If you’re in the mood to put on a horizontal fireworks display, grab a box of tracer ammo and go to town on some poor unsuspecting target. It’s a little like watching a roman candle on steroids rip through the air at 3020 fps. Shooting at night is fun—shooting at night with tracers is even more fun!
Historically, the military uses tracers in every fifth slot of a machine gun belt, referred to as four-to-one tracer. Soldiers sometimes place two or three rounds from the bottom of magazines to alert the shooter that their weapon is almost empty. The debate continues over whether the tactical advantage of tracer fire outweighs the obvious disadvantage. As we all know, tracers work both ways. If your side can see where your bullets travel, the opposing force can see where they are coming from, thereby giving away your exact position. However, many modern tracers have a delay, holding off their ignition. This delay reduces the likelihood of betraying the gunner’s location.
During the First World War, pilots and anti-aircraft gunners found tracers to be effective against Zeppelins used by the Germans. The floating balloons used hydrogen gas as their main source of lift. Standard projectiles would simply cause a slow leak in the dirigible’s thin skin. However, tracer rounds would ignite the hydrogen-filled balloons causing massive explosions over the battlefield.
Aside from igniting German balloons, the main function of the tracer is to provide a reference point for gunners to adjust aim. This beacon offers help not only to the gunner behind the tracer fire, but to other members of the group as well. To a lesser degree, tracers can also act as a decoy, allowing the opposing for to believe their position remains safe.
A tracer projectile usually has a hollow base filled with a pyrotechnic flare material. This material is typically phosphorus or other bright burning chemical. For modern NATO ammunition, tracer rounds are a mixture of strontium compounds such as nitrate, peroxide and a metallic fuel such as magnesium. Eastern block and Chinese projectiles glow green from barium salts. Some modern tracer rounds burn only in the infrared spectrum, which allows night vision goggles to see them, while remaining nearly invisible to the naked eye during night operations.
Due to the incendiary nature of tracer ammunition, check your local laws before firing any tracers. While not restricted on the federal level, some states have specific laws on tracer ammunition’s use. Most gun ranges do not allow tracer rounds, since the risk of fire is greater. However, if you are in a safe place, the visual show of nighttime tracer fire is very impressive, and it can turn an otherwise normal day of shooting into something special.
So, on this sixth day of Christmas, my true love adjusted fire with Tracers and bought…