Jump to content

MC-2 flight control grip review


Recommended Posts


Greetings everyone !

Not as big an addition as an helmet today, but a nice complement to the collection anyway : here's a nicely preserved MC-2 control grip I've found at my online militaria flight gear retailer's in France.



The grip

The B-8 / B-8A / MC-2 "joysticks", all belonging to the same family with their small differences, go back in the post-WW2 aviation History for being the most iconic and widely used flight control grips worldwide, on US and also foreign-made military aircraft until the present day.
That includes USAF / USN jet aircraft from the early 50's, the Century Fighters, fighter-bombers, attack and trainer jets of the 70-80's, and also some helicopters and propeller aircraft.
This grip type revealed itself as such a convenient and sturdy design that they are still in use - and even in production - today.



Sold as a US-made B-8 control stick (and I confess I thought it was too), looking closely at the grip's left-side base, the paint-stamped markings tell otherwise and definitely make it an MC-2. We'll get back to this point later while discussing the typology.





Presented "ready to display" standing on a clear plexiglass stand, I only cleaned up the operating switches and checkered grip using soapy water and a used toothbrush, then repainted the stand's sides more to my liking with satin dark spray.


This MC-2 controller, manufactured by Guardian Electric, USA, features the sleek one-piece design with checkered side patterns, hand rest, and 3/1/1 switch configuration (3 pushbuttons / 1 toggle hat button / 1 trigger) iconic of the prolific B-8 family.
It sports a nice patina mostly made of dents, scratches, and a black soft mate coating material that disappeared in a few places due to flight glove friction and repeated use, revealing the hard shiny plastic the grip is made of.


Close-up on the hand rest's patina.


All 5 switches are working perfectly and produce a satisfying "click", which is a real cool feature - even for a display object.
Sadly for me, I'm left-handed, so I won't be playing with it much... 😁



  • T1 > Trigger Switch (two-stage actuation)
  • T2 > Trigger guard
  • S1 > Top-side pushbutton switch
  • S2 > Middle-side pushbutton switch
  • S3 > Bottom-side pushbutton switch
  • H1 > Toggle 4-way "hat" (or "coolie") switch




As you may have noticed, the trigger, best known for being light to dark red on the B-8 family, is brown on my example and features a grey plastic guard underneath.
The 3 side pushbuttons are one-centimeter tall, one-piece red plastic.
As for the toggle 4-way "hat", it sports a stepped conic design, a light green rubber dot on the center, and 4 white arrow markings placed every "quarter hour".

Detail of the 2-stage trigger actuation.
Faint operation marks on the sides are noticeable.

Here is a vintage 60's diagram (likely F-104) I've found that explains the operations dedicated to each switch, the way they were commonly used on most jets.

Close-up of the mounting base's thread and its 17-pin connector.
Pins are attributed a letter, as following : A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-J-K-L-M-N-P-R-S-T

The manufacturer - Guardian Electric- is not only mentioned by name on the grip, but also with its logo.
There are also what I believe to be a quality control stamp underneath the hand rest, and a unique serial number (we'll get back to them at the end of the next paragraph).





Discussing the nomenclature

Talking about the nomenclature, my search started on this very forum with a useful matching thread that led me to a quote stating the following :




On contacting Guardian to enquire about the grips some time ago, they say there is no physical difference between the B-8 and the MC-2, just the designation and part number -53C4719 and -56C3002 respectively.

There does not seem to be any apparent 'rule' as to what is fitted to the various types of aircraft although, from what I have seen, most of the US Air Force 'fighter' style complete and as removed control sticks that I have in my collection, tend to have an MC-2 and the trainer / second line aircraft and Helicopters the B-8 / B-8A.

But as I said, I haven't seen any specific documentation to confirm my thoughts regarding this.




Definitely eager to learn more about it, I searched the web for the NSN 1680-00-064-5145 present on my grip.
As correctly stated in the previous quote, the gathered data (see below) indeed matches perfectly the part's designation for an MC-2 (07878-56C3002-01), as well as the manufacturer (Guardian Electric) and the part number specific to this contractor (A218-962730-00), just as stamped on my example.

Cropped data montage (C) wbparts.com (complete page HERE)
Note that the NSN assignment for this part is dated January 1963.

I decided not to stop at the MC-2 type and also searched for its counterpart with the -53C4719 number mentioned in the previous quote, number that would theorically match the B-8 grip. The search result came up with the following cross-reference data, giving away the NSN 1680-00-333-8923 that corresponds to the B-8A type, dated January 1963 as well.
As you can see, Guardian Electric indeed manufactured some of those too.


