A Pullman latch is a type of exit device latch. The leading edge of a Pullman latch, the part that hits the strike first as the door closes, is a ramp. The back of the latch, the part that rests against the strike to keep the door latched shut, is rounded. When the Pullman latch comes into contact with another object it retracts automatically. It is a simple, spring-loaded mechanism.
Some rim exit devices have Pullman latches, but most concealed and surface vertical rod exit devices do not. Most vertical rod exit devices have a main latch that is shaped like a Pullman latch but also has an additional piece that looks like a kind of separate little latch, or auxiliary deadlatch. This part interacts with the mechanism of the latch to keep the top latch retracted until this separate piece hits the strike as the door closes. Then the main latch pops out and locks into the strike.
This latch-and-release design top latch is used by many manufacturers as the mechanism that holds both top and bottom latches in the retracted position while the door is open. That way the latches do not make contact with the surfaces of the door frame, floor or threshold. When the top latch release makes contact with the strike it releases both top and bottom latches.
The photo to the left shows the latch release fully extended and the latch fully retracted. This is the state that this type of latch is in when the door is open.
The Pullman latch is most often used with less-bottom-rod (A.K.A. top rod only) vertical rod exit devices when they are to be used with an electric strike. The normal latch-and-release design is incompatible with most (if not all) electric strikes. Electric strikes that are compatible with Pullman latches are said to have Pullman keepers.
Sometimes Pullman latches are used as the top and bottom latches on vertical rod exit devices because they operate more quietly than standard latches.
Pullman latches are not fire rated and are not for use with fire rated exit devices.