Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fender Bullet Guitars

1981 Fender Bullet
The Fender Bullet guitar was designed in 1981 as a low cost student instrument to take the place of the Duo Sonic and Music Master.

1981 Ad For Bullet  Guitar
with 20 watt Harvard amp

Fender designer John Page put the original instrument together. The first models were made in Asia and shipped un-assembeld to the US.

However Fender did not think the work was up to par and produced the original 1981 guitars in the US putting to use left over parts from other guitars.

1981 Bullet
The original bodies were designed to resemble a smaller and thinner version of the Telecaster. The necks were Telecaster necks. The dual pickups were Mustang pickups which were positioned like the Duo Sonic.

That is the neck pickup was angled on the treble side and the bridge pickup was parallel to the bridge. The switch was a three position Stratocaster Switchcraft version. The two potentiometer knobs for volume and tone were black Stratocaster knobs.

They came in two colors and two versions. The color was either red or cream. Pickguards were either white or black. The Bullet Standard had an anodized steel pickguard with the distal lip behind the bridge raised at a 90% angle to anchor the strings.

The Bullet Deluxe had a plastic pickguard and the strings went through the body. The bridge assembly was a barrel type and was adjusted by a screw for intonation and an allen wrench for height. The headstock decal had a 5 point star with a number 1 in the center.

I've seen them with rosewood and maple necks.

In 1982-83 the guitar was redesigned to look like a slightly smaller version of the Stratocaster. The guitar came in several versions. The S-3 had 3 Mustang type pickups with white covers positioned in the normal Strat fashion and a five way blade switch.

The H-2 had 2 Fender humbucker (that were actually Mustang pickups side to side. Alongside the 3 way blade switch were two pushbutton switches that enable coil tapping. The H-1 was similar, but only had one pickup near the bridge.

A Bullet bass was also produced. It was a smaller bodied version of a Precision bass with Mustang bass pickups.

1982 Fender Bullet S-3
These guitars came in black, white, red or cream. The controls were volume and tone. The input was on the top where the second tone control would be found on a Stratocaster. These were hard tail instruments.

The price for the instruments was $199 which included a molded Fender case. During this time there was also a set sold with a Fender Bullet and your choice of a Fender Champ tube amp or a Fender solid state amp.

In 1984 Fender Bullets were produced in Japan under the Squire Bullet label. These came in several versions including a style similar to the 1981 and another that more closely resembled a Stratocaster that had a Strat style tremolo.

Although they are student instrument, in my opinion they are still great players and bargains. Particularly the 1981's which have Tele neck and Kluson tuners.

Jr. Brown had his original Guit-Steel made from Fender Bullet parts.


Wool Over Eyes said...

Hey! Great Post on Bullets, i love mine to death! check out our post about bullets here

Grant said...

I have a 1982 H-2 that my Father bought for me new from Gruhn guitars. I still have it and I love it!

Jim Bainer said...

I have a 1981 Bullet with a Serial Number of E 10024. I cannot find the answer but is this possibly the 1st or one of the first bullets ever made.

john scott said...

I have just found 1981 bullit deluxe cream with maple neck up here in Alberta. Serial no E103494. Not a mark on it wwill try out for a few days before i spend 500 canadian. Comes witt fender hard case. Excited.

Gary Johanson said...

I am only now being informed that my cheap little Fender that I have used for years to lay down electric tracks might actually be a collector's item. Heh, the Joke is on me for considering CBS Fenders as something less than par. It was purchased in 1981 with the moulded case which is still in excellent condition despite my daughter's attempts to "indie" it out with stickers of heretofore unknown bands. It was also packaged with a smallish Fender Harvard amp, I might guess around twenty watts input, solid state, spring reverb. It's actually was...and remains... a pretty good small-venue amplifier.

I valued the guitar for it's "fat" sound, very Kinks/Troggs sounding, reminiscent of the early sixties Mersey Beat sound. Moreover, despite taking it all over the deep south, the "package" remains almost new looking, and thoroughly functional...something my - er- Yamahas did not share.

It's probably a very early model, I think it was purchased spring or summer of 1981, I'll have to find the sales receipt...we may still have it. Serial is E-106397, and has black pick-up covers....the only pre-squire Tele-Bullet I've ever seen that had these right off the sales floor. Black volume, tone and pick-up selector switch, too. The descriptions on line call it "cream", we call it "Hendrix Banana"...and it's nickname is "the Banana".

Oh, it came with a fender shoulder strap too. It's still in the case, but I play her sitting down.

Owner's manual and original coiled cord is still with the case. All have stood the test of time and use with flying colours.

I may show pictures of her....if it is something folks might like to see ( I am still amazed...she was just a cheap date!) - on my blog, at

Thanks for the info and the head's up that my little Banana actually has a pedigree!


FenderGuy said...

My Bullet is an even earlier serial number, E1051xx, cream body, rosewood fretboard, black pickup covers, molded plastic "Fender Made in USA" case, excellent condition. I've had it for 25 years, where it has just sat in the case while I played my other guitars!

