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If you watch or you have ever watched war movies, you have seen gunfire that lightens mostly at night. That flashlight usually looks like Star Trek sagas. These blazing bullets are known as tracer rounds.
What are Tracer Rounds?
Tracer rounds are special bullets equipped with a pyrotechnic charge at the base such that when ignited, it turns into a bright flame. They usually leave a series that you can view without necessarily using an optic weapon. Tracer rounds are used in various ways. For instance, squad leaders use them to signal soldiers to target a particular place in a military battle. They are also used to notify shooters that their guns are nearly empty.
How to Make Tracer Rounds
No doubt that many people desire to make tracer rounds on their own. In this article, you will learn how to make tracer rounds more reliably. Making tracer rounds is not easy as it is a time-consuming and expensive process. Wear a dust mask, safety glasses, and rubber gloves while mixing chemicals. Also, do not let the water mix with magnesium as they form very explosive hydrogen gas.
Tracer rounds are made from a hollow base filled with an oxidizer, a small quantity of organic fuel, and metallic ground fuel. The metallic fuel comprises aluminum, magnesium, and zirconium. The oxidizer is a mixture of salt molecules, oxygen, and various elements to help you attain your desired color. You can use multiple colors to make tracer rounds, such as green, red, and amber, mixed with different types of chemicals.
What you need
To make tracer rounds, you need:
- a small hydraulic hand pump
- a one-ton arbor press, a short piece rod
- press frame
- black and decker handy chopper
- drill bits
- FMJ pressing dies
- bullet drilling tool
- a can of denatured alcohol
It is essential to note that you choose the type of chemical depending on the type of tracer round you want. That is a green, red, or amber tracer. However, the critical element in tracer is magnesium, as it is responsible for brightness when burnt. The barium nitrate will offer a green color, while strontium nitrate will contribute to the red color. Hexachloroethane is added to both green and red colors, giving them a great, richer color. You need to add magnesium to barium nitrate, strontium nitrate, or barium peroxide, all of which are oxidizers. It offers a better magnificent incendiary mixture. Remember to take extra care when handling these chemicals.
Here are the steps involved:
Step 1: Attaching the hydraulic hand pump
Attach the hydraulic hand pump into the hydraulic cylinder with a psi gauge of 600 or 1000. Then close up the cylinder and gauge. Connect the hand pump with a six-foot hydraulic hose to the cylinder pumped up by the hand pump and the tracer’s actual pressing.
Step 2: Drill a 1/4inch hole
Using the drilling tool, drill a 1/4-inch hole on one end of the arbor press ram, and a 3/16-inch hole on the other end. Insert the rod in the 3/16-inch hole and use screws to come out during the acute stage.
Step 3: Cut 2 pieces of thick steel plate
Get two pieces of the thick steel plate and cut them 6” x 17”. Then drill 5/8-inch holes on both sides. Take a 24-inch threaded rod and fix it into every hole. Using 5/8-inch nuts, hold everything together and double the nuts on the top and bottom side. Now, this is a portable tracer.
Step 4: Drill a hole at the top plate
Drill a hole at the top plate to put the tracer’s pressing pin. The pressing pin is made from hardened steel as the rod or bolt is softer. Therefore, it is ideal to use a punch. You can use a ¼-inch punch to press 45 ACP tracers and a 3/16-inch punch to press 9mm tracers. It is advisable to leave space for third frame pins.
Step 5: Drill the 45 ACP and 23/64 inch drill bit.
Get 29/64-inch drill bit for the 45 ACP tracers and 23/64-inch drill bit for the FJM 9mm tracers. Here your main aim is to make the profile of the drill bit’s tip to be equivalent to the radius and the FMJ’s profile you intend to use. Reduce the bit diameter by putting the bit in a drill press and hold grit sandpaper to it as you spin it. For you to achieve better results, use two or three sandpaper sheets. After setting the profile and diameter appropriately, ensure the cutting edges in the forefront are not rounded but sharp.
