Wednesday, February 8, 2012

To Trace, or not to Trace

Tracers going down range
Tracers are nothing new.   The modern tracer was first developed by the British in 1915 for use in their .303 caliber rifles and machine guns.  Tracers were developed so soldiers could adjust their fire onto enemy targets by visual cue.  These modern tracers produce a visible trail of light to the target that the soldier (and their enemy) can see.

Before the advent of modern tracers, soldiers were forced to watch for bullet impacts on the ground in the target area to see where their rounds were hitting.  Seeing a bullet impact is hard enough without adding the stress of combat into the mix, so this method was obviously not the best solution.  Various attempts at devising a workable tracer were tried before we arrived at the modern pyrotechnic tracers we see on the battlefield today.  

One failed design was a smoking bullet.  The smoking bullet would leave a barely visible white smoke trail through the air.  The smoking bullet had to give up considerable mass in the creation of a visible smoke trail, so the ballistics of the bullet didn't match the trajectory of ball rounds.  Another failed design was an exploding bullet that left a puff of smoke where the bullet impacted.  These were deemed to be in violation of the Hague Convention which banned exploding projectiles that weighed less than 400 grams.

Composition of a modern tracer
The modern "hot" tracer, or pyrotechnic tracer, solved the problems encountered with earlier designs.  Military tracers closely approximate the flight path of a standard ball round and are visible in a wide variety of light conditions.

The pyrotechnic tracers currently used by the worlds militaries use a composition that burns at high temperature and is visible to observers 360 degrees around the bullet.  

Since pyrotechnic tracers are burning, they can cause fires.  Pyrotechnic tracers are not safe for use on indoor ranges as they pose a very serious fire risk.  Many outdoor ranges ban the use of tracers because of the fire risk they pose as well.  Some states, such as California, have an outright ban on the use of tracers within the state by civilians.

9mm Glow Ammo
Another issue with pyrotechnic tracers is the fact both you and the bad guy can see your tracer.  You can walk your rounds in on the bad guy, but the bad guy can trace the light trail back to your position and return fire.

Enter Glow Ammo and their cold tracer technology.  Glow Ammo uses a non-pyrotecnic compound that glows a bright red color once the bullet is fired.  Since it's non-pyrotechnic, the tracer compound does not pose a fire risk and is non-destructive to the bore of your firearm.   Glow ammo is also safe for indoor range use.

Another benefit to Glow Ammo is that only those standing behind the bullet will be able to see the trace. If the bullet is coming at you, the tracer will not be visible to you.

However, as with all things there are some limitations to Glow Ammo's capabilities.  The tracer is only visible in low light and darkness.  The manufacturer doesn't hide this fact, they're actually very forth coming with this information.  They advertise the ammo as being visible from "dusk until dawn".  It's also visible in most indoor lighting conditions.  

Glow Ammo .45 ACP bullet
Since Glow Ammo is non-pyrotechnic it doesn't give up any of its mass to produce light.  That means it will retain its original bullet weight throughout its flight.  This makes Glow Ammo suitable for defensive purposes.  

Right now Glow Ammo only comes in one color, red.  In the future Glow Ammo intends to offer additional colors which might be useful for various tactical scenarios.   They also say defensive ammo loaded with hollow point bullets will become available in the future as well.

Stay tuned for a video review of Glow Ammo to be posted on the Military Arms Channel.

1 comment:

  1. The picture with the tracer rounds all lit up looks awesome! Thanks for sharing.