Airsoft tracers make airsoft games tactical when the night approaches, or when players want to take the game to another level in dark CQB fields.
Although tracers are completely optional, they make airsoft more fun and realistic.
So for everyone unfamiliar, what does an airsoft tracer unit do?
Airsoft tracers are devices that illuminate the BBs making them visible during shooting. Moreover, some tracers mimic the nozzle flash with each shot. Tracers are usually mounted at the end of the nozzle of an airsoft gun, but there are models that are built in a magazine. They are perfect for dark environment games and are more than just a fancy accessory.
There are many advantages, and a few disadvantages of airsoft tracers, so let me explain.
How do airsoft tracers work?
Each time you shoot a BB, a sensor in a tracer detects that a BB passes through a tracer. The light is activated for each BB that enters through a tracer and creates a quick flash of intense light. This light has enough energy to illuminate a phosphor coating of a BB and make it glow for a short duration.
As a result, when you shoot you’ll create a visible colored path towards your target.
What are tracer airsoft BBs?
Tracer airsoft BBs are special kinds of BBs that have fluorescent properties. When paired with tracers, they start to glow and retain the light for a couple of seconds after being shot.
The fluorescent properties are achieved by coating the BBs in phosphor and it is possible to find these BBs in green, red, blue, and other colors.
What airsoft tracers are there on the market?
Classic tracer units
These classic tracer units require special tracer BBs to have any effect. They can illuminate the BBs on their way to the target once they pass through the nozzle.
There are multiple colors available in which these BBs can glow, so one team can play with red and the other team with green or blue BBs.
This option allows both teams to recognize their teammates in the darkness, and it makes games a true Star Wars scene.
Advance (Flame mode) tracer units
Advance flame mode (spitfire) tracer units do the same thing as classic tracer units, but they also imitate the flash of fire at the end of the nozzle with each shot.
For this reason, spitfire tracer units have two features and usually, you can choose do you want both to be active or only one at a time.
Flame mode tracer units can also work without special tracer BBs, but then only the fire flash effect will work. This is why I love these units over classic ones, you can use regular BBs and have increased realism with each shot just like on real guns.
Real guns do not shoot green or red BBs but create a flash of fire and smoke with each shot.
Flame mode tracer units work on every gun, but they work the best on gas airsoft guns because they will illuminate gas that leaves the nozzle with each shot.
If your airsoft gun is also a blowback with realistic recoil, you can get really close to the realism of real guns.
My favorite tracer unit
My favorite is the Bifrost tracer unit which has two modes, the classic tracer one, and the flame mode in one.
Moreover, this particular tracer unit comes with a greater variety of colors you can choose for the flame mode feature, so it can even produce the rainbow effect. You can easily switch between mods and use only orange for the fire flash effect or be creative.
The tracer model requires tracer BBs, but the color flame mode works with regular white BBs great!
You can take 24 000 shots with tracer mode and 12 000 shots with color flame mode before it’s empty. The battery takes 3 hours to fully recharge.
You’ll get an adapter, so you can use it on multiple guns you own like on your pistol.
After 5 minutes it goes dormant, but all you need to activate it so shake the gun by raising it into the aiming position. This tracer unit is an absolute unit!
Tracer magazine units
There are also magazine tracer units with inbuilt LED diodes that illuminate a tracer BB before they get sent through a chamber and out of the nozzle.
From what I have heard, there are good models for M4 and M16 series, but I have never seen them in practice.
I think they are a valid option, but I am a fan of tracer units that get installed at top of the nuzzle because I like the spitfire option and it’s not possible with magazine tracer units.
Advantages of tracer units
They make night and CQB games fun and improve your aim
Night games are fun on their own, but gadgets like tracer units make these games a memorable experience.
Flashlights, lasers, or flash sticks will also find a place during night games, but tracers are among the most practical way to track where your BBs go to group shots successfully.
Also, do not make me start about how cool they look on automatic guns, oh my dear.
They are good for zeroing your optics
I am not saying that you should buy a tracer just to zero your optics because there are other ways to do it, but tracers are a great way to do this.
You can clearly see where the BBs are landing and it’s a piece of cake to adjust optics in no time.
Disadvantages of tracer units
They give up your position
Sometimes it might be better to stay in the shadows instead of compromising your position and in this, tracers certainly won’t help.
However, anything shiny like flashlights will reveal your position. Flashlights on another hand, also have the effect to blind the team and masking your team’s position.
I believe that combining tracers with flashlights and other gadgets can be a great strategy for a team play.
Tracer BBs are expensive
Tracer BBs cost up to 50% more than other airsoft BBs. You can find 5000 bios BBs for $11, 5000 regular BBs for $9, but 5000 tracer BBs will cost like 16$.
There are different qualities, sizes, and brands, but I am analyzing the most affordable, but still a quality option for 0.20 gram BBs here.
That layer of phosphor got to be somehow financially explained, but although these BBs cost more, if you are for unconventional airsoft game modes, you can always expect to pay more for gadgets, fields fees, and other stuff.
Tracer BBs come in fewer sizes
There’s a lack of heavier tracer BBs on the market which is a bad thing for everyone who’s used to 0.30+ gram BBs.
However, CQB guns are usually under MED limits, and powerful guns like snipers are rarely used during night games, so this is not necessarily a big deal.
If you wonder why I complain about the lack of heavier tracer BBs, you can check my article where I explain the importance of heavy BBs.
Are tracer units universal?
Not all tracer units are universal but they are compatible with the thread diameter of your airsoft gun, so they will work on a majority of airsoft guns, including m4 and AK platforms.
However, some guns with a different thread diameter may not be able to fit a tracer. For this reason, check your gun’s diameter before purchasing one.
A good thing is that many tracers come with an adapter that will allow you to fit them on different guns. For instance, you’ll get an adapter for pistols, so you’ll first install it and then the tracer unit over it to fit it.
Is a tracer unit a suppressor?
Tracer units look like suppressors but are not suppressors. However, they are mounted to the airsoft gun in an identical way as suppressors or sound amplifiers are.
It is possible to install a tracer unit and mount a suppressor over it for aesthetic purposes.
Tracer units are small, so most bigger suppressors will fit over them.
What batteries do you need for tracers?
Tracers are powered by AA batteries, although some models may use an AC charger to power an in-build battery.
Are there biodegradable tracer BBs?
There are biodegradable tracer BBs available on the market, so you don’t have to worry about polluting nature.
These tracer bios BBs have similar properties to normal bio BBs, so they are allowed in all fields.
Do tracer BBs work during the day?
Tracer BBs and tracers do not have a real purpose during the day, so no, tracer BBs do not work during the day in terms of effect, but the functionality will still obviously work.
The illumination effect will only take place in dark environments, so the first noticeable effect can be seen as the sun goes out, but during the day it’s almost neglectable.
Can tracer BBs work without a tracer unit?
Tracer BBs can’t work without a tracer unit because they need to be somehow exposed to the bright light which will activate the phosphor properties.
Can tracer BBs be reused?
You shouldn’t reuse any type of BBs including tracer BBs. Not only that this is a bad practice that can ruin your airsoft gun, but tracer BBs can also diminish in their effect if you reuse them due to a compromised phosphor layer.
Are airsoft tracers worth it?
Airsoft units are not worth it if you don’t play airsoft during the night or in a dark CQB environment because you won’t use them during the day.
However, if you just want to have a cool device that will improve the look and realism of your airsoft gun, and don’t mind their price, they are a no-brainer!