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RCBS ChargeMaster Combo

Price: $320.00 did a comparison test with the RCBS, Lyman, and PACT digital powder dispensers. While all three units dispensed loads within ± 0.1 grain, we concluded the RCBS Chargemaster is the best of the three units. Dispensing speed was the best, it was easy to drain powder, controls were very user-friendly, and the zero held stable. The RCBS ChargeMaster (MSRP $349.00) had none of the shortcomings we noticed with the other dispensers (e.g. slow warm-up, and difficult cleaning with the Lyman). Note: the best price we've found currently for the Chargemaster 1500 Combo (item RC98923) is $289.95 at Natchez Shooters Supply.

The RCBS handled long extruded powders with ease. This is important, because many manual powder measures struggle with the stick powders. The kernals jam or you have to apply extra pressure to cut them. This can throw off your charge. With the Chargemaster, you'll never have to re-throw a charge because of jammed kernals. However we did observe that occasionally, at the very end of the dispensing process, a few kernels would clump together, sending the charge 0.1 high. It was a simple matter to remove a couple kernels. Or, you could just dump the charge and hit "dispense" again. It takes only 8-12 seconds to throw a typical 6BR charge of 30.0gr Varget. This is much faster than trickling by hand.

Layout and Ergonomics
Like the PACT system, the RCBS ChargeMaster employs a separate scale and dispenser, but they are nicely integrated. The scale plugs into the base of the dispenser unit and is supported on metal forks. The scale can be removed for stand-alone use, a nice feature if you're just weighing bullets or primers. The powder tray is right up front and everything is clearly visible, even with the protective clear plastic cover in position. Controls are easy to read. The powder drain is on the side, a more convenient location than the rear port on the Lyman 1200 dispenser

The ChargeMaster's footprint is fairly compact, so it won't hog too much space on your bench-top. The powder hopper has ample capactity to load over 200 6BR rounds. The only two changes we'd like to see made in the Chargemaster would be a graduated hopper (to give you a better sense of remaining powder quantity) and a stand to get the unit up high enough to drain the powder directly into a one-pound powder bottle. We'd like RCBS to offer a fitted cover at some point as well.

Calibrating the RCBS ChargeMaster
The ChargeMaster comes with two 50gr calibration check-weights, which are conveniently stored in tailored recesses on the front of the unit. The calibration process takes about three minutes to complete. Once you've stored a load in Memory you do not have to re-calibrate that powder again. NOTE: The dispensing pan must be removed for the calibration process.

Enter the Digital Era of Push-Button Reloading
Once you've calibrated the machine (and the display shows that the zero is stable), you can start dispensing loads or program your favorite reloads into memory. We really like the memory feature--after you program the unit with your favorite loads, you just press the recall button to bring up the load recipe. The only glitch is that the memory stores loads by 4-digit number. So if you have both IMR 4350 and Hodgdon 4350, for example, you have to remember which is which.

Now assuming that you programmed the unit for your load, place the powder pan on the scale, and press "Zero" (this resets the zero to compensate for the weight of the pan). Then hit the dispense button and the ChargeMaster starts throwing the exact charge that you programmed.

Load Accuracy--ChargeMaster vs. Balance-Beam Scale
We checked the machine-thrown charges by weighing them with my 10-10 balance beam scale. Every automatically-dispensed charge was within ± 0.1 grain of my intended load, as measured by the balance-beam scale. But keep in mind that the balance-beam isn't foolproof either. Trying to work down to .05 grain or better accuracy requires very minute control adjustments and a lot of patience as you wait for the arm to dampen out. Remember that 0.1 grain is just three kernels of powder. Getting consistent 0.1 grain accuracy with a balance beam is time consuming, and it takes some skill to do this every time. Using the automated dispenser is faster and easier.

Cleaning and Powder Removal
Cleaning the ChargeMaster is very easy (unlike the Lyman 1200). Put a shallow pan under the powder spout on the right side of the unit. Then, rotate the drain spout cover, and tilt the Chargemaster to the right. When you've finished, close the powder port and hit "trickle" to remove the last few grains in the dispensing tube.

Note that inside of the ChargeMaster's powder hold (center photo) is smooth, with curved surfaces and a natural funnel shape. So, almost all the kernels of powder drain out immediately. If you look at the pictures of the powder hold on the Lyman 1200, you can see that the RCBS has a much better design, with fewer blockage points for the kernels.

RCBS ChargeMaster Powder Dispensing Speed Tests
We threw 20 charges with both Hodgdon H4831sc and IMR 4064, and timed the charges to completion with a stopwatch. The ChargeMaster's average "fill" times were 8.95 seconds for H4831sc and 12.3 seconds for IMR 4064. These numbers show the RCBS is roughly twice as fast as the Lyman 1200 and about 60-90% faster than the PACT. The chart below records these results. The vertical axis displays time in seconds, while the horizontal axis shows the number of the test charge, 1 through 20.

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