I am looking for proper proof of the theory that it is called so due to the Norden sight of the B17, which was said to assist the bomber in putting a bomb into a pickle jar, and hence it stuck.

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    $\begingroup$ Seems unlikely, as "Pickle" generally implies the emergency, unaimed, instantaneous release of all ordinance. $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2020 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ @quietflyer No, I think the OP is right, although I don't have a source at hand. To "pickle" is simply to release; ideally with the precision that the bomb lands in the proverbial pickle barrel, but if necessary they land where-ever. (Hopefully, not armed, in the latter case.) $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Dec 13, 2020 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ Pickle switch reference -- msn.com/en-us/news/us/… $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2020 at 22:01

2 Answers 2


The accuracy of the Norden bombsight was often exaggerated, but it was never claimed it could put a bomb into a pickle jar. The exaggerated claim from the Norden Company was that a bombardier using it under "ideal" conditions could put a bomb into a pickle barrel from 20,000 feet AGL. In reality it could barely get within 100 ft of the target from 10,000 feet AGL. (AGL = Above Ground Level) Some sources claim that it's called a pickle switch because a control handle with many switches almost feels like a pickle with all its bumps, but that would imply the name was given considerably later than WW2.

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    $\begingroup$ I would agree with the later because "pickle" is used in contexts other than releasing bombs, although who's to say it didn't evolve from that... $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2020 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ I also heard another theory, which says that the pickle switch naming was due to earlier submarines that launched Torpedos- which looked like pickles, and it then moves to the aviation world. $\endgroup$
    – Stan
    Dec 21, 2020 at 8:53

We made these in the 60s for USAF for release of PLADS AND LAPES SYSTEMS. Comfortable grip and knobby for a good grip, hence pickle

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Aviation! Who is "we"? What are "PLADS AND LAPES SYSTEMS" and does it have to be ALL SHOUT CASE? Is this actually the origin of the term? Do you have any sort of reference that might support this claim? $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Jan 17 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ LAPES $\endgroup$
    – CitizenRon
    May 22 at 14:06

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