The authors of Tactical, Practical, and Fantastical have to thank Mr. Andrew Craig of Canadian Reload Radio fame for this review of Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Auto Charge. Hornady and The Korth Group were kind enough to provide TPF-Online with this product for reviewing and Mr. Craig gladly provided us with his viewpoint and writing style for this dispenser. We hope the readers of TPF-Online enjoy this review:
When it comes to reloading there is only a single step that is as big and as important as getting the powder charge right.There are many ways to do this, but few that roll it all into one easy step. Hornady recognized there was a need for a more economical solution to weighing and dispensing powder, and introduced their own version of an automated powder dispenser a few years ago. I finally received the opportunity to sit down with one recently, and, the results were both interesting and impressive.
Out of the box the Auto Charge includes the integrated scale/dispenser, powder silo, universal power adapter, two check weights (10 & 50 grams), flash pan, and a long thin brush for dusting out powder. Included with the manual is a comprehensive quick-start guide that allows for getting the Auto Charge up and running in a matter of minutes. If you do choose to jump right in with the quick-start guide, be sure to read both sides completely, as, the instructions for calibrating the scale are quite specific, and need to be followed in order to get under way quickly.
The Auto Charge has a powder silo large enough to hold 1lb of powder. The guide recommends at a minimum that the silo be filled to the top of the base of the unit, in order to ensure there is enough powder in the hopper to dispense accurately. I had a small amount of Varget that just managed to fill the hopper to the top of the base as indicated, and after following the calibration instructions, quickly began to dispense 42.0 grain powder charges.
Dispensing powder was as easy as entering the charge weight into the keypad, and pressing “enter” in order to set the machine to the desired charge. All that was necessary then was to press “dispense”, and the machine took care of the rest. The Hornady Auto Charge is essentially a digital scale combined with a powder trickler. The powder tube is internally threaded, and angled downwards slightly, so that as it turns, powder is scooped up and moved along the length of the tube, subsequently falling into the flash pan below. As the dispensed powder reaches the desired charge weight, the Auto Charge slows down and enters into “trickle mode”, where it pulses a fraction of a rotation at a time in order to drop the desired charge weight one or two kernels at a time.
There are three different speed settings for dispensing powder, slow, normal, and fast. Depending on the type and quantity of powder being dispensed, there is an ideal setting. I found that the bulkier powders were able to be dispensed on the fastest setting, whereas your finer, ball type powders tended to prefer the normal. Really fine powders, such as those used for shotgun or handgun really didn’t dispense well, or, required the machine to be set on the slowest setting, which meant a significant increase in time between charges. This really has to do with how the machine operates. During dispensing, there are in fact two speeds. An initial, high volume rate of dispensing, which varies based on the selected speed, and then a final trickling speed, which is more of a pulse. Depending on which speed you choose, the trickling mode will kick in sooner or later, so as to allow for as much powder as possible to be dropped into the pan before the final trickle to the desired charge weight.
For testing purposes, I used both Varget, and Ramshot TAC. The Varget was able to be dispensed at the fastest rate, as, it is a bulkier extruded powder. It had a tendency to remain in the trickling tube and only drop one or two kernels at a time during the trickling mode, allowing for a very fast dispensing time, with minimal overcharge errors. The Ramshot TAC on the other hand is a much finer, ball type powder. It was far more likely to cascade out of the tube, resulting in the machine having to be run on the normal speed setting. I found on average that the dispensing time for 43 grains of both Varget and TAC to be 20-30 seconds. As I mentioned, the Auto Charge will result in an overcharge error if it’s run on too fast of a setting. I found that Varget only returned an overcharge error 1 in 10 times on the fastest setting, which meant having to re-dispense the charge. TAC resulted in an overcharge error almost every time on the fast setting, but had no issues when set to the normal speed setting.
Once you’ve settled on a desired charge weight, and dispensing speed, you have the option of running the Auto Charge in either a manual, or automatic mode. Manual simply means that you have to press dispense each time, whereas, on the automatic mode, all you need to do is press dispense, and start dumping powder charges into your waiting cases. Each time you place the empty flash pan onto the scale, the Auto Charge will dispense the next charge as soon as the weight reaches zero. I found that with the machine set to its fastest setting, in combination with Varget, I was able to keep up an almost constant pace of charging cases, with only a short wait between dumping powder into the case and waiting for the next charge to be dispensed.
I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Auto Charge worked. It’s a nice clean, simple unit, and was very easy to operate. I found that its ideal use is for load development, where you might have a number of different charge weights that you want to try. It is equally suited to regular reloading duties as well, however, a standard powder measure is still faster, and capable of dispensing most powders within the same accuracy range. What’s nice about the Auto Charge however is that you know every single time just how much your charge weights, and that there’s no potential for a mix-up, or double charge. Additionally, the Auto Charge can dispense close to a pound of powder, and not need topping up in order to maintain its accuracy. Having a scale built right in ensures you get the exact same, consistent charge weight.
