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.
Now many shooters do not dabble into reloading as it is an additional “expense” or “time consuming event” for people who are entirely satisfied with factory produced ammunition. To those that shoot very infrequently, such as a box of ammunition lasts a year or two, reloading is probably not for you. However, reloading in itself can be a means to save money in ammunition costs, or as a means for producing ammunition that when well matched with a specific firearm will generate outstanding accuracy. Getting into reloading itself requires an expenditure of capital in order to assemble the required components for actually going through the entire reloading process.
If you reload, you will of course have heard of Hornady. A provider of many excellent bullets and reloading equipment such as those used by the entire gambit of shooting disciplines and their respective firearms. From muzzle-loading single shot rifles, to the most prolific black rifles, revolvers to self-loaders; from the simplest to the most technically innovative firearms imaginable; Hornady is one of the most widely known by shooters across North America. TPF has been fortunate to be able to previously review Hornady products and this installation adds another notch to the belt.
Now reloaders have used balance beam scales with great results in the past and they will continue to do so for the forseeable future. However, the ever-increasing field of technology, specifically compact electronics, has allowed for the development of accurate digital scales. A digital scale allows for a simpler operation and higher measuring rates when compared to that of the delicate and cumbersome balance beam arrangements. However, TPF is not stating that digital scales are superior to the tried and true balance beam, in fact, those at TPF still occasionally check the digital scale readings with old school methods. Speaking about scales, for this write-up, TPF looks at another helpful addition to anyone into reloading; a digital scale by Hornady as part of their ‘Lock ‘N’ Load” series of products. The Bench Scale is the newest digital scale in Hornady’s line and has many features not seen on previous models.
Hornady’s ‘Lock-N-Load’ line is well established with many quality products which are dedicated to the reloading audience. With highly visible boxes and a very secure packaging of the product, the electronic scale is nearly assured of arriving damage free to the consumer’s door. Upon the opening of the Bench Scale one can see all the various components which come as standard with the L-N-L Bench Scale. The scale itself has the following characteristics.
- 1500 grain capacity with an accuracy of 0.1 grains
- Multiple measuring units. Grains, grams, ounces, and carats
- Large visible back-lit LCD screen
- 110V/220V power supply
- Alloy powder pan/pouring tray
- 10g & 50g calibration masses
- Wind/Air current deflector cover
TPF will start the overview with the power supply, which utilizes a universal main body with attachable prong/plug arrangements. The two configurations included start with the 110V two-blade version for North America, and the 220V two-prong/post version common in Europe. The simple method of converting from one to the other is a bonus, but it is unknown how much of an added bonus this feature is to a consumer. How often does a reloader ship their gear back and forth between North America and Europe? It is a feature which makes it easy for marketing to multiple regions without any changes to the product/SKU/ordering.
Observing the metal powder tray, the finish is smooth and will facilitate very clean pouring of powder and a highly visible contrast to observe the volume/amount of powder contained in it. As typical of most forms of scales, the tray is generous in capacity and easy to pick up loaded or empty due to its large “ears”.
Also included is the clear acrylic wind guard which is used to prevent errant air currents from influencing the accuracy of the load cell, and it fits securely over a raised ring on the scale which prevents it from being inadvertently dislodged. This is important because the load cell only functions in a single direction, up and down; and any sort of side load will affect the accuracy and the cell is so sensitive that breathing on the measuring base can change the load values. Remember that 0.1 grain accuracy is equivalent to 0.0065 grams (0.0002 oz) and the average stamp masses roughly 0.05 grams (0.001 oz). There is an opening in the top of the guard to allow for powder to be dropped into the tray while the guard is in place. This feature is necessary to most highly sensitive scales; but brings up a possible drawback for some reloaders, in that the overall height of the complete unit would require an elevated powder trickler or other higher mounted powder source to fill the tray for measuring.
The entire unit is very small in overall space claiming with the mirror finish calibration masses being stored in a pair of integrated pockets on the scale. As the Bench Scale utilizes the same load cell as the Hornady Auto-Charge powder dispenser, and the resulting accuracy is supposedly superb, and as such with all digital scales, the unit should be mounted on a flat, level surface to avoid any side loading on the load cell. Unlike the Auto-Charge however, the scale has a very simple control layout. Only four soft touch buttons are located around the large LCD screen; power ON/OFF, calibration, scale zeroing, and measuring units. The LCD screen has a green backlighting to allow for easy reading of the resultant mass being looked at.
With an MSRP of $122.18 USD, this product is available across Canada at various stores which sell Hornady reloading products. One such store is the Gun Centre, located in Kitchener, Ontario. The Lock-N-Load Bench Scale is Hornady’s most recent foray into a standalone digital measuring scales and it is ultimately up to you, the reader to determine if it is tactical, practical, or fantastical.
Through the years the author has used many brands of reloading equipment, all dependent on the direct application of what was being loading for. The only constants in those reloading efforts were that a beam scale was utilized to check powder load weights and a tumbler to clean the spent brass. (TPF uses the common incorrect term of weight as “load mass” sounds very odd to nearly everyone that reloads). Today “weighing” of powder is not the topic for today, but brass cleaning is. Currently there are a multitude of methods which exist for cleaning brass; such as the following:
- Vibratory Tumbling – Dry (Media can be corncob, walnut, ceramic pellets, etc…)
- Rotary Tumbling – Dry or Wet (Dry media as above, or liquid based with other waterproof cleaning media such as stainless steel pins)
- Chemical Cleaning – Wet (A common method is soaking in an acidic based solution like vinegar, warm water rinse and air dry)
- Manual Cleaning – N/A (Polishing inside and outside via brushes, scrubbing pads, and cleaning cloths)
- Ultrasonic Cleaning – Wet (High frequency sound waves through a liquid solution)
Out of these listed the most efficient in terms of time and efforts are the use of tumblers with dry media setups due to the level of effort required from the individual cleaning the brass. Manual cleaning is by far the cheapest solution, but also requires the greatest amount of efforts and can be nearly impossible with some smaller necked rifle calibres (imagine trying to manually clean the inner walls of a 22-250 case). In this installment of TPF we look at a specific product family from Hornady; Ultrasonic Cleaners as offered by one of the leaders of reloading companies.