FenderGuy said...

Follow up comment: In reading this blog more carefully, examining the photos, and examining my Bullet, I have tentatively reached the following conclusion. Concrete pronouncements cannot be made as to the first models, in that I think they just put together these guitars without thought of consistency. My reasons for this conclusion follow. Tell me why if I am wrong.

As mentioned in my previous comment, my Bullet has a cream colored Tele shaped body with a white steel pickguard with built in bridge. It has black colored knobs and pickups, with the bridge pickup being covered and the neck pickup having holes. It has a rosewood fretboard, BUT the headstock has the star with the "1". As mentioned, I've had this guitar since about 1991 and it appears unmolested.

So, according to your narrative above, it's a standard model because of the steel pickguard/bridge, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, it's a Deluxe model because of the star "1".

I don't think there were enough of these around for someone to have later put a Deluxe neck on a standard body (and why do it anyway?) during its first ten years of life unless it was done at the factory.

What say you Bullet folks that know more about these gems than I do?

john scott said...

1981 is the only year they made tele bodies. The deluxe had thru body strings with plastic pick guard. Rosewood necks were made overseas and when they ran out attached vintage tele maple neck made in californnia. That year most had plywood bobies made overeas overseas but some had 3 piece solid bodies which you can see looking closley.i believe these were also made in californnia. These are the true american made tele bullit solid body and maple neck.

john scott said...

1981 is the only year they made tele bodies. The deluxe had thru body strings with plastic pick guard. Rosewood necks were made overseas and when they ran out attached vintage tele maple neck made in californnia. That year most had plywood bobies made overeas overseas but some had 3 piece solid bodies which you can see looking closley.i believe these were also made in californnia. These are the true american made tele bullit solid body and maple neck.

joe hatmaker said...

I think that the early'er statement that they where put together without thought, or consistency is spot on. Case in point. My 82 s-2 bullet deluxe.

First off the serial number begins E 1, witch should mean it was made in 81. BUT it has the double cut away body like a mini strat. The pick guard is white plastic with S-2 engraved on the bottom horn opposite the controls and jack. It has a five position selector with a tone and a volume knob. With a string through hard tail bridge. Now this is where it gets REALLY WEIRD. It has two single coil pick ups on the neck and center. But on the bridge A TRUE humbucker. I have never heard of or seen a combo like this. It is truely one of a kind and priceless.

Anonymous said...

Anyone have OBL pups on theirs ? It has 2 OBL's and they sort of resemble 2 blade Peavey Ferrites. Mine is the standard model with the steel pick guard and white knobs. Yes, it is a mixed up mess too with the maple neck and star with the number 1 on the headstock. I just got it and it is mint (and very cool). Oh and it still has the little cute patent pending sticker on the pick guard. E 111 5** serial number. Very interesting information and I have enjoyed reading the posts.

Mick the music man said...

Thanks to everyone on the Bullet comments. Very imformative and usefull. i have wondered for years about upgrading it so i am glad i left it alone. everything is exactly how it was when i bought it in 1982. thank you all for the info.

Peter Hamilton said...

Love this thread. Thank you for all the info. I have 2 bullets - both red tele style with maple neck and metal pickguard. One of these is near mint condition and the other is in such a bad state I nearly put it on the fire... I won't now! But.... does anyone know where I can buy the guys to restore this old guitar. Currently it's just a body and neck so I need pretty much everything!?

Blogger said...

Quantum Binary Signals

Get professional trading signals sent to your mobile phone daily.

Follow our signals NOW and make up to 270% per day.

Anonymous said...

I have a Bullet, which again is different to anything I've seen online. It is No E1099**, with a red single cut Tele style body in red, white pickguard, looks like a solid body, with the jack socket on the lower edge, being 4 screw chrome type, like a Les Paul. It has three white strat type pups, single tone and volume, with a five way switch. The rosewood Tele style neck has the five pointed star, with a 1 in it. The bridge seems to be a Schaller, chrome hardtail unit, with individual adjustment, the strings seated on roller type string gap adjusters. It has Schaller strap locks, together with its black/yellow/greeny strap, together with a moulded Fender case. I've looked at the history sites and can't find anything to match it? I know it is as the factory made it, as friends know the previous owners, including the guy who originally bought it in Guildford, England. I live about 100 miles West of there. It is a really super guitar to play and hear. Hope this is interesting.

Unknown said...

will the bullet fit in a standard strat/tele case?

Jim Bainer said...

Don’t know how goofed on the SN but it is E100024 wish I could attach a photo

Mick the music man said...

There seems to be so much controversy about these BULLETS. i tried to get all the info.possible. some people think they are Crap while others say they are great. Mine is double cutaway 1982 model in red with white pick guard. Maple neck and string through body. It is in excellent cond. Fender USA hard case. One of these sold recently on USA auction site for £690 and the experts reckon between £600 and £900. Depending on condion. Any views?