by B.B. Pelletier
This report has been done in bits and pieces many times over the years, but I’m putting it together today because of a surge of new airgunners coming online. Many of them are older firearm shooters, but many others are younger shooters with no real background in the shooting sports. We’re seeing an upturn of fundamental questions in our social networks and through customer service representatives that tell us that this topic needs to be emphasized once again.
What’s wrong with the sound barrier?
The sound barrier is a lot more familiar to people of my generation, because it was being talked about and always in the news when I was a youngster in the 1950s. Young folks don’t think much about it these days because supersonic flight is a foregone conclusion; but back in the 1940s, it hadn’t yet been achieved by a manned aircraft in level flight. A couple pilots inadvertently broke the barrier in dives from high altitude during World War II when they were testing certain fighter aircraft, and one of them was Cass S. Hough, the grandson of the founder of Daisy and later a president of the firm himself. At the time, he was trying to solve a control surface problem with the twin-engined P38 Lightning fighter, so he took one to over 40,000 feet, nosed it over into a steep dive and might have become the first man to ever break the barrier in an airplane. I say “might” because almost every air force of that period has a similar story. There’s a plaque in England that commemorates that flight in 1943, but I’m sure there must be other plaques in other countries, as well.