Hornady started the launch of their ultrasonic cleaners back in the beginning of 2010 with the Lock -N- Load Sonic Cleaner. With a 0.95L (1.0 qt) capacity and a 5 level duration timer, the Sonic Cleaner can clean your volumes of spent brass to new levels with ease. Described as being able to hold 200 pieces of .223 Remington brass or 100 pieces of .308 Winchester, the Sonic Cleaner has a decently sized capacity, although many dry tumblers can hold more. The benefit to water based cleaning, is the elimination of fumes and dust particulate which can occur when dry media types are used, and the ever elusive clean primer pocket can be obtained without any consideration of media size, nor are plugged flash holes an issue.
Hornady’s marketing would have you think that the Sonic Cleaner creates “microjets” of water in the stainless steel tank which blast off the carbon, dirt and grime from the brass. The true definition of how ultrasonic cleaning works is as follows:
Ultrasonic cleaning is the rapid and complete removal of contaminants from objects by immersing them in a tank of liquid flooded with high frequency sounds waves. These non-audible sound waves create a scrubbing action within the fluid. The ultrasonic energy enters the liquid within the tank and causes the rapid formation and collapse of minute bubbles: a phenomenon known as cavitation. The bubbles, travel at high speeds around the tank causing them to implode against the surface of the item immersed in the tank in an enormous energy release, which gently lifts contamination off the surface and innermost recesses of intricately shaped parts.
DISCLAIMER! Ultrasonic cleaning does not mean that cases will be shiny and bright in finish, just clean. If you want bright gleaming cases, you will need to either play with the contents of the liquid solution used in order to get the desired results, or perform a post dry tumbling once the cases have been dried after ultrasonic cleaning & rinsing. Hornady recommends using one tablespoon of “One Shot Sonic Clean Solution” for every quart of water and states that three full cleaning cycles (3 x 480 seconds) should get most brass clean. TPF reads this performance meter as being in regards to spent brass which is collected at the time of firing opposed to that which would be classed as range brass which has been exposed to elements and is more than likely tarnished and possibly even corroded. TPF decided to perform two tests.
Test Number One:
This consisted of 100 pieces of various headstamped .308 Winchetser range brass. This brass consists mainly of maintained reloading brass plus a dozen or so pieces of range brass in various levels of condition. All brass was deprimed prior to being immersed and subject to the cleaning process. As Hornady claims, 100 pieces of .308 does indeed fit into the basket for the cleaning tank, in fact stacked right, you could get probably 105-110 pieces. Three (3) sessions of 480 seconds (24 minutes total) were done using One-Shot Sonic Clean – Case Cartridge Solution, mixed with tap water in the ratio described on the bottle (40:1). Once the trio of cleaning cycles were completed the basket filled with brass was removed and drained into the Sonic Cleaner as best as possible and the and the brass was flushed with hot water to clean off any remaining cleaning solution.
The results were impressive and what was expected. Non-range brass came out extremely clean with much of the carbon removed from the primer pockets and the internals of the case. In some instances the outside of the cases had bright/shiny spots at various points on them, which TPF attributes to the vibrational forces rubbing cases together. In the case of range brass, it too was cleaned of all carbon, and as expected, basic surface discolouration and corrosion areas wer indeed cleaned of all dirt and deposits, but the visual appearance shows how the solution is not meant to make brass pretty. As evidenced by several pieces of range brass, the cleaning does NOT remove tarnish and discolouration unless it is strictly from accumulated surface grime and debris. Rusted areas are still corroded, but all loose scale and corrosion does get cleaned off the case surfaces.
Test Number TWO:
Nearly 200 pieces of .40 S&W, all Speer headstamp. All brass was maintained reloading brass with no range brass included. The cleaning solution from test number one was reused and made up for with additional tap water. Unlike the previous test, all brass had not been deprimed which meant that the primer pockets would not get full cleaning action due to the cup and anvil being in place. As was done with the previous test, the brass was cleaned with three (3) sessions of 480 seconds (24 minutes total) in the Sonic Cleaner and then were rinsed with hot water. The results show how well the Lock -N- Load Sonic Cleaner removes carbon deposits left from burning powder.
TPF has added a very basic and simple video which hopefully shows the noise levels and cleaning action of Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Sonic Cleaner.
The only real drawback is similar to that of wet tumblers, rinsing and dry time for cases. In the case of ultrasonic cleaning, capacity is an issue as well and that is usually due to the mass of the cleaning solution (Water is actually quite heavy). On the topic of capacity, Hornady also has a Magnum version which triples the capacity of the Sonic Cleaner. However, that is for a separate review…
Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Sonic Cleaner does indeed get brass clean, inside and out, and while other mixtures of cleaning solutions are available on the internet, the factory solution seems to work pretty well. The LNL Sonic Cleaner has an MSRP of $134.12 USD from Hornady, but is available at all firearm stores that stock Hornady products. The Hornady ‘One-Shot ‘ case cleaning solution makes approximately 32 batches of solution and has a MSRP of $25.00 and has availability akin to the Sonic Cleaner.
As always, TPF poses the question to our readers to make the determination for yourself:
Hornady’s Lock -N- Load Sonic Cleaner – Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical?