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.