To celebrate the recent release of Battlefield 1, “Slow Mo Guys” Gavin Free and Dan Gruchy turned their attention to WW1 synchonization gear, using their $150,000 high speed camera to show us exactly how WW1 pilots were able to fire machine guns through a propeller arc without hitting the blades.
Obviously, finding a WW1 aircraft with functioning weapons was a problem, so the team used a mock-up fuselage with an M60 disguised as a Vickers machine gun. The resulting test is filmed at an astounding 120,000 fps, and shows the precision of the revolutionary system. To drive the point home, the team also demonstrated what happens when the system is disengaged, causing the propeller to suffer numerous hits.
Prior to the development of synchronization systems, aircraft were weaponized by mounting guns on the upper wing to fire over the propeller arc and through the use of pusher types, which had their engines mounted behind the pilot. French airman Roland Garros even fitted the prop of his Morane-Saulnier monoplane with metal wedges to deflect bullets. The first system that saw widespread use was developed by Anthony Fokker and incorporated into his Eindecker design in 1915.