Tracer Rounds

Spec Ops Shooting

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A sniper employs tracer rounds to signal and direct the fire of others. While it's probably true that tracer will wear a quality barrel much faster than will other bullets, it should be no problem firing tracer as 1 to 2 percent of your annual practice.

You need familiarity with firing tracers because they perform different ballistic-ally than other rounds. In addition to their faster speed (2,750 fps) and lighter weight (141 grains)— which causes them to hit higher than heavier match bullets—they are inherendy less accurate.

Official U.S. military standards require that a 10-shot pattern of M62 tracer rounds be no wider than 36 inches at 550 yards. Thai's a very large group, three limes wider than the acceptable standard for Ml 18 Long Range.

But this kind of group is desirable for machine gun performance, in which moderate bullet dispersion is desirable. The M62 tracer's trajectory is further complicated by the burning subigniter and igniter, which change its weight and balance in flight, The trace element burns out at 900 meters, or 1,000 yards.

Designed for machine gun use, the orange-tipped M62 tracer normally is found belted in a ratio of 1:5 with ball ammunition.

Despite the 7.62mm SLAP's impressive armor penetration, it does not fire accurately through a bolt-action rifle.

A newer kind of tracer especially useful for snipers is the 7.62mm M276 Dim Tracer, which bums an infrared compound that's invisible to the naked eye but glaringly bright to night vision devices. Originally developed for Special Ops units, it's now a standardized round available throughout the U.S. military and identified by a green tip surrounded by a ring of pink.

Barrier-Penetration Rounds

Although the U.S. military 7.62mm SLAP (Saboted Light Armor Penetrator) offers impressive armor penetration—up to 3/4 inch of case-hardened steel—it has proved terribly inaccurate in the M24 Sniper Weapon System. At Ft. Benning, a sniper school instructor told me he'd test-fired this discarding-sabot round, and at best it yielded pie plate-sized groups at 100 meters, which we thought likely resulted from how the sabot entered the rifling throat. This round is available as a tracer (M959) or plain saboted round (M948).

More accurate apparently are the M993 (7.62mm) and M995 (5.56mm) armor-piercing (AP) rounds that were designed with rifles in mind. Initiated in 1992, they were tested against Russian-made BRDM-2 armored cars, which their tungsten cores successfully penetrated. According to "the book," these tungsten pene-trators can breach up to 12 millimeters (1/2 inch) of steel if fired at 90 degrees obliquity to the surface.

This issue of obliquity needs special emphasis. To achieve maximum penetration, all these AP rounds must strike a surface perpendicularly, which is not an easy matter if your target's moving or—like an armored vehicle— it's purposely designed with deflecting curves and angled corners.

Today's basic 5.56mm issue round, the 62-grain M855, incorporates a tungsten core that penetrates deeper into dense and thin media than the earlier M193 55-grain bullet. (See the gelatin comparison on page 159.) This is true generally for all military hardball rounds compared to the hollowpoint bullets employed in match loads. If you need to shoot through media, the solution may be substituting ordinary hardball ammo.

Cartridge 62mm Dim Tracer M276

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  • katrin urner
    Are tracer rounds accurate?
    8 years ago

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