RELOADERS CORNER: Throwed Vs. Weighed

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This is an age-old debate among precision reloaders, and here’s to hoping you can find your own answer. Here’s a few ideas on how…

Glen Zediker

Since we (well, I), have been on the topic of velocity consistencies, clearly, this next here factors mightily among points in this general topic. I would also very much appreciate feedback on your own experiences. This, therefore, isn’t so much me trying to convince anyone of anything, but rather an effort to give some credibility to “both sides” of this question. The question, as suggested by the article title: Are meter-dispensed propellant charges equal in performance to singly-weighed charges?

Most are going to own a powder meter. Technical tickiness (that’s actually important): such a device is a meter, not a “measure.” Meters don’t measure. It’s most accurately called a “dispenser.” That’s what it really does. The “measure” is comparing a meter drum volume to a weight on a scale. It’s a volume, not a weight. The volume corresponds to a weight that was arrived at through adjusting the meter volume.

And this kind of keeps going in circles: is it a weight or a volume, then, that matters? A good many chemistry-inclined folks have told me over a good many years that any and all chemical measures are always weight, never volume.

harrells
I think a truly good meter is necessary to provide reliable results, especially if you want to ignore weighing each charge and rely on thrown charges for your record rounds. There are good meters available, but this is one of the best: Harrell’s Precision. It uses the proven Culver-style mechanism. See one HERE

Now then there’s a question about adjusting volume for that weight. I don’t know if you’ve ever experimented with this, but I’ve weighed the “same” powder charge at different times and had different weights (storing it in a sealed film canister and weighing on different days). It’s not much, but it’s different. It pretty much has to be moisture content that’s changing the reading, and, most lab-standard dispensing recipes (such as used in pharmaceuticals) have a set of condition-standards that accompany compound weight. Compounding that, using some electronic scales, I’ve had to re-zero, more than once, in a loading session weighing out charges. I have an inherent suspicion of scales. Old-trusty beam scales with a magnetic damper can finish a little high or low due only to the magnetic device. There’s a certain amount of inertia the beam has to overcome. Tapping the beam a few times will show that, indeed, it can come to rest variously +/- 0.10 grains, or more.

I don’t have a definitive answer to this question!

I can safely say that “it depends,” and what it depends on is a long list. First, as suggested, is scale accuracy. I don’t know that it’s always all about money, but that, no doubt, is a leading contributor in product quality. As said, I become suspicious of any device that requires a re-set during one use-session. For myself, I have confidence in my meter, and that’s come from countless “quality checks” I’ve run over the past couple of decades. I’m not a mathematician, so perhaps those who are can tell me if my logic is flawed in making the next assumption, but I developed confidence in metering charges based on collectively weighing multiple charges. Like so: throw 10 into a scale pan, weigh it. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and make note of how much plus-minus there is in each try. Using the propellant I stick to for competition NRA High Power Rifle loads (Hodgdon 4895) I get never more than 0.2 grains variance for a 10-throw batch. I don’t know how many single throws might be more or less than that and maybe it’s pure luck that all unseen errors offset rather than compound, but I prefer, at least, to believe that means my meter throws pretty well.

reloading scale
A truly good scale is likewise important if you’re going to rely on weighing each charge. If not, then just about any scale is accurate enough to set a powder meter. Speed factors heavily in being happy with a constantly-used scale.
trickler
You’ll need one of these too! A powder trickler. It’s used to drop in one kernel at a time to perfect the weight on the scale.

That’s for me. A different propellant, different meter, different scale, might all mean a different way of thinking, a different method to follow. So, to be most clear: I am not saying not to weigh each charge, and I am not saying not to trust a meter. Let your chronograph and on-target results give you the best answer for your needs. This debate is probably as close to a religion as exists in reloading (well, along with full-length case sizing and neck-only case sizing). And most of the answer is plainly anticipated: if you’re throwing large-granule stick propellant (especially large amounts per charge), you might better ought to weigh them out, but if you’re throwing a small-grained stick propellant, a good meter might actually prove more accurate, given any questions about scale accuracy. Spherical propellant? Weighing that is truly a waste of time.

The point to this, beyond bringing up a topic for input-discussion, is to find some way to settle such questions for yourself. For me, and likely for you, the ultimate answer is founded in the confidence we can have in whichever is the primary dispensing apparatus: the scale or the meter.

[Ballistician and Olympic Shooter, Ken Johnson, shares his thoughts on this topic in his piece on Precision propellant.]

Check out Midsouth offerings HERE and HERE

This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

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19 thoughts on “RELOADERS CORNER: Throwed Vs. Weighed”

  1. I own 3 Harrell powder measures. ( I live close and went to the factory) They are great time after time. I shoot only handguns and have not had a not perfect load . I only shoot targets. They are great. You can’t believe how they repeat unless you use one.

