Thoughts on beam scales vs digital



  • I've been thinking about this for a while now and I'd like some feedback. I've been thinking of going back to using a beam scale for my precision loads. It seems like in this hobby people have pushing for faster reloading time and spending more money on it. But in my mind, is it worth the trade off?

    My Chargemaster won't read 2 or 3 kernels of stick powder. With my beam scale (even for being a Lee) I can see the needle move for every kernel dropped into the pan. My Chargemaster usually throws +/- .1 grains off the desired charge. So my 43.0 throws may be 42.9 or 43.1, then each round from there may be +/- .02 grains off each other. Okay fine, if your in the middle of your node, that shouldn't be enough to throw you out of it. But that also puts a lot of doubt in my mind, when I'm pulling the trigger. "Man that shot felt good, but why did it land outside of the other 3 rounds touching?"

    Now of course like most modern American's I still want some speed. So I'm wondering from those of you that may still use or in the past have used beam scales, what is your method of powder drop? Are the Lee scoops and a trickler good or has anyone rigged up a powder dispenser that drops right into the pan?

    BTW, what got me thinking about all this was me throwing charges this morning. I used the Chargemaster then checked each throw on my beam.



  • quality beam scales and quality electronic scales can both be accurate and precise. I would rather use a moderate quality beam scale as opposed to the chargemaster. When I checked my chargemaster on a good digital scale it was much farther off than the numbers you post above. If target was 43.0 I only checked charged that dropped 43.0 and they ranged plus or minus 0.2 grains which is quite a spread.

    I have an older ohaus scale that is decently accurate for the price. It was much better than the chargemaster. Most beam scales have a removable powder pan that can be taken out and throw the powder with a powder thrower (such as your lee ppm). Then trickle up with a manual trickler after placing the charged pan back in the scale.

    $75 beam scales will usually be more accurate than cheap (sub $300) electronic scales. I would not use cheap electronic scales. I would rather use a beam scale rather than the cheap electronic scales.



  • A good powder throw, a beam scale, Lil' Dandy Trickler and a web cam aimed at the scale pointer hooked to a monitor. Yep, it's grandma slow but won't break you. I think Dandy makes a light sensor set up for a beam scale that would speed things up. Here's my take on this, I have confidence the scale I use is accurate to within itself so my weights are just reference numbers that I use for my loads. I guess that explains it. It is a good idea to check your scale against known weights, you sure don't want to be a whole grain or two off. I used to have some bad reloading habits not that I didn't care or was reckless just in a hurry. Now I have a space for my stuff and I take my time and try to make each round the same with the tools I have. Then there's a Prometheus.



  • I have had a hornady beam scale and depending on how I put the weighing pan I obtained a result of up to .3 grain up or down. I have also tried different cheap electronic scales, all of them drift and while one of them was capable to read in .02 gr there was no consistency in the readings. Until I've got a lab scale I did not realize that my weighings were not consistent. In my case a good scale is a must for long range shooting even more if the nodes of the rifle are short.



  • I am more certain of my beam scale than my digitals.
    The scale is checked with weights each time it is setup, first zero is checked, then weights slightly above and below targeted charge are used to verify.
    Lee yellow scoops and trickle is my method.



  • My suggestion is to use a "traceable master" near the desired nominal charge weight to calibrate the scale. Merely zeroing the instrument does not account for measurement error. In contrast a fifty (50) gram weight is too far from the target measurement.

    I use an old Pacific beam balance to comparatively measure my powder charges. The resolution is 0.1 grains so let us accept that the true measurement could actually be +/- 0.1 grains.

    A known 2 gram (30.9 grains) weight is used to calibrate the scale. My rationale is that this traceable master is close in weight to what I actually want to measure accurately. All measurement systems have sources of error. This is the way I account for potential linearity errors.

    Two methods can improve accuracy. Increase the resolution (e.g. measure to .01 grains) of the instrument and secure a traceable master closer to NIST standards (e.g. calibration certificate from a certified laboratory).

