Every article that ever discusses reloading compared to buying factory ammo inevitably touches on the touchiest topic of all – cost. Nearly every reloader I’ve ever met, teeth clenched, smile painted on, tells me that, yes, they definitely save money rolling their own. Having done it on my own for a bit, I can tell you that’s not the case. Unless you load tens of thousands of rounds each year, reloading is not likely to save you any money. That said, it is good fun and allows a great deal of flexibility in what you can conceivably put together for your rifle or handgun of choice.
One of the most luxurious items you can purchase for yourself is an automated powder trickler that lets you dispense your exact charge weight at the press of a button. There are a couple models on the market from various manufacturers, but the one that always seems to garner the best reviews is the RCBS Chargemaster. Unfortunately, the Chargemaster suffers from a few fatal flaws. First, it’s a serious investment at a street price of well over $250. I picked mine up for $270 on an Amazon sale and felt like I got a steal.
The second major flaw is the powder trickling tube which has always suffered from a bout of “overthowitis” with stick powders like Varget, H4350, and the Reloader series. Luckily, it can be fixed and salvation is but a McDonald’s straw and some programming away. Still, dropping nearly $300 on a gadget that you then have to fix up right is a downer.
For 2017, RCBS is introducing the Chargemaster Lite, meant to be a lower cost alternative to the much more expensive Chargemaster line currently gracing the reloading bench in my shop. The Lite takes all the great features of the regular Chargemaster, fixes the dispensing pipe, and uses a less expensive load cell along with a much cleaner interface to bring a true value based automated powder trickler to market.
For those worried about that load cell comment, fear not. RCBS’s product manager reassures me that the load cell in my legacy Chargemaster is accurate +/- .1 gr from 3-700 grains which requires a very precise, and therefore very expensive, load cell. The Lite version moves to a load cell that is accurate to +/- .1 gr from 3-300 grains. This, along with some other changes, reduces MSRP by ~$200 to $299.95. Given that real world cost on the regular Chargemaster is about 55% of MSRP, my hope was that the Lite would hit the market at a price substantially lower than $200, but it appears from a cursory search of the internet that you’ll be able to pick one up in the wild for ~$210.
That’s still very affordable, and if it’s as accurate as my premium grade Chargemaster, it should be a fine complement to a well equipped reloading bench. RCBS has a test unit winging its way towards Austin, TX now and I intend to drag race it against my much pricier legacy unit. Stay tuned.