August 14, 2012
Charging your handloads with propellant is a critical step in the reloading process. Precisely dispensing the desired amount of powder for load development is important for both your safety and successful range results. When I began reloading, disposable income was tight, so I used a set of Lee fixed-volume dippers. I couldn't even afford a scale (back then they were all mechanical balance beam models) and trusted the data sheet that listed each dipper's capacity with a corresponding weight for various propellants.
Later, as I became more experienced (and had a few more dollars to spend on loading tools), I bought an inexpensive scale. I actually weighed each individual charge for several years and, as more firearms accumulated, spent more time at the loading bench. To speed up the process, I purchased an adjustable mechanical powder measure, but I still often weighed each charge to be safe and to achieve consistent ballistic performance.
With experience comes insight, and I soon recognized that the powder measure dispensed quite uniform charges of spherical powder or short-grained stick propellants if I manipulated the handle consistently. I'd adjust the measure to throw the desired charge, and after loading a batch, I would inspect each case with a small light. Even so, I still weigh one out of 10 loads.
However, if I was loading 4831 or 4350, for example, I couldn't get the precision I wanted simply throwing each charge of these long-grain, stick powders. So I'd set the measure to throw a half-grain or so lighter amount, pour the powder into the scale pan, and then trickle in enough to bring the weight up to the desired value. Boy, was I glad when electronic powder dispensers arrived!
I still use a Redding Model 3 mechanical measure for everything but the large stick propellants. An RCBS ChargeMaster 1500 handles these best, especially if I'm loading a big batch of rifle cartridges. But an electronic measure/scale combo can cost several hundred dollars, which is surely an impractical proposition for many shooters who reload only a few boxes of ammo each year. A less expensive option to precisely dispense and weigh propellant was needed.
Hornady recently introduced a simple powder-dispensing tool called the Lock-N-Load Quick Trickle. MSRP is $107, and it's basically a scaled-up powder trickler that features a large, clear reservoir and a manual transmission with a 3:1 ratio overdrive. Hooked up with your electronic scale, the Quick Trickle will make short work of accurately dispensing propellant. Using a mechanical scale is a bit dicey, but works okay if you're just a bit more patient.
Setup and Operation
The Quick Trickle looks like a regular mechanical powder measure with the typical adjustable metering feature replaced by an improved powder trickling scheme. It's also quite simple to set up — but only after you've performed the onerous yet mandatory task of degreasing the housing and powder trickle tube. The large, cast metal base contains a Lock-N-Load press bushing that interfaces with the L-N-L die bushing on the housing threaded stem.
The assembly instructions direct you to adjust the die bushing and lock ring so the tube tip is centered and just above the lip of the scale pan. That's so the powder granules dropping from the tube won't bounce out. After inserting the male bushing into the base, turn the unit firmly clockwise so the locking feature is fully engaged. The base is quite heavy so that the Quick Trickle can't be easily jostled or moved out of position relative to the scale.
No further setup is required. Just pour a generous amount of the desired propellant into the hopper (which must be thoroughly degreased before this step) and install the cap just in case you do inadvertently topple the unit over. Grasp the large diameter knob and turn until powder is flowing freely from the tube.
You'll notice that the large knob is directly connected to the smaller one via straight meshing gear teeth. The trickle tube is attached to the small knob, and by turning the large one, the small one rotates three times faster to rapidly meter propellant. Watch the scale and stop just before you reach the desired charge weight. Switch over and slowly turn the small knob until the scale indicates the exact charge is in the pan.
I prepped a box of .30-06 cartridge cases and, after practicing a bit, recorded how long it took for the Quick Trickle and me to dispense and pour 20, 57-grain charges of Accurate 4350. The elapsed time was about 12 minutes, i.e., approximately 36 seconds each. Using the ChargeMaster, I accomplished the same task in just under 10 minutes, or about six seconds per round faster.
Cleanup is also fairly simple. Unlock the unit from the base and remove the cap while keeping the reservoir level to avoid spilling any powder. Cover the end of the tube with your finger and pour the residual propellant back into the correct powder container. Then tilt the tube to empty it.
Always inspect the unit carefully afterwards to make sure you do not inadvertently mix propellants. Several of the large grains will get trapped in the bottom of the reservoir under the powder trickle tube. Just turn it upside down and bump the hopper mouth on a piece of paper to catch the granules. Carefully inspect the cavity again to make sure they're all out. I stick the nozzle of my shop vac down into the hopper tube and suck out any I might have missed.
The L-N-L Quick Trickle doesn't take up much space on a bench and is easily portable. I'll continue to dispense all but the large stick propellants with the Redding mechanical measure and use the ChargeMaster for loading large batches; however, it's only practical to precisely dispense precise powder for just a box or two of test loads with Hornady's new gadget instead of powering up and recalibrating the electronic measure or hand weighing each charge.