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Tracers -- how do they actually work?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by ArmedBear, Dec 22, 2008.

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  1. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    I got some .22LR tracer ammo, and it's really cool to shoot it -- it's really a good learning tool. I don't have to imagine trajectory and velocity; I can see them. I highly recommend the stuff to anyone who is curious about these things, and the snow we've gotten lately has provided a great opportunity to shoot them without fire danger.

    What I did find was that, occasionally, it wouldn't light up when shot from a handgun.

    How does tracer ammo work?

    What is the agent that burns/lights up?

    How is it ignited?

    Thanks to anyone who knows!
     
  2. moooose102

    moooose102 Member

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    i am not sure HOW it works. just be sure that it is legal to shoot in your state. i bought some, and found out later that in michigan, it is unlawful to shoot. so, if i get caught touching it off, i get a nice hefty fine. isn't that nice?!
     
  3. BigBlack

    BigBlack Member

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    I heard a little monkey sits on the end of the barrel and lights them with a match?

    Just kidding I would like to know the answer as well!
     
  4. Frog48

    Frog48 Member

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    I read somewhere that the incendiary substance is ignited by friction against the air. Not sure if its true or not, but seems logical.
     
  5. Brian Williams

    Brian Williams Moderator Emeritus

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    From wikipedia
     
  6. crushbup

    crushbup Member

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    They use phosphorous, I believe, which is ignited by the air friction. The phosphorous is on the base of the bullet.

    ETA: Beaten to it
     
  7. jjohnson

    jjohnson Member

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    Not Quite....

    The "trace" element in a tracer round IS like flare material - and is ignited by the really hot gases that propel the bullet. Tracers used by the US tend to have a high "ignition requirement" most likely for the sake of safety. For that reason, the military tracer ammo uses powders that generate more heat than would be required. So, if you're buying US Milsurp pull-down tracers, you need to power them with 'hot powders' to assure ignition. That doesn't mean they won't burn with any powder behind 'em, but they're more likely to ignite with powders formulated for tracers. Have a look at www.patsreloading.com - he sells powder pulled from tracers that you can use reloading to assure ignition.

    Mind you, tracers work in both directions. If you're shooting AT something, the trace is visible on THAT end as well, which can make you a target in combat situations.
     
  8. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    Fascinating cultural connection: note that, in American sci-fi movies, the good guys' weapons tend to shoot red beams, and the bad guys' weapons are green or blue.

    Strontium it is, then (I used to do a little amateur pyrotechnics as a kid).

    Thanks!

    AFAIK it is legal here. It's strongly discouraged during fire season, but with a snowpack on the ground and more snow falling, I figured this would be the time to try it out.

    WRT the traces matching standard ammo, I figured that much. I just think it's interesting to take a shot and see what your trajectory really looks like in space and time.

    True enough. Of course, so can standing in the open, shooting a .22LR revolver one-handed.:D I plan to avoid both, should combat occur.
     
  9. jjohnson

    jjohnson Member

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    Good Trace, Bad Trace

    Well, yes, our stuff actually is almost always red trace. Chicom and Soviet Bloc, green trace, at least up to 12.7mm MG ammo. I don't know about the heavier stuff.

    Yeah, the combat end of it is interesting (unless you're IN it :eek: and that's more than just "interesting":what:). You can figure out the good guys and bad guys by trace color, which can be good or bad, depending on the situation. As
    most military things, there's a good thing and bad thing with tracers, as they will help you direct your fire at the same time helping the enemy direct theirs.
     
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