Tracer Shotshells

posted on May 8, 2014

Q: The shotshells in the enclosed pictures are marked "TRACER." What can you tell me about these shells? What was their purpose, and when were they made and used?

A: Tracer shotshells were developed for the military as a training aid during WWII for training aerial gunners in both day and night time air-to-air shooting. They were used on military training ranges for the most part and produced by civilian companies for military contracts. The Remington 12-gauge shells in your photo came with a warning on the box that reads, “The tracer capsule in this shell has a much longer range and higher trajectory than the No.8 lead shot. Personnel in ‘trap’ houses or within 600 yards of the muzzle should be suitably protected. Do not store in high humidity or excessive heat.” They are not kidding. And, for civilian ranges, there is a real danger that the tracer elements of these shells would set the woods on fire which could, in turn, create serious problems for your shooting range. While it is tempting to try a few of them, you would be well advised to keep them as curios or relics for their historical interest.

–Angus Laidlaw

Originally published November, 2006

More like this from around the NRA


Smith Wesson Logo Stacked F
Smith Wesson Logo Stacked F

Smith & Wesson CEO Issues Strong Statement In The Face Of 2nd Amendment Attacks

Amid an unprecedented and unjustified attack on the firearm industry, Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc. President & CEO Mark Smith responded Monday with the following statement.

Preview: Talley Mfg. Anti-Cant Indicator

An easy upgrade for Talley’s factory scope rings is the company’s anti-cant indicator, a simple accessory that helps shooters get on target—especially distant ones.

Easy-Packin’ Powerhouses: The Taurus Defender 605 & Model 327

This latest pair of double-action revolvers from Taurus, descendants of its Model 856, represent an effective blend of quality and value from a maker with deepening roots in American manufacturing technology.

The Armed Citizen® Aug. 15, 2022

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

New For 2022: Stevens Model 555 Sporting

Stevens Shotguns has introduced a new addition to its lineup of over-and-under shotguns, with the Model 555 Sporting.

Preview: Rock River 20" Stainless Steel Varmint Barrel Assembly

Stabilizing standard and heavy-for-caliber bullets, Rock River’s Varmint Barrel Assembly is designed for high-volume shooting at pesky critters.


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.