Brownells 75th Anniversary - A Shooting Heritage

Step-By-Step Reloading Part 9: Handling Powder

Step-By-Step Reloading Part 9: Handling Powder

Powder flowing from a trickler into a pan on a scale, one of several ways to
measure out powder charges for your reloads.
Last month, we completed the priming process by looking at the various tools and techniques reloaders use to seat primers into cases. The next step in making precise reloads is charging the primed cases with carefully-measured powder. While the perfect powder charge is the goal, there are many different tools and techniques that can get you there.


A very basic tool for achieving the perfect powder charge is a trickler. Powder tricklers are simple machines that typically use an internally-threaded tube to move small amounts of powder – sometimes as little as one or two kernels at a time – into a scale pan until a precise powder weight is achieved. Tricklers are usually inexpensive and very reliable, and they provide maximum control over how much powder trickles into the pan. However, many of them are manually-operated, and if you are reloading more than just a few cases at a time, they may be tiring and time-consuming to use. There are electronic tricklers that perform the task at the touch of a button - no more turning the knob with your fingers – but the goal is still precision rather than speed.

The battery-powered Omega Powder Trickler and its control unit.
The Hornady Lock-N-Load Quick Trickle combines a powder measure with a trickler, and features two hand wheels. The large wheel operates like a powder measure and throws a large amount of powder, while the small wheel gives you the fine control of a traditional trickler, letting you finish off the charge precisely, down to 1/10 of a grain.

Manual Powder Measures

Many precision reloaders still prefer the feel and accuracy of manual powder measures, like the Harrell Powder Measure. With precision-made internals and double roller bearing construction, the Harrell measure is extraordinarily accurate, repeatable, and downright pleasurable to use. With this type of powder measure, you merely dial in the charge you want, verify it with a good-quality scale, and the tool will consistently throw that size charge by volume, over and over again. These types of measures can dispense the powder into a scale pan, or directly into a case held in a loading block.

The Harrell Powder Measure is a high-end manual dispensing system.
Not as expensive as the Harrell measures, but still accurate and precise are manual measures like the RCBS Competition Measure and the Redding 3BR Measure. They work much the same and offer various features.

Electronic Dispenser Systems

Digital powder dispenser systems are high tech when it comes to handling powder. They digitally weigh and dispense charges for almost any cartridge, and the controls let you simply punch in your load data. Many such systems are programmable and will store several different loads in memory, ready for instant recall. They often have digital scales built in, and it's a simple matter of pushing a button, verifying the readout on the digital scale, and then pouring the powder into the case. Electronic dispensers can be pricey, but they offer a lot of convenience, accuracy, and time savings - which can translate into more trigger time at the range for you.

RCBS Chargemaster electronic powder dispenser.

No matter what tool you choose to move your powder, you will need some sort of a scale to weigh it to verify that your charges are accurate. The most basic, reliable type of scale is the traditional beam scale. Beam scales work anywhere you can find a level surface, and they can be very accurate.

A traditional beam scale is still one of the simplest and most
reliable ways to accurately measure powder charges.
Another choice is one of the many models of electronic or digital scales. Digital scales are very fast and accurate. They require a power source – either batteries or 110 volt wall current (220 volt models are available for Europe). Because of their compact size, many digital scales may also be purchased in complete kits with powder dispensers.

Funnels & Drop Tubes

One method for making sure all the powder gets into the case mouth is to use a funnel. Some funnels, such as Satern Powder Funnels, are designed to fit over the cartridge mouth and are caliber-specific. There are also scale pans with built-in “funnel-like” pour spouts so you can pour directly into a case or funnel after verifying the charge is correct. The Forster Powder Funnel accommodates 22 to 45 caliber cartridges with a belled mouth and has a built-in drop tube.

A simple funnel is one of the best ways to transfer a precisely measured powder charge into the case.

Drop tubes
are especially beneficial for the reloader who is attempting to drop more powder into the case than what the case appears to hold. By increasing the drop distance and slowing the rate of speed at which the powder enters the case, you can typically drop more powder into your cases. The drop allows the kernels to align more uniformly inside the case, compared to pouring the powder into the case from a pan, and it helps the powder make the most efficient use of space. A great tool for accuracy enthusiasts looking to find the perfect load, drop tubes are available in various lengths and diameters and attach to most powder measures as well.

Drop tubes help you get the charge to settle uniformly into the case.
As you can see, there are different ways to carefully meter and weigh the powder, and then transfer that powder into the waiting primed case. Once you decide which method works best for the type of reloading you do and your budget, you'll be able to choose the best tools for yourself.

After nearly a year of these step-by-step articles, we're getting near the end of the reloading process! Next month, we'll be looking at bullet seating.

Roy Hill
Brownells/Sinclair Copywriter