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Powered Powder Tricklers
Frankford Arsenal and VibraShine Units Tested and Reviewed
by Danny Reever

There are only two manufactures offering powered powder tricklers--Frankford Arsenal, a subsidiary of Battenfield Technologies, and VibraShine of case tumbler fame. The main differences of the two lie in the method of power, and type of delivery system. The Frankford Arsenal Jiffy Trickler is powered by two AA batteries. It delivers powder via a gear-driven tube like those on manual tricklers. The VibraShine Electric Powder Trickler uses a standard 110-volt power cord. The powder is delivered though a clear, plastic tube using vibratory pulses--the same principle that runs a vibratory case cleaner. Both units work well with all types of powder--ball, flake, and extruded. It's with the extruded powders that these power tricklers prove really useful, since many manual measures have trouble with long stick powders. (You end up cutting or crunching kernels and that throws off the charge weight.)

Trickler Specs and Adjustability
Both units adjust for height, something that is important if you switch between a balance beam and digital scale. With the Vibrashine you can select any height within the unit's elevation range. With the Frankford the only height adjustment is by adding or removing the base. With base removed, the Franford unit offers the lowest feed drop, a plus when using low-slung balance-beam scales. Conversely, the VibraShine offers the highest tube height AND the greatest horizontal reach. That gives the Vibrashine a real edge when working with a digital scale such as the PACT. The PACT is nearly five inches wide, and it carries its powder cup quite high.

Trickler SpecificationsFrankford ArsenalVibraShine
Height to center of delivery tube2.5 inches3.375 inches
Max height at full adjustment3.813 inches4.00 inches
Reach of delivery tube1.875 inches3.125 inches
Base Dimensions3.5" square (with stand)4.25" L X 2" W

Operating the Units
Rate of feed is controlled on the Frankford model by the use of the momentary (on/off) switch only, since the tube rotates inside the hopper just like a manual trickler. On the VibraShine model the rate of feed can be controlled in two ways. First, like the Frankford, you have a momentary (on/off) push-button feed control. Additionally, you can control the rate of flow by rotating the Vibrashine's delivery tube. Position the tube's fill hole facing up for fastest feed, or down for slowest.

Both models, as expected, make some noise. The Frankford's gear noise reminds one of a remote-controlled car racing across the living room carpet. The VibraShine produces the steady hum of an electrical transformer when activated. Neither one is too objectionable, but the VibraShine is the quieter of the two.

Both powered tricklers hold about the same amount of powder. Their capacity is roughly the same as that of name-brand manual tricklers (Redding, RCBS, Lee). The VibraShine has a see-through delivery tube--a nice feature that lets you see the kernels being delivered right up to the point of dropping into the pan. The Frankford unit uses a metal tube. Being battery powered, the Frankford Arsenal model is portable. And, with the simple removal of an o-ring you can use the Frankford trickler manually if the batteries fail. That's smart engineering.

Testing the Units for Function and Output Speed
For the test phase of this review before proceeding further, I wiped out both models with an anti-static dryer sheet to keep the powder from sticking due to a static charge, a good idea for any new piece of plastic gear used with powder.

I tested both models by throwing a charge with my Harrell's measure a couple of tenths light and then trickling up to the desired weight of 30.7 grains of Varget on my RCBS 10-10 scale. I did this for 100+ cases with both machines and kept a log. This gave me a good feel of the two units' operation and allowed me to compare their process rates with that of a Redding manual trickler. Here are the results:

Redding manual trickler: 27 seconds per case

Frankford Arsenal Jiffy Trickler: 22 seconds per case

VibraShine Electric Trickler: 20 seconds per case

The saving of 11+ minutes over a hundred cases isn't much, but with the aid of power, trickling is MUCH easier on the operator over the long haul. Instead of manually turning that trickler, just the light touch of a button is all that it takes.

CONCLUSION--VibraShine for the Shop, Frankford Arsenal for the Field
Which do I like the best? Both models lived up to my expectations. Having to make a choice, I'd opt for the VibraShine. It just seemed easier to use and feeding was a bit more controllable with the twist-adjustable tube. And the Vibrashine may be better if you use a digital scale with a large footprint. However, if you plan on loading in the field the battery-powered Frankford Arsenal is the way to go. The Frankford Arsenal unit is sold by retailers such as Lock, Stock and Barrel for $22.50. The VibraShine model may be ordered directly from VibraShine for $19.95.

In our hobby/sport we are used to paying up to ten times that much for products that may or may not work. It won't cost you an arm or a leg to give either of these models a try. In fact you could by both for less than fifty bucks and come up with your own conclusions. Talk about a bargain!

Trickling with Digital Scales--Issues and Answers

Compared to most balance-beam scales, many digital scales position the powder pan higher and further inboard. This creates some issues when using tricklers, whether manual or electric. Your trickler needs enough height to clear the scale's sides (and draft barrier) and enough reach to access the digital scale's centerpoint.

Vertical Clearance and Lateral Reach
With my new Denver Instruments MXX-123 digital scale, both Frankford and VibraShine tricklers will just clear the glass draft ring by approxmately one-quarter inch. Max useful height of the VibraShine measured to the center of the dispensing tube is 3.875". Four inches is possible, but that's the ragged edge of the vertical support still being in the unit. Adding a spacer under the unit would give you more height which I feel is needed. But there is a more serious issue. Though tall enough, the Frankford's dispensing tube is simply too short. It barely reaches over the edge of the glass draft ring, and doesn't get close to the center of the load cell. This, effectively, renders an unmodified Frankford trickler unusable with the MXX-123. The VibraShine's longer reach gets it all the way to the center of the pan if needed on the MXX-123.

While I imagine an extension to the dispensing tube could be added without too much trouble on the Frankford model, added height would have to come from a spacer. On the VibraShine you can add height with a spacer, or fit an extension to the vertical tube, again without much of a problem. Out of the box, without modifications, the VibraShine model is the only one compatible with a wide and/or tall electronic scale. I'll still keep the Frankford Arsenal unit for weighing at the range with the RCBS 1010.

Does a Vibratory Trickler Upset a Digital Scale
My new MXX-123 is rated to .02 grains. That's two hundreths of a grain, or about one kernel of Varget. Obviously, it is VERY sensitive. The big question is: will the vibration of the VibraShine effect the MXX-123?

I used two mouse pads from Staples to increase the height of the VibraShine (three would be better, that way you could have more of vertical shaft secured in the base, but I only had two at this time) and also to dampen any vibration that might effect the balance. With this setup, my fears were unfounded. The VibraShine had no discernable effect on the MXX-123. The readout didn't move while powering the VS until a powder kernel dropped.

Even throwing a full grain light with my Harrell's the VibraShine very quickly brought it up to the desired charge. So quickly in fact that you must be careful not to go over by a few hundreths. Does it work any better/faster than dropping kernels with ones fingertips? Well if you're only a tenth or two light probably not. More than that the Vibrashine is faster and easier.

I plan to get a thicker spacer just to raise the VibraShine up a bit more. Ideally, I'd like to have an inch of clearance betweem the VibraShine's dispensing tube and the scale's glass draft ring. This will make it easier to remove the pan I'm using to hold the charge.

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Topics: Reloading, powder dispenser, MXX-123, Trickler, Power Trickler, Vibrashine, Redding, Frankford Arsenal, MidwayUSA, Vibratory trickler.

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