  2. “Throwed?”. I’ve done some tests of “thrown” charges vs. trickled, but never of “throwed” charges.

    My equipment: RCBS beam scale with magnetic damper, kept under a dust shield when not in use; RCBS Uniflow measure (“dispenser”), using the smaller bore cylinder exclusively; RCBS trickled.

    My calibers: a whole lot, but for the moment we’ll concentrate on three: .45 ACP, 6.3 gr. Unique; .5.56, 26.0 gr. Win. 748; and 7.62 NATO, 42.2 gr. Reloder 15.

    I always throw the .45 charges. Several tests of 32 or more samples showed an ES of ±0.16 gr., with SD of 0.13 gr.

    Likewise the 5.56. I don’t have the data to hand, but recall the values were equal or tighter than the .45.

    For the bolt gun in 7.62, I trickle the charges. Again, specific data is downstairs, but was about the same as .45 when trickled, and a couple of times wider when thrown. Is trickling for this round required for accuracy? I have no idea, but the bolt gun round count is low, and taking the time to trickle makes me happy. (I also load 7.62 for an M14, but this uses 748 and all charges are thrown. Rifle is metallic sights and shooter’s eyes are high mileage, so any accuracy variable would be completely masked.)

      1. Y’all need a sense of humor… Of course it should be “thrown.” I’m in Mississippi and it was a take off on a famous court case.

  3. GLEN, I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR YOUR ARTICLES . I ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD TO THEM . AFTER WORKING UP A BATCH OF BRASS, LENGTH ,FLASH HOLE UNIFORMING THE WORKS ,I POLISH THE INSIDE OF THE NECK . THAT COMES FROM PULLING LARGE BEARINGS OFF SHAFTS OF LARGE MACHINERY . A SMALL BURR CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE OF GETTING A BEARING OFF A SHAFT OR NOT , SO MY THINKING A BURR COULD CAUSE A HIGHER PRESSURE BEFORE THE PROJECTILE STARTS MOVING .NOTHING DANGEROUS JUST ENOUGH TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE . I HAVE LOADED ON DILLON 550 B PROGRESSIVE ,SINGLE STAGE ROCK CHUCKER AND A REDDING BR-3 METERING / MEASURING UNIT AND TRICKLED THE MEASURE OUT TO GET IT AS CLOSE AS I COULD POSSIBLY GET IT . FOR VARMINT HUNTING I CAN NOT TELL A DIFFERENCE . I HAVE NOTICED SOMETIMES WHEN BULLET SEATING A BULLET MIGHT SEAT WITH WHAT FEELS LIKE HARDLY ANY RESISTANCE SEATING INTO THE NECK . I HAVE BEEN EXPERIMENT WITH NECK TENSION WHICH SEEMS TO BE AS IMPORTANT AS POWDER WEIGHT IS THE NECK TENSION . MY THINKING IS IT DON’T MATER HOW CLOSE THE POWER CHARGE IF A CASE BUILDS HIGHER OR LOWER PRESSURE THAN THE NEXT SEEMS TO ME IT HAS TO PRODUCE A DIFFERENT POINT OF IMPACT . I HAVE ALSO HEARD IN THE BENCHREST COMMUNITY ” IF YOU THINK IT HELPS IT HELPS ” . WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS .

  4. Meters don’t measure? “Metere” means “to measure.” Gas meters and electrical meters sure need to measure. And to measure volume is to measure volume, while to measure weight is to measure weight. Anyway, in chemistry, you use weight as your most reliable measure for solids. Burning a weight of powder to create a predictable volume of gas (typically measured as a volume at a particular temperature and pressure) is standard chemistry technique straight down the line. A certain weight of a certain powder will create a certain volume of gas at a certain pressure and temperature (while other factors affect burning speed under particular pressures). So, weight, not volume, wins for measuring powder accurately. In a laboratory, measuring powder by volume instead of weight would simply be unacceptable, although for quicker reloading, volume is usually close enough, and a very handy option.

    1. And then it is generally agreed that propellants will absorb moisture from the air, affecting their volumetric density; that’s why many enthusiasts rely on the measures as opposed to the scale. As for me? I can’t say I’ve seen a difference using a BR-30 Redding.

      1. If worried about the moisture,find a fairly decent moisture scale just as an indicator.I run a air-conditioner and a dehumidifier in my reloading room,not that I want it perfect, to mainly protect everything from the moisture condition we have in Southwest Georgia.A good lab condition to shoot for is 70 degrees-50%humidity(or lower).Just Saying, nothing scientific,it works for me.

    2. To my mind, a scale measures because it gives a weight, a number. A meter doesn’t quantify its contents. It just dispenses whatever it’s set to deliver.

