Talk:Tracer ammunition

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Military history (Rated C-Class)
MILHIST This article is within the scope of the Military history WikiProject. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the project and see a list of open tasks. To use this banner, please see the full instructions.
C This article has been rated as C-Class on the quality assessment scale.
WikiProject Firearms (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Firearms, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of firearms on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
Checklist icon
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.


"Due to their pyrotechnic payload all tracers are incendiary in nature; although incendiary tracer bullets, some incorporating white phosphorus, are more effective"

Does this actually mean anything? If so it needs rephrasing I think SeanLegassick 15:16, 1 January 2006 (UTC)

Explanation needed[edit]

Can someone explain how tracers can be used "to ignite fuel and aircraft tanks" as mentioned in the SAS article?Kent Wang 18:29, 1 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Modern amunition does not often give off sparks when hitting targets and so cannot ignite fuel when striking it. The pyro technic aspect of Tracer rounds however can obviously ignite fuel.

Yea I saw it on myth buster,they did ignite fuel. Dudtz 10/12/05 10:04 PM EST


Maybe Tracers needs a disambiguation instead of a straight redirect here, cause on Solar rotation it says The rotation constants have been measured by measuring the motion of various features ("tracers") on the solar surface., so its an Astronomy term as well. Mutante23 21:48, 7 November 2005 (UTC)


I believe decreased mass causes a faster drop in velocity; tracer rounds' greater trajectory is actually caused by a lower level of drag. Quite why this occurs I am not 100% sure. Lizardhands 16 Jan 2006 / 2252 GMT

The kinetic energy is contained in the mass of the bullet. When mass "peels off" during the flight, kinetic energy seperates from the main body of the bullet along with mass which contained it. If a moving body looses 10% of it's mass, this effect also removes 10% of the kinetic energy. This energy loss by itself does not make the main body of the bullet slower. Instead, it's the friction (air friction during flight, and also the friction when the bullet enters another material). The loss of kinetic energy due to air friction depends only on the bullet's geometry and speed. Therefore, both a full-weight bullet and a "light" bullet travelling at the same air speed bleed of the same amount of kinetic energy. However, since the lighter bullet has less kinetic energy to start with, the resulting speed loss is more pronounced. The lighter bullet is, for the same reasons, also more sensitive to sideward doesn't matter that sideward air friction adds energy while the forward friction removes energy; both kinds of energy transfer are govererned by tha same principles.
The mass loss won't have an effect during flight in a vacuum. However, teh reduced kinetic energy will result in less penetration power when the bullet attempts to a target - the same effect as with air, but in (typically) a much denser material. --Klaws 10:08, 25 November 2006 (UTC)

On the bullet end of things, it's shape, speed, and mass affect its trajectory (the environment also affects trajectory, but during a single, short machine gun burst, the environmental factors remain effectively constant). Tracer rounds have the same shape and speed as ball rounds. As far as mass goes, the difference is so very tiny compared to the bullet that it has no discernible effect on its trajectory. If this minuscule difference did have a material effect, one would see two shotgun-style patterns emerge on a machine gun target - a big pattern where all the ball ammunition hits and a small pattern somewhere else where the tracer ammunition hits. After shooting many thousands of of machine gun rounds both in the day and at night, I can tell you that such a pattern does not emerge. Also, it would be completely pointless to field tracer rounds if they did have a different trajectory as it would significantly reduce a machine gunner's effectiveness. To this end, I've removed unsourced speculation about differing trajectory from this article. Any editor wanting to add to the article the notion that the trajectories are different must first reliably source their claims - as both experience and common sense dictate its otherwise. Rklawton (talk) 22:15, 5 July 2010 (UTC)


Are tracer rounds any less lethal than conventional rounds? Robert K S 10:15, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

Although some amount of bullet mass would be lost through combustion of the tracer material itself (e.g. phosphorous), my guess would be that the overall mass of the bullet, especially at the speeds bullets travel, would be roughly comparable to a standard bullet of the same caliber. This probably means that tracer rounds would be about as lethal as standard ones. Of course, if the bullet impagts while there is still pyrotechnic material burning, then that would probably make the would more painful if anything... still, the distinction between getting hit with a bullet coated with burning phosphorous and getting hit with a bullet period is not very great; they are both rather painful, to say the least. Ourai 21:10, 27 April 2006 (UTC)
The difference is small. A bullet with much less kinetic energy (and less penetration power) would also have a different tractory compared to normal bullets, which would make it useless for tracing (unless the weapon is loaded only with tracers). Therefore, tracer are engineered to resemble standard bullets as closely as possible.
Tracers are also primarily used in war weapons. These weapons are designed to be lethal even under less than optimum conditions. It doesn't matter if an enemy reveives 200% or only 190% overkill from a standard or tracer bullet. --Klaws 10:15, 25 November 2006 (UTC)

Tracer rounds should be very lethal, in fact it probably can be as lethal as conventional rounds. Tracers rounds carry a chemical that lights up when hot so if it hits its target, he would be killed on contact, being pierced, and of course burned up. Jordan A. Rodas —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:41, 2 March 2008 (UTC)

The chemicals burn out very quickly and would have very little effect on the body. The rest of the bullet is the same as "ball" ammunition and is equally lethal. Rklawton (talk) 21:55, 5 July 2010 (UTC)

Minor complaints[edit]

"although with most emplaced machine guns, such as the M60" - I assume "emplaced" means mounted to a solid object as part of a fortification. If so, why would the M60 be special? It can be bipod or tripod mounted, or hand carried, the same as other LMGs.

