If you’ve ever watched a military movie you will have witnessed glowing streaks of color cut through the darkness of a nighttime firefight. These rounds are called “tracer rounds” or “tracer bullets.” In this article, we’re going to look at five things you probably didn’t know about tracer rounds and their use in the U.S. military.


1) A Tracer Glows When Shot

Tracer Rounds machine gun
Machine gun tracer rounds illuminate the sky during an attack by militants in the Pesh Valley in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province. (Photo by Tim Wimborne/Reuters)

Britannica says the following about them: “Tracer bullets have a column of pyrotechnic composition in the base that is ignited by the flame of the propellant; this provides a visible pyrotechnic display during the bullet’s flight.”

Easy enough, right? Courtesy of the above explanation, we know why a tracer glows when shot. But what is the ultimate purpose of using tracer rounds during a firefight?