Gun Digest

Bullet Pullers and Stuck Case Removers, Erasers for Reloaders

Press-mounted bullet pullers, such as this one from RCBS, make disassemble of a cartridge a snap. If done correctly, nearly all the cartridge's elements are salvageable.
Press-mounted bullet pullers, such as this one from RCBS, make disassemble of a cartridge a snap. If done correctly, nearly all the cartridge's elements are salvageable. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

To err is human, and that goes for precision-minded folks like reloaders, too. However, when things go awry at the reloading bench there are ways to rectify the situation.

We’ve all done it. A bullet gets seated way too deep. You forgot to put powder in the case. You look at your cartridge and don’t see a primer. Or maybe while trying to get the roll crimp just right, you accidentally crush a cartridge neck.

Now what?

Well, there a couple methods for disassembling ammunition that are completely safe, and that you can often reuse the components after. They are divided into two types: the inertia hammer, and the collet-style bullet puller. I’d recommend that sooner or later you own one, if not both.

The inertia hammer is the simplest method, and very reliable. It looks like a hammer, with a head made of high impact plastic, which has a threaded cap at the rear end. They usually come with three collets that are designed to hold the various rim shapes and diameters of the most popular cartridges.

The use of this tool is simple and rather stress-relieving. You insert the cartridge into the appropriate collet, screw on the threaded cap, and beat the snot out of that mother against a block of wood until the abrupt stopping of the hammer forces the bullet out of the case.

One of the drawbacks to this method that I have found is that the inertia of the bullet coming free of the case can damage the meplat of the bullet. If this happens, the bullet can be used for practice or for rough sighting-in. I often place a small piece of foam rubber at the far end of the hammer to minimize bullet damage.

The other drawback is that once that bullet escapes to freedom, the powder will spill throughout the chamber of the inertia hammer. Be careful cleaning it up, as nobody needs powder all over the floor!

The other tool, which I am a huge fan of, is the press mounted bullet puller. My RCBS model is a simple and effective little rig, having an all purpose, reloading die shaped body, threaded screw cap and caliber specific collets that grab hold of the bullet.

Here’s the skinny: The collet is loosely threaded into the cap, and the press’ ram is raised, securing the bullet into the collet. Next the cap is tightened, to really grab the bullet firmly, and on the down stroke of the ram, the case is pulled away from the bullet.

Most of the time, if you did it right, the bullet is completely intact and can be reused as if it were new. Powder can be dumped out, case inspected (and resized if necessary), and you can start all over again. Done! It’s like it never happened.

Removing a stuck case is a two part process. First, the case's flash hole and web is drilled out. Then a hardened steel screw is placed in the hole, such as above, to extract the case. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

How many of you have ever stuck a case in a resizing die? C’mon, admit it; you’ve all done it at least once. Whether you failed to lubricate the case enough (the usual culprit) or the die is gummed up enough to make it stick, when you try to extract the case from the resizing die and you rip off the rim, odds are you have become an angry human being.

My first episode with this issue was with a nickel coated .375H&H case. I tore the die up so bad trying to get that case out that it was no longer useable. Silly man, I wish I’d know about the stuck case remover earlier. This gem can save your reloading session. The only piece of gear you’ll need to provide is the drill.

When the case is stuck, simply remove the resizing die from the press, chuck the drill bit provided into the drill, and drill a hole through the flash hole and web of the case. The specific tap then threads the hole you’ve drilled, and the hardened steel screw is used with an Allen key to back that stuck case out of the resizing die.

Voila! One little caveat: Before drilling the hole, back the expander ball and decapping pin out as far as you can to avoid damaging it with the drill bit.

There you have it. Problems can be solved without abandoning the reloading session and reaching for the bourbon bottle. MacGyver would be jealous.

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