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What do I need to know about Tracers

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by hdwhit, Jun 3, 2017.

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  1. hdwhit

    hdwhit Member

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    American Reloading had a 25% off sale on 22 caliber projectiles over Memorial Day, so on a whim, I picked up 500 rounds of tracers in mixed weights. The bullets themselves are pulled so they have some traces of the asphaltic solution used to seal them in the case but otherwise look very nice and well crafted.

    My question is (after I get the weights and configurations sorted) what do I need to know about loading and using tracers?

    Thank you.
     
  2. rondog

    rondog Member

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    They start fires! Use them responsibly. Truth is, most normal shooters have no real use or need for them. Not that I've found anyway.

    They also don't perform the same as regular bullets. Just because your tracers are hitting a certain spot doesn't mean your ball rounds will hit there too.

    But they are fun. Did I mention they start fires though?
     
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  3. hdwhit

    hdwhit Member

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    Thank you for the head's up.

    I had assumed they could. The range where they will most likely be used has a backstop of compacted red clay, so fire danger there is limited, but I will keep an eye out especially if they are used other places.

    Anything to watch out for reloading them?

    Other than the fact they can start fires?
     
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  4. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    They are longer for the weight and will have more friction, building pressure faster than a standard jacketed lead bullet of the same weight.

    Did anyone mention they start fires? :D
     
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  5. Fine Figure of a Man

    Fine Figure of a Man Member

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    Many years ago my dad had some 12 gauge shot shell tracers. I shot pigeon with one and it flew another 100 yards or so leaving a trail of smoke before it died. That was 35+ years ago and it didn't occur to me until now that it could have flown back into the barn.
     
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  6. rg1

    rg1 Member

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    The 62 gr. orange tipped tracer is very long and takes up a lot of case volume. You need to reduce powder charges for them. If you have a 62 FMJ load you need to reduce the charges at least 1 1/2 grains for the tracer. I've loaded them from 22.5-23 grains of H335 and WC844. They are a dim trace and light up about 75 yards from the muzzle. They can be hard to see in bright sunlight. They stay lit a long time and out to 800 yards or farther. They ricochet in all directions and are a big fire hazard in leaves and grass. The 55 grain red tipped tracers light quicker and are brighter than the orange tipped. They are shorter and I load them close to 55 FMJ charges. Depends on the condition of the tracer compounds whether they light or not. Just be aware they are big fire starters. Most ranges won't allow tracers.
     
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  7. splattergun

    splattergun Member

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    My dad used to hunt deer with surplus 30-06 ammo. There were always a few tracer rounds mixed in the lot and he used them to zero his rifle. I don't remember if there was a different POI between the ball and the tracers, but I do remember what a blast it was to watch those red streaks go down range.
     
  8. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    In case you didn't catch it, they start fires..........:)

    You can get loads for the different weights in the Military section of Cartridges of the World at the back of the book.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
     
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  9. Vernon1

    Vernon1 Member

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    FIRE, FIRE, DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!!!!
     
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  10. hdwhit

    hdwhit Member

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    That's okay, I own the range.

    As I said, the bank behind the target is compacted red clay with no grass or vegetation growing on it, so the immediate fire hazard is minimal so long as the bullet stays within the range. I will, however, make provision to have water and sand buckets at the target end of the range in case of a ricochet that travels outside the range area.
     
  11. hdwhit

    hdwhit Member

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    The description of the lot I bought said it was mixed weights of approximately 55 and approximately 61 grain. I set my scale to 57 grains and the difference is apparent. Strangely enough, both weights are about the same length.

    As soon as I unwrapped them, I noticed how long they were and I wondered if the reduction in case capacity required an adjustment to the powder charge, but several posters have already addressed that. When I introduce a new component, I do retreat to the consensus starting load amongst my reloading manuals and work up from there.

    Of course now I'm thinking I should have ordered 1,000 since with two bullet weights, I'm probably going to "burn" (pardon the pun) the better part of a hundred of them just getting the two loads developed.

    Oh, yeah, I think I saw somebody mention something about fire.
     
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  12. spitballer

    spitballer Member

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    ditto
     
  13. RecoilRob

    RecoilRob Member

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    During night-fire excercises it was always amusing to watch the tracers bouncing all over the place. Some would go corkscrewing throught the air at weird angles while others did things you'd not imagine a flying bullet could do...at least I didn't. Then...of course there was the joker down at the end firing up at the moon.:) Lot of fun...but was wondering how long your shooting distance will be? Some tracers won't even think about lighting before 80 yds downrange so on a 100 yd distance they will be disappointing.

    The 50 BMG tracers often have a metal disc covering the base...which is good for preventing the compound from deteriorating but it does slow their ignition. Punching a little hole in the disc with a centerpunch makes them light right out of the muzzle. I've not loaded any 5.56 tracers so am not familiar with the bases...but if they have metal covers...pricking a little hole in them will better ensure that they light.

