Starlight, Dim, Overhead Tracers

OK, I have only recently become interested in the NATO cartridges (US only) and this has me scratching my head. I did a search and got several hits but I’m no closer to an answer than I was before. So, who can tell me the difference between the various 7.62x51 tracers and color tips?

Starlight tracer
Dim tracer
Overhead Fire tracer
NV tracer
IR tracer
Green tracer
Others ?



Here is a list of US NATO tracers based on my research and collection - I doubt that the list is complete

Orange tip


Wow! Thanks for that. You are truly the “NATO GUY”.

I have many of the different tracers listed and will need to go thru them and correctly label those that I have mis-identified. I think I had most of them right.

I still am confused by some of the terms, however.

What exactly is “overhead fire” tracer. I know it’s supposed to refer to firing over the heads of friendly troops, but how is the tracer or cartridge any different? There is also a ball “overhead fire” cartridge. Correct?

"Starlight’ is supposed to be a special tracer only visible thru the Starlight scope. Correct? Is that the same as an IR tracer?

So how is the “dim” tracer different? I was told that the dim tracer is for snipers so as not to reveal their position.

What is purpose of the “green” tracer?

Again, thanks. A lot more than I had hoped to get. I have a feeling that getting into NATO cartridges is a BIG mistake.


I’ve heard that the overhead fire tracer with a red tip lacks a base closure disk, which could come off and endanger the troops who are being fired over.

As far as the starlight/NV/IR/Dim tracers, I don’t know if there are official differences between them. I always thought that they were the same thing. I have the following rounds in my collection:

pink tip, + FA 68 (XM276, 1st type)
white over pink tip, + FA 68 (XM276, 2nd type)
green over pink tip, + LC 69 (XM276, 3rd type)
green over white tip, + LC 70 (XM276, 3rd type, color coding error)
lilac tip, + LC 97 (M276)

Scranton’s “Small Arms Ammunition Identification Codes” says that the type 1 XM276 traces to 550 yards, the type 2 traces to 1100 yards, and the type 3 traces to 930 yards.

I have the green tracer as well but no information about it, other than the green trace was intended to confuse the enemy during Desert Storm. Mine has a brown tip and a + LC 91 headstamp.

There are several other experimental 7.62x51 tracers listed in Scranton’s book, including a long range (FALRE - Frankford Arsenal Long Range Experimental) with a white over red tip.

Some day I want to enter the basic info (caliber, type, country, color code, page number) from Scranton’s book into a database so that I can pull up an index of all US tracers, for example. There are lots of neat cartridges in there that I will probably never see in real life!


Thanks for all the additional info.

It looks like a trip down to Tucson this winter is a must do.

The explanation for the overhead fire tracer makes sense but what about the ball round? I think I read somewhere that one difference is that the overhead fire ammo was subject to additional inspections to ensure that it is of the highest quality.

I have the same green trace cartridge and I’ve heard the same explanation. But, I’ve never seen that explanation documented.


TM 43-0001-27 dated 1994 states that “Stringent production control and screening of ammunition lots ensure the safety of personnel operating immediately below the trajectory of the fired bullets”. The same document shows drawings of the bullets. They’re not really clear enough to see construction, but the regular M62 has a closure cup while the OHF M62 has a closure disk suggesting that both bullets have a closure to the tracer compartment. The XM178 ball and XM179 and XM180 tracers (using turned gilded metal bullets) were developed to overcome the random failure of the jackets in both ball and tracer bullets which could produce metal fragments. This explanation of the potential problem also explains why there is an M80 OHF cartridge.

XM178 (top and left, XM179 bottom and right

The next series of images follow on from my earlier listing.
low recoil ball (XM256) and tracer (XM268)

Long range ball (FAAC-1) and tracer (FALRE-2)

Other tracers. From top to bottom - standard M62 marked for special tests at APG, unknown and fumer



Continued thanks.

The XM268 (Low Recoil) tracer is intriguing. With the ball weighing only 82 grains, what does the tracer weigh?


Unfortunately I don’t have a spare to pull - it would make a nice sectioned round to go along side the ball!


I first saw the “+ LC 91” brown tipped “green” tracers back in late 1991 or early 1992. A collector I knew had some and they had the same story of being green to confuse the enemy into thinking the incoming green tracers were friendly fire. I’ve heard that they were only for the special forces, and I’ve only seen them packed in 20 round boxes, not linked as one might expect. I served in the military during Desert Storm, where these green tracers were supposedly intended for use, but hever heard of them at the time.