    I can't shoot the 6.5 mm Creedmoor caliber well enough to distinguish between two cartridges that differ only by 0.1 grains of H4350 powder. I can rely on my relatively accurate powder measuring instrument (it's actually a system) to assure me that I did in fact throw that 7 (in Greg's case a 9).

    In another life I was a certified metrologist. My claim to fame was I could objectively and accurately measure anything. Someone once asked me if I could measure "rocket science." I reluctantly declined simply because I was not confident that the client was not going to launch the prototype at a 90 degree trajectory.

    Please don't get me started on involutes.



  • Thanks everyone so far for the replies.

    @dddoo7 I no longer have a Lee PPM, but that doesn't mean I can't get one. When I was throwing with it in the past, I could never keep powder from splashing all over when dumping into the pan. I would dump into the case, pour the powder from the case onto the scale, weigh it, then pour it back into the case. It wasn't ideal. I need to do some more digging, but I was hoping to find a tube that went on a dropper that would drop charges right in the pan.

    @bigfoot I have an old phone that I may use instead of the webcam. I'm also going to put in stronger magnets and glue a pin/wire on the scale for the pointer. I'll look into the light beam. The idea does sound like it would speed up your trickling.

    @toni How does a balance beam scale drift +/- .3 grains?

    @mamalukino I've read in the past there is a method to using those Lee scoops. Is that true? I guess if your using the scoop and not weighing the charge the method of the scoop would matter, but if your trickling up, it shouldn't matter right?

    @lathoto I heard that some guys use a coiled and cut copper wire near their charge weight as a "traceable master". Thats fine, but I don't really have a way to weigh it out scientifically. Do I just coil, cut, and weigh it out against one charge on a scale, and then call it my "master". It may be off that way, but its the same every time.



  • @norcal_in_az

    Old school (comparative coiled copper wire) works well as long as each traceable master is properly identified.

    On the other hand...

    https://www.ricelake.com/en-us/



  • @norcal_in_az Use the scoop that gets you close to your charge, then trickle to weight.
    My confirmation weights are made from 1/8 brazing rod, cut and sanded to specific weights close to ( both above and below) the charges I use.
    If you are using the same scale all the time, the weights will verify your charges even if they would weigh differently on another scale.



  • Thanks guys that’s what I thought just wanted to make sure.



  • @norcal_in_az

    Well mine did it, I'll try to explain the cause but if you could see and touch the knife system of the hornady scale it would be much easier to understand. The knive's edges had a lot of room to sit on the bearings so every time I removed or put the weighing pan the knives moved from previous sitting place, it had a lot of play, that was what made the scale drift.
    Also the zeroing screw is tremendously unstable, not good for my clumsy hands. I returned that scale.



  • If you have a beam scale with a hollow base fill it with plaster of paris, really helps keeping it stable. I saw a video some guy on the other side of the pond made doing this and also got the pointer and camera idea from him. I super glued my pointer using a sewing needle and then added a piece of it to the pan to re-balance the scale. I also marked the counter top where my scale sits so it goes back in the same location every time. I have access to a very accurate scale at a marine research facility here and would like to make some weights like discussed. I have to see what kind of material they will allow me to place in it first, just happen to know the main man out there at the station. If you use a scoop like a pharmacist measures doses you will be surprised how close you get it. Heap the scoop with powder and take a spatula and swipe the top off level with the scoop and weight it. Do it again the same way and see how close it is. Now that's old school, bet there was a gazillion rounds loaded that way.



  • @norcal_in_az said in Thoughts on beam scales vs digital:

    people have pushing for faster reloading time and spending more money on it. But in my mind, is it worth the trade off?

    Yes, it's worth it, if you like hitting exactly what you're aiming at.

    If you have low expectations... then perhaps it's not worth it. I shoot with the goal of having my bullet hit the exact center of what I'm aiming at. I've spent tens of thousands of dollars toward that end. You don't achieve the kind of precision and accuracy I achieve without spending money.

    You simply do not. Those claiming otherwise will NEVER back up what they claim. ... and in the off chance they can do it once, they will not be able to do it again.