Step 6: Placing the drill bit in the lathe
Place the custom drill bit in the lathe, and ensure you drill a hole in one end. The hole should be a little bit deeper than the bullet’s depth you will use. Take away the aluminum rod and then test if the FMJ bullet fits inside. Make sure it doesn’t get inside with a lot of ease but should get in quickly with the tap of a small hammer or punch. Then examine the bullet-in; it should not be deformed and a good fit.
Step 7: Decrease the bit’s diameter in case the hole is big.
In case you drilled a big hole, and the bullet is getting in with ease, you need to scrap it and decrease the bit’s diameter with the use of drill press and grit sandpaper. Use the method described above. During your re-testing, ensure you sharpen the edges of the forefront using the Dremel if there is any need. The main goal is to provide the bullet with a snug fit.
Step 8: Adjusting the drill bit
Get a large drill chuck that can open from 3/16-3/4-inch. Set the drill bit at the center before you start to drill the bullets’ bunch out. Make necessary adjustments on the drill press to ensure a clean hole with wanted depth in the shot. Make a piece of rod that is thinner than the bullet being drilled to put it in the bit such that the bullet tip holds it in place at the desired height during the drilling process. It will help to prevent the bit from being pushed at the lower end. Then you can drill out over 100 bullets, and the lead strings will be hanging everywhere.
Step 9: Check the bit’s diameter
It is essential to note that small bullets need small drill bits and diameter punches. However, many people prefer to buy pre-loaded tracers due to the cartridge’s high pressure and the equivalent pressure required to press the formation. It does not mean that it’s impossible to load high-power calibers, but it’s a bit challenging. Also, keep in mind that the bits’ diameter used to drill the bullet bases must be equal with the pins on the press frame.
Step10: Chemical mixing
Mix the chemicals in the following percentage form:
- Green tracer – Barium Nitrate: 60%, Powdered Shellac: 10%, Hexachloroethane: 20%, and #100 mesh powdered magnesium: 30%
- Red tracer – strontium Nitrate: 60%, Hexachloroethane: 20%, #100 mesh powdered magnesium: 30%, and powdered shellac: 10%
- Amber tracer – Barium Peroxide: 87%, #100 mesh powdered magnesium: 12%, and powdered shellac: 5%
Step 11: Weigh the chemicals
Weigh the chemicals using the liner cups and put them into the mortal. Add Denatured Alcohol and mix it thoroughly using a wooden stick. Continue stirring the mixture until it poofs and then becomes thicker like clay. Then place the busted-up mixture into the Handy Chopper and commence to grind. After mixing, weigh magnesium powder and add it. Stir thoroughly, and then put the silica gel pack in it. Seal the container, and the following day it will be ready for loading.
Step12: Loading the compounds into bullets
The next day, you can load the compound into bullets. After loading, you can press the tracers and see the magic.
Types of Tracer Rounds
Tracer rounds fall into three categories, namely subdued tracers, bright tracers, and dim tracers. Each type of the tracer rounds is used for different purposes, as discussed below:
- Bright/standard tracers
This type of tracer round commences burning a few seconds after it exits the muzzle. These tracer rounds are criticized for being too bright, allowing the enemies to identify their location. They are also known to overwhelm night-vision devices since most fights happen at night. It is a significant disadvantage to soldiers who use bright tracer rounds.
- Subdued tracers
The main difference between bright tracers and subdued tracers is that subdued tracers start to burn when they are over 100 meters away after exiting the weapon. It means that the enemies cannot quickly identify the shooter’s position and are viewable with naked eyes. Subdued tracers are more advantageous to military members than bright tracers.
- Dim tracers
They are also referred to as armor-piercing rounds. The tracers burn dimly, making them invisible with naked eyes. You can see dim tracers using night vision devices (NVD). These tracers are essential during night military operations and battles.
At least now you have a clue of how to make tracer rounds. However, the process is time-consuming and expensive. If you want to make tracer rounds, ensure you follow all the legal procedures and acquire the necessary documents and licenses to make tracers.
Tracer rounds are essential since they are used on the battlefield to help soldiers better target and notify them when their weapons are almost empty. For you to grasp full advantage of tracers, choose the ideal type of tracer rounds.