View Full Version : Surplus tracers?

05-03-2010, 07:36 PM
I have seen a couple of ads for pulled and surplus .308 tracer bullets. I know zero about tracers except they show the BGs where you are when you shoot. :D Can pulled/surplus tracer bullets be loaded and shot without worry (one ad had them quite cheap. Even cheaper than M2) in the Garand? Are they still loaded with "tracer stuff"? What does an ad mean when it says ".30 cal tracer no paint"? The no paint part of course.

Thank you

05-03-2010, 07:53 PM
A tracer bullet would be loaded the same way as any other bullet of the same weight. Depending on age and quality, not all will light as designed I'm sure unless the tracer compound was removed. "No paint" refers to the marking on the tips of the round (usually red for tracer). Once loaded, there's no way to tell between Ball, AP, Tracer etc without some marking.

One thing to note is not all ranges allow tracers. We just had a bit of a brushfire at my range due to someone shooting 5.56 tracers.

Old School Rifleman
05-03-2010, 08:07 PM
I have bought/loaded/fired thousands of them. (I'm a machine gunner.) They are supposed to light at 200m or so, but in my experience, most of these old tips don't light at all. (remember, they were probably made in the 1950's, loaded, stored, pulled, stored more, shipped, etc.) Some will light on firing though, and others flare when they hit something. They will start fires downrange--I've had to put at least one out practically every time I've fired them. "No paint" means that there's no orange or red marking paint on them any more, and it suggests that the tips were tumbled at one time to clean them up, probably because they were really nasty looking from poor storage.

I buy them as cheap bulk projectiles but I only shoot them in my MG because the ones I've gotten thus far have always been so crappy that I don't want them anywhere near a rifle that I value. Trash an MG barrel = no big deal. Ruin an M1 or a Springfield bore with a deformed bullet that lodges and bulges the barrel and it's time to cry.

05-03-2010, 10:47 PM
I bought 1200 M25 hand pulled tracers from Widener's a while back. All are pristine and still have the orange paint. The M1 tracer had red paint. Every one I have fired lit up. IIRC, the M25 is designed to light approximately 90-100 yards down range so shoot them at longer ranges. The M1 lights immediately.

The M25s are safe to use in any .30 caliber rifle designed for spitzer bullets. Unless deformed, they will not damage barrels since they don't light immediately. I'm not sure if the M1s leave a corrosive residue as I've never fired any.

As stated above, be safe, they can easily start fires in dry conditions.

Ditto on the "no paint". They have probably been tumbled or chemically cleaned to remove the tar sealant. If chemically cleaned there is no telling what it did to the trace compound, especially if they are M1s. It may have rendered them ineffecitve.

05-05-2010, 01:43 AM
I'm also a MG shooter. I have reloaded thousands of the pulldown bullets from several sources over the last 2-3 years. Most of these bullets were tumbled to remove most of the tar sealant and this usually removes the paint. I tumble them again in cob and mineral spirits to remove all the sealant and make them ready to load. In my experience about 80% of the tracers light at the place where I shoot, which is about 300 yards to the impact area. They will definitely start fires so you need to be very careful with them.

Accuracy varies with the particular lot of bullets but some are excellent. But if you're looking for cheap plinking bullets, the M25/M62 bullets are an excellent buy at about 4.5 cents each. Unfortunately they are nearly gone and there won't be any more of these made available.

05-05-2010, 04:34 AM
Thank you all for the education.

Just for grins, does anyone know what it is that makes a tracer a tracer? Does the burning powder ignite something on the bullet and what is that something?

05-05-2010, 10:28 AM
For a great discussion of 30-'06 US Military ammo from pre-WW I through WW II including Match loads, see "The '03 Springfield Rifles' Era" by Clark Campbell. There was an incendiary (not tracer) bullet, the M1917 and M1918, used in WW I that contained phosphorus and depended on air ignition. These were abandoned in the early '20s. All US small arms tracers, on the other hand, depended on the burning of the cartridge powder for ignition. For instance, the US M25 tracer used late in WW II had an igniter at the base of the bullet, a dim trace compound (for about 50 to 140 yards) and a bright trace compound (to over 1000 yards). The purpose of the dim trace compound was to not blind the gunner and to not pinpoint the firing position. None of the igniters or tracer compounds mentioned above contain any phosphorus. They use mainly barium and/or strontium compounds.

