Starting A Wildcat War Plane With Original 4GA Shotgun Starter Shells

The shells were manufactured in 1943 and still work!

How it’s done:

The Coffman starter uses a specially made 4 gauge paper shell with an electric primer. It is filled with .25″ and .187″ diameter cordite pellets for slow burning powder. The shell fires into a starter assembly on the accessory case of the engine, same position as an electric starter. It DOES NOT fire directly into a cylinder of the engine. The gasses force a piston inside the starter assembly forward towards the engine collapsing spiral gears on top of each other converting it into a circular motion. This engages the starter dog and rotates the starter gear. After the piston reaches the end of its travel a valve released the residual pressure and a die spring resets the whole process.

Wow that’s really cool.  I really want to read more about war planes and other vehicles someday… such interesting history.

Wildcat-Plane-Shotgun-StartSuch an awesome / timeless design.

Thoughts?  Any of you guys thinking of modifying your Honda Civics to take a shotgun start? :P Now that I know about this method, I feel like turning a key or pushing a button is so lame.

Gat tip: Jay



thatturahguy December 4, 2014 at 05:16 am

For a great description of its actual use in WWII, check out Thomas Tomlison’s book “A Threadbare Buzzard”, his memoir of his service as a Marine fighter pilot (Wildcats and Corsairs). He recounts an episode of starting a Wildcat in just this manner while under attack at a base in the Solomon Islands. The whole book is a fine read.

Bo Hica December 4, 2014 at 08:58 am

Check out the original “Flight of the Phoenix”

Great movie on so many levels, plus they have A shotgun started plane… They might have used the same one on the remake as well, but I refused to see it because there’s no way it could have been even half as good as the original

Mud December 5, 2014 at 08:12 am

No Ernest Borgnine, no watch.

Stella December 6, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Haha “I build model planes…” Classic movie. The remake also is not bad, as far as remakes go

Klaus December 4, 2014 at 07:49 pm

WTF….the video on the screen now is not the video that you’re all talking about. I just refreshed my screen three times and it finally went away!

That was really weird…

ENDO-Mike December 4, 2014 at 07:52 pm

I think that’s a cache issue! I get that sometime too I’m not sure why.

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