Loading Basics: Powder Measures and Scales

Powder measures and scales are used to ensure that the proper charge of powder is loaded into each case during loading.

Inconsistent charges can cause poor accuracy, improper functioning in some types of actions and, in the worse case, a damaged gun or injury to the shooter.

Powder Measures

A powder measure must be used to determine the amount of powder needed to load a cartridge.

The measure makes distributing the powder faster, easier and more reliable.

There are several styles of powder measures and some are more complex than others, however, all of the methods will get the job done.


The easiest and least expensive type of powder measure is the dipper. This type uses volume to measure the powder.

You simply scoop the powder from a container, scrape the excess off of the top and pour it into the case.

This type is limited though, because they are not adjustable and you must have several dippers for different charges and powder types.

This would be a useful method if you only plan to load one or two calibers in specific loadings.

Dipper powder measure

Rotary Drop Measure

The rotary drop measure is more versatile. This measure is adjustable for different charge weights and powder types.

Once the desired powder charge is obtained, you hold the case under the measure and rotate the handle on the side.

The correct charge is dropped from the hopper, down a tube and into the case.

This type of measure can be used with most powder types, although they do seem to prefer ball and flake types.

This method allows for quicker loading and is more versatile than using a dipper.

Rotary Drop Measure

Electronic Measure

Electronic measures are the most expensive, but can make the process easier and faster. The powder is automatically dispensed from the hopper into a pan.

You input the amount of powder desired with a keypad on the measure.

Some of these measures have a scale built-in and some are used with an external electronic scale.

The measure will stop dispensing the powder when the desired charge is reached.

This is the most efficient method and would be great for those who want to do a lot of ammunition loading.

Electronic Powder Measures

Powder Scales

All powder measures must be used in conjunction with a powder scale.

Powder is measured in grains, a unit exclusive to the shooting industry, so your everyday kitchen scale won’t work.

The scale will check the charge from the measure to make sure it is correct and consistent. There are two types of scales, balance beam and electronic.

Both types are usually accurate to 1/10th of a grain and work well.


The balance-beam style is the least expensive and the most popular.

The powder is placed in a pan and there are weights on the beam that slide to match the charge.

This style of scale has been around for a long time and it is basic and reliable.

There are no electronic components or batteries to go out, it is a simple device that will last a long time.

shotgun cartridges reloading. capsules, shells, powder, cartridges, scales on the table

Electronic Scale

The other type is the electronic scale. They have displays that are easier and faster to read.

The powder charge is dispensed into the pan and the scale will show its weight, usually on an LCD display.

Electronic scales will normally cost more than balance-beam types. For those of us with aging eyes, this may be the better selection.

Electronic Scale

Conclusion: Powder Measures and Scales

When loading or reloading ammunition, it is important to determine the correct powder charge.

Inconsistent loadings will not only produce poor accuracy and reliability, they can also be a safety issue for both the firearm and the shooter.

With these options for powder measures and scales, you will be able to work up a consistent and safe loading every time.

What type of powder measures and scales do you use for handloading? Why? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a relatively young firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting consistently for around seven years. Though he is fairly new to the industry, he loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related.

Alex tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills. He also enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and to keep them properly cleaned and maintained. He installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn.

Additionally, he is very into buying, selling and trading guns to test different firearms and learn more about them. He is not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (6)

  1. I started reloading to save money and get consistent loads.
    I use a single beam balance and a dipper. I prepare cases ahead of time and then sit to weigh powder and set bullets one at a time. Takes about 2hrs to get a box of 50 rounds done.
    They shoot very consistently.

  2. When doing a large batch of straight walled cases like 9mm or .40 I use the powder measure after dialing it in. Will check for accuracy periodically. When precisioneering my hand loads in .308 for long range shooting every individual charge is precisely measured before going in the case.

  3. I’ve found that some powders tend to cake/clog flowing through the port.One needs to vigorously cycle the handle-and consistently do that.Scuttlebutt has it,that leaving a film of dish detergent on the measure will eliminate static clinging of powder-at least on mechanical chargers.SN:I’ve never used the electronic powder scales/chargers.

  4. Back in the day, I would do all of a single operation in a batch. Thus when it came to dropping powder, I would usually have 100 or so primed cases ready to go. After setting up my rotary measure I would drop a couple of charges and measure those on the scale. If consistent, I would start dropping charges. I generally tried to measure again after a few (10-20) drops to make sure my rotary hadn’t drifted. If good (it always was), I would go to the end and drop a charge to measure at the very end. If it’s good to start, doesn’t drift early and is good at the end, you can be pretty confident that your measure is accurate.

    All that said, you still have to pay attention and look for doubles and misses. In un-necked cartridges it’s usually fairly easy to spot with a quick glance. But you have to pay close attention necked cartridges.

  5. I find electronic hoppers tend to dispense a little more than the grain you set them to, depending on the powder type, so I’ll usually set them for a couple grains less than the target and use the trickle feature to top off the difference.

  6. Make sure the beam balance is o a level surface or it won’t be accurate.With powder chargers check every 5th or 10th load with a beam balance,make sure powder is routinely flowing through itC

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