Anyone who has reloaded with a mechanical scale will tell you that you need to get a digital scale. I don’t know why reloading kits insist on supplying you with these but they do. In my opinion the only good use of a manual scale is to check the accuracy of your digital. They are slow to use and complicated to measure anything accurately. I was a physics major in college so I’ve used a lot of mechanical scales and they never get any easier.
Which Is The Best Digital Reloading Scale?
The Hornady Electronic Scale is hard to beat. It’s both affordable and extremely durable. Given the right conditions this scale will accurately hold zero. Due to the extremely small measurements these scales test for you will see a slight drift depending on your surroundings. Humidity and temperature will both affect the readings on your scale. The degree this will affect the reading will be directly proportional to the accuracy of the scale. Ambient wind in the room will also affect the reading of the scale. With a scale this accurate you will see some sway in the readout of the scale.
Compared to the other scales available for much less this scale is very solid. It should last a very long time, and if you frequently calibrate it you shouldn’t have any issues. This scale will supposedly weigh up to 1500 grains of powder to the 1/10th grain. The only time I can see needing to go this high is calculating how many bullets can be made in the bottom portion of your jug of powder. With this scale you can measure a one lb jug of powder once it’s down to about 1/5th full.
Both this scale and the platinum arsenal platinum series listed below are great to be used with a powder trickler. Powder tricklers allow you to measure your powder down to the smallest grain. This is a cheaper alternative to buying digital scales that have an included powder trickler.
My biggest issue with this scale is the portability. This scale can not be used without access to a wall outlet. So you cannot take this scale with you to the range or use it without easy access to an outlet. If you are only going to use this scale on your reloading bench not having to buy batteries might be seen as a positive.
If for some reason you don’t like the above mentioned Hornady Electronic Scale this is another alternative. The Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Scale has much of the same functionality as the Hornady. The only real difference is the price and carrying case this scale includes. If you take your scale to the range frequently you might want to purchase this scale.
This scale like the Hornady measures up to 1500 grains to 1/10th grain accuracy. Included with the scale are two calibration weights for a 3 point calibration. If frequently calibrated you shouldn’t have much sway with the Frankford Arsenal Platinum series. The simple controls and backlit display make this scale easy to use and calibrate.
The biggest advantage the Frankford Arsenal scale has over the Hornady is its portability. It can be used with either a power cord or batteries. With the included carrying case you can use this scale anywhere.
If you have never seen an automatic powder dispenser you will be impressed by the RCBS Combo Chargemaster. This unit is actually a combination of the RCBS ChargeMaster 1500 Scale and Chargemaster dispenser. If you don’t want to use the dispenser both pieces can be used separately. The RCBS Chargemaster is extremely easy to use. You simply enter the charge and hit the dispense button. This digital reloading scale will give you plus or minus 1/10th a grain of accuracy regardless of the powder you choose.
The RCBS Chargemaster 1500 scale has a ton of features that aren’t found on other digital scales. One useful feature is the programming feature. You can program up to 30 different loads and save them directly into the scale. So the next time you want to load that round simply click on the designated load and it will dispense it for you. Another useful feature is the auto dispense feature. Whenever you return your pan to the scale it will automatically throw your next charge. If you are using the auto dispense feature this scale will keep a running tally of how many bullets you create.
If you want the most precise hand loads this is the scale for you. This scale will work best when used with a single stage press to make rifle rounds or develop new loads.
The Hornady Lock N Load Auto Charge unit looks very similar to the previous RCBS unit. Like the RCBS unit the Hornady Auto Charge automatically dispenses powder into the tray. The biggest difference between these two units is the price. The Hornady Auto Charge is almost half the price of the RCBS unit. With this price difference you will see a noticeable difference in quality. The RCBS unit always is consistent whereas the Hornady unit needs to be adjusted with every new powder.
The Hornady will almost always throw an overcharge on the first dispense. Since the Hornady unit cannot tell the density of each powder it has a hard time figuring out the charge. Every time you change powders you will have to adjust the speed at which the unit dispenses. You will always have to adjust your trickle speed if you don’t want to have consistent overcharges. This is a serious hassle that you won’t find in the RCBS unit so judge the price on the hassle of adjusting for a few minutes at the beginning of your loading session. You can judge the adjustment process for yourself in the video below.
