A much-needed addition to the Hornady line
I’ve been a big fan of Hornady’s reloading equipment for several years now, but one item has been prominently missing until now: a combination powder dispenser/scale. That need has now been filled, and quite elegantly, by their Lock-N-Load Auto Charge, a product that will occupy significant time on my reloading bench for years to come.
Why do you need this?
Well, perhaps you don’t. The Auto Charge is intended to be a complementary product to their press-operated powder drop, which I use with my Lock-N-Load AP press with great satisfaction. The press-operated powder drop measures a specific volume of powder (which you’ve calibrated for the desired weight), and is surprisingly reliable. Used with an automated press like the Lock-N-Load AP, it’s fast and dependable. If you know the amount of your desired charge, and aren’t going to change it, this set-up is probably all you’ll need. This is a likely scenario for crunching through high volumes of handgun or auto-loading rifle reloading.
But, what if you don’t want to drop the same amount of powder with each load? If you’re like many shooters who are seemingly forever in search of the perfect load for their gun, there will be many, many situations where you’ll only want a few (3-5) charges of a given weight. You’ll then up the rate by a small amount, get another 3-5 charges, and repeat. Here’s where a volume-based powder drop becomes much less convenient, as they’re meant for “set and forget” usage. You’ll be fiddling with the volume adjuster, measuring your powder (which will be off by a bit), then trying to trickle powder into (or scooping a bit out of) the tray to get it right. It’ll be the most tedious and least enjoyable part of your reloading exercise.
A closer look at the Auto Charge
While the keypad of the Auto Charge may look a bit complicated at first, it is in fact quite easy to learn how to use. By my third use of this product, I was able to do everything I wanted without referring to the instruction sheet at all. Using it simply consists of the following steps:
- plug it in and power it on
- set the options (auto vs. manual, and drop speed) to your tastes
- enter a desired charge weight
- hit “dispense” and begin charging
The Auto Charge will immediately begin dispensing powder into the tray. The tray sits on top of the built-in digital scale, and you’ll see the powder weight progressing as the tray fills. When the Auto Charge nears the desired weight, it will slow down to finish off the charge. When the desired charge is reached, the Auto Charge stops, and after a moment, you’ll hear a “beep” that indicates the Auto Charge has finished. (It’s important that you wait for this beep; if you grab for the tray the instant the desired is reached, but before the beep, the Auto Charge will resume operation, spilling powder all over the place. (Please don’t ask me how I know this.)
Once the Auto Charge has beeped at you, you can remove the tray, dump the powder, and return it to the scale. If you’ve selected the “auto” mode of operation, the Auto Charge will begin filling the tray again automatically; if you’re in “manual” mode, it will wait for you to press the “dispense” button again.
There’s also a “trickle” button. This can be handy if you want to add just a bit of powder to a load that’s already in the tray. You press and hold the button, and the Auto Charge will slowly add powder until you release the button. This is handy if you want to make just one or two charges that are slightly above the entered weight.
The Auto Charge has been well designed for quick, easy use. The powder reservoir has a nice, wide mouth, making it easy to pour in powder without spillage. Its operation is highly reliable and flexible; I’ve used it with ball, flake and rod powder, and had excellent results with each.
A thoughtful feature is the powder drain, located at the right rear of the Auto Charge. This allows you to return unused powder to the can without turning the Auto Charge upside down to pour it out. Just hold the Auto Charge above the can, and turn the cap on the drain 180°. The powder will empty from the reservoir into the can without incident.
The scale of the Auto Charge deserves some special mention. It settles quickly and seems very accurate and repeatable. Unlike other scales I’ve used in the past, a given measure of powder displays the same weight over and over again if you remove the tray and then return it to the scale. This gives me a high degree of confidence that I’m getting exactly the amount of powder I’m requesting.
The Auto Charge is the perfect complement to the other powder drop products in the Hornady line. While some reloaders may not need it, everyone can enjoy it, and those who frequently experiment with their loads will find it, well, indispensible. Highly recommended.