I worked the track meet last night, and once again I am un-impressed with the quality of todays starter pistols. The last three or four I've seen haven't been able to make it through a whole meet without failure. Seriously, the track meet had maybe thirty times when they needed a BANG to start the race and the crappy little starter pistol couldn't be counted on to fill the need.
A starter pistol has several absolute requirements. First, it cannot be a real gun, for all sorts of good reasons. No one wants a functioning pistol in the hands of a coach at a high school meet. Next, it must provide bang, flash, and smoke. Sound travels much more slowly than light and when the starter is near the finish line the timers can start their clocks when they hear the bang, but if the starter is down the track, or across the stadium, the timers have to see a flash or smoke to start their clocks.
Still, the crappy little pistols they've been using are simply incapable of providing a good starting signal for 30 consecutive starts. That's terrible, and it's got me to pondering. If I could find an old caplock, single-shot pistol for cheap, I'd modify it to use winged musket caps. That would certainly provide bang ans flash, and I could have the barrel plugged very easily.
This problem has me pondering an easy, inexpensive, durable way to solve a problem that we've yet been unable to solve.