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RCBS Chargemaster 1500 scale and dispenser: the handloaders life just got a little easier.

It is always interesting when a major new product comes along to make the handloader's job easier and safer. I have long been a fan of digital scales for reloaders and, more recently, electronic powder dispensers coupled with them. The biggest gripe about the units was slowness. RCBS has a completely new pair of products manufactured for them in China. The digital scale can be used as a stand alone or hard wired together to the powder dispenser.

The new RCBS scale operates and behaves just like most others yet requires just a little kindness from the operator. It must be on a level surface, neither shaken nor stirred, and calibrated now and then. Calibration is straightforward. Digital scales are sensitive to changes in temperature and require up to 30 minutes of warm up time to become stable. To me it is much easier to leave them turned on. That insures a stable internal temperature and you'll find that they retain their calibration much better. The RCBS uses a three-point calibration and comes with two 50-gram calibration weights. You start with zero followed by the two weights in order as prompted by the display. The scale is very stable, but the calibration is needed any time it's been turned off. I also depend on check weights such as those sold by RCBS or Lyman and, if I haven't used the scale in a day or so, I will first use one of the check weights close to the charge I want. If it comes out right, it really isn't necessary to calibrate further. But check weights should be used regardless of the type of scale. The display on the scale presents easy-to-read numbers and lights up when you're weighing something.

Dispensing Powder

The dispenser has a multifunction keyboard that allows both numbers and letters to be entered. Like most cell phones, you push the number "2" once for "A," twice for "B" and three times for "C." When the display stops flashing, you enter the next number and if you make a mistake, the "back space" key deletes one letter or number at a time until you get things right.

The dispenser's memory will allow you to store up to 30 combinations of powder and bullet, but this is where one small complication arises. The memory has fields for cartridge (C=), bullet weight (B), powder type (P=) and powder weight (W) but each field is limited to only four letters or numbers. That means that abbreviations are mandatory. This is one of those places where Mr. Murphy's law can jump up and bite you, so my suggestion is to write down the abbreviations you use on a piece of paper. Knowing the frailty of memory--at least mine--I want to be sure that I don't confuse IMR with Hodgdon powder numbers or mix up bullet makes.

The biggest advantage of the ChargeMaster system is you can simply enter a desired charge weight, push "enter" and then "dispense" and it will give you as many charges as you want one by one. Obviously the time it takes to do that can be an issue but this thing is pretty quick. To check this, I dispensed five charges with 25, 45 and 65 grains of a stick powder and found average times of 13, 15 and 20 seconds to dispense each increment. Then the charges were checked on another carefully calibrated scale. In no case was there more than 1/10-grain variation and the vast majority were spot on.

Sizing Counts

The dispenser has a vast reservoir 3" in diameter and almost 6" deep. It will hold a heap of powder. There is no baffle in the powder hopper but the height of the powder column did not seem to make much difference since the scale measures what falls on the pan. One of the nice features is a convenient way to empty the hopper. It is never a good idea to leave powder in measures anyhow since there is a possibility of a reaction, which will, over time, discolor the plastic. On the right side of the dispenser is a valve to drain the hopper. The instructions say to put a pan under the drain but unless your loading bench won't permit it I found that it was easiest just to position the drain over the side of the bench, put a funnel in the powder can, and open the drain. Since the dispenser and scale are joined you shouldn't pick it up to shake out that last bit of powder. There is always going to be a little left in the tube over the scale pan and RCBS says to use the "trickle" key to empty it. That may take awhile since the tube turns at its slowest speed in this mode. Allan Jemigan of RCBS suggested that you just set it to dispense 10 or 20 grains and that way the tube will turn at the higher speed and empty faster. The drain does a good job of emptying the reservoir but it may be necessary to tilt it just a bit to get the last grain out.

An issue with older units was small-grain ball powder sometimes binding the drop tube if it got between the tube and the housing. Jernigan reports that they have run extensive tests and have found no problems with ball powder.

In the early days of powder dispensers, we paid a time price for the convenience. Now it's a piece of cake to throw a charge for one case while you seat the bullet in another. And, if you're like me and tinker with loads all the time, it's great to be able to enter the charge without the need for further calibration.
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Title Annotation:Handloader
Author:Petty, Charles E.
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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