Or perhaps it means "Like the m60 above (pictured)", in which case that should be edited in.

Also, "In the air, fights rarely involve firearms. Instead, modern aircraft tend to rely on missiles."

That's an awkward way to state it. Are aircraft cannons considered "firearms"? In any case, most aircraft cannons do indeed carry tracer rounds, so this line seems unnecesary. SenorBeef 06:59, 30 November 2006 (UTC)


Are these legal for civilians? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:05, 28 October 2007 (UTC)

here are some links (admittedly of unknown reliability). It may have something to do with the burning phosphors on the projectile in flight. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can comment further., (talk) 17:50, 21 January 2009 (UTC)
Speaking for my corner of East Tennessee: tracer rounds are legal for collection as historical curios or keepsakes ("war trophy"). Due to the incendiary nature, most ranges and gun clubs bar their actual use. If you fire any tracers outdoors and start a fire, you should expect to end up in court held responsible for damages and firefighting expenses. Short form: Possession legal; use restricted. Other jurisdictions range from total ban on tracers to treated same as ordinary ammunition. --Naaman Brown (talk) 08:19, 17 June 2013 (UTC)


Your history section begins "Tracers have been used extensively in machine guns since World War I." Seemingly they were used at least two centuries earrlier, with muskets. In their history of the armies of Charles XI and XII, *Karoliner," Alf Åberg and Göte Göransson (Bra Böcker, Höganäs Sweden), 1976: page 165, description of a night scene (Dec 11, 1718) wrote: "There was firing...from the fortress, and 'ljuskulor' flew through the air." ("Man sköt på svenskarna från fästningen, och ljuskulor flög genom luften.") I can think of no other translation for 'ljuskulor' than "tracers." (Ljus = light, or candle, and "kulor" = "bullets." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:30, 15 March 2008 (UTC)

ALSO, History, paragraph 2, footnote references the page, not a wiki page, or outside reference to the international agreement on banning explosive ammo. 2008-04-13 T01:23 Z-7 (talk) 08:25, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Hrrm, maybe I found something here that could fit..."light", in ye olden times (you know :-) was sometimes used interchangeably with "fire", as in "setting something alight". In de.wp, I found Brandballen ("blaze/fire/incendiary bale/ball/bag", with "Lichtballen" ("light bale") given as an alternative name), which describes an ancient type of incendiary grenade in form of a tar impregnated sack filled with an incendiary mixture, surrounded by roping, that could be either catapulted (after manually lighting a fuse) or thrown from a mortar (where the fuse would light from the flame of the propellant charge) but not fired from a true gun, cannon or howitzer due to lack of mechanical stability (there were metal-reinforced versions Carcass for that purpose). Sometimes they were also studded with iron tubes that held a powder charge and one or more musket balls each and would go off unpredictably to deter bystanders from attempting to douse the fire.
The other alternative would be something known today as Illumination Shells, which would presumably have been fired to shed light on the battlefield to gain a clearer view of the situation and allow targeting the adversaries.

Arno, (talk) 07:22, 7 July 2017 (UTC)

psychological effect[edit]

anyone want to write about how tracers can be used to basically scare the crap out of an enemy also? Skhatri2005 (talk) 06:21, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

Wouldn´t exactly phrase things like that. But if e.g. a minigun has been loaded with 1 tracer in each 5 rounds, when fired in darkness it will look pretty much like a Star Wars ray gun being fired. Doesn´t scare me, but looks cool. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:43, 5 July 2010 (UTC)

Tracers do a great job of pointing out where the bullets are coming from and where they are going to. In short, they probably help calm down members of the opposing forces by giving them actionable intelligence. On the other hand, hearing a large volume of fire from multiple indiscernible directions can be very disconcerting. In short, I think tracers have very little negative psychological effect. Fear of the unknown is always greater. However, opinions aren't useful. If someone could find some reliable studies we could use, that would be great. Rklawton (talk) 21:51, 5 July 2010 (UTC)

The front guns on the Dambuster Lancasters were loaded with tracer rounds to give the defending forces the impression that they were taking a high rate of fire. Halmyre (talk) 08:53, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

Use in Popular Culture[edit]

Surely there should be a mention with its use in cricket commentary, chiefly by Ravi Shastri and the late Tony Greig. You could also have prominent examples in film covered here. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Miscellaneousphillip (talkcontribs) 14:21, 5 July 2015 (UTC)