When was tracer ammunition first used?

Incendiary ammunition - Incendiary ammunition

A World War I Buckingham Incendiary Bullet

Incendiary ammunition A type of firearm ammunition is a compound that contains fire quickly and burns.

First World War

Some cut mussels from the First World War. From left to right: 90 mm splinter shell, 120 mm cast iron incendiary shell, model 77/14 - 75 mm high explosive shell, model 16–75 mm shrapnel shell

The first time incendiary ammunition became widespread was during World War I, more precisely in 1916. At that time, phosphorus was the main component of the incendiary charge and ignited when fired, leaving a trail of blue smoke. These early forms were also referred to as "smoke chasers" for this reason. Though fatal, the effective range of these bullets was only 320 m as the phosphorus charge burned quickly. Incendiary shells called "Buckingham" ammunition were supplied to early British night fighters for use against military zeppelins threatening the British Isles. The zeppelins' flammable hydrogen gas made incendiary projectiles far more deadly than standard projectiles, which penetrated the skin without igniting the gas. Similarly, incendiary ammunition was used against non-rigid observation balloons. The British Royal Flying Corps banned the use of incendiary ammunition for air-to-air combat with another aircraft, as its use against personnel was initially viewed as a violation of the St. Petersburg Declaration. Pilots were only allowed to use them against zeppelins and balloons. In addition, they were required to carry written instructions with them to achieve these goals.

Second World War

During the Second World War, incendiary projectiles found a new use: They became one of the preferred types of ammunition for use in interceptors. They were nowhere near as effective at puncturing bomber planes as armor-piercing bullets, but far more effective than standard bullets, as they could also ignite fuel if they came into contact with a fuel tank or pipeline.

The Belgian inventor de Wilde, who lives in Switzerland, invented a new ball in 1938. In December of this year, the UK Aviation Department acquired the design. However, since the bullet had to be handcrafted rather than mass-produced, Major C. Aubrey Dixon of the British Royal Arsenal in Woolwich developed a greatly improved bullet with similar fire capabilities. This was adopted by the British Forces as Brand B Mark VI of 0.303. For security reasons and to confuse the enemy, it was originally called "de Wilde" ammunition, although the design was almost completely different from the original version. The B Mark VI incendiary ball was filled with nitrocellulose and a small steel ball was placed in the tip of the ball to ensure that the chemical exploded on impact. Unlike previous designs, the B Mark VI was more of a real fire than tracer ammunition. The B Mark VI incendiary rounds were first fired in June 1940 and tested operationally in the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire in the air battles around Dunkirk. The explosive power, coupled with the lightning bolt on impact that guided their target, was very much appreciated by the pilots. Bullets were initially in short supply and as a result a mixture of Ball, AP, Mk IV Brand Tracer, and Mk VI Brand Tracer were used until production increased to sufficient levels. Until 1942, the standard cargo for fixed .303 was half loaded with AP and half with incendiary projectiles.

A fighter pilot who was shot down by incendiary ammunition while flying in the Battle of Britain describes his experience:

"I could smell powder smoke, hot and strong, but this time I didn't feel harsh. It was the cannon cases and incendiary projectiles that hit my machine ... Bullets passed between my legs and I remember seeing a bright flash of an incendiary bullet that shot past my leg into the gas tank ... Then a little red tongue licked questioningly out from under the gas tank in front of my feet and became a hot little campfire in a corner of the cockpit. ""

The British Mk VI bullet was copied by the United States in a simplified form for both their .30 and .50 aircraft bullets. The British then adopted the simplified design as the Mk VII bullet.


Incendiary projectiles, especially those designed to penetrate armor, are more effective if, after penetrating a surface layer, they explode, causing them to explode within the target. In addition, targets with on-board electronics or computers can be damaged by metal parts if they explode on the surface. Ignition is often delayed by various means until after the impact.

Some explosive projectiles, such as high-explosive incendiary projectiles, contain an incendiary charge designed to ignite explosives in the grenade.

Although not intended to start a fire, marker balls can have a slight fire effect. This is especially dangerous if they come across flammable substances or dry brushes.

See also



  • Williams, Anthony G .; Gustin, Emmanuel (2003). Flying weapons World War II - Development of aircraft guns, ammunition and installations 1933-45 (Hardback edition). Ramsbury: Crowood Press. P. 336 pages. ISBN.

External links