Airsoft tracer units are becoming increasingly popular in the airsoft gun community.
These units make the airsoft gun shoot a BB that will glow in the dark, and that will leave a mark when they hit something.
But what’s the appeal of these tracers, and how do they actually work?
Why Use an Airsoft Tracer?
Airsoft tracers are popular with BB enthusiasts that like to do a lot of their shooting at night.
They make the pellets glow in the dark, so they are easier to see.
BB pellets are very small, and while airsoft guns are limited in their power, they still generate enough power to propel the pellets very quickly over short distances.
This means that it can be hard to tell whether your gun found its mark, especially in the dark.
Tracer units do multiple duties, hiding the flash, making the bullet ‘glow’, and also acting as a sound amplifier, making for a more fun shooting experience.
Since they look like a mock suppressor, many enthusiasts like having them attached to their airsoft gun to make it look more like a true military weapon.
How do Airsoft Tracers Work?
Airsoft tracers are a small threated attachment that goes on the barrel of the gun. They screw in place much like a suppressor on a real gun.
For the airsoft tracer to work, it must be used with a tracer BB.
The tracer BB has a phosphor coating which is ‘excited’ when it passes through the tracer.
This is what causes the tracer to glow and leave a trail as it comes out of the barrel.
The tracer attachment acts as a flash hider, so the glow isn’t seen until the BB leaves the barrel. It’s a deceptively simple, but effective, system
Do You Need a New BB Gun to Use an Airsoft Tracer?
The answer to this question, like so many others, is “it depends”.
Tracer units screw onto the end of the barrel, its an accesory just like a hop up. When you shop for a tracer unit you will see that they are listed with a size and thread type, so you can tell what type of BB gun they will work with.
Most tracer units will work with semi and full auto BB rifles and have standard thread sizes.
If your existing BB gun fits the listed specification, then the tracer will just work.
Tracer units are powered by batteries (often plain old AAA batteries), so you don’t need any sophisticated kit.
If your gun is more of a ‘toy BB gun’ then the tracer unit might not fit the gun, and you will need to buy a new one.
The good news is that most stores would be happy to offer advice on brands, types, and specifications.
Can You Re-Use Tracer Units
Tracer units are battery-powered, and as long as you keep them clean and treat them with care they can be re-used.
When the battery gets drained, just replace it.
The units can even be unscrewed from one gun and re-attached to another.
They are designed to fire thousands upon thousands of rounds without issue, as long as they are cared for properly.
Can You Re-Use Tracer Bullets?
Trace bullets are not designed to be re-used.
They are coated with phosphor which burns off when the bullet is fired.
To be fair, even standard BBs for use during the day are not really designed to be re-used either.
BBs are fragile, and when they are fired this can cause them to deform. When they hit a target, they may collect dirt and debris.
While you could clean the bullets after use, there is still the risk that they will have become deformed either in the firing process or upon impact.
BBs are quite small ad they may appear to be perfectly spherical and intact to the naked eye but even very small scratches or deformation can cause damage to the internal workings of your BB gun.
For this reason, you should not re-use BB pellets; tracer pellets or otherwise.
Re-using a BB that has cracked or started to get damaged can cause your gun to jam, or could lead to damage to the Hop-up system or to the inner barrel.
Even if you get away without damaging the gun, there’s every chance that the BB will not fly straight, and your accuracy will be impaired.
If you want to re-use your airsoft BBs, consider putting them in other makeshift weapons, such as a booby trap or a ‘mine’, rather than risking the barrel of your gun.
How Much Do Tracer Units Cost?
Tracer units can vary massively in price, from around $60 for a mini tracer unit from a budget brand, to around $130 for a more serious tactical tracer unit.
When you’re shopping for a unit, remember that while some brands are universal, others are intended for use only with one specific manufacturer’s airsoft guns, so you will want to know how yours is setup and works before buying.
The best units come with rechargeable lithium batteries and a battery life indicator.
Some high-end units can last for 20,000 rounds on a single charge, allowing you to enjoy many sessions of fun before you need to take the unit apart and recharge the tracer.
Just make sure that you’re using properly sized and weighted BBs with your tracer and airsoft gun, to ensure that the shooting experience you enjoy is the best possible every time you head out to the field or the range.