What Happens if You Get a Tracer Stuck in Your Barrel? Borescope Results From a Tracer Squib Load in a .308 Winchester Barrel

We’ll go over an event that happened recently that may have completely ruined our Savage 12FV .308 barrel internally.

So, here’s what happened. I handloaded some subsonic .308 tracer loads using Trailboss powder, and I had a squib load when I fired one in my Savage rifle. Now, normally a squib load isn’t a big deal. You simply knock the bullet out of the muzzle end of the barrel and go back to shooting. However, with a tracer, it can be a little bit different.

Now, if the tracer doesn’t ignite, you’re fine. Although, if the tracer does ignite, you may be in for a whole lot of trouble. That’s bad because tracers have a combustible compound sealed inside the base of the bullet that ignites as a reaction to the powder burning behind it. This is all good and dandy when the tracer is 200 yards downrange, but it’s bad if the tracer is just sitting in your barrel. The compound that burns inside the tracer isn’t meant to burn inside the barrel, and the contents of the material that composes the incendiary part of the tracer are very harsh on steel.

The oxidant and combustible material are the ingredients that can become problematic for you. Usually the combustible material is a kind of finely ground metallic fuel like magnesium, which means that you literally have burning metal inside of your barrel. That’s not a good combination when you are trying to preserve the life of your rifle or pistol barrel.

I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed on this barrel and could not remove the underlying damage. Thankfully, I documented the process with a borescope so that others could see what happens inside the barrel in an event like this.

Further testing is going to be conducted on this rifle and fire lapping is going to be taking place very soon. Hopefully, the barrel will still be able to produce some respectable groups and the damage done is really only cosmetic (in which case who cares because it’s inside the barrel). Nonetheless, I just wanted to pass this information on because it’s something I have never heard of someone doing, and I know people who have wondered what would happen if they had a tracer get stuck in their barrel. Well, now they know!

In the video, I discuss what happened and show clips from most of the runs I did with the borescope after all the different cleanings.

Video of Borescope Results

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