As The OWLs Hoot: The Future One-Way Tracer

    Last year, we reported on the Army’s effort to develop a non-pyrotechnic tracer round which would provide “One-Way Luminescence” (OWL) revealing the shotline to the shooter only, and not in a 360 degree arc around the gun. The benefits of this kind of tracer go beyond low visibility, however. A non-pyrotechnic tracer would be low profile, able to be stuck to the back of the standard ball bullet, improving the effectiveness of the tracer rounds that actually hit the target. It would be cheaper, and would wear out the weapon’s barrel less quickly. Finally, the trajectory of OWL non-pyrotechnic tracers would more closely match that of the standard ball ammunition, improving hit probability, and could potentially allow every round fired to be a tracer.

    At the recent NDIA Small Arms Forum, three presentations related to the new tracer effort were given, one detailing the possible mechanisms for non-pyrotechnic tracers, one covering simulations of┬áthe tracer’s performance in different conditions, and one on a propellant analysis done to aid the program.


    2015-06-25 01_58_13-www.dtic.mil_ndia_2015smallarms_17339_Horch.pdf

    An overview of the potential benefits of the new OWL non-pyrotechnic tracer concept, illustrating the vast improvement in tracer signature.


    One-way non-pyrotechnic tracers are a part of the current effort to improve small arms in a time of shrinking budgets. If the technology is perfected, US and allied soldiers could gain a major advantage in hit probability and stealth over adversaries using pyrotechnic tracer technology.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]