You live and learn... orange tip M856 tracers


The idea that the bullet tip paint in tracer bullets is what make the bullet visible along its trajectory is not uncommon amongst naive grunts.

I just didn’t know that some factories endorsed this concept in their literature:

The 5.56mm M856 has an orange bullet tip, which permits observation
of the round’s trajectory to the point of impact
. Because
tracers use a burning compound to produce a visual trace, they
have an incendiary effect. The 5.56mm M856 Tracer is efficient in
signaling. Much like aerial flares, the rounds are effective in conveying
pre-arranged signals between units and individuals, and
can also be used to designate targets. The 5.56mm M856 is ideal
for use in rifle M16A2, M4, and machine gun M249.

I can’t help but wonder who is the intended target for this kind of publicity.




My grandad who was a Royal Marines commando in the 1950s believed that. He thought the white tips on the .303 tracers he used to fire burned to produce the trace. I had to show him a sectioned .303 tracer bullet to convince him otherwise.


If that’s the case, the green tip on the M855 should be seen as green for observation. One of the things I know about tracers is that they work both ways.