How does an Airsoft Tracer Unit work? [Helpful Guide]
Airsoft Tracer Units can often be seen in CQB sites as most of these tend to have dim lighting and also at many milsim games, as they usually run throughout the night. A tracer unit can provide a tactical advantage against your opponents as it lights the BBs up and allows you to know exactly where you’re shooting even in pitch black darkness.
In order to understand an airsoft tracer actually works, first of all we need to look at the components that are required, thus the tracer unit itself and special tracer BBs.
Traditional Tracer Units
Most tracer units are extremely easy to fit and will screw onto the end of the barrel, like a suppressor would, and run on AA batteries or a built in battery that is charged by a normal AC charger.
They flash the BB as it passes through the suppressor with Ultraviolet light which makes it light up. Which brings me to a necessary component to make this work – Tracer BBs.
All types of tracer units require a specific type of BBs, labeled as ‘Tracers’. These are essential to make the tracer work. Unfortunately, they usually come with a higher price tag so keep that in mind. However, you will only use them during night games or CQB games – well worth the investment in those situations!
Also if you’re considering a tracer, you’ve probably played airsoft for a while, therefore I can imagine you prefer to use heavier BBs than 0.20g. Luckily for you, there is a variety of tracer BBs ranging between 0.20g which are easily accessible to 0.32g which seem to only be produced by Geoffs.
So how does it work?
Tracer BBs are coated in phosphor. As the BBs pass through the tracer unit, the BBs are given a quick charge by rows of lights within the unit that “excites/charges” the Phosphors causing the BBs to glow, thus emitting visible light as the BB flies through the air.
What is Posphor, and where can it be found?
Phosphors are materials that displays the phenomenon of Luminescence, which means that they emit light when exposed to ‘radiation’ such as Ultraviolet light of Electron beam.
Most commonly Phosphors can be seen in Glow in the Dark toys, Postage stamps (used as guides for machines to sort mail) and Lighting such as fluorescent and LED lamps.
Tracer BBs in Action!
Alternative Tracer Units
Although the most common units are the ones that look exactly like a suppressor and attach to the end of the barrel, there are other variations that can be implemented internally. For example, an alternative, which is not commonly seen on the field, is an internal unit located near the Hop-Up chamber that essentially works on the same principle however in a slightly different configuration.
The Hop-Up tracer ‘lights’ the BB inside the chamber itself, so when BBs are being pushed up the chamber into the barrel; they will ‘glow’ ready to be shot out the barrel. Here’s a breakdown of both advantages and disadvantages over the traditional Tracer Unit:
Madbull Ultimate 3-in-1 Hop-Up Tracer Chamber
- Keeps your replica’s length short as it’s placed within the internals of a replica (Suppressor/external unit is not required)
- Long battery life of around 10,000+ hours (Approx. 414 days of play)
- ‘Chamber lock’ – most Hop-Up Tracer Chambers have been designed with an extra O-Ring which holds the BBs in place when reloading; no more spilling BBs when changing magazine!
- Disassembly of your replica is necessary to replace the hop-up chamber unit, which comes with a lot of testing to make sure the lights are working and the hop-up is well tuned to provide good accuracy, range and consistency
- Not suited for high RPS or FPS replicas due to the mechanics behind the chamber
Tracer units can be found on Amazon, Ebay and nearly every reputable Airsoft site and plenty of brands produce them; by far the most common and well reviewed units are the Xcortech tracer units which are of incredible quality!
Here’s our list of recommended tracers for both suppressor and hop-up unit tracers:
So is it actually a gimmick? Is it worth it the money? Does it help out on the field?
It’s definitely not a gimmick, high quality set-ups will light up the BBs significantly and you will be able to track the tracer BBs all the way through their flight. It’s certainly a good investment if you often play indoor CQB or night games! However, if you only play Sunday Skirmishes during daylight, then this accessory isn’t for you!
I hope this clears everything up for you, if any questions remain, please post them in the comments below or start a thread in our forum to get help!
All the best Rancher!