The Fender Bullet, introduced in 1981, was originally targeted at those looking for an entry level guitar at a reasonable price. Fender took the option to release the USA manufactured Bullet under mounting pressure from far east imports and inexpensive “strat” copies which were flooding the market.
The early Bullet series offered a small range of guitars with minimal color and equipment choices – The original design looked somewhat like a contored telecaster (the headstock was the familiar tele shape). Pickup wise the guitar came with two single coil pickups (neck and bridge) and to finish off there was a single tone and single volume control.
Sound wise the early versions produced a decent enough sparkly treble tone – again reminiscent of a telecaster – a 3 way pickup selector switch allowed for some versatility and the guitar itself was fairly playable with a nice smooth slim neck. Indeed the necks of these early Bullet’s often cause much discussion as to whether they are actually Telecaster necks.
A year on from it’s initial release in 1982 Fender reinvigorated the series by modifying the design – the shape became a double cutaway (traditional Stratocaster type body) and there were more versions with a greater variety of hardware and electronics (for example humbuckers were introduced and there was the option of two humbuckers or one humbucker one singlecoil.) Fender also added a coil tapping button for the humbucker equipped guitars.
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With the improved range of hardware – sonically the guitars could produce a more varied palate of tones which could encompass more harder rockier sounds (the original Bullet’s being better equipped for a clean tone). Fender also expanded the color options going from 2 to 4 (sunburst and brown being added).
These early bullet guitars have proved particularly durable with models appearing on ebay some 20 years later still in reasonable condition (watch out for rust on the bridge and tuners though). They make an interesting addition for any guitar collector or for those wanting something a little different.
In the mid eighties the Bullet was swallowed up by Fender’s Squier Brand produced in the far east. Today Squier still manufacture the Bullet albeit, now a closer cousin of the Stratocaster – aimed at the beginner or student – today’s bullet features 3 single coil pickups and the traditional Fender Strat layout on a laminated body. Today’s Bullet can be had for around $100 which is a bargain for anyone starting out.
Overall in the 20 odd years since the bullet was originally introduced it’s seen quite a few changes – however the name still remains and the modern Bullet is squarely marketed at the beginner guitarist offering not only value for money but also an interesting heritage too.