Hornady is a very much renowned reloading manufacturer based out of Grand Island, Nebraska, and Korth Group are a Canadian importer and distributor of many manufacturers and brands such as Hornady. Again, thanks to Andrew Craig for his submission on the Hornady Lock-N-Load Auto Charge powder dispenser. The product as reviewed has an MSRP of $317.21 USD. This and other Hornady products can be found in a variety of brick and mortar shops across Canada as well as online venues such as Grouse River (which has both!). TPF’s standard clause still applies to our readers to determine if this piece of equipment is Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical for themselves.
“The second most tedious thing?” That was surely the question of most readers when looking at the title of this installment of TPF-Online. Yes, the author did mean to say the second most. The number one most tedious job from the majority of reloaders is trimming brass to length and there are a multitude of methods to do exactly that. However this instalment is about the second most tedious thing for reloaders who utilize progressive presses from Dillon, Hornady, RCBS, etc… So what is the second most tedious thing in progressive reloading? Filling the priming system of the press.
There are currently three common methods used in primer feed devices. Tube, Strip, and Box fed priming systems. Lee progressive presses, like the Loadmaster, utilize the box feed systems for their progressive press designs and it is by far the fastest for reloading primers. RCBS progressives now routinely use a preloaded primer feeding strip system since it’s introduction over a decade ago. But for the rest, a primer fill tube is used for the reloading process to be have one hundred primers ready for reloading. This has, for many, been done via the old fashion method of using a primer flip tray and a primer collecting tube and manually forcing each individual primer into the fill tube. It can take several minutes for an experienced user to pick up a hundred primers, and so many people pre-load several of these fill tubes prior to reloading, which is hard on the hands.
Luckily however, the author occasionally peruses the internet for firearms related products and businesses at random, and it was not too long ago that TPF came across a Canadian IPSC shooter, Mr. Nik Papadhopulli, who decided to open up a small business to supply Canadian shooters with various items to help with reloading and equipment to help competitors with the shooting sports. One of these products offered is an accessory to help speed up primer tube filling. Now TPF knows about Dillon’s RF-100 primer filling station, which is a hands free filler. You put a box of one hundred primers in the top of the unit and press a button and couple minutes later you have a full tube. This option is quite costly with a price tag of nearly $400 including the option to be able to fill both large and small primer tubes. However, at roughly half the price of the RF-100, Red Tip Bullet offers an alternative to Canadians. The Pal-Filler, designed and manufactured in Italy by Palvik, is a hand held, battery operated, primer tube filler.
Smaller, cheaper, and faster, this product already includes the ability to load both small and large primers. Now the Pal-Filler is not some complex, ergonomic and aesthetically beautiful product. It is in fact relatively plain and basic is shape and operation. Included is a double-usage primer tray, where one side is for small primers and the opposite side is for large primers. This tray is attached to the handle/grip and a primer tube is inserted in the appropriate opening. Operation of the Pal-Filler is a simple affair and assumes that the proper primer tube is already pre-inserted into the Pal Filler tool.
- A box of primers is dumped into the flipping tray, and shaken until all primers are anvil side up.
- Once primers are all oriented properly, the user inserts the retaining lid.
- With the unit tipped slightly towards the tube filling hole, the user flips the switch.
- The vibration caused by a rotating offset mass vibrates the Pal-Filler and the primers all fall in sequence into the open tube top.
- Did TPF mention it was fast? From the primer box to a tube filled with one hundred (100) primers in roughly thirty (30) seconds.
The concept for the Pal-Filler is very simple. Use proven, existing technology in a compact package. The small electric motor is wired in series with the simple on/off switch and the battery holder. The motor mounts an offset mass that creates the high frequency vibrations in the unit itself. It indeed is simple and one may think that should not equate into a high cost. Normally TPF would agree, except the Pal-Filler is completely manufactured on CNC machines. The aluminum grip halves are both machined from a billet of aluminum, inside and out. The tray is CNC machined from a block of high density plastic. The motor retaining bracket is machined aluminum as well. Even the battery holder is given a CNC machined base to be mounted on. The design features for ruggedness and longevity are apparent when looking at the Pal-Filler.
Made from quality materials, with quality craftsmanship, this is a fine tool for the reloader who does not want to load primers into tubes manually and is especially suited to volume usage as done by many progressive reloaders. The Pal Filler as reviewed has an MSRP of $189.00 CDN and is available from Red Tip Bullets (
http://www.redtipbullet.com). The question posed to our readers is if this piece of equipment is Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical.
Addendum 2017… We have been informed that Red Tip Bullets has since closed its doors. Which is unfortunate.