passes up the chance to buy a tool he doesn’t own, because he never knows when he might need it. Well, for me, books are tools. I previously wrote a blog about this: Building an airgun library.

Identify this airgun
I understand when someone acquires a strange old airgun, and they don’t want to run out and spend $25 to buy the Blue Book of Airguns. They don’t want to become an airgunner — they just want to find out something about this strange airgun they just acquired. What I cannot understand is a guy who owns 10 airguns and loves the hobby but doesn’t own that book!

And that’s not the only book out there! There are plenty of other useful books that will enlighten you at an opportune moment. But it only works if you have them when you need them.

This blog can be a resource
Some airgunners have asked me why I write with as much detail as I do. Well, I do it so the information doesn’t get lost. Like the work I did on the FWB 124 and the BSA Meteor. These were long, involved series, where lots of specialized work was done. I tried to document it with pictures and text for the next guy who has to do the same thing. These things won’t be in any book, but now they’re archived on the internet — hopefully for a long time to come.

What happens when it isn’t in a book?
A couple months ago, I acquired an odd-looking .22 rimfire revolver at a gun show. It’s called a Cody Thunderbird and is unlike anything I’d ever seen — and I have a pretty good memory when it comes to odd guns. I ripped through my library, looking for any references to the gun and found nothing. Otho, who has books I don’t own, also looked and found nothing.

Then I found an ad in an online 1957 issue of Guns magazine for the revolver. That netted some new information that I used to contact the historical society of the city where the company was supposedly based. They, in turn, emailed me a newspaper article about the revolver that I now have.

Cody Thundewrbird ad
Cody didn’t do a lot of advertising, but I did find this one ad.

Cody Thunderbird
Here is the revolver. When I know more about it, I’ll write a report.

This revolver has several things that are very interesting from a design standpoint, so I’ll be reviewing it for you it at some point. I’m now gathering information about the company so I can write with some authority.

The point of today’s report is this: If this information wasn’t written down somewhere, I would be in the dark on this gun. And my AR-15 would still have a round in the chamber.

If you’re an enthusiast of anything, you should have a library on the subject. If no books have been written yet, maybe you could start the ball rolling.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

25 thoughts on “Buy the book!”

  1. I like the new style of the blog. I love when things evolve into a new style that keeps us thinking about what we do on a daily basis without expecting any change, because it is already good enough. Only when you are confronted with a much improved version you realize that anything can really be improved, Congratulations for the new Airgun Blog. I loved it!

  2. The one thing about the AR15 boondogglette (not being serious enough for a full-fledged boondoggle,) did the primer launch the bullet into the barrel?
    Being fully capable of reloading (not) by generating what I call “lightweight” rounds (meaning no powder,) I always worry about the potential for bore obstructions. While my experience (and luck) has not produced any really dangerous situations (so far,) In my collection of strange and arcane objects, there’s a sectioned MAC-10 barrel with no fewer than 12 bullets stacked like a deck of cards (not generated by me,) a 1911 barrel with a big-old-bulge midway down it (neither generated by me,) and a 1903 Colt .25 ACP barrel with primer-only propelled FMJ pertly peeking out of the muzzle, which was generated by me. (No powder, oops. My fault.)
    I know you know, and by now, I know, but it’s worth emphasizing, if you hear that “pop” instead of that “bang or blooey,” no matter what’s being shot (auto, revolver, single-shot, or even black-powder,) take a peek in there.
    You may see something that shouldn’t be there, getting ready to cost you the price of a new, non-bulged barrel.
    Or worse.

  3. BB, what books do you recommend for the AR15? Also, as 103Dave asked, did the primer have enough power to propel the bullet into the barrel? Finally, exactly what are you supposed to do to clear it? Field strip the rifle to pull the bolt out?