Cropped data montage (C) wbparts.com (complete page HERE)

Data comparison confirms the quoted statement regarding their huge similarities :

  • same NSN assignment date, supply group, and Item Name Code (INC)
  • 17-pin connector
  • 1.5 in"-wide mounting end
  • 3 / 1 / 1 switches (3 pushbuttons / 1 toggle hat button / 1 trigger)


Yet, the only slight differences I've spotted are the overall lenght (6.5 in" for the MC-2 / 6.0 in" for the B-8A) and mounting end lenght (0.906 inch for the MC-2 / 2.843 inches for the B-8A).


Since I hven't found any "B-8" or "B-8 type" matching NSN in the online databases, and given the B-8A and MC-2 with NSNs dated January 1963 are said to have replaced -at least- two similar parts (listed below) as "obsolete" / "item cancelled as duplicate", my guess is that the following NSNs were most probably among the early B-8's.

  • NSN 1680-00-562-2961 terminated in January 1963
  • NSN 1680-00-801-3973 terminated in January 1960


The previous evidence makes me believe that as for 1963, only B-8A and MC-2 remained manufatured, and the "B-8"-only nomenclature refering to the early grip models (the head of the family if you will) was not produced as such anymore.



During my pictures' quest for illustrating this writeup, I've looked at a multitude of part number markings on the grips, leading to multiple (more than 20) cross-reference NSNs to the B-8A / MC-2 controllers. Some were more limited in time, quantity and number of manufacturers than others, some specifically made for a given branch or aircraft, however they ALL can be considered from the B-8 family.

Smoothly / roughly heat-stamped, engraved then painted inside, paint-stamped or even foil-labeled, featuring between 1 and up to 5 lines of alphanumeric characters mostly on the left-side bottom... the marking method for the B-8 flight grip family widely differs regarding the part number, contractor, and manufacturing period.


This montage is quite representative of the huge markings' variety !


Although the control grips from that prolific family are very similar and can be confused with each other (the many cross-reference NSNs do not help, for sure !), concording online sources state that a few noticeable evolutions appeared circa the end of the 60's and became more and more common on the grips issued, as the contractors adopted them and the 70's unfolded.
Consequently, regardless of the NSN or grip type nomenclature, these simple differences can help at least identifying the early grips from the later ones.


➡️ Early grips made with the B-8 standards, mfg. 50's and up to the early 70's
(present on B-8, B-8A & MC-2) :

  • round-edged, light to dark red trigger switch / single or two-stage actuation,
  • short round-edged two-piece pushbuttons (red plastic top / metal base),
  • generally no markings on and around the toggle "hat" 4-way switch.


➡️ Later grips' evolutions, mfg. early to mid 70's and up to present day
(likely B-8A & MC-2 type only) :

  • edgier-shaped, dark red or brown trigger switch (sometimes black) / single or two-stage actuation,
  • optional grey plastic trigger guard under the trigger switch,
  • edgier and taller one-piece pushbuttons (red or black plastic - sometimes mixed colors),
  • central colored dot (mostly green, sometimes red) / 4 white arrow markings around the toggle "hat" 4-way switch.

As you can see, all the evidence lead to a late version regarding my MC-2.



Talking about the manufacturer(s)

From what I've seen, Guardian Electric appears to be one of the biggest flight grips and switches manufacturers for the US military in decades.

Interestingly enough, the time I've spent on the NSN databases made me notice the 73949 number (present as such, or put in brackets) on other control sticks found on the web was a code reference to the same manufactutrer (aka "Cage Code").

So, when the contractor's name is not litterally marked on the grip the way it is on mine, there still seems to be a reference to it with a 5-digit number (for every military contractor has its own cage code, like Bendix / Bell / Boeing / Mason Electric / Phaostron Co. / Essex etc. who also produced grips from the B-8 family).


If no explicit reference (name or cage code) to the manufacturer is visible, one can find it back nonetheless using the part number present on the grip, because as we've seen before, military contractors often "rename" the parts they produce with a series number of their own.
As a result, even though one could find parts sporting the same NSN assignment, the part number would differ depending on the contractor !
Luckily, they are all logged in the NSN databases as cross-references.



Noteworthy, some of the markings present on the grips seem to be specific of the manufacturers, and somewhat off the NSN / part number regulations.
Thus, the most remarkable one for Guardian Electric grips is their logo, a capital G inside a shield, as seen on my example and many others.




The paint-stamped "(G6)" underneath the hand rest seems to be some kind of a quality control check, batch number, production line, or something of this kind that is internal to the manufacturer, given that I've found similar "G+number" stampings on Guardian Electric grips (and not only the B-8 type).


