RCBS Bullet Puller vs Hornady Bullet Puller

RCBS Bullet Puller vs Hornady Bullet Puller

In a previous video we took a look at Hornady’s cam lock bullet puller.  While it worked well enough in conjunction with small caliber bullets, it struggled with larger diameters like 45ACP due to it’s poorly designed collet system.  In this article, I thought we could discuss a comparable model produced by RCBS.


One of the first things you’ll notice about RCBS’ bullet puller is the way it’s packaged; instead of the wimpy plastic tube Hornady’s offering ships in, the RCBS arrives in a spacious plastic hard case large enough to store both the tool and matching collets.  This is particularly convenient if you load a large number of calibers as it eliminates the need for supplementary storage.  The tool itself also looks and feels quite a bit sturdier.  Consisting of only two separate pieces including the body and collet, this bullet puller is the definition of simple.  Something else you’ll notice about RCBS’s design is the collet construction.  They’re significantly stronger and more robust than those used with the Hornady system, but more on that later.  In the interest of fairness, I should also mention that like Hornady’s model, the RCBS does not include any collets, so you’ll need to purchase those separately– one per caliber.


Setup is a breeze; with one hand the operator holds the die box while the other rotates the handle.  This causes a threaded rod inside the body to disengage from the existing collet, allowing the user to remove it.  Next, the operator selects the appropriate collet for the caliber of cartridge to be pulled, and threads it into the body.

With that done, the user simply tightens the handle again until snug, after which the entire unit can be threaded into a standard reloading press.


So how does it work?  The principal behind the RCBS’ operation is essentially the same as that of the Hornady, only reversed.  Basically, when the handle is turned, a threaded rod inside the body pulls up on the collet, causing it’s petals to close and grip the bullet.  When the handle is loosened again, the pressure is released, and the petals expand again to drop the bullet.

With the bullet puller installed, the user begins by selecting a cartridge and placing it in the presses shell holder, raising the ram so that the bullet (and only the bullet) enters the collet.  It’s important to get this right the first time or you can risk damaging the casing.

Next the operator slowly turns bullet puller’s handle until they can feel the petals begin to tighten over the bullet.  It’s difficult to describe this as new users will have no real point of reference, but once you’ve done a few of them you’ll develop a knack for it.  Ultimately the goal is to obtain a tight enough grip to extract the bullet, without over-tightening and damaging it.  For those of you worried about inadvertently damaging the tool, don’t.  The superior construction of RCBS’ collets is such that they’re much, much harder to break than Hornady’s.  It’s highly unlikely you’ll damage one accidentally just by over-tightening.

With the puller firmly grasping the bullet, the operator simply lowers the press ram until the cartridge casing releases it.


As discussed previously, the real selling point for this unit is the superior quality with which it’s manufactured.  RCBS could have just issued their own clone of the Hornady system, and quite frankly nobody would likely have complained since there really aren’t many other options out there, but they chose instead to design their own from the ground up– and it shows.  The fit and finish of this system are both excellent, with top quality machining, consistent threading on the die body, a knurled grip surface, and a long operating handle that provides plenty of leverage.  The storage container is a nice, thick plastic design made from durable plastic similar to RCBS’ reloading die boxes.  What really sets this unit apart though, is the collets.  RCBS’ superior design allows them to use a very thick, durable metal (four times as thick as Hornady’s in some calibers).  This makes the petals virtually unbreakable, even in large diameter calibers– quite a difference from Hornady’s which leave much to be desired.  Even if you ignore all the other features of this tool, the collet design alone is enough to warrant purchasing it.


Without a doubt, the biggest (and only) problem with the RCBS bullet puller is trying to use it with cast bullets.  Essentially the problem is the collets have a difficult time maintaining a solid grip on soft lead.  In all my testing the RCBS unit either lost it’s grip or marred the surface, and then lost it’s grip.  In both cases I was not able to extract the bullet.  It’s frustrating, but that’s simply the reality of collet-based systems, and it’s worth noting the Hornady (and every other system I’ve tried) behaved in the same manner.


Originally I’d purchased the RCBS bullet puller exclusively to handle the .44 Magnum and .45ACP loads my Hornady couldn’t.  After a month of using the RCBS, I packed the Hornady up, sold it, and used the proceeds to buy the remaining collets for the RCBS.  Best decision I ever made.

When it comes down to performance, the fact is the RCBS bullet puller does everything the Hornady does, and more.  From tiny .22 all the way up to large-bore pistol and rifle calibers, the RCBS tears down cartridges in a fraction of the time needed to use inertia-based systems, and with none of the headaches encountered when using the Hornady.  Like any collet-based system, it takes a bit of practice, but once you’ve got the pressure worked out, this becomes a very easy tool to use for disassembling cartridges with a minimum of fuss.

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