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Tracer ammo: Max visibilty distance

Weapons Systems Tech. Discuss Tracer ammo: Max visibilty distance in the Technical forums; This concern is in my head for a long time already: How far is it possible in daylight to see ...

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    Exclamation Tracer ammo: Max visibilty distance

    This concern is in my head for a long time already:

    How far is it possible in daylight to see tracers? I mean, a tracer bullet is sot and can it be seen by an observer in i.e. 2,5,10km distance?

    Cheers, yogy

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    Benevolens Magister Airframes's Avatar
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    Hi, Yogy. As an initial response, it would depend on the type and calibre of the ammunition in question, whether it was 'daylight' or 'night' tracer, the burn rate, and the ignition time. Also, the range and angle would effect visibility. To try to explain this without going into technical detail; for example, some smaller calibre ammunition, such as 7.62mm, can have tracer rounds that only 'ignite' when a certain distance from the muzzle. This is designed so that A) the gunner won't be 'blinded' by his own rounds at night, and B) so that the position of the weapon will not be disclosed by the tracer rounds as well as muzzle flash. In this instance, we are talking about 'infantry' ammunition. There are also tracer rounds designed for daylight use, which are brighter.
    For aircraft ammunition, again depending on calibre, certain rounds will ignite as soon as they are clear of the muzzle, and will burn with a visible smoke trail. Most, but not all, tracer rounds, in most calibres, will be designed to burn out before the round reaches it's maximum possible range.
    Again, visibility will depend on night/day, and conditions. As a simplified example, at night, ground to air, in clear conditions, it shuld be possible to observe, say, 20mm tracer rounds up to a distance of at least five kilometres. (3 miles)
    I'm sure that you will appreciate that this is a very simplified explanation/description, and there will be people on this forum who will no doubt be able to provide more detailed and technical information, but I hope this has at least given you some insight.
    Last edited by Airframes; 10-15-2008 at 05:48 AM.

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    Good answer airframes.

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    Senior Member CharlesBronson's Avatar
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    Usually the tracer last more than the effective ammunition range.

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    Benevolens Magister Airframes's Avatar
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    Quite often it does, Charles, depending on load, and the use of the weapon.(i.e. ground or aircraft ammunition.)
    I'm sure you will agree that my reply to the query was a generalisation though. I have used tracer that, once it has hit say a grass embankment at 800 metres or more, carries on burning, thereby causing grass fires!
    For our new friend's benefit, in GENERAL, a small round, such as a 5.56mm, will burn-out at about 500 or 600 metres, again depending on ammo type, whereas a large round, such as .50 cal. (12.7mm) will only just be burning out at the limit of its effective range. (Note, effective, not maximum.)
    Some ammunition types, again without getting too technical, are a combination tracer/incendiary, the last part of the tracer compound being more concentrated and flammable, thereby causing fire, or explosion of volatile liquids/materials. This is not to be confused, however, with a 'pure' inciendiary round.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Airframes View Post
    at night, ground to air, in clear conditions, it shuld be possible to observe, say, 20mm tracer rounds up to a distance of at least five kilometres. (3 miles)
    Thanks... so does that mean that in general, WW2-aircraft-tracer-ammo is definitely not visible in distances like i.e. 10km... like it is the case in "IL-2" ?? I always thought this is unrealistic...
    Cheers, yogy

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    Benevolens Magister Airframes's Avatar
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    No Yogy, at that distance (6 miles) it is highly unlikely that the small-arms aircraft tracer would be visible in daylight. AAA could possibly be seen. At night, without any other light contamination, and with enough altitude, it MIGHT just be possible to see air to air fire at that sort of range. If you want to get an idea of what AAA tracer fire looks like at night, have a look at fairly recent news footage, from Afghanistan, or the Gulf wars. Many of these TV shots were taken at some distance, but, remember, they will mainly be 37mm and above.
    Last edited by Airframes; 10-15-2008 at 07:50 PM.

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    Good idea. I'll check out some of the video-sites on this... THX!

    PS: BoB needs an improvememt over IL-2 in this topic, I think...
    Cheers, yogy

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    Senior Member CharlesBronson's Avatar
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    I'm sure you will agree that my reply to the query was a generalisation though. I have used tracer that, once it has hit say a grass embankment at 800 metres or more, carries on burning, thereby causing grass fires!
    Definately, that is why here the tracer ammo is forbidden for hunting, for the risk of fires.

    By the way, I was searching some good video about the topic but I ve failed so far.

