Pulling Bullets

Not Like Pulling Teeth. Done Right, You Can Reuse The Bullet.

Handloading’s a fascinating hobby, but once in a while we need to “deconstruct” ammunition by pulling bullets. The reasons are almost endless, but probably 75 percent of the time the powder charge is wrong: We made a mistake in setting the scale, or forgot to test a new lot of powder before loading up a batch of new ammo. A couple of times I’ve worked up a new rifle load, then put together a box or two of ammo only to discover, a week or month later, that some of the new rounds won’t fit in the chamber of the same rifle. The reason? The powder charge was a little too compressed, and either pushed the bullets slightly out of the neck, or bulged the brass, or both. Sometimes we just want to break down factory ammunition or somebody else’s handloads to salvage the bullets and brass.

The two traditional methods for pulling bullets are with an impact puller or a collet tool. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Impact pullers are essentially hollow-headed hammers. After inserting a round into the hammer-head, the hammer is whacked on a hard surface. After a few whacks the bullet pops loose, along with the powder. The handloader then empties the hammer-head and inserts another round.

Impact pullers only cost about $20 and work on almost any handgun or rifle ammunition, since they normally come with a universal chuck (shell-holder). They’re also slow and noisy, and don’t work very well with really light bullets.

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