TRACER TRICKS AND TIPS
We’ve made a few notes about the use of tracer ammunition already. For the most part, it is used for special purposes.Once more, a tracer bullet is not an incendiary. Merely hitting a flammableobject, even a gas tank, will not start a fire, let alone one of those huge fuel-air mushroom cloud explosions you see in the movies.They certainly CAN start fires, though. Tracers and incendiaries are, as amatter of fact, illegal to use in a National Forest. A tracer continues to burn to its“burn-out” range, usually 900 yards for the .30-caliber stuff. If it doesn’t make it to900 yards, it continues to burn for the amount of time it would take to get there. Infact, it will even burn underwater for that amount of time. Lodging in the duff of the forest floor in a dry year, this can certainly start a forest fire.One of the most useful things I’ve ever seen a tracer do, BTW, was tostart a fire in back of an M60 machine gun range at Fort Knox, KY. Kentuckywas, and maybe still is, the #1 dope growing state after the People’s Republic of Kalifornia. If you grow the stuff on public land, i.e. National Forests and MilitaryReservations, you don’t get caught with it on your property. Thus, our tracer fireset someone’s marijuana field afire.We responded immediately by rushing to the fire and then leaning on our shovels and flappers and inhaling as deeply as possible of the smoke. No, it didnot work, but it was worth the try.Murphy’s Laws of Combat quite succinctly notes, “Tracers work bothways,” and this is certainly the truth. Grunts have a love/hate relationship with thetracer, mostly leaning far toward the latter emotion.
“In general, our use of tracer ammunition at night was very infrequent because its use tended to disclose our positions with no compensating advantage gained.”
AAR from the 4
Army in Italy, WWII.
“By using only a few tracers at the beginning of each belt we have found that the guns draw less arty and mortar fire than by using the usual 4 and 1 load.Some NCO’s believe we should eliminate tracer altogether.”
CO, HeavyWeapons Co., France.
“Discontinue the use of tracers for night firing. They give away your position.”
Col Merritt Edson, USMC Raiders, AAR Guadalcanal.In many cases, this had proven painfully true. During the Falklands War in1982, firing tracers at night did the Argentine machine guns more harm thangood, revealing their locations.
“Since the Argentines fired visible tracer rounds on a one-to-one basis with their ammunition, the 84mm [Carl Gustav recoilless] and 66mm[LAWS rocket] gunners could easily identify precise locations of enemy positionsand direct their powerful area weapons against them.”
The Germans were known for using tracer with their MG42 machine gunsin the Second World War. With a cyclic rate of 1,200 rounds per minutedispersion was considerable, even when fired from the tripod mount and muchmore so from the bipod, and tracers were necessary to keep the guns on target.This often helped Allied troops either locate the guns or avoid their fire.