Monday, June 29, 2015

Home made powder dippers :or: Lee dippers don't do half sizes

While working on a project I came across the "want" for a powder dipper that threw EXACTLY 4.2gr of Red Dot. I have a powder thrower (the lyman 55) that can throw whatever charge I so desire to surprising accuracy. However the application I have in mind will not allow for the use of a powder thrower. The next logical step is a lee dipper. I can't recall if I've mentioned it before but lee dippers are very handy to have however they do lack accuracy. Do not confuse accuracy with consistency here, Lee dippers will throw a repeatable charge until your hand falls off, however it may not be the charge that is listed in the chart/manual/book what have you. If we take a look at the lee dipper chart we see that the closest we can get to 4.2gr of red dot is using the 0.5cc dipper which is supposed to give us 3.5gr  the next dipper up is the 0.7cc which jumps us up to 5.0gr of red dot, way past the 4.2gr we wanted. Now if you have several dippers sets or duplicates of a lee dipper size you may be tempted to shorten it to get the volume and thus the weight you are after. No problem with that, just be sure to make a note of the charge it has been modified for on the handle so whoever gets the dipper next knows.


Back to the rainy day project at hand ,more like rainy month for us here in NW Ohio but I digress. With a few simple hand tools and a file (or Dremel or even better a belt sander) we can make our own precision powder dipper for only the cost of time. You've probably seen these charge dippers before made out of fired cases but I'm going to offer some insight into making these that you may have not considered before. First we want a thin tall case not a fat one like a 40 S&W but something like a 30 carbine is perfect. The reason is a tall skinny case can give you better accuracy with smaller volumes of powder. Think back to your chemistry lab days and how quickly a tall skinny graduated cylinder would fill up vs a flask. Our 30 carbine case can be filed to our exact needs where as a short fat case would give us consistency issues with smaller volumes. Plus it will be easier to dump the powder straight into our pistol cases (in this case...no pun intended .38 SP +P loads).

Shortened .30 carbine case, a .32ACP case might also work if you have those on hand.


Stripped copper wire and my legs.....


First I measure out 4.2gr of red dot, dump that into the case we will cut down. I mark on the side where I want to cut, making sure to leave myself a little length to shorten it up more if needed.  I used a Dremel tool to cut off the excess and then a sanding drum on my Dremel to shorten the case up in small increments (marking how much to remove each time) until I got exactly 4.2gr DIPPED from my powder mug. I deburr the case mouth like you would for a rifle case each time I shorten it as well. Next I dug around for scrap copper wire and stripped it. This we will use as our handle for our scoop. The 30 carbine is rimless so the extractor groove will work well to twist the wire into. After the scoop has been tested for accuracy we take a fine tip sharpie and write the charge it was made to throw on the side. A alternative is a steady hand with a electropencil which I ended up doing not wanting to risk the writing wiping off over time and not recalling what size I made it for.

Pro tip- In the back of the Lee load manual there is a table that you can multiply the number of grains by the known volume 1gr of said powder takes up. The resulting number is the volume of your powder charge in CC's . Lee also lists the case capacity in the load manual of each of the cases in CC's, this might save one some time and effort if you find a given straight wall pistol case may be closer than another option you were thinking about. Also keep in mine a long narrow measuring device can be more exacting than a short fat one, although a powder bridge may occur easily if you are using a powder that has course grains.
Handle installed and everything ready to go



Marking the new dipper is important for safety and sanity.


This little project is a component of another post I'm working, Lyman 310 dies and tongs. I recently got a set for .38/357 and am working on loading ammo with it this week and hopefully will have something posted on that experience before too long.

Here is another homemade dipper I came across in a lot of reloading stuff from an estate, looks like a large nail was soldered onto a very old balloon head .44 Special case. Made for 20gr of 4756 which is a powder I'm not familiar with.





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