7.62 x 51mm Tracer GPMG Ammunition Question

Hi there.

I am new to this forum.

I am doing a project for work and need to find out the distance at which GPMG Tracer 7.62mm x 51mm actually lights up.

Would anybody please be able to direct me to a reference-able source for the answer.

Many thanks,


Karl, welcome here!

I do not have the answer to your question but the data you are looking for depends very much on the exact type and model of a tracer load.
Means many tracers have a delayed ignition, that is in order to not disclose the shooter’s position.

So to answer your question first you must look at the very exact model of bullet you are gathering data on.


I believe it’s K59 L5 A1 Tracer.

Does that help?

For comparison, the U.S. specification MIL-C-46281F of the 7.62 mm M62 tracer bullet requires “full luminosity” at a point not more than 125 yards from the muzzle.
For the older cal. 30 M25 the figure had been 100 yards (MIL-C-1317E).

Peter Labbett in “The development of 7.62mm x 51 Ammunition in Britain 1953-1997” does not mention the dark ignition distance of the L5A1.

The NATO AOP-2310 [requirements have been moved from STANAG 2310 to this “Allied Ordnance Publication”] requires:
“dim or invisible from the muzzle to at least 13 metres; shall be visible by 140 metres and shall maintain continuous visibility between 140 metres and a minimum of 775 metres.”
According to Labbett, these figures applied to the L5A3, approved in May 1962.

Edit: The U.S. specifications can be found on quicksearch.dla.mil
Enter only the numeric part in the document ID field. Don’t panic, only the newer versions are restricted, the older can be downloaded as PDF.
The NATO website nato.int has a STANAG page.
Labbett’s book was self-published in 1998 and I do not know its availability in libraries.

1 Like


Thank you, that is really useful. :slight_smile:

Karl, good luck with sorting out the early British tracers! My understanding is that the L5A1 was not a dark or dim ignition tracer but was actually a ‘bright ignition tracer’ which meant that it was visible as it left the muzzle. Just to confuse things further I did have a tracer with a K59 headstamp which, despite the L5A1 marking on the headstamp, was actually an L5A2.

1 Like

Round 7.62mm Tracer L5A1 is a dark ignition tracer, then tracing bright red to a distance of 1000 meters, with a muzzle velocity of 780 meters/ sec. There are 2 composition types, R17A tracer comp with SR462 priming comp, the second has SR390 tracer comp with sr867 primer and 5% talc. Think this info came from Labbetts book.



UK L5A1 tracer is dark ignition. The L5A2 tracer is bright ignition. L5A3 and beyond are dark ignition.
I can’t immediately find specific information for the dark ignition zone of production L5A1, but information on pre-production tracers can be found in ARDE Memo (S) 25/26 "The development of 7.62mm small arms ammunition to July 1956, RW Nicholson. Based on this document bullets using R17A with SR462 mix were "The dark ignition zone extends to a mean distance of 75 yards from the muzzle but a few individual rounds lie in the range of 20-100 yards. Bullets using SR390 mix had an “average dark ignition zone of 96 yards varying between 75 and 105 yards.” “All rounds traced to over 1000 yds.”

Note that (S) 25/26 was published in September 1956 and states that “The development of a tracer round, now waiting approval, is also described.” The L5A1 was approved for service in September 1959.


1 Like


Does that document contain details of the R17A composition?