Let’s all be big boys and girls and admit it: Tracers are fun. Normally, we fire a shot, and the only way we know what happened is to look for the hole in paper or cardboard. Or we see the steel fall or hear it clang. But to actually see the bullet going downrange, that’s cool.
However, every time the subject comes up, our dreams are crushed: Tracers are expensive; they are not made in more than a few calibers; they can be very hard on your barrel; and they set fire to things.
All those problems come from the essential element of tracers, which is a fiercely burning compound of one kind or another that is stuffed into the hollow base of a tracer bullet and ignited by the burning powder of your fired cartridge.
The compound is usually a phosphorus or magnesium mixture (the mix gives it a particular color), and both of those elements and their compounds burn at a very high heat. Exactly how high the temperature depends on the mixture and the conditions, but let’s just say it is a lot hotter than your backyard barbeque and not at all good for your barrel.
Further, the mixtures are difficult to work with and expensive, and that explains why tracer ammo is pricey and offered in limited varieties. Well, we now have a choice, Glow Ammo, that solves all those problems.
Glow Ammo is a do-it-yourself application. The tracer part of it comes as a set of stickers sized for 9mm, .40 and .45. They’re disks that you apply to the base of your bullets before you load them into cases. Yes, this is a reloading-only proposition.
The process is simple: either start by placing stickers on a batch of bullets (the method I’d suggest) or stick the disks on each bullet in turn as you prepare to load it.
Glow Ammo suggests using a fast-burning power in order to properly heat up each disk as it is fired. That’s no problem because most reloaders use fast-burning powders in most calibers because it’s more economical.
You may have concerns for accuracy. Don’t. Each sticker weighs less than a grain, so you can’t disrupt the balance of a bullet very much, if at all, by slapping on a sticker off-center.
I just received Glow Ammo samples and haven’t had time to conduct long-term tests, but I’d wager that the people who came up with this did their research to develop an adhesive that will last a good long while and remain stuck onto the base of a bullet.
Since the stickers do not burn at the temperatures of phosphorus or magnesium, they aren’t hard on your bore, and they can’t set fire to things. To test that, I did some experiments. (You’ve seen the automobile ads on TV with the disclaimer "Professional driver, closed course. Do not attempt," right? Well, don’t do this at your range.)
I took some regular tracer ammo, the Glow Ammo loaded in .45 ACP ammo, a bale of straw, a gallon of kerosene and a fire extinguisher to the range. A six-inch slab of dry straw, soaked in kerosene and backed by a steel plate (to splatter the burning tracer compound) ignited with a satisfying flourish when hit with the regular tracer ammo. A slab of straw identically treated and shot with Glow Ammo-loaded bullets did not.
There are several drawbacks with the ammo. One, you have to reload. Two, if you do reload with this product, you’ll want to mark or otherwise segregate that ammo.
Three, Glow Ammo does not trace as brightly as tracer ammo does, and you can’t see it in broad daylight. To see Glow Ammo, you have to shoot at dusk or near dusk on an overcast day–or on an indoor range with the lights turned down a bit.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to check it for maximum distance. Handgun tracer ammo usually lasts 200 yards at most; the farthest I fired Glow Ammo was 50.
On the plus side, Glow Ammo won’t hammer your wallet. Five hundred stickers are only $50. And it won’t torch your barrel, as there are no burning compounds to splatter the bore.
Also, it won’t set fire to things, at least not any more than your ammo already does. Those shooting in a desert area would do well to keep in mind that Glow Ammo doesn’t decrease any fire-starting potential; it just doesn’t add any.
So why go to all this effort? Why add an extra step to your reloading process, one with the potential to really slow your output? In a word: fun. The fun of introducing a new shooter to guns in a way their friends will be jealous of. The fun of the immediate feedback of watching the trace. The fun of having the tracer option in calibers previously lacking tracers.
Oh, if you do show up at the local indoor range to show off your new tracer ammo, it would be a good idea to bring the Glow Ammo packaging along so the owners know you aren’t hosing their range with burning magnesium–and so your shooting buddies can get some for themselves and not shoot up all of yours.