Tracers - more serious discussion


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marktx
September 10, 2008, 12:21 AM
A few comments in the tracers and gas thread got me thinking.... One poster wrote about tracers needing a certain amount of time to light off. A few months ago I bought a bunch of old ('60s) Lake City 7.62 tracer because it seemed like a neat thing to have. Normally I wouldn't dare shoot it at the range in dry west Texas but a couple weeks ago it was pouring rain and I gave it a try. Shot it all at a 100 yard gong and was pretty disappointed, really couldn't see much of anything other than some smoking holes in the dirt berm. Does it take a certain amount of time for a tracer to be fully visible?

I'm also a bit curious about tracers leaving residue in the gas system of semi auto rifles. The 7.62 tracer I shot through the PTR-91 so no concern there but I also have a quantity of 5.56 that I would like to try in the Sig556. Would any additional cleaning of the gas system be required afterwords?

Since it's for personal amusement rather than any tactical consideration I load up the whole magazine full of tracer. I'm assuming that any residue in the barrel would be blasted out by the following round which would negate any cumulative effect but I really don't know. I have never been shy about heating up the semi autos, is there any additional consideration when shooting tracer?

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Matt304
September 10, 2008, 12:36 AM
What I can conclude is that tracers have a base fuse initiated by pressure. The pressure starts a fast fuse that initiates the charge outside of the barrel and sometime downrange begins burning.

If you have tracers which do this, there should be no residue left behind.

marktx
September 10, 2008, 12:52 AM
Interesting, now that I Google it there does appear to be some information out there stating that some tracer doesn't really light off for 80-100 yards. Some sources say that Radway Green tracer takes 100 yards to light off while the US stuff lights off right away, other sources contradict that. If anyone has solid tech on either M856 (5.56) or M62 (7.62) not lighting off for a particular distance I would be very interested.

goon
September 10, 2008, 01:31 AM
Yep, tracers take a little time before they light.
I have some that I have yet to load into handloads and the base is capped off with a metal plug. It takes just a little time for the burning powder that gets embedded into the base of bullet upon firing to burn through this thin metal cap.
I don't know why this was done, but it would seem to be a great advantage in that it wouldn't give away the shooter's position. That's a big deal when you consider that the tracers will probably be coming from your squad's machine gun. And if you're going to lose a weapon, you don't want it to be that one.

jonnyc
September 10, 2008, 06:09 AM
It was done for 2 reasons:
1. To hide the firing position.
2. To reduce flash in the face of the gunner.

Wes Janson
September 10, 2008, 06:30 PM
I've not had a tremendous amount of experience with tracers, but from what I've seen there can be quite a bit of difference in visible effect between cartridges. At Knob Creek you'll see plenty of .30 cal tracers that light up virtually at the muzzle, and provide a very impressive laser-beam effect. The .50 tracer I've shot has also had similar visibility. On the other hand, I tried some .30-06 Lake City tracer recently, and found the effects somewhat disappointing-you could see the bullet clearly in flight through an optic, but with the naked eye there was very little to see.

I'm not sure, but it seems possible that the trace compound may have deteriorated somewhat in the ammo you shot, or may have ignited too late, or it may have been too bright outside. Or all three.

nyggis
September 10, 2008, 07:23 PM
Most tracers are hard to spot in daylight on short ranges. You get the best effect if you shoot them on a cloudy day, or shortly before sundown, at targets about 300 meters or more.

I have a lot of swedish 6.5x55 military tracers for my m/96 mauser, and they light up after about 80 - 100 meters. The problem is that they are hard to see hence the high velocity and small caliber. .308:s are better... But still the conditions should be right. Use open sights or the lowest magnification on your scope.

Tracers can deteriorate... Ive tried some from the 40:s and 50:s that never ignited. But 60:s dated ammo should work. During my time in the Swedish army we used tracer ammo dated -69 and 71 in our m240:s which worked great...

Omnivore
September 10, 2008, 07:28 PM
I've used tracers in .22 LR & .45 ACP, and those seemed to light up right out of the chute. I've used 7.62 x 39, .308 and .50 BMG military tracers, and some took about 100 yards before you'd see them, while others were easily visible at closer range.

Plenty of tracers are used in gas operated guns, being used extensively in machineguns. I wouldn't worry about that.

I would worry about fire danger. A friend and I started a small fire on a wet day using .50 BMG. They burn very hot, and can end up under the wet surface layers in the grass or woods, and start the drier stuff underneith. Worse yet, they can end up in places you'd bet your life were impossible (try 150 yards to our right and behind us, while shooting squarely into a dirt berm).

Aside from their original purpose of spotting your machinegun fire, tracers can be a good training aid for handgun and rifle, but a lot of ranges have banned them.

nyggis
September 10, 2008, 08:05 PM
+1 on the fire hazard...

Me and a friend did some tracer shooting on a hot day many years ago... (stupid)

I run faster than my friend, so I reached the fire faster than him. I had no shirt on and in the process of putting out the fire I burned off all my chest hair.. The smell was horrible... ;) As was the anxiety of almost starting a fire on my range...

Be careful..

/erik

goon
September 10, 2008, 09:13 PM
Yep, they will start brushfires like you wouldn't believe.
Every time we were at the MG range we'd have a couple brushfires to contend with.
It was cool at first, but it gets old when you have to have someone else tell you when to fire because your view is obscured by smoke.
And they are also great for telling you where your shots really go. I've seen them it dirt banks squarely then ricochet straight up in the air.
Very cool. :D

HB
September 10, 2008, 09:38 PM
And they are also great for telling you where your shots really go. I've seen them it dirt banks squarely then ricochet straight up in the air.
Very cool.

I've always seen this on TV, but if your tracers bounce up, do your regular rounds as well :uhoh: or are they lighter or something

Ditchtiger
September 10, 2008, 10:26 PM
Picked a couple thousand M62's. They need a hot powder to set them off. Settled on H38. Rounds are not visable till 100 yards. M62's weigh 150 when unfired, down range they become lighter since the flare material is gone. That's why they take off at extreme angles when hitting small targets.

Bartholomew Roberts
September 11, 2008, 07:59 AM
I've always seen this on TV, but if your tracers bounce up, do your regular rounds as well or are they lighter or something

No, your normal rounds do the same thing as the tracer. That is why having a proper backstop with minimum distances behind and to the sides is important when you shoot. You'd be surprised at the weird places rounds can end up.

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