1981 Fender Bullet One Deluxe Electric Guitar

Update December 2016: I've been enjoying this guitar a ton but since I picked up a second Bullet Deluxe and summarily modified it, I don't think I really need two of these in the stable, so this one's going back up. Of the two, it has the nicer neck with a little more thickness front/back and a good C/V shape to it. Since first posting this I've given the guitar a fret level/dress and am also including the original, fitted, molded hard case (with a few stickers on it) that came with the maple-necked Bullet.

The Fender Bullet is an odd, early-80s Fullerton-made guitar that was short-lived before the "Bullet" branding moved to Japanese, and then Korean, and then Chinese Squier-label imports. This is the first version of it ("Bullet One") in its "Deluxe" form, meaning that instead of an integrated metal pickguard/bridge, this one has a separate plastic pickguard and separate metal hardtail bridge with string-through mounting.

Before the Bullet guitars moved to import status, they changed to a more Strat-like body in 1982 with different pickup options. I prefer the look, feel, and character of this smallish, Tele-influenced body instead, and picked this up for myself to fill a solidbody electric guitar void in the collection. I've been keeping my eyes out for the "right" one for a year or so, now, and debating between a Bullet (which has standard 25 1/2" Fender long scale) and the guitars it replaced (Musicmasters or Duo Sonics with 24" short scale) in the Fender lineup at the time.

Why the Bullet? Well -- it has the offbeat Mustang/Duo Sonic pickup configuration and location but due to that long scale and Tele-shaped headstock, it definitely has quite a bit more of a Tele vibe in terms of the way overtones bounce around and the way the strings respond with the pickups. It's a good hybrid and I find the neck tone a lot more useful than a standard Tele and the middle position way more useful in that it's got a bit of that Strat sound thrown in. It's weird but unmistakably Fender.

The opaque, bright red finish hides that the body is ply. It's thin, lightweight, and sturdy, however, so I can forgive the cost-cutting measure. There are a few light scuffs and scratches but overall it's healthily-clean.

The nut is 1 5/8" and the radius feels about 12" on the board. The narrow nut is made-up for by a bit of a chunkier V/C hybrid neck shape that recalls 60s guitars a little bit. Action is spot-on at 1/16" at the 12th fret, strung with a set of 10s. The treble side of the neck has just a touch of relief (~1/64") that won't dial out with the rod before adding too much flatness/backbow on the bass side of the neck. Believe me -- you wouldn't notice this, but I like to be thorough. There's also a 1-degree shim (StewMac style) installed in the neck pocket to jack the angle back a bit.

I can't help but love the Tele vibe, though. The nut is a replacement bone one but everything else (save one spring at the bridge adjusters) appears original.

The board has pearl dots and old-school, heel-adjustable truss access.

All I needed to do on this guitar when it came in was give it a good setup and polish it up. Update: I've since given it a fret level/dress as well.

I can't complain about string-through.


guitarhunter said...

I love these!...especially this deluxe edition in red. the only weird thing is that decal!...

Jake Wildwood said...

I totally agree...! All they had to do was get rid of the star/number on it...

john scott said...

My bullet deluxe is cream with white pickguard but has solid maple neck with f tuners. They say the telecaster style was only made in 81 but upon inspection the pots have feb 82 date on them. This one has a 3 piece solid body not the ply body on most other ones. A lot of the info on bullets is sketchy at best but the ones manufactured in fullerton are true collectors guitars.