Removing a lodged bullet
2014-11-26 11:16 by Ian
If you hand-load your own ammunition, at some point you will likely experience a lodged bullet. This isn’t a big deal if you handle it correctly. What follows is my experience removing a lodged bullet from the barrel of my Dan Wesson .357.
First: Do NOT attempt to clear the bullet by firing another! Doing so will probably damage your firearm, or worse, you. I hope no one reading this needs to be told that. But there you have it just in case.
The first impulse is to attempt to force the bullet out using the nearest stiff object that is capable of fitting inside the barrel. Usually that object ends up being a cleaning rod. It would be best to resist this impulse. Cleaning rods are often hollow, and a hollow rod will buckle under the pressure required to remove a stuck bullet.
The things that you have to consider are this:
- Rod Selection: Use a solid rod with a Mohs hardness less than that of steel. If you use a rod that does not fit this criterion, you run the risk of marring the rifling inside your barrel, and therefore destroying it. Aluminum and brass are both generally considered safe for this purpose.
The rod should be as close to the inner diameter of the barrel as possible while still being able to rotate freely inside the barrel (IE, without being hindered by the rifling). The reason for this is that as you apply an impulsive force to one end of the rod, it will have the effect of causing the rod to buckle inside the barrel and transfer force into the barrel wall, rather than to the bullet. This effect will be minimized as the rod’s outer diameter approaches the barrel’s inner diameter. Additionally, lead is a very soft metal, and the bullet will have a tendency to expand inside the barrel when a force is applied that does not span the entire exposed surface area of the bullet. This is especially true of hollow-point bullets.
The rod should not have any sharp edges. Ideally, the end that contacts the bullet should be slightly rounded to prevent damage to the barrel.
- Removal strategy: Once you have a suitable rod, you should decide which end of the bullet to push. Typically this would be the end farthest from a barrel opening. IE, if the bullet lodged in the first two inches of a 6-inch barrel, you would probably want to apply force to the muzzle-side of the bullet. Barrel removal may be necessary. Especially if you are dealing with a rifle. Revolvers are sometimes forgiving in this respect, and I was able to remove the stuck bullet without removing the barrel.
- Procedure: Clamp the barrel in a vice and insert the rod into the barrel. Drill a hole in a piece of wood and place the wood over the barrel. The goal is to protect the barrel from damage resulting from a mis-directed blow. Tap the rod lightly a few times to cause the bullet to conform to the end of the rod. When you are satisfied that the bulk of the force will be applied to the bullet, give the rod a few solid blows with a hammer.
- Post-removal inspection: After the bullet has been freed from the barrel, hold the barrel up to a bright light an look for marred rifling. You are likely to see small flakes of lead remaining in the bore. This is acceptable. Clean the barrel and use a micrometer to measure the outer diameter of the barrel, keeping a close watch for deviation where the bullet was lodged. If everything looks ok, take it back to the range and send three or four rounds through the gun to clear any remaining lead. Clean the gun again.
A few tips…
Watch your fingers! I crushed my thumb last time I did this. It’s easy to do.
Also, it sometimes helps to use masking tape as a spacer and/or cushion between the rod and the barrel wall to protect the rifling.