One of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen was the night range at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri when I was in basic training. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a tracer round being fired from a rifle in the the pitch black sky, but it is fantastic.
A tracer round is a false bullet that doesn’t pierce anything (I don’t think, but given it’s speed . . .) but just glows orange as it is fired. In our magazines, it was every third round. In the nighttime when you can’t use the black site post, you need to use the tracer rounds to help aim. If you ever see the old Gulf War 1 footage of the orange glowing bullets flying into the sky, these are tracer rounds.
In basic training, they don’t look nearly as threatening as they would in war.
I vividly remember sitting on some old sports bleachers huddled up with fellow soldiers and watching the night range. It was so dark. We sat in the bleachers waiting for our turn to climb into the foxhole and shoot.
Eventually, after about ten minutes or so for the current troops to get ready, a flair would be fired into the air and turn night into day. As the flare was slowly lowered to earth with its tiny parachute, the soldiers start firing.
On the night fire range, the soldiers can’t see the targets until the flair goes up. When they fire, two out of three rounds should hit the target and the third (the tracer) bounces off the target and into the sky. As the flare extinguishes, I remember looking into the air and watching the orange glowing rounds fly into the air as I smelled the discharged gunpowder waft over me.
A beautiful site. I wonder if anyone in war-ravaged Iraq ever thought so.