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Old April 17, 2013, 07:03 PM   #1
Join Date: November 6, 2011
Location: West Virginia
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Reloading Tracers - What am I up against?

A few months ago I got a good deal on 2,000 air pulled 5.56 62 grain tracers. These came from Lake City from a reputable dealer.

I've not done anything with them since they came in until today when I opened up the box and started inspecting them. What I found gave me some cause for concern in my reloading...

First off, while they are supposed to be 62 grain rounds - I have yet, in random sampling, to find ANY that weigh 62 grains.

The weights can vary, as shown in the photos below, from 59.8 grain to 60.9.

The weight variances MAY be more extreme than that - I haven't individually weighed all 2,000...

When inspecting a hand full of the tracers individually, I found that some had an internal cap covering the burn chemical, and others had the cap, but it was dented, and others didn't have a cap at all (I'm guessing this is the differences in the weights.

Here is a pic of one with the "cap" that I am talking of:

And here is a pic of one without the "cap":

Now, my questions are several -

1) How the ever-living-hell do I make powder measures for these if there is such a variable in the weight?

2) What is the cap?

3) Is it safe to load those bullets without the cap?

4) Will the bullets without the cap work as a tracer?

5) Are there any other questions that I should be asking about these that I haven't?

*Please note, that I live in WV on a large farm and I have an area that I have shot tracers in before. I am aware of the fire hazard to them and I take appropriate precatutions.
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Old April 17, 2013, 08:10 PM   #2
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I would load them like they're 62 grain bullets, use a powder that's the same or close to what they were loaded with. The cap that's there protects the tracer compound in the bullet. The compound is hygroscopic (attracts water) and the cap keeps moisture out but if the powder doesn't burn hot enough the tracers won't light.

If you want to ensure that they'll all light, poke a small hole in the cap with a needle. I would load the ones with no cap or broken caps first and keep the ones with the cap in something to keep the moisture out. If you don't plan on shooting them all the same day, don't load them. If moisture gets to the tracer compound it will swell and cause the necks on the brass to split.

Hope that helps and keep them dry.
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Old April 17, 2013, 08:18 PM   #3
Join Date: November 6, 2011
Location: West Virginia
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Thank you very much for your info!

I've no idea what the powder was that they were originally loaded with - however it's a moot point right now anyway as I'm out of 5.56 powder. I use H322 for my lower grain loads and AR Comp for the heavier...and I'm currently out of both.

Your info on the "cap" has helped a lot. Appreciated.
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Old April 17, 2013, 08:21 PM   #4
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Start low and work up. The tracer will take up more case volume because it will seat deeper. Here is an example of a 55 grain tracer and 55 grain FMJ side by side.

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Old April 18, 2013, 12:20 PM   #5
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IF you have loads with 62 fmj's reduce the powder charge for the M856 tracers by about 1.4-1.5 grains. The very long 62 gr. tracer takes up a lot of case volume. One lot of surplus powder I shoot 25 grains with M855 62 fmj's and with the same powder I shoot 23.7 with the orange tipped tracers for about the same velocity. Just to note to reduce 62 grain data and work up with your long tracer bullets. They will light depending on the condition of the igniter and tracer compounds. They light by heat transferring thru the copper cup closures. Don't know about the ones with no cup lighting. They are a dim trace and not bright in sunlight and they usually don't light and become visible until about 75 yards or so. They burn out to 900 yards or so and will easily start brush, grass, and leaves on fire.
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Old April 18, 2013, 02:17 PM   #6
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They seem to me like they are 60 grain pills not 62, especially if you weighed them and they averaged 59-60.9... Tracers are'nt no joke, so be very careful even after loading, they'll set one hell of a brush fire!!! I know because I used to have a sweet pair of Cocorrans that you could absolutely see yourself in and I ruined them every time we went to Leonard Wood to fire crew serve weapons...( from stomping out tracer fires in dryed leaves)
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Old April 18, 2013, 05:18 PM   #7
Join Date: November 6, 2011
Location: West Virginia
Posts: 70
Thanks for the input.

I specifically ordered 62 grain tracers...but the weights are certainly not there. Wouldn't be the first time someone bought something that wasn't as labeled. Maybe that was why Lake City pulled them to begin with.

So, opinions? Load a 62 grains or load as 60 grains?

I am thinking load, still, as 62 and measure.... but I'd like feedback.
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Old April 18, 2013, 08:37 PM   #8
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I'd bet you have 62gr bullets from LC. Ask the guy you bought them from for loading data. Have you sawed some of them in half to see if they have a steel penetrator? Powder to light them would probably be WC844.
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