  5. Glen Zediker
    You asked for feed back to your article on Throwed vs. Weighed, so here is my 2 cents!
    I have been reloading for a little over 50 years, and hope to get on top of the subject someday.
    I have done pistol and rifle, big game, target and many things in between. However today I’m focused on ground squirrels and prairie dog shooting to about 5,000 reloads a year.
    I started with a 218 Bee back in the 50’s, move to a 222 Remington in the early 60’s adding a 220 Swift from Ruger in the mid 60’s and finally settled on the 222 Remington Magnum which I still use regularly today. Did very heavy coyote shooting back in the late 60’s and 70’s and my 222 Remington Mag was just great with the Swifter doing unbelievable long shots from it from time to time.
    During this time a few things came to light, a) accuracy over speed was most important; b) Consistence was the most important of all.
    In the 50 plus years I have been at this I have never seen a load Thrown that would match one weighed on a balance beam scale. You name it I tried it, Layman, Lee, Pacific, and RCBS and none every came within 2 to 3 tenth of a grain. Now for a large capacity case say one taking more than 40 plus grains of power that really is not a big deal.
    But today in my later years of life I have move down in caliber from .224 to .172 which has resulted in case capacity of these rounds well below 40 grains. Today the 17 Hornet, 17 Fireball and .204 are 80% of my reloading. Yes I will use my RCBS Charge Master, but all and mean all those load go on to a balance bean scale be for going into the case. My loads need to stay in a 5 shot ½” group’s as a minimum for all my loads or below.
    A case in point is the 17 Hornet; it will show a 35 to 60 fps increase in velocity with a tenth of a grain of CFEBlk powder with a charge in the range of 12.6 grains. While the Fireball and the .204 are not that sensitive 2 tenths of 748 will affect them also. I shoot from February well into July giving a tempter range which will go from -17 degrees up to 100 plus during this time and I know we all like to keep our ammo out of the sun, but that extra tenths of a grain that did not matter in February will really be notice in Mid-July!
    So yah weight your loads, because you never know when you might use them! And in the case of the 17 Hornet you might also want to weigh your cases! But that’s another story.
    Don Dutil

  6. A lot depends, too, on what the load is intended for, not to mention the capacity of the round. If you’re loading for hunting, or self defense/home defense use, a couple tenths of a grain one way or the other won’t make any noticeable difference. Likewise, .2 gr variance in a .30-06 makes far less difference than it does in .223. So, if my powder dispenser is only accurate to +- .1 gr., that is more than enough accuracy for the loads I’m building. If I was loading a benchrest round, like 6mm PPC, I would most likely be weighing each charge by hand, and would expect the best accuracy possible. All of it boils down to context.

    1. And then, the benchrest people _exclusively_ use thrown charges for reloading, even at a home range where a windless bench is at hand. Sure, they’ll do reality checks with a scale, but the production method is universally a thrown charge.

      1. Back issues of Precision Shooting are my “library reading room” material of choice. I can count on two hands the number of articles based on weighed charges in PS over my 20 years of back issues!

  7. I’d venture that it is, indeed, a “measure.” It MEASURES OUT a volume of propellant and dispenses it.

  8. I’ve had a Redding Br-30 for years, and was looking for an excuse to buy one of these real fancy units like the benchrest guys use.

    I came across an article, most likely in Precision Shooting, where a guy used a lab grade scale (+/- 0.01 grain as I recall) to compare some really ancient powder measures to some RCBS, Redding BR-30 and such. For laughs he included the Lee measure in the ranks. I was astounded by his results…. my BR-30 was about as repeatable as the most expensive Culver type measure. AND… THE LEE had approximately HALF the average error, extreme spread, or whatever he was measuring as ALL THE OTHER MEASURES. This kind of took the wind out of my lusting for one of those fancy CNC machined beauties… I’ve just stuck with my BR-30 and not looked back. Sure, i’d buy a fancy one if something happened to my BR-30 because, while the precision of the LEE is astounding, it ain’t very purty, and Homey likes purty things.

    My email address is between the carats: >pc who cares< at yahoo. there is an UNDERLINE between pc and who, and no space betwix who and cares. Taking requests; when I run across it again I'll photocopy and distribute it.

    1. That Lee meter you’re talking about is flatly astounding. The “Perfect.” It dispenses stick better than anything I’ve used, but I don’t know if it’s durable enough (judging by appearance at least) to hold up over the long haul. Or that’s my worry.

  9. Weighing powder is definitely better for accuracy if the brass from the same manufacturer, sized and trimmed to the exact same length ( hoping its not a bad run of brass) that keeps the pressure consistent given the internal dimensions of the cartridge. But one can argue that using mixed brass your better off measuring by volume because that would keep the room left under the bullet the same resulting in more consistent pressure. The room in the case is as important as the exact weight of the charge

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