Removing a stuck bullet

It happened – I forgot to check a cartridge for powder before seating the projectile and I ended up with a squib load, and a 140grain powder coated hard cast lead projectile stuck right in the middle of the 18″ barrel on a 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser.

Here’s how I got it out.

I bought a length of 6mm diameter rod, cold rolled steel ($4.40 for a 6m length from my local steel yard), which I cut to an appropriate length for the barrel. The end was squared, and then chamfered slightly to remove any sharp edges. I then wrapped the rod in a single layer of masking tape. The idea is to have the rod fit the bore as tightly as possible so the end can’t impact the rifling of the bore. The smooth surface of the rod, even if it does scrape against the rifling, is unlikely to do damage. The addition of tape in this case served two purposes – one it provided a bit of padding to give extra protection, and two it increased the OD of the rod sufficient that it stuck nicely in the bore – firm enough to engage the rifling and rotate with movement, but still able to be moved by hand.

I had sprayed some inox (a penetrating lubricant spray kind of like WD40, except it’s a much better lubricant) from both ends and let it sit to try to penetrate around the projectile. I also squirted some motorcycle chain lube from the muzzle end. Someone had suggested oil stabiliser as a good lube (apparently also a good case lube for full length sizing). From their description, it sounded like the tacky motorcycle chain lube was similar.

Inserting the rod from the breech end and strapping the rifle into a rest, I had to give it quite a few hard, sharp blows before the projectile finally broke free and started moving. After that gentle taps were all that was necessary to move it along.

Here’s some other things I tried before which didn’t work:

  • Tapping by hand from the muzzle end with a cleaning rod
  • Plugging the hold in the end of the cleaning rod with a chopped off and squared brush, then tapping out with a hammer from the muzzle end. All this ended up doing was indenting the nose of the projectile. Same from the breach. It also bent the cleaning rod
  • Firing an empty, primer only case. I belled the mouth of a fireformed case to seal the chamber. Didn’t move the projectile at all. When opening the bolt there was a small hiss from a pressure release, so it did seal. Maybe with some powder in there it would move, but I had read plenty of forum posts warning against that, since it could potentially bulge the barrel (bullet gets a bit a run up from the chamber before engaging the rifling, so requires less pressure to drive it through)
  • There were lots of horror stories of people using wooden rods which splintered and then jammed in the bore. I didn’t even consider trying a wooden dowel.

So, if you’ve got a stuck projectile, I’d recommend going straight to using some cold rolled steel to hammer it out, after lubricating the bore with a nice tacky lubricant. Better yet, check carefully when reloading to avoid squib loads.



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