Finally, the heat-stamped "7411306" underneath the top pushbutton's bulge will remain a question mark, since it doesn't lead to any result on a part number / NSN search.
I've found differing 7-digit  numbers heat-stamped at the same place on a couple of other Guardian Electric B-8A / MC-2 grips, so I would assume this is a unique serial number internal to the manufacturer, but there's no way to be sure.


Similar markings on Guardian Electric grips.



Which aircraft could it possibly come from ?!


This is the ultimate and tricky question, for the variety of aircraft these control grips were used in is incredibly wide, not only in the USA.
However, there are a few clues (especially datation hints, external features and markings) that can help exclude most of these aircraft. This will be an eliminating reasoning, so to speak.
As always with this kind of fun exercise, please be indulgent as l won't be affirming anything ! 🙂

Knowing this example came from the US in the first place, let's begin by a non-exhaustive list and cockpit montages of famous US aircraft (foreign ones are unlikely) that have been fitted (at the minimum for one version of each aircraft, at best for the whole series) with the B-8 / B-8A / MC-2 grip family.
Please note that other notorious US helicopters and jets sport very similar grips, but because either their connector to the control yoke is not vertical, either there are a few added pushbuttons, I won't be showing them here.



  • P-80 / F-80 / T33 Shooting Star
  • F-84 Thunderjet / Thunderstreak
  • F-86 Sabre
  • F-94 Starfire
  • F9F-6 Cougar
  • F11F Tiger
  • F3H Demon
  • F-100 Super Sabre
  • F-101 Voodoo
  • F-104 Starfighter
  • F-105 Thunderchief
  • F-4 Phantom II
  • T-38 Talon
  • F-5 Freedom Fighter / Tiger II
  • A-7 Corsair II
  • X-29 (!)
  • F-15A Eagle
  • A-10A Thunderbolt II



Matching grips on jet cockpits



  • H-19 Chicksaw
  • H-34 Choctaw
  • UH-1 Huey
  • AH-1 Cobra
  • CH-46 Sea Knight
  • CH-47 Chinook
  • OH-6 Cayuse



Matching cyclic grips on helicopter cockpits



➡️ Now, as we've seen before, the grip I own corresponds to a NSN assignment dated January 1963, and its external features listed above definitely make it an example characteristic of the late-type assembly (early to mid 70's and up).
These evidence rule the planes built and used in the 50's / early 60's out (basically : all the Korean war / post-war era jets).



➡️ However, dating grips and planes is not everything.
As a matter of fact, because they were still in use at least in the late 70's / early 80's, some of the Century Fighters (jets of the 60's with a 3-digit nomenclature) and the F-5 family, built between the late 50's and the early 70's, deserve to be kept in the probable list nonetheless.
Because we're talking about late or modernized versions of these jets, there's no secret that newer grip sticks were parts that could be easily inserted in production lines, or replaced during a retrofit process.


Truth is, I've found a significant number of F-105, T-38A, NATO F-104 and (C)F-5 cockpits fitted with late-type grips features that tend to confirm this theory (one-piece tall pushbuttons & dot / arrow markings on the toggle hat).

On the other hand, even if they were retired in the 70's, F-100s and F-101s did not seem to have benefited these grip's improvements : only one F-100 and two F-101 cockpits sporting late grip features were to be found, so I have cautiously decided to put them on the bottom of the list.

F-105 late-type grips.
Thuds were still in use during the late 70's and early 80's in the USA (ANG / AFRES) after the major role they played in the VN war (D, F & G versions).


Matching NATO Starfighter grips (including a USAF C model).
Even if it was retired from service in 1969 in the USA, the F-104 was still in use until the late 80's (early 00's in Italy !) in many NATO / allied countries with modernized versions (G, J & S models, plus the Canadian-built CF-104).


The T-38A used as advanced jet trainer in the US (before the C-version upgrade in the early 00's) and many F-5 / CF-5 around the world sported the late variant B-8A /MC-2 grip, and saw service throughout the last decades of the 20th century (many are still in use).
Note that some grips even feature the brown trigger with plastic hand guard, similar as mine (mostly found on USAF T-38A and Canadian CF-5).


➡️ Two of the most famous jets in History - F-4 Phantom II and A-7 Corsair II - used a modified variant of this grip, basically a B-8A type lacking the hand rest, making it pretty easy to identify in the cockpits and on the used market today.
Even if a lot of these grips were of the late-type configuration for these planes remained in use until the mid 90's in the US forces, the lack of hand rest rule them out regarding my grip. Yet, I'd like to add a few words about them regardless.