    Fred DPRoNJ

  4. I can relate to the need and usefulness of having a manual for whatever it is you may be working on or seeking info that you need or desire. Myself being an auto mechanic for 30 years and a packrat also can say that I still have all of my GM service manuals fro Cadillac’s and Oldsmobile’s from 1983 to 1998 packed away in my shed, not that I will probably ever have the need to open one anymore as most of the info is burned into my brain. It is in there but that does not mean I can always recover it when needed and that is where the book comes into play. So I fro one am glad that these type of books are recorded or written for people like myself that when ever I acquire a new toy or piece of machinery always have to find as much info as possible about it so that I can keep it in like new condition and be able to maintain it for years to come or bring it back to its former glory. Books are the tools with which we learn and grow from what is contained within.


  5. I also have a model 1911 colt 45 with a original barrel with a bulge in the side of the barrel where it tried to go with the bullet when it was fired by myself back in my very early 20s when I knew enough about a gun to be safe and not hurt anyone but not enough to always inspect a new/old gun very closely before loading and shooting. It just so happened that this particular 45 was from the WWI era and had been shot so many times that there was no rifling left in the barrel and when I commenced to shooting it. It did fine with the first clip of the original military ball ammo that I also got with the gun, but on the second clip one of the bullets had wedged sideways in the barrel due to the lack of rifling and therefore very loose fit of said bullet in the barrel and tried to take the barrel with it when exiting the barrel and broke the barrel retaining hook and left the barrel about 3 inches forward of the front of the slide and the barrel bushing and recoil spring were nowhere to be found. So a trip to my gunsmith with a new barrel that also came with the gun and 100 dollars later and I had a safe functioning 45 again that I have never shot since,


  6. On the Cody Thunderbird, could that be (dare I say it) a SAFETY on the frame about where a right-hander’s thumb would fall? Assuming, of course the revolver had a Webley or Smith & Wesson lift style latch.

  7. Oh man! Where have I been? This is cool, need to get used to it I guess, kinda feel it looks a little too much like all the other blogs though, to be honest. Im a hard stone for change. Definitely need to keep up with the blog here, its tough right now with a new home business picking up speed and muggy days making the evenings “do nothing time” lol. I broke my airconditioner! Aahh! Finally got past that stripped breech screw and smoothed transfers and lightened valve spring and thinned bolt probe on the pc/13/77, things hitting hard, end of Sept is birthday so breech, barrel, chrony and hopefully new breakbarrel in the works. Glad everyones still here, even if I can’t get on every day, keep it alive guys and gals! Speaking of books… any word on “The Windgun..” B.B.?

  8. BB; Your revolver reminds me of a cross between a Hi-Standard Sentinal and a H&R Sprortsman in a aluminum.frame. The internet has replaced old school research for many which is a pity. . As for myself , I have always cherished my library of firearms books. You can read about your Cody revolver on page 93 of Henry M.Stebbins’s book , “Pistols a modern encyclopedia”, Stackpole Books 1961.like the new look of the blog, Regards ,Robert.

      • Edith, I think Tom will find that book interesting as it covers alot of pistols from the 1950’s -60’s era and practical everyman discussion of them.. There is only a few paragraphs on the Cody ,but I’ve never seen that pistol mentioned ever in any other reference, and I have quite a few of them. I wonder if it wasn’t a situation like the Crosman mark 1&2 and the S&W 78 CO2 air pistols where a design engineer went from H&R and then modifiied the design to manufacture the Cody, as it is so similar to the H&R “Sportsman ” series.. Also in Stebbins book there is a nice read on Luger pistols and his personal observations on his own samples is a nice read. You should also try to locate a copy of Stebbins other book “Rifles a modern encyclopedia” also a Stackpole book.Both books are a refreshing departure from todays gun books which seem to be obsessed with the discussion of tactical and self defense purpose of firearms, and less about the fun of shooting guns for enjoyment.

        • Robert,

          I have discovered some of the history behind the Cody and how it was made. You may be partially right — I don’t know that part yet.

          I don’t want to say too much now because it will come out in a report. Maybe this book will prompt me to write a report a lot sooner.


  9. BB
    It’s great having books (Kindle these days for me) and I do buy them to learn about stuff I intend to get. But I google everything first! Cheaper and instant. Just make sure your book is in kindle format. I had lots of paper books (still have some) but lost so much of them in a hurricane that I’ve decided that the kindle is the way to go. I would like to own a 1022 some day and i have already down loaded 3 books on 22 rim fire rifles.

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