Airsoft Tracer Unit: What It Is & How It Works

Airsoft Tracers: What They Are & How They Work
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Airsoft tracer units are small cylindrical shaped attachments that connect to your airsoft rifle.

They are designed to allow the shooter to see where their BB is going in low light or dark conditions.

They are often designed to look like silencers, though they will not act in that capacity. 

What Exactly Are Airsoft Tracers?

Airsoft Tracer

Airsoft tracer units are attachments to your airsoft rifle which allow your BB to glow in the dark.

This allows you to see the flight path of your shot. Tracers are especially effective on airsoft rifles because the BBs travel at relatively slow speeds (between 300-450 feet per second). 

Using a tracer unit will allow the shooter to make minute adjustments in their aim without having to use a scope. This is especially effective when engaging in skirmish battle action.

How Do Airsoft Tracers Work?

So, how exactly do airsoft tracers work?

The first thing you need to know is that they will only work with special airsoft tracer BBs. That is because these BBs have been coated with phosphor.

When the BB passes through the tracer unit, the phosphor is charged. This charge makes the BB glow, which causes it to emit light

There are a number of different airsoft tracer units on the market. The most common one looks like a suppressor and is fitted to the end of the barrel.

As the BB passes through the unit it is charged so that it emits light along its travel path. The unit screws to the 14mm thread at the end of the barrel.

Inside the tracer, the unit is a motion sensor and some ultraviolet LEDs. When the BB passes through and is charged, it will emit a bright glow for up to 10 seconds.  

Tracer BB Glow

You can also get tracer units that actually install inside the gun close to the hop-up unit.

Another variant is to have the tracer unit attached to the magazine so that the BBs are charged as they enter the magazine feeding tube.

With these rifles, there is no outward indication that you have a tracer attached to the weapon. 

Airsoft tracer units will not be very effective in daylight, so you will struggle to see the glow. They are best used in the early evening, at night or in an indoor Close Quarter Battle (CQB) facility. 

Most airsoft tracers feature an on/off switch which is located on the barrel attachment, which makes it handy to your gun support hand.

This makes it very convenient to simply switch the tracer off if you are undertaking a stealth movement and do not want the enemy to know what direction you are firing from. 

Tracers work great with a night vision light attached to your airsoft helmet. 

There is a catch to be aware of with airsoft tracer units, however.

If you have an inner barrel that extends more than 20 mm past your outer barrel, then you will be obstructing the sensor that turns on the LEDs to make the BB emit its glow.

As a result, you will not have any tracer functionality at all. When you turn the tracer on, it will flash a red error notification instead. 

What is the Difference Between BB tracers and Regular BBs?

Airsoft Ammo

The only difference between regular BBs and airsoft tracer BBs is that the tracer BBs have been coated with a special fluorescent coating that allows the BB to light up when it passes through the tracer unit.

In essence, then, tracer BBs are really just glowed in the dark versions of normal BBs

Are Tracers Biodegradable?

You can buy tracer BBs that are biodegradable and those that are not.

The biodegradable version will be more expensive. They are made from a special blend of resins that are made to break down over time.

What is Airsoft Tracer Control Systems?

Airsoft Tracer Control Systems are a relatively new innovation that is designed to enhance the player experience.

They consist of three components. A command center box that attaches to the rail center of your airsoft rifle.

The actual tracer unit looks like a suppressor and attaches at the end of the barrel. Finally, there is the Shot Control Unit (SCU).

This is often referred to as a MOSFET. These three parts sync wirelessly to enhance your gaming experience.

The first thing that an airsoft tracer control unit will do is to allow you to input how many BBs you have loaded into the magazine.

It will then let you know how many BBs you have left in the gun at any stage of the game.

You have the option of setting the BB counter to count up from zero or down from the max number. 

The unit is also able to measure the muzzle velocity of the AEG. It will also display the speed of the BBs in feet per second (fps) or miles per second (MPs). 

The final key feature of an airsoft tracer control unit is a rate of fire (ROF) counter. 

What are the Benefits of Using Airsoft Tracer Units?

Not only do airsoft tracers look incredibly cool, but they also provide you with some definite benefits that players who do not have them are missing out on.

The first major benefit of airsoft tracer units is that they are able to allow you to better communicate with your teammates while in battlefield action.

If you want to let the enemy know where the enemy is hiding, just pop a couple of tracers in the direction of the target and it will be pretty clear. 

Using tracers is also really good for suppressing fire.

When you are going up against opposing players, putting tracer BBs right on their position and when they see the tracers coming in, they are going to be heavily inclined to keep their head down.

This, combined with the noise of the BB smashing into surrounding trees of plywood, can provide a psychological threat to the opponent.

Tracer BBs have been shown to reduce the number of instances of people not calling out when they get hit.

This could be because the player gets hit but doesn’t feel or it could be that they are trying to be deceptive in order to stay in the game.

With a tracer unit, you are able to tell exactly where your BB has gone. When you hit the opponent, there is no way that he can deny it. 

Can’t a Bright Flashlight do the Same Thing as a Tracer?

Flashlight On Gun

Yes, it could, but using a flashlight as well as a tracer is even better; it will provide you with a dynamic set of tools that will give you a definite advantage over the opposition.

There are times when you will want to use the flashlight instead of a tracer to track the flight path of your BB. 

What Are the Cons of Using a Tracer Unit?

There are a couple of negatives associated with using tracer units.

The first and most obvious is that the opponent can see where you are shooting from. So, if you are trying to remain hidden, you won’t have much hope of that.

The second con is that the tracer unit will add to the length of your rifle’s barrel. 

Are Tracer Bullets Still Used in Real Combat?

Real Combat Tracer Bullets

Yes, tracer bullets are still used in real combat.

Every country which is part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) uses them in their armed forces.

NATO has regulated a standard tracer mix of one tracer bullet for every four standard bullets.

The United States armed forces typically use red tracers, although green tracers may also be used in situations where they want to keep their identity secret.

Real tracer bullets fly further than regular bullets. They are also more accurate. 

How Can I Simulate a Tracer Experience with Buying a Tracer?

A simple way to simulate a tracer experience without buying a tracer is to pour a 50 /50 mix of black and white BBs into your magazine.

When firing at night this contrast will make the white BBs quite visible. 


Tracer units provide some definite advantages for airsoft combatants.

They vastly improve player to player communication by being able to point out where opposing players are located.

You are also able to better suppress an opponent when you have the tracer attached to your airsoft rifle. Best of all, the tracer units look really cool!

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