I've learnt these grips were mass-produced out of a regular B-8A mold sporting a hand rest, then trimmed later (likely on assembly lines, frequently leaving a "scar" on the right side), allegedly to facilitate the use of the steering wheel / anti-skid bottom switch.
While being produced exactly the same way as their counterparts featuring a hand rest, they sported different NSNs ; I've managed to find -at least- two of them, considered as cross references for the B-8A.

  • NSN specific of the F-4 grip : 1680-00-968-1063 (january 1963)
  • NSN found on two A-7 grips : 1680-00-878-2167 (august 1967) - unsure if specific of the A-7 though...


Montage of cockpit views showing the characteristic lack of hand rest.
However, given the huge amount of cross-references in this control grip family, it remains possible in my opinion that other specific NSNs might have been manufactured for these planes without the hand rest out of a modified mold - and not trimmed afterwards (but it's hard to tell for sure).


Nice example of a Guardian Electric B-8A with part number matching a Phantom pilot grip (C) IMA-USA
The "trimming" scar is clearly visible on the middle close-ups.

On a side note, the B-8A grip on the Phantom was only meant for pilot (forward seat), while the RIO (back seat) sported a more specific canted stick derivated from the B-8. A couple of F-4 front cockpits sporting hand-rest grips can be found on museums, but it's safe to say these were scarce and not the norm on Phantoms (or perhaps mistakes when the planes got restored ?).


Montage of the successive F-4 pilot grips using NATOPS 1975 Flight manuals' extracts (full version on bottom of the linked page)

1- initial naval Phantoms' grip (F-4B & early -J variants : B-8A w/o bottom pushbutton switch)
2- most common B-8A-type grip (B-8A without hand rest)
3- late grip (more ergnomic, adding a second four-way switch for weapon selection on the top)


➡️ Let's also put aside the helicopter hypothesis, for the vertically-fixed B-8-type grips used as cyclic controllers sported characteristic screws on the front and bottom (facing the pilot), unlike with fixed wing aircraft. NSN 1680-00-914-2653 (dated 1960) and 1680-00-106-4546 (dated 1968) appear to be frequently encountered chopper grips, pretty iconic of the UH-1 breed as far as I've noticed.

Moreover, on most of them, the controls' descriptions were engraved and painted white next to each pushbutton (trim rel. / cargo release / auto lev.), the most notable difference with jets being the main 2-stage trigger usually used as a radio / intercom switch.


Montage of B-8-type cyclic grips sported by choppers circa VN era.
The far right example belonged to a Cobra gunship, you can't be mistaken with such explicit markings !



➡️ The rare F-15A Eagle B-8A-type grip featuring 32 pins (instead of the regular 17-pin connector), a taller middle-side black pushbutton  and manufactured by Essex Industries (NSN 1680-01-025-0403 dated July 1976), can naturally be put out of the list too.


➡️ Last but not least, remains the case of the mighty A-10A.
Built between 1975 and 1984, and from the cockpit views I've found so far, I assess the Thunderbolt II used the late B-8A / MC-2 grip assembly from the beginning, until the A-10C upgrade in the early 00's which added a new grip controller along with a more modern glass-cockpit (just as the T-38C's).
Almost all the cockpit photos I have found so far confirm this statement (a couple of them miss the green dot), showing grips sporting the same configuration as the one I own with the brown trigger and plastic guard when seen from the correct angle.




This picture and attached information found on the forum look pretty relevant as well to me.



In the end, the research and reasoning I've made make me think the probability that grip belonged to one of the following jets seems reasonably plausible.

Besides, judging by the presence of a brown trigger + trigger guard (which is not that frequent) on many examples, and the fact these planes served in the USA later than the others in the 80's until the early 00's with such grips, I guess we can put the T-38A and A-10A on top of the list.
Nothing for certain of course, but at least we will have eliminated quite a lot !


T-38A Talon / A-10A Thundebolt II (USA)
F-105 Thunderchief (USA)
F-104 / CF-104 Starfighter (NATO countries)
F-5 / CF-5 Freedom Fighter / Tiger II (USA / NATO countries)

F-100 Super Sabre / F-101 Voodoo (USA / NATO countries)



That is all, folks, I hope you enjoyed this new share and write up.
When I started it, I honestly wasn't expecting to find so much about a part I expected to be extremely basic and common.

As always, I'll gladly appreciate you to leave your opinion, any helpful comment, or even perhaps a picture of your own control grip !

Cheers ! 😉
- Gauthier / Vark_07


⚠️ : Please note that due to the great amount of photos I had to cut / resize in the montages (found on museums, auctions, part dealers, aviation sites, blogs...), I'm sorry I couldn't mark a copyright for each one. Thanks in advance for you comprehension and indulgence !