05-05-2010, 12:23 PM
Not bad for plinking!


05-06-2010, 01:17 AM

How's this? If you reload, PM me with your name and address and I'll send you 20 M25s to load and try. Use your normal 150 gr. load data. Don't forget, shoot further than 100 yds. Low light or right at dusk is the best time to try them... unless you can shoot at night.

05-06-2010, 06:41 AM
I reload but not for the 30.06 yet. Thus the reason for asking about pulled and surplus bullets. I reload for pistol and my Colt AR .223. I have been trying to get shooting costs down so I can have more fun with my new M1.

Very generous of you, though. I have talked with the head of the local rifle range and he "prefers" that we not use surplus tracers.

I need to digest all that I have read here because, honestly, there are a few conflicting comments here: tracers are hard on the barrel; tracers don't hurt the barrel.

Of course, the comment that they were hard on the barrel was prefaced with the fact that the bullets have "been so crappy".

Thank you all. Stay tuned! News at 6.

05-10-2010, 08:04 PM
What is the verdict Will tracer bullets hurt the bore of the gun?:)


05-10-2010, 09:16 PM
What is the verdict Will tracer bullets hurt the bore of the gun?:)


Yes they will!

No they won't.

Tastes great! Less filling! :D

It looks like they probably won't if you buy quality bullets. I don't relaod for 30.06 yet but I will investigate them some more.

05-10-2010, 10:46 PM
I'll just tell you my experience. I have reloaded many thousand of the 30-06 tracer bullets sold as pulldown. I shoot them mainly in my 1919A4 BMG and I can't tell any difference in the barrel condition after all that shooting. I don't fire long bursts which overheat the barrel and cause premature failure of the barrel so that might have something to do with it.

By the way I rarely clean my barrel after shooting. At most I run a rag down the bore, followed by an oily patch, but that's about it. I wouldn't hesitate to shoot these in any rifle I own, including a Winchester M14. The tracer element doesn't ignite until about 75 yards or so out so there's nothing to hurt the barrel. Now, the accuracy isn't real good with these bullets, but for shooting in a machine gun, they work fine. The general idea is to have fun, not punch 10 rings after all.

05-11-2010, 09:25 AM
Medalguy hit the nail on the head, at least from what I read. If the pulle bullets are in good shape, then you should be good to go.

Once I get started reloading for the M1, I intend to explore the surplus tracer route. Perhaps this winter?

12-16-2010, 07:37 AM
Well, here I go resurrecting my post from months ago. I now reload for the M1 and have been relatively happy with the results using Hornady 3037 150 grain bullets over 47.5 grains of IMR 4895. Nice load, accurate enough and components are plentiful.

I am still intrigued with the idea of inexpensive shooting using pulled tracers. So, the big question is, can tracers be de-milled so that they don't ignite? I can't see me worrying about brush fires at the public range nor do I see me scraping potentially dangerous or explosive compounds out of 1000 surplus bullets. Can they be rendered "unlightable"? How's that for a new word? ;)


12-16-2010, 11:29 PM
Short answer: no. Certain lots of the M25 as well as M62 tracer bullets have a very low ignition rate (some lots rarely have one to lite) but you never know when one will go. I use then as cheap fodder for my machine guns but I fire into a clay bank and don't have to worry about fires.

Unless you have a safe place to shoot these, I'd recommend forgoing them. They are not extremely accurate but OK for a machine gun (accuracy through volume is the motto!) where cost is uppermost.

If you are interested in 147 gr FMJBT bullets pulled from M80 ball ammo, here's an excellent source. These are pretty accurate shooting and the price can't be beat:


12-17-2010, 10:18 AM
If you are interested in 147 gr FMJBT bullets pulled from M80 ball ammo, here's an excellent source. These are pretty accurate shooting and the price can't be beat:


Ok, great information and great link. Now, anyone want to split a 9000 round lot? :D I will check that website out.

12-19-2010, 02:06 AM
Another good source.... http://www.polygunbag.com/bullets.html