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Load Your Own Tracers!

by Lane Pearce   |  March 14th, 2011 0

GLOW AMMO’s claim to fame is a unique “cold tracer” technology that, as you might imagine, provides instant feedback, i.e., the bullet’s path is visible to show you if you’re on target or not.


GLOW AMMO “trajectory identification” (read: tracer) kits are a new twist for handloaders.

The editor contacted me recently and suggested I might enjoy testing a new product targeted at handloaders. GLOW AMMO’s claim to fame is a unique "cold tracer" technology that, as you might imagine, provides instant feedback, i.e., the bullet’s path is visible to show you if you’re on target or not.

Everyone who’s seen the live news coverage of the Desert Storm debut over Baghdad knows what a tracer is. Typical tracer rounds are incendiary, i.e., the base of the bullet contains a flammable compound that is ignited when the cartridge is fired.

The intended effect is to make the bullet’s flight path from the muzzle to the target readily visible, enabling the shooter to immediately adjust aim as needed. There is, however, a downside to firing tracers. Because the bullet actually sheds fiery material that is quite visible to everyone else nearby, the shooter can also be readily targeted.

Not so with GLOW AMMO. The cold tracer device is comprised of inert materials activated by the igniting propellant, so it cannot leave a "hot," visible trail. The bullet base glows brightly, and it can only be seen by the shooter and others directly behind the shooter.

Of course, in this age of politically correct terminology, manufacturers must be innovative as well as descriptive. Hence, the thin round discs are sterilely labeled as a "trajectory identifiers." They are packaged 50 to a sheet (250 total); come in a kit with simple, how-to-use instructions; and cost $49.95 (MSRP). You simply peel each disc off the slick backing sheet and stick it to the flat base of any 9mm-, .38-, .40-, or .45-caliber bullet.

I usually get up early and go out to the shop or upstairs to the library to check e-mail and read the news. That was the scenario the morning I planned to load a box of .45 ACP handloads with the GLOW AMMO discs. There was a full moon, so I didn’t turn on any lights when I exited the house. It was kind of eerie because in the dim light I could clearly see the sheet of hot pink discs glowing.

I retrieved a box of once-fired Winchester brass, resized them, and cleaned the primer pockets before expanding the case mouths and seating 50 Winchester Large Pistol primers. The reference material in the GLOW AMMO packaging suggested using Hodgdon Titegroup or Alliant Bullseye propellant. I had a bottle of Titegroup on the shelf but no Bullseye, so I substituted American Select in order to try the glowing devices with a couple of propellants.

The manufacturers’ loading manuals recommended 5.5 grains of Titegroup and 6.2 grains of American Select as safe maximum charges with 185-grain JHP bullets. Fortunately, the No. 8 and No. 14 rotors for the RCBS Little Dandy powder measure dispensed exactly the prescribed amounts, respectively.


By leaving the camera shutter open for a period, the author captured these red streaks made by GLOW AMMO-equipped .45 ACP bullets heading downrange.

When I grew up, the sheets of colorful stickers that today’s youngsters love to "peel and stick" weren’t around. So after I filled a No. 4S Midway loading tray with 50 bullets firmly placed nose down, I gingerly applied the little discs to the bullet bases one row at a time. After I had five or 10 done, I used a small strip of wood to press down on the discs to securely attach them. Then I seated the altered bullets to an overall length of 1.200 inches and taper crimped the case mouths.

I didn’t use all 50 of the sample I received. I loaded 15 rounds of each test load with trajectory identifiers and 10 more without them. I planned to chronograph at least five rounds with and without the GLOW AMMO device to see if they affected the speed of the bullet. I saved the rest to assemble some carry ammo for myself–if it proved to perform as advertised.

One of our club members, Matt Lee, volunteered to help me shoot the test loads. We arrived at the range just before dusk and set up a silhouette target. During the next half-hour or so, we took turns shooting. As soon as it was dusky dark, we could readily see the glowing base of each bullet as it flashed downrange into the target.

The handloaded GLOW AMMO worked as advertised–even with the alternate propellant–and the trajectory identifiers were easily visible in the reduced light conditions. Because each disc weighs only approximately 1 grain, velocity and accuracy were not affected. The handloads’ velocities ranged between 900 and 925 fps with or without the GLOW AMMO discs in place. The corresponding groups on target essentially overlaid each another.

After completing the range testing, I called Brian Hallam, co-developer of GLOW AMMO. I reported my observations before asking a few questions. Hallam stated the discs did not contain any pyrotechnic materials, so there are no restrictions on shipment or storage. He also indicated that they can be applied to cast as well as jacketed bullets, but suggested that reloaders wipe the bases of cast bullets with alcohol and a clean cloth to make sure the discs adhere properly and stay attached.


Available for calibers 9mm, .38/.357, .40, and .45, the discs come packaged in five 50-piece sheaves; 250 total per box.

He also generally explained how GLOW AMMO works: "If you could catch the bullet in flight and feel the base, it would be only slightly warm to the touch. Heat and pressure from the hot gases in the barrel and the muzzle flash activate the material encapsulated in each disc. Each caliber disc is sized to cover roughly 90 percent of the bullet base in order to maximize visibility."

He continued, "The brilliant red glow is visible for a couple of seconds–well beyond a bullet’s time of flight to the target. Of course, like a red laser, GLOW AMMO is not visible in sunlight. However, in a low-light shooting condition, the trajectory identifiers instantly show where the bullet impacts. Seeing the bulle
t’s path explains the meaning of the term ‘trajectory’ better than any verbal description could ever do."

All things considered, GLOW AMMO can be a very effective training aid for anyone serious about self-defense. It’s also simply fun to shoot while practicing to improve your marksmanship skills. By the way, I now have 20 "special" .45 ACP rounds stashed away if the need arises.

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