.45 ACP Tracer?

These are .45 ACP rounds with FMJ bullets painted red. The case appears steel and the headstamp is T W 5 3.
Are these tracer rounds for the Thompson?

According to me they are tracers…

They are, as Pivi said, tracer cartridges. I would not say they were made specifically for Thomspons SMGs though. In fact, by 1953, the TSMG was pretty much phased out of the Army, and I think the Marine Corps, in favor of the M3 and M3A1. Not to say there were no Thompson’s left in those services. The Navy had Tommy Guns still on some ships - one was in a display on the fantail of a missile cruiser open to the public on Armed Forces Day, in San Francisco, that we went aboard about 1980 or there abouts. The Coast Guard may have had them too. I don’t know about the USAF.

They were made for what requirement the military had for tracers in that era.

John, how about the M3 “Grease Gun”, I remember having it seen in Vietnam.

I had forgotten about the M3 bretheren, just could not see much use for tracers in the M1911A1

Submarines, at least Fast Attacks, gave up their Thompson’s by the mid-70’s and I was under the impression we were the last units to have them… a storage issue was the scuttlebutt. But other units could have certainly had them into the 80’s.

Could someone tell me which maker used the TW headstamp markings?

TW : Twin Cities Ordnance Plant,Minneapolis,Minnesota

During WW II tracers did not work too well in the Thompson SMG and it wasn’t until the end of the war that a suitable bullet/powder combination was found. They worked fine in the pistol.


I was stationed in San Diego at the Mothball Fleet in the early 1950s. Many of the ships still had their armories stocked with small arms, including many with Thompsons. Crews working the ships were tempted to liberate both Thompsons and 1911 Pistols and the sailor-boys that did were usually caught and sent to Alcatraz or Leavenworth.

Later, it was decided to empty the armories and destroy the weapons. I had the unpleasant job of torch cutting 1911 pistols. Of course, for a carton of cigarettes I could be tempted to let a sailor dig thru the bins and take a front and rear half to be brazed or welded back together. After I cut them they were no longer considered to be firearms, only scrap. Probably still illegal but every Gunners Mate in San Diego had one.

It wasn’t too many years later that those cut parts found their way into the commercial market. Pistols, SMGs, Garands, Carbines, anything you wanted. What a waste.



I don’t know as I’d a told that. Cuttin’ up guns. You oughta be ‘shamed fo’ yo’self.
Got to help unload four, very heavy, 55 gal. drums full of BAR “parts” a few years back. Saddest thing I ever done. The owner of the scrap had, ultimately, unfulfilled dreams. BARs have very tight tolerances, making for unsuccessful working rewelds. Great for display, tho.


I was a good sailor and didn’t question orders. Being a shooter, it wasn’t a pleasant job, but I had free cigarettes for a long time. ;) ;)


AND YOU SMOKED!!! You’re damned.

Back on the .45 tracer ammo, I recall seeing lots of training film footage using assorted firearms firing tracer ammo. Hip shooting stuff. Maybe these were allocated for that sort of thing.

EOD - reread my answer. I mentioned the M3 and the M3A1, although did not use the appellation “Grease Gun.” Good SMGs. Have shot plenty of rounds out of them.

Tracers were used in training during WWII for sure, including with pistols. Have also seen pictures of the FBI training with tracers in their tommy guns are night, although that was probably with the Remington commercial tracer ammunition. I had never heard about any problem with tracers in Thompsons before. I think the British used a lot of tracer ammunition in them, especially the Commandos for night operations. In the mid-fifties, I never saw a .45 tracer cartridge in the Army, but then, we would have had little or no use for it in any unit I was in. There were very, very few SMGs in the TOEs of any units except Armor and Military Police when I was in the service - far fewer than is seen being carried in combat films of WWII expecially. I don’t recall a single authorized SMG on the TO&E of an infantry comany when I was in service, for example. In the Signal Company I was in at Ladd AFB Alaska, we had 4 M3 SMGS, one each for our two track drivers and assistant drivers. We never had any tracer ammo in that company that I was aware of though, and before IG Inspections, I used to help out in the Arms Room of the company.


HWS II has a good description of the problems with tracers in the Thompsons.

I think the movies you see of the FBI using tracers was more propaganda than anything else. Makes a good impressive show of force.


Regarding FBI films could be PR shots, of course. They had plenty of that ammunition though - strikes me as too much just for PR.

I’ll have to review HWS II’s .45 section - has been a while that I read the whole thing.

Thanks for pointing it out.

[quote=“JohnMoss”]EOD - reread my answer. I mentioned the M3 and the M3A1, although did not use the appellation “Grease Gun.”

John, I need glasses I guess.