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


6 responses to “Starting A Wildcat War Plane With Original 4GA Shotgun Starter Shells”

  1. thatturahguy Avatar

    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.

  2. 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

    1. No Ernest Borgnine, no watch.

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

  3. 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…

    1. ENDO-Mike Avatar

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