Reloading Step 3: Adding Powder
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
In this blog, we will discuss the third step in the reloading process: adding powder. Organizing the reloading process this way will make for shorter reads and easier to find answers to questions you may have.
Top two rules while reloading:
# 1 Rule = Safety
# 2 Rule = Everything should be repeatable
1. Resize Case 2. Seat Primer 3. Add Powder 4. Seat Bullet
Safety: Unless you have personal experience with a cartridge, always refer to a published loading manual.
This blog will detail a few key points in adding powder to the case. Much like seating a primer, the process is straight forward. Nonetheless, there are some key points that need to be mentioned.
Note: The type and amount of powder are huge pieces of the tuning puzzle. If a process is needed to figure out the amount of powder to add please refer to the blog Tuning: Part 2 = Handloaders.
Fast Throw by volume not weight
Many Benchrest competitors and reloaders use throwers to measure their powder. One of the key advantages of a thrower is speed at which the powder can be measured and deposited into the case. In one motion, the powder gets measured and goes directly into the case through a built in drop tube.
Experience Tip: Harrel’s Powder Measure is the most common thrower at the tournaments I travel to.
Powder throwers can be calibrated to dispense a certain volume of powder per throw. To calibrate, throw a charge and weigh it on a scale. Change the volume of powder dropped by adjusting the metering device until the desired weight of charge is reached. Then, start filling some cases.
Throwers measure by volume not by weight. However, rifle tuning is determined by weight not volume. To make this conversion consistently, the user should have a repeatable rhythm. Depending on the level of precision desired, practice may be needed to develop this rhythm.
Measure by weight Slow
Some reloaders use a scale to measure each individual load. These scales can be balance scales or electronic. The reloader simply scoops powder into a pan on the scale until the desired weight is reached. The powder is then poured to the case via a funnel.
Accuracy and repeatability are the advantages of this method. The limiting factor is the accuracy of the scale. The drawback is; this method is painfully slow, especially when trying to get that last tenth of a grain.
Experience Tip: A trickler can be used in conjunction with a scale to speed up the process of adding those last few kernels.
Electronic Powder Measures
Measure by weight Expensive
Accurate/Repeatable Slower than throwers
Little effort by user Require an energy source
Electronic powder throwers are gaining popularity among competitors. Electronic powder measures are a combination of throwers and scales. These devices throw the powder to a scale and stop when the desired weight of the powder charge is reached. The user then transfers the powder from the scale to the case through a funnel.
The benefit is now the powder is determined by weight instead of volume all with a push of a button. There are a few disadvantages: These electronic throwers can be on the expensive side, are not as fast as powder throwers, require an energy source, and are a little bulky to transport.
When it comes time to add the powder to the case, a funnel will be helpful. On the end of this funnel is a tube (commonly called a drop tube) with a flared end. Some funnels only have a half inch drop tube, others can be one foot or more. The longer the drop tube, the more powder you can get into the case.
The speed at which the powder is poured into the funnel also determines how much powder can fit in the case. The slower the pour, the more powder can be added. Consistency is the key when using funnels.
Caution: Just because you can fit the powder in the case does not mean it is safe to shoot. I once saw a gentleman use a three foot drop tube to add 38.0 gr of H4198 into a 30 BR case then seat the bullet. Thankfully he did not attempt to shoot it. He was just proving a point that it could be done.
I use a RCBS Charge Master for all my powder needs. Hunting ammunition is loaded at home. I usually load twenty to thirty cases at a time. When I need more, I simply load another batch.
For competition rifles I preload fifty rounds at home before the tournament. I also pre-fill glass vials with the desired amount of powder for the particular rifle I am taking. I then reload as many times as needed at the tournament. Using this method, I get the benefit of pre-weighed charges, with (almost) the speed of a thrower.
I have developed a process that works for me. I fully understand this process is not for everyone. I hope Connect the Dots gives you some information that will help you develop your own procedure. Until next time, enjoy the experience.