0-MC-2-2 (Small).jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Wow. Very detailed and informative article!!


When I was working on A-6 Intruders we removed the hand rests from the control grips through a technical directive that NAVAIR issued. I believe, if I remember correctly, the reason for the removal of the hand rest was because it was considered a possible injury hazard to the pilot’s leg during an ejection. 

Looks identical to the Intruder’s grip. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thinking back to the purpose of the removal of the hand rest.

I believe the reason the rest was removed was two-fold. In addition to the pilot injury scenario, the rest removal made easier access to the quick disconnect toggle of automatic flight control system on the Intruder. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites


That is a cool grip,  may not be at big of an item as a helmet but hell they sell for just about the same bit of money.  I noticed you are making all the stock numbers as an NSN which your grip lacks.  Your grip has a FSN, Federal Stock Number which exited til around 1974 then they became NSN, National Stock Number, unless you go outside the US then it might be a NATO Stock Number.  US made items will have the ID code 00 or 01 usually as the 5th and 6th digits in the NSN,  FSNs lacked the country code bit.  I know for example off the top of my head a stock number for an item from the UK will have the country code 99 as its 5th and 6th digits.


In regards to the helicopter theories, not sure on some in that list, but the grips for a Huey were usually marked 204- or 205- and also directly screw into the metal stick assembly, they didnt have the threaded coupling like the B-8 style etc.   I can also 110 percent say it wasn't a OH-6 grip either,  that pic you show that might have come from a surplus OH-6 had the grip replaced in civilian life.  OH-6 and later OH-58A and C aircraft had what is called  a LOH grip from the manufacturer who original was Mason I believe.  Much different style grip and alot of times when OH-6s were surplussed they got refitted with a generic style grip like the B-8 style etc.  Civilian Hughes 369 aircraft and later MD came with that style grip vs the military LOH style grip, but again those are usually directly screwed into the metal stick assembly vs a threaded connector.  The threaded type grips seem to mostly come from fixed wing aircraft.  Id say your grip is from the early to mid 70s.


Grips are a very cool addition to collections. Id like to get a UH-1 and OH-6 type grips for my father.  I have a compelete stick and grip assembly from an OV-1D Mohawk, the radio/ICS switch on it broke off unfortunately.  The OV-1 has a unique grip in its own,  some jets have a similar shape but aren't the same.




Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thank you both for your precious insight !


On 5/30/2021 at 9:18 PM, hink441 said:

When I was working on A-6 Intruders we removed the hand rests from the control grips through a technical directive that NAVAIR issued. I believe, if I remember correctly, the reason for the removal of the hand rest was because it was considered a possible injury hazard to the pilot’s leg during an ejection.


I believe the reason the rest was removed was two-fold. In addition to the pilot injury scenario, the rest removal made easier access to the quick disconnect toggle of automatic flight control system on the Intruder. 

I still don't figure how I could have completely missed the Intruder in my list, shame (especially while owning a VMAT(AW)-202 helmet !)...

You're right Chris, A-6 pilots indeed used a B-8A/MC-2 grip, and so did the Prowler's.

The reasons you mentioned above make sense too and complete the one I've heard regarding the Phantom grip (as I wrote, a contact of mine told me he learnt from a USAF retired F-4 pilot that the removal of the hand rest made the anti-skid switch more accessible).


22 hours ago, mohawkALSE said:

[...] directly screw into the metal stick assembly, they didnt have the threaded coupling like the B-8 style etc

Did I forget to mention the lack of thread coupling on B-8-type helicopter gr....? Skipped it, darn it (I only mentioned the front and rear coupling screws on the bottom) ; anyway, it was another clue that would rule them out.

Thanks for the clarification on the NSN / FSN, dating info for my grip, and chopper insight, everything was very interesting !
Also, that's a very cool OV-1 control assembly you've got there 😉.

On a personal note, I'm not much into grips or instruments, but this one was so well-preserved -and iconic of so many US jets- I just couldn't pass.

My secret Grail in such matter, however, would be a B-52 control wheel.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Vark_07 said:

On a personal note, I'm not much into grips or instruments, but this one was so well-preserved -and iconic of so many US jets- I just couldn't pass.

My secret Grail in such matter, however, would be a B-52 control wheel.

 Id say your grip is well beyond well preserved, it looks New Old Stock to me,  doesn't get any nicer than that.   I would think you were crazy if you passed it up!  Its a very nice piece.  I just saw a B-52 yoke on ebay within the past month, sold for less than I thought it was going to go for.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.