Tracer Bullets

When fired, a tracer bullet leaves a visible trace behind it so that the trajectory can be seen and the aim corrected if necessary (trajectory tracer). A tracer bullet has a cavity at the base which is filled with a mixture of substances that are ignited by the propellant. The bullets are available in a range of rifle, pistol, and revolver calibers, although they are more common in rifle calibers.

The tracer composition is frequently housed in a metal canister placed inside the base cavity. Copper, brass, gilding metal, gilding metal-coated steel, and copper-coated steel canisters are known. Some compositions are placed into the hollow base cavity without the use of a canister. A typical tracer bullet consists of a gilding metal bullet jacket and a lead core with a base cavity containing the tracer composition. Paper discs and lead, steel, or brass washers sealed with varnish are sometimes used to "seal" the base of the bullet.

Four examples of tracer compositions are69:

Barium peroxide 86% (oxidant and coloring agent)

Magnesium powder 12% (combustible material)

Acaroid resin

2% (binder)

Strontium nitrate

51.7% (oxidant and coloring agent)


33.3% (combustible material)



Phenol formaldehyde


(with yellow dye)

Magnesium powder

38.0% (combustible material)



Strontium nitrate

42.8% (oxidant and coloring agent)



Chlorinated rubber


Magnesium carbonate



13% (combustible material)



Strontium nitrate

73% (oxidant and coloring agent)



Resinous material

5% (binder)

Dark or dim ignition tracer bullets are designed to "ignite" some distance from the muzzle to avoid dazzling the firer and giving the firing position away. They are also known as delay tracer bullets. These bullets have a duller, slower burning igniter composition in the base above which is the bright burning tracer composition. One tracer igniter mixture consists of potassium permanganate and iron filings.70 Titanium metal is also used in some tracer compositions.

There are night tracer, day tracer, and dim ignition tracer bullets. Yellow, green, orange, red, and white tracer colors are known and they can be manufactured in different degrees of luminosity. Tracer igniter compositions also have varying degrees of luminosity, that is, bright for daytime use and dim or dark for nighttime use.

An explosive/tracer rifle bullet is known and consists of a copper alloy bullet jacket and a steel core. There is an explosive charge at the top of the cavity which consists of 40% PETN, 45% lead azide, and 15% tetracene. Below the explosive charge is black powder or smokeless powder contained in a small metal cup followed by the tracer composition at the base.

Tracer bullets can also be used to indicate when the ammunition in a magazine or belt is nearly exhausted by putting tracer bullets in a known sequence with ball or other ammunition.

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  • wilibald
    What is the chemical mixture for tracer rounds?
    9 years ago
    What is the chemical compound in bullets?
    3 years ago
  • Furio
    What is tracer in firearms identification?
    2 years ago
  • rosa
    What chrmicals are in bullets?
    2 years ago
  • erin burns
    What compound is in tracer bullets?
    2 years ago
  • anton
    What are the chemicals in tracer rounds?
    2 years ago
  • ruby
    What is the chemical compound in ammunition?
    1 year ago
  • Kadyn
    What is put on tracer rounds when test fired?
    11 months ago
  • Minto
    What chemicals ate in a tracer bullet?
    10 months ago
  • victor
    What is the chemical makeup of tracer bullets?
    2 months ago
  • Annikki
    How are tracer bullets used today?
    1 month ago
    What are 3 modern day examples of tracer bullets?
    8 days ago

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