January 04, 2011
Our reloading editor says that if you're a serious handloader, you will definitely appreciate the convenience and precision results this new powder system provides.
Some of us older baby boomers are intimidated by many of the myriad innovative products available today. I especially avoid most electronic gadgets. However, electronic reloading scales and powder dispensers are not on my to-be-avoided list. I've used three different electronic scales during the past 10 years to adjust my mechanical powder measures and verify they're throwing the desired charge. An electronic scale performs just like a mechanical scale, but it's faster and easier to use.
Several companies have improved the process even further by automating the powder measure and integrating it with an electronic scale. Lyman introduced the 1200 DPS electronic powder dispenser a few years ago, and the company has upgraded it twice since. I received the new 1200 DPS3 model to evaluate, and I'm happy to report that it is fantastic. I have become quite comfortable and confident with its operation.
There's very little assembly required and every step you take to get the unit up and running properly is clearly described in the instruction manual (only 11 pages long). The recommended 24-hour warm-up period might seem excessive, but experienced handloaders have learned that patience is a virtue. Calibrating the unit takes only a couple minutes. I was quite impressed, after removing the 20-gram test weight, when the exact value noted in the instructions appeared on the display.
The unit's basic operating technique is simple. Pour powder into the generous reservoir and, using the keypad, input the desired charge weight. Then immediately press "Enter." The unit promptly dispenses a precise charge of propellant into the pan and beeps when it's done. After pouring the powder into a case, you replace the pan on the platform and press "Enter" again to repeat the process as often as you want.
The DPS3 also has an "Auto Repeat" feature that is activated by simply pressing the button. An LED lights up, and then you proceed as described above. However, you don't have to press the "Enter" key repeatedly because after you empty the powder into a case and replace the pan, the scale re-zeroes, and the measure automatically dispenses another charge. This will continue until you cancel the "Auto Repeat" setting. I even entered a couple of my favorite recipes into memory (up to 100 records available) and successfully recalled both of them.
All of this might sound routine to you, but consider this: I'm still uncomfortable using a TV universal remote.
I did have one brief bit of frustration using the DPS3. While reloading several boxes of .270 WSM, I charged 20 rounds with AA 3100. Almost every time the unit beeped, the readout indicated the charge weighed a couple of tenths of a grain too much. Then I remembered the powder feed tube needed to be choked slightly in order to accurately dispense the larger grained stick propellants like H4831 and IMR-7828.
The kit includes a hollow, threaded plug that screws into the end of the feed tube to reduce the orifice. I noticed it and the separate instruction sheet when I opened the package, but I forgot it by the time I tested the unit several days later. I installed the little plug as instructed, and the subsequent dispensed charges were spot on.
Emptying the Lyman Model 1200 DPS3 powder dispenser is simple to accomplish by flipping down the chute and opening the powder shut-off door.
Of course, you must empty and refill the powder reservoir when changing propellants or, if you are like me, when each loading session is completed. Because the unit contains a relatively sensitive load cell, you can't simply pick it up, turn it over, and pour the powder out. However, the instruction manual clearly tells you how to do this routine maintenance operation.
First, turn the unit around so the back is facing you and at the edge of the loading bench. Flip down the powder-cleaning chute, position the correct powder container (use a funnel or cup if the can or bottle doesn't have a large enough mouth) under the chute, and open the powder shut-off door. When most of the powder has been emptied, remove the cylindrical plastic reservoir and its base (remember to unlatch it first) so you can brush the residual granules of propellant into the powder box with the little brush that comes with the unit.
Next, cap the feed tube to avoid spilling any powder when you remove it using the tool provided with the unit. When the tube is withdrawn, remove the cap and pour the loose powder back into the powder box or directly into the cup or correct powder container. Then close the shut-off door and cleaning chute. Gently press the powder box into the housing. Two latches automatically release the box, which will partially pop out so you can remove it. Dump any remaining powder into the proper container.
Reinstall the empty powder box and, using the same little tool (it looks like a shepherd's hook), replace the powder feed tube. Reattach and latch the reservoir base to the top of the unit, then insert the plastic cylinder. Make sure there are no loose powder granules under the platform before storing the pan and tools in their places.
I leave the unit plugged in and "On" all the time so it will be ready any time I need it. I also keep another electronic scale handy to spot check charge weights periodically. These units are not inexpensive, but if you're a serious handloader, the convenience and precision results are worth the tariff.