    However you can see the post-impact burning effect in this video ( uploaded by me of course)


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    Second 29 herer nearly make me believe "IL-2":


    This is VERY bright:


    Looking bright:




    Looks not very bright:



    (good sound...)

    at all times of day (evening at 3:50):


    at "night" I guess evening:


    I think after all this that IL-2 is too bright.
    Cheers, yogy

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    Hi Yogy,

    >This is VERY bright:
    >

    Check how long it takes the tracers to disappear. Using the muzzle velocity of the gun as a guide, you can estimate how far the tracers are visible to the camera.

    The human eye of course is not a camera. It's fashionable for flight simulations to claim "photo realism", but photos are not the real thing to begin with ...

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)

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    Senior Member CharlesBronson's Avatar
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    I wonder if there is something on earth more fun than a Gatling gun using tracers Excellent videos.

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    Benevolens Magister Airframes's Avatar
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    Good point, Henning. The camera will 'see' more than the human eye.
    Something I missed; if you look at AAA (what we used to call 'Flak'!) tracer, it is normally designed to burn to it's maximum effective veritcal range. So, if that range is, say, 5,000 feet, then it will be visible at that range; about one mile, give or take.
    Charles, the only thing better than a Gatling on full chat with tracer, is TWO Gatlings on full chat with tracer!!!! He! He!
    Terry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Airframes View Post
    Good point, Henning. The camera will 'see' more than the human eye.
    Are you sure that the camera can see "more" or in this case for a longer distance? Why are you sure? Could be the other way round also"

    Quote Originally Posted by Airframes View Post
    Something I missed; if you look at AAA (what we used to call 'Flak'!) tracer, it is normally designed to burn to it's maximum effective veritcal range. So, if that range is, say, 5,000 feet, then it will be visible at that range; about one mile, give or take.
    That's a good assumption, I guess.

    One important factor is "daylight". It has huge variation:
    - Time of day
    - Cloud cover (if you are not avbove the clouds )
    - place on earth: I "feel" that the light in a desert/the Mediterranean is much brighter then here in Central Europe or for example in Murmansk
    This is even visible in the videos above: The ones in the desert show a bad visibility of the tracers (in that bright surrounding).

    One more point: Is the visibilty range the same from all directions or just from the place where the tracer was fired (where one sees its "stern")??

    I guess this all is not so easy to simulate...
    Cheers, yogy

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    Benevolens Magister Airframes's Avatar
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    Hi Yogy. When I say that the camera will 'see' more, this is a generalisation, as the senisitivity of the camera, depending on lens and conditions (see below), and especially with film, as opposed to electronic imaging, will, IN GENERAL, register more than the human eye will see. This is not to say that the human eye does not actually see an object, more that the brain registers what it thinks it sees, or wants to see, whereas, in photography, what is actually there is recorded in its true state, if it is possible to record it in the first place. An example of this would be, for instance, in photographing model aircraft. What we think is a perfect, pristine model, may exhibit flaws in paintwork, dust etc., when seen in a good, clear, close -up photograph. These imperfections will probably have been missed by the viewer.
    Yes, you are right; the viewing conditions, night or day, will have a very large bearing on the ability to see tracer at a distance. Viewing from the rear, in other words, from the direction of the shot(s), will always appear brighter, as the phosphor compound is in the tail of the projectile and, of course, the whole purpose of tracer is to aid the gunner in seeing the track and fall of shot. Most tracer will appear a lot brighter in dull, or neutral, lighting conditions, and more so in clear, but not overly bright, night conditions.
    In conclusion, because of the viewing conditions, it MIGHT be possible to see tracer, at night in particular, and at altitude certainly, at greater distances than I have already mentioned, but, of course, the calibre of the ammunition would have a bearing on this; the larger the calibre, the more chance of seeing it a greater distances.
    If you have never seen tracer for real, regardless of calibre, a reasonable comparison would be a firework (the airborne type) that simulates tracer fire, as used in some movies, or at firework displays. If you see a 'star burst' type firework at great distance, this is not disimilar to a 'flak ' burst at similar distance and, roughly, the light emission from an 'average' tracer round below, say 40mm, is similar in intensity to some fireworks. There are many variables in trying to provide a full answer to your question. These include type of tracer compound, burn rate, ignition range, day or night tracer, trajectory, colour, weight ratio to balistic requirements, and, of course, the actual calibre of the round, to name a few.
    Hopefully though, this will have provided some information that I hope has proved useful and helpful.
    Terry.

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