Feeling a little shaky about your powder measurements? It could be you've got some bad vibrations getting in the way. Here are some thoughts on how to keep your loads accurate and rock solid with a look at the powder scale.
We all have different types of reloading setups, ranging from a well-designed, clearly thought-out bench in a dedicated space to a press that is C-clamped to a metal desk in a rather impromptu manner. I’ll be totally honest, I’ve used both, and many types in between.
My early days as a reloader were spent with a complete lack of funds, minimal equipment, and I soaked up information like a sponge. While this taught some invaluable lessons, all learned the hard way, some of the more sophisticated gear and a better place to reload would’ve been a blessing beyond measure.
When I did get my own space, which eventually evolved into Massaro Ballistic Laboratories, I saved my pennies for some new gear, and began to embrace the world of digital scales, powder throwers and new-fangled presses.
During the course of learning to use the new tools, I found that both the digital scales and powder measures were very sensitive to vibration. The digital scales are especially touchy, not only to vibration but to air currents. In some of my ‘shakier’ environments (portable tables, etc), the digital scales, especially the early models, were all over the map.
It was a ton of work to keep them zeroed, let alone to get them to read the same measurement twice. Even the RCBS Chargemaster, which is an awesome machine, can give false readings and dispense errant powders charges when subject to vibrations.
I’ve had friends with shaky benches tell me that the Chargemaster wasn’t a good choice, but the fault lied with their reloading space, not the RCBS design. Even a balance beam scale can be affected if the floor boards are bouncing around.
My own reloading bench is an overbuilt workbench, in my garage, with 6×6 posts for legs, well secured to the wall, and resting on a concrete floor. I could jump up and down on a pogo stick and it would be stable. Still, I don’t want the motion of the press to affect the powder charge being dispensed into the electronic scale, so I keep it on a separate table, just to be sure.
As hard as I’ve tried, I can’t get the Chargemaster to trip up; I check it with a good balance beam scale, but it remains wonderfully consistent, session after session.
Powder throwers can be equally affected by vibrations. The mechanical powder measures of today are very precise, and there are models available that are designed to throw powder charges for the pistol calibers, up to and including the magnum rifle cases that burn 100 or more grains at a rip.
Most powder throwers work most accurately when operating in the middle third of their powder capacity, as the volumetric measurement will be most accurate. If the powder thrower is subject to vibration, the volume of powder being thrown will vary by some degree.
While I still weigh all of my powder charges on some sort of scale, I know benchrest shooters that do not weigh powder; they simply use a consistent volume of powder, and it works out very well.
Bottom line is, while trying to set up your reloading bench, do your best to avoid and major vibrations, whether it be by choosing a spot that is rock solid or building a bench that will help dampen vibrations and keep them to a minimum. I believe you’ll see an improvement in your final product.