The other features this unit has is an auto-charge feature. The auto-charge feature automatically throws powder when you put the tray on. This unit also has a trickle function to slowly add powder and avoid an overcharge. This unit has an easy to read backlit display. Once you learn how to adjust this unit it works very well.
The Hornady Battery Operated Electronic Scale is a no frills digital scale. This unit isn’t the most accurate digital reloading scale but it is definitely worth the price. You will typically see a plus or minus 2/10th grain variance while using this scale. As long as you stay in the middle of the recommended safe charge you won’t have any problems. This isn’t the type of scale you want to make up light charges with. If you are using a semi-automatic pistol you will have failure to eject issues if you workup a light charge with this scale. I also wouldn’t try to use this scale with powders that have a small margin of error. It’s just not worth the risk of injury or destroying your gun.
Now that I’ve told you everything thats bad about this scale, it’s actually pretty nice to use. If you’re making plinking rounds or shooting 100 yards max, you won’t see much of a difference. Reloading is like everything else to improve your ballistic accuracy you need to remove your weak link. If you are shooting a $4000 rifle at 1000 yards you would be wasting your time with this digital reloading scale. Most people aren’t shooting 1000 yards at a time so an expensive scale might be unnecessary. If you want a scale that makes consistent reloads out to 100 yards this scale is all that you need.
Why Choose a Digital Powder Scale?
Digital scales are used in a variety of industries. They can be found in the food, medical and in our case reloading industries(as well as many others). There is a big difference between a food scale and a reloading scale. With a food scale it doesn’t make a ton of difference if you accidentally eat an extra gram or two of rice. With reloading that would mean the difference between a good load and your gun blowing up. Medical scales on the other hand are typically very accurate since they deal with weighing pills. If you purchase a scale made for medicine just make sure that it can weigh in terms of grains. Digital reloading scales need to be able to measure accurately up to the 1/10th grain.
Why Does Everyone Measure Powder in Grains?
Before you started reloading you probably have never measured a weight in grains. The grain measurement is really only found in the reloading, medical and jewelry industries. The simple reason is that grains is the only unit of measurement that is equal throughout the troy, avoirdupois and apothecaries systems of mass. All other units of measurements are close approximations between the different systems. This is important to standardize information no matter which country you are in.
Choosing a Digital Reloading Scale
Choosing a Digital Reloading Scale is actually pretty easy. Honestly you can choose any digital scale that measures up to a 1/10th grain accuracy. The difference in price is going to differentiate between an extremely accurate scale and decent scale. Realistically a 20$ digital reloading scale will give you enough accuracy to safely load up bullets. Especially if you stick to the minimum and maximum loads. If you want to create extremely accurate bullets you’re going to want to buy a more expensive scale. Digital scales are typically going to fall into three different price ranges.
- $10-$30 Digital scales- scales that fall into the 10-30$ range are the beginner scale range. These scales will work for an entry level reloader. As long as you stay away from the maximum and minimum powder ranges this scale should be safe to use. With this type of scale completely stay away from powders that have a narrow safety range.
- $50-$100 Digital Scales- Digital scales that fall into the 50-100$ range fall into the sweet spot. These scales are accurate enough to make very accurate bullets. With this type of scale you can workup any load that you want.
- $150+ Digital Scales- These types of digital scales are the high end digital scales. Most of these scales will also measure the correct amount of powder out for you as well. This type of scale will make extremely accurate competition grade bullets. These scales are also great for developing a load with a single stage reloading press.
What’s The Best Reloading Scale
It would be pointless to compare the 5 digital scales listed above because they have such vastly different prices. I really would recommend the Hornady Electronic Scale if you can afford it and don’t need portability. The Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Scale is the best if you need portability and the Hornady Battery Operated Electronic Scale is the best scale if you’re on a tight budget. All of these scales are an excellent purchase if you want reliability at a reasonable price.
If you are in the market for an automatic powder dispenser the RCBS Chargemaster is the hands down champion of this category. This dispenser just works. The RCBS Chargemaster is fast accurate and easy to use. If it wasn’t for the price I wouldn’t even recommend alternatives. If you want cheaper alternatives you can try the Hornady Lock N Load Auto Charge or the Lyman Gen6 Digital Powder Measure. I didn’t recommend the Lyman Gen6 Digital Powder measure above because I had some issues with mine. I see that a lot of people really like this unit so maybe I just received a dud.