January 3rd, 2017

How to Spot Trace — The Bullet’s Wake Signature

NSSF long range shooting bullet trace spotting scopeHave you ever seen bullet trace? Do you know how to read trace? Well watch this NSSF video to learn how to recognize trace, and use trace to help adjust your aim on the target. Watch the video from 1:50 to 2:20 to see trace in slow motion. Watch carefully starting and you can see the trace in the milli-seconds before the bullet hits the target.

Rod Ryan of Storm Mountain Training Center explains how to read bullet trace: “If you’re looking through your spotting scope, and you focus on your target, and then back off about a quarter-turn counter-clockwise (in most cases) you’ll be able to focus a little closer to you and you’ll actually see this movement of air — it’s called the trace — going down range.”

Watch the Slow-Mo Trace Starting at 1:50. From 2:10 to 2:20 you can actually see the bullet hanging in the air just before it hits the target.

Trace is easier to see when there’s some moisture in the air. By following the bullet trace you can see if you shot is running high or low, left or right, even if you can’t see a shot imparct on the target. This is important, particularly when you’re attempting an steep-angled shot and it’s hard to see bullet impact on the ground near the target. Rod Ryan explains: “A lot of times we have an angular hill-top and you’re shooting directly into a [steep] drop [so] you can’t see any splash at all or any dirt flow after the miss happens. In this case the last thing you see is that trace.”

What you’re seeing is akin to the wake that forms behind a motorboat, but it is a trail of disturbed air rather than disturbed water. Ryan says: “It’s just like you’re looking down from space at a motorboat in the water, you can see that wake. Very close to the target, you can actually see it roll in… if you’re taking a shot at say… four, five, six hundred yards, it’s very prevalent, you can see it very well.”

Video find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.

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