Specialty Ammo: A Look at Tracer, Incendiary, and Other Unique Rounds

Specialty Ammo: A Look at Tracer, Incendiary, and Other Unique Rounds

In the diverse world of ammunition, specialty rounds stand out for their unique functionalities and applications. From lighting up the night sky to igniting targets, these specialized types of ammunition—such as tracer, incendiary, and others—serve specific purposes beyond the conventional. This blog delves into the fascinating realm of specialty ammo, exploring its various forms and uses.

Tracer Rounds

Tracer ammunition is designed to allow the shooter and observers to see the projectile's flight path. These rounds are fitted with a small pyrotechnic charge in their base that ignites and burns brightly upon firing, leaving a visible trail from the barrel to the target. Tracers are primarily used for:

  • Marking targets for more accurate fire from teammates.
  • Adjusting aim in low-light conditions.
  • Training purposes, to visually demonstrate bullet trajectories.

While tracer rounds offer invaluable visual feedback, they also reveal the shooter's position, which can be a disadvantage in tactical situations.

Incendiary Rounds

Incendiary ammunition contains a chemical compound that ignites upon impact, designed to cause fires or destroy sensitive targets. These rounds are used in military applications to:

  • Ignite fuel, ammunition, and other combustible materials.
  • Destroy unexploded ordnance from a safe distance.
  • Signal distress in survival situations.

Due to their destructive potential, the use of incendiary rounds is generally restricted to military and law enforcement agencies.

Armor-Piercing (AP) Rounds

Armor-piercing ammunition is designed to penetrate hard targets, such as armored vehicles, body armor, and steel plates. These rounds are typically constructed with a core of hardened steel, tungsten, or another dense material capable of breaching armor. While immensely powerful, AP rounds are highly regulated and generally not available to the civilian market due to their penetrating capabilities.

Frangible Rounds

Frangible ammunition is designed to disintegrate into tiny particles upon impact with a hard surface, minimizing the risk of ricochet and over-penetration. These rounds are made from compressed metal powders and are ideal for:

  • Close-quarters combat training, reducing the risk to participants.
  • Shooting in populated or sensitive environments, where collateral damage must be minimized.
  • Hunting small game, where humane kills are essential.

Frangible rounds offer a safer alternative for specific shooting scenarios, making them a favorite among law enforcement and shooting ranges.

Exploding Rounds

Exploding ammunition, or explosive projectiles, detonate upon impact, causing an explosion meant to maximize damage over a small area. These rounds are typically used for:

  • Demolition work where controlled explosions are required.
  • Military applications to maximize damage against material targets.

Due to their hazardous nature, exploding rounds are heavily regulated and generally reserved for military use.

Subsonic Rounds

Subsonic ammunition is designed to travel at speeds below the speed of sound, eliminating the sonic boom that bullets typically produce when breaking the sound barrier. These rounds are favored for:

  • Use with suppressors, as they significantly reduce the noise level of a shot.
  • Hunting and tactical applications where stealth is paramount.

Subsonic rounds offer a quieter shooting experience, making them ideal for situations where noise reduction is critical.


Specialty ammunition encompasses a broad spectrum of unique and specialized rounds, each designed for specific purposes and applications. From enhancing visibility with tracer rounds to minimizing ricochet with frangible bullets, these specialized types of ammo provide solutions for unique challenges in both military and civilian contexts. While the use of some of these rounds is restricted to specific sectors, understanding their functionalities highlights the innovative and diverse nature of ammunition technology.