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Tracer Ammunition

Category: Term of the day

Tracer ammunition (tracers) use special bullets that are modified to accept a small pyrotechnic charge in their base. Ignited upon firing, the composition burns very brightly making the projectile visible to the naked eye. This enables the shooter to follow the bullet trajectory relative to the target in order to make corrections to their aim.

Tracers can also serve to direct fire at a given target, because it is visible to other combatants. The disadvantage is that they betray the shooter's position. One simply follows the trace back to its source. To make it more difficult for an enemy to do this, most modern tracers have a 'delay element' that results in the trace becoming visible some distance from the muzzle. Its lethality is similar to conventional ammunition. However, the mass loss and the burning aspects can make the consequences of the impact slightly different.

Besides guiding the shooter's direction of fire, tracer rounds can also be loaded at the end of a magazine to remind the shooter that the magazine is almost empty. This is particularly useful in weapons that do not lock the bolt back when empty (such as the AK-47). During World War II, the Soviet Air Force also used this practice for aircraft machine guns. It has been said that a disadvantage in this practice is that the enemy is alerted that the pilot or shooter is low on ammunition and possibly vulnerable. However, it is generally agreed upon that for ground forces, this offers no tactical advantage to the enemy since a soldier is supposed to alert his team that he is "dry", and rely on their support while he reloads. Thus, an enemy must expose himself in order to attack the reloading soldier. In the air, fights rarely involve firearms. Instead, modern aircraft tend to rely on missiles.

Tracers are usually loaded between one in four rounds to one in six rounds. Platoon leaders will sometimes load their magazines entirely with tracers to mark targets for their men to fire on.

For those on the receiving end of tracer ammunition, there is a well-known optical illusion whereby the tracer rounds appear to be travelling slowly, but as they get closer they speed up considerably.

Sergyi Way

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