  • @dddoo7

    Accuracy, consistency and speed is what we'd all like to have for throwing our powder and to get all three at the highest level, there's no getting around to having to spend a lot of $$$$. But if one simply doesn't have the $$$$, one makes do with what one can do. . . . at least until they can afford to upgrade. I started out with a Lee balance beam and wasn't able to get it to give me consistent measurements with a reasonable standard deviation . . . even when using the technique of getting a magnified view with a web cam hook up. I then went to an RCBS M500 balance scale and it did a lot better, but until I figured out it's unique nuances, I still couldn't get the consistency I was looking for. I'd tried a couple "mid range" cost electronic scales, but they wouldn't give me accurate readings when trickling. Now that I've figured out the nuances of my RCBS scale (and yes, it's rather slow process), I'm getting pretty consistent single digit SD's (with Varget, anyway) and my last outing was just what I like to see:

    alt text alt text



  • @orkan said in Thoughts on beam scales vs digital:

    @norcal_in_az said in Thoughts on beam scales vs digital:

    people have pushing for faster reloading time and spending more money on it. But in my mind, is it worth the trade off?

    Yes, it's worth it, if you like hitting exactly what you're aiming at.

    If you have low expectations... then perhaps it's not worth it. I shoot with the goal of having my bullet hit the exact center of what I'm aiming at. I've spent tens of thousands of dollars toward that end. You don't achieve the kind of precision and accuracy I achieve without spending money.

    You simply do not. Those claiming otherwise will NEVER back up what they claim. ... and in the off chance they can do it once, they will not be able to do it again.

    Very true, you’ve bought the best there is and at this time that’s not within my reach. When comparing a $100 balance beam and trickers to a $300 electronic is the speed you gain worth the cost of accuracy lost?

    I also thought it wasn’t just coincidence that the Prometheis a balance beam scale. It’s the best powder dispensary unit made right now. One doesn’t have to wonder why he didn’t design it with a electronic scale.



  • @norcal_in_az said in Thoughts on beam scales vs digital:

    When comparing a $100 balance beam and trickers to a $300 electronic is the speed you gain worth the cost of accuracy lost?

    That is dependent upon the individual. Beam scales can be trustworthy. Electronic scales are typically not, but they can be.

    Cheap is cheap. Expensive is expensive.



  • @orkan what beam scales would you recommend?



  • @norcal_in_az
    Good friend of mine is running a Lyman M5 tuned by Scott Parker. He loves it, it’s extremely accurate and consistent but slower than hell.



  • @norcal_in_az said in Thoughts on beam scales vs digital:

    at beam scales would you recommend?

    In the low budget arena, I have no idea. I don't deal with cheap stuff, specifically because it just doesn't work. Were I pressed to get one, it would likely be something like this:

    oH11Ylxh.jpg



  • @orkan Thanks.



  • Two comments....

    • accuracy. Relative vs absolute. We really do not care if the charge we want is 42.100 or 42.120. We just want them all the same. That is relative accuracy. Calibration weights to set linearity , ok, ho hum. We just want to put the same mass of powder in case today, tomorrow, next week, next month... etc

    • beam scales. I build the Prometheus and have played with a bunch of scales. Every electronic scale I have ever used will drift. Every single one. And I spent $$$$
      Nobody, to my knowledge builds a better mechanical scale on the planet today than I do. Only one I know of that is close is the OLD Redding that was fluid damped, and even that needed knife edges stoned out and was slower than mollases. Think minute or two, or three, to weigh out a charge.
      Have spoken with Scott... never seen or used one of his 'tuned' scales. But having derived differential equation governing how balance beams work to build prometheus and years later trying to discuss with Scott and he just said "huh??" I assume he is simply stoning out knife edges which is an improvement but can change the dynamics of the system and not necessarily for the better... but considering mass manufacturing not sure it really hurts.

    Not a ding on anybody... just that there are not many people that have jumped into the weeds on this topic more than I have....


 

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