    I got a whole box full of 30 cal tracers once that had unsealed bases with a chalky looking trace element in them. Not a single one would light when loaded in 308's but they would burn if held in a propane torch flame for a few seconds. Ended up giving up on them and will hope you have better luck with the 5.56's.
     
  14. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    Be sure the range you are shooting at allows the use of tracers. Not all do and they tend to get very upset if you set their backstop on fire and burn their trees down! :evil:

    The range I shoot at is run by the State, no tracers allowed...
     
  15. hdwhit

    hdwhit Member

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    Full length across the anti-erosion berm on the dam, across the spillway and into the backstop is 225 yards.

    Well, if none of them light up then the fire hazard is greatly diminished and I will still have only paid 7 cents per round.
     
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  16. hdwhit

    hdwhit Member

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    I own the range, so I think I can get a waiver.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
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  17. Sunray

    Sunray Member

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    "...They start fires..." Only if you're incredibly unlucky or are shooting in extremely dry conditions. Trace elements do not stay burning long enough otherwise. Tracers did not ignite big clouds of propane wafting gently across the ground at Second Chance, long ago. Took a couple .50 BMG APTI rounds to do that.
    Anyway, the bullet weight will depend on what ammo it came out of. 5.56NATO, as used by the U.S., uses a bunch of different weights from 54 grains(M196. Plus M856 orange tip at 63.7 grains, M856A1 red tip at 56 grains) to a 68 grainer made by our IVI. Weight 'em and use data for the closest weight.
    "...watch the tracers bouncing all over the place..." That's actually the trace element breaking off, not the whole bullet bouncing.
    Like ArchAngelCD says, trace isn't welcome everywhere.
     
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  18. hdwhit

    hdwhit Member

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    I weighed the bullets that were in this order and the lighter ones were clustering around 55.4 grains and the heavier ones were clustering around 61.7 grains. I don't know that they were American military pull-downs; they could have been made by someone else or made in a U.S. factory under contract to someone else.

    I plan to use 55 and 62 grain data and begin with a starting load. The bullet is longer than normal bullets so I figure the reduction in case capacity will mean I reach maximum pressure with a lower charge.

    Whether they work as tracers or not, they were 7 cents each so at worst I have a bunch of cheap plinking bullets.
     
  19. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Member

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    Unless you own the range I wouldn't use them. They can start fires
     
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  20. hdwhit

    hdwhit Member

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    As a matter of fact, I do own the range where these bullets will be fired.

    The backstop is compressed red clay with such a low nutrient content that nothing grows on it.

    In the case of ricochets, I plan to position water and sand buckets at the target side of the range. If worst comes to worst, I have a gasoline powered 150 gpm pump (and fire hose) and a 24 acre-foot (7.8 million gallon) lake to draw water from.

    The state would take a dim view of me burning off the vegetation covering the dam they licensed and the nearest structure to the dam is the house (which will be MY house after I retire and relocate there), so regardless of what the state would think, I don't intend to take any risks of burning down my house.
     
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  21. total recoil

    total recoil Member

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    Your range can be made out of kevlar clay and you may start a severe fire. I have witnessed, and been responsible for, an accident that really made me look stupid. One of my tracers came out of the backstop and went about 200 yards at a 90 degree angle to the backstop and started a fire. More than one of my shooting buddies will attest to the fact that tracers will come out of the backstop and go in any desired direction that man never intended them to go. I still have the tracer bullet that started my fire.
    You want to shoot tracers? Go do it in the rain! I'll never shoot them anymore unless the ground is freshly wet.
     
  22. hdwhit

    hdwhit Member

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    I understand. That's why I have a gasoline powered 150 gpm pump (and fire hose) on a movable sled and enough draw-pipe to reach the 24 acre-foot (7.8 million gallon) lake from which I would draw water.
     
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  23. hdwhit

    hdwhit Member

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    The bullets that I'm talking aboutwere in a mixed batch of "nominally" 55 grain and "nominally" 62 grain bullets. So, I got out the scale, set it to 57 grains and started sorting the bullets out. Interesting thing is that the 55 grain and 62 grain bullets were exactly the same length. I'm sure there were visual cues to distinguish them, but none that were obvious enough to use as a basis for sorting the bullets. Anyway, I inspected each bullet as I weighed it and in the case of almost every bullet in the batch, the tracer compound was missing from the bullet.

    So, it looks like I bought myself 334 55 grain and 202 62 grain plinking bullets for less than 7 cents each. The paper targets certainly won't know the difference and if it means diminished fire hazard, I'm certainly not complaining.
     
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  24. Reloadron
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    Reloadron Contributing Member

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    You may want to try a Google of "powder igniting 223 tracer bullets". I have never loaded any tracers, shot a few but never loaded any. I want to remember that some powders ignite tracers better than others. I have no idea if that is fact or fiction but might be worth a few minutes of consideration.

    Ron
     
  25. RecoilRob

    RecoilRob Member

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    You remember correctly!:) The stick type powders do seem to light the trace better than ball powder.
     
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