SOCOM wants spotter bullets again

How does that square with intl. regulations as these are spotters against soft targets then (unlike AT weapons)?

I know the US do not care too much for St. Petersburg, Hague and Geneva.

I assume St. Petersburg to be the least known by most people but for our subject it is the ruling one, so here more on it:

The DoD Law of War Manual (June 2015) lists “exploding bullets” as well as “deforming bullets”, among “lawful weapons”. (Paras 6.5.2 and 6.5.4 on pages 320-321).
Other nations and NATO do not share this view.

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The DoD Law of War Manual (June 2015) lists “exploding bullets” as well as “deforming bullets”, among “lawful weapons”. (Paras 6.5.2 and 6.5.4 on pages 320-321).

Unless used against them?

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Between my 3 sons (1 of whom was killed), they have a combined time of over 5 years in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can assure you, the Taliban, ISIS, and Iraqi insurgents shooting at them didn’t give a rat’s ass about “laws of war”, “rules of engagement”, or firing exploding ammunition at our nations’ warfighters.

As for the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868, Wikipedia further states: The nations represented were Austria-Hungary, Bavaria, Belgium, Denmark, France, United Kingdom (representing the British Empire), Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, the North German Confederation (i.e., Greater Prussia), Russia, Sweden-Norway, Switzerland, the Ottoman Empire, and WĂĽrttemberg. The United States, not considered a major power at the time, was not invited and took no part in the convention.

Additionally, although the USA was represented at the various Hague Conventions, they never ratified all of the various articles and declarations.


Joe, I am sorry to hear about your son! And this I mean very honest and with all due respect.

And to make it very clear:
The IS & Co in my eyes have no combatant status, thus no convention is applying to them and they deserve no any sort of protection (not even mercy).
And as you kinda implied, these folks deserve much more than just expanding or explosive bullets!

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One other ;point, and this is not said in anger or resentment to anyone on this forum. There has likely never been a War where atrocities were not committed by both sides, but there is a matter of degree. I cannot think of a 20th Century War that the USA was committed to, including WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and what is going on now in Syria, etc., when the enemy we faced paid any attention at all, in the main, to “rules of war.” Atrocities with those forces was, in many cases (I dare say most) a matter of policy, not random acts of violence by angry soldiers.

We could write books on this subject, but in the end, it has little to do with ammunition.

By the way, I do no visit the sins of the father on their sons. Yesterday,s enemies are, for the most part, today’s friends. In a few case, unfortunately, quite the opposite.

It is good to remember history, and that in war, there are few “clean hands.” Well-meaning “conventions” generally go out the window. While oft necessary, war of itself is a barbaric atrocity on mankind.

John Moss


John, all very valid what you are saying.
Just one small thing there: it is only the defeated countries who are judged for this after a conflict while the victors never face any consequences (“the victor writes the history”). And this story is repeating again, and again, and again.
Must be human nature…

Everyone assumes spotter = explosive. Not so. Technology has moved on.

Just like tracer no longer means burning chemical compounds.


If possible can you elaborate on this?




Lehigh defense among others make titanium-tip FMJ bullets that spark on impact. Don’t know if that fits the bill for the SOCOM solicitation but I’d wager that Ti sparking on impact with hard materials is a slightly reduced fire hazard over pyrophoric chemicals or full-on explosive charges.


Ole, the Titanium works only on a certain level of “ruggidity” (is that English?) of the impacted material.
Means a thin sheet metal or other “soft targets” will not set it off.
Also if so as you may remember such Titanium tips are declared as incendiary by most (or all?) manufacturers offering these.

As for tracers there are those pressure activated reactive materials (also available as stickers) and also “mirrors” which require illumination. These have been discussed here before.

Yep Alex, hence the “slightly” reduced fire risk. Regular FMJs hitting rocks or heavy gauge plate steel is enough to cause a forest fire anyway, ask me how I know…

I’m curious to find out what non-explodey spotter charges they might come up with for this, I can’t readily think of a way to do it (unless they’re packing flour in plastic bullets…).


Ole, might be also molten lead from FMJs?

I wonder now if the same charge could be used like in those new 40mm TP with spotting charge Jay (MAST) recently explained to us.
But there I still no not see how that would not be incendiary (I asked the same in that thread).

EOD - thank you for your condolences. Burying my eldest son and name’s sake was the worst thing in my life.

Apologies for side-tracking the main topic…

John - I fully agree. War is an ugly and messy business, through which no one transits without being tarnished by its shear ugliness.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other." John Stuart Mills (Fraser’s Magazine, February 1862 - extracted/abbreviated from the original long-form essay.)

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Joe, I also am in agreement with what you have said. I was very fortunate. Between Regular Army and Active Army Reserve, I have a little over nine years service, but by the accident of my date of birth - too young for Korea and already with two Honorable Discharges before Viet Nam became an “American War,” I never heard a shot fired in anger.

As horrible as war is, it is sometimes a necessity, when all reason has failed to prevail, and the only solution is a fight for what you believe in.

Thanks for your comments.

John Moss
US Army 1956 - 1965.

The SBIR solicitation specifically calls for a pyrotechnic solution (which was clarified in a Q&A response by SOCOM). It appears that they are not trying to eliminate incendiary effects, but to minimize them as much as possible while maximizing visible flash/smoke. Emphasis added by me in the quoted section below.

From the solicitation (some of which was also copied into the Firearm Blog article):

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this topic is to develop an innovative small arms marking round to replace tracers in adjusting machine gun fire.

DESCRIPTION: USSOCOM is seeking 7.62mm x 51 NATO spotting rounds to replace tracers for adjusting machine gun fire, both day and night, producing a flash and /or smoke signature visible at 800m-1200m. Current tracers allow gunners to observe the trajectory of the rounds and make aiming corrections without observing the impact of the rounds fired and without using the sights of the weapon. However, these rounds give away the gunners position, burn out before the maximum range of the machine gun and draws enemy fire. Replacing tracers with marking or spotting pyrotechnic rounds enables the gunner to directly control the impact on to the target, shows target coverage, and does not disclose the shooters location. This will increase the accuracy of machine gun fire, save ammunition, and increase gunner survivability.

Key Attributes: Threshold (T), Objective (O)

a. Visible day and night at 600m (T) -1500m (O)
b. 7.62mm (T) , 7.62, 6.5mm and .338 (O)
c. Ballistic trajectory match the 147 gr 7.62mm x 51mm M80 Ball (T), 6.5mm 130grs Open Tip Match (OTM), and 300gr 338 Norma Magnum OTM.
d… 90% flash on hard surfaces (T), 70 % function on soft ground (O).
e. Fire hazard no worse than current tracers.
f. Meet environmental, health and safety limits.>

While traditional incendiary projectile have some of these attributes, they have unacceptably thick jackets and tend to function only against hard surfaces. The pyrotechnic mix is optimized for incendiary effects rather than maximizing visual effects with minimum incendiary effects. Projectile weight, shape, combination of materials, and loading will have to be adjusted to achieve a ballistic match.

Below is the link for anyone interested in further reading: