• RCBS ChargeMaster 1500 Combo Review

    In my never ending quest to simplify and speed up my reloading process I decided that it was time I try out one of these new-fangled electronic powder dispensers/measures. Up to this point I have been using a Lyman No. 55 powder measure and a Lyman beam-type scale to dispense and weigh each and every charge. A random Lee Dipper scoop would be employed to "trickle" in or scoop out a few kernels as needed to get the desired weight. Needless to say that method wasn't the fastest way to do things.

    Looking around at what was available from the different manufacturers I decided on the RCBS ChargeMaster 1500 Combo. My reason for this choice was that it had been around the longest and based on it's history it seemed RCBS has listened to their customers in terms of making slight improvements to it over the years. I also liked that there was a lot of information out there already on how to reprogram the software and/or make minor modifications to get it to be faster and more accurate for your particular reloading needs. Last but not least, at the time I was ready to buy the RCBS also just happened to be on sale.

    After reading through the supplied owners manual and quick start guide I found myself rather disappointed in the ChargeMaster's performance. Throwing 3.0 grain charges of Bullseye for some .38 Special loads nine out of ten charges would be over. Thinking it may be due to the very low charge weight I switched gears and had it throw some 10.5 grain charges of HS-6 for some .45 Colt loads, but eight out of ten charges would still be over.

    At this point I was getting very frustrated thinking I just wasted a couple hundred bucks on something that was supposed to save me time but is actually taking a lot longer to use. In a last ditch effort I opted to give it one more shot with one of my favorite .223 Remington loads of 25.5 grains of Varget. Performance improved quite a bit here, but 50% of the throws were still coming out as overcharges.

    As you can imagine my impression of the ChargeMaster 1500 Combo right out of the box was pretty negative.

    If you've ever done even the slightest bit of reading up on the ChargeMaster 1500 you'll know that there are a could quick easy mods you can do to make it run much, much better. The first is the infamous McDonald's Straw Mod in which you cut off about a 1-1/2 inch length of a McDonald's straw and stick it into the end of the powder feed tube. The interior of the feed tube is threaded much like a nut to help move the powder forward and out, but it also results in the feed tube dumping out to much powder once the dispenser switches over to trickle mode. The smooth interior of the straw helps to prevent this and makes the trickle feature more accurate.

    The second simple mod is to reprogram the machine by changing the points at which it switches from high speed to low speed and low speed to trickle. It's a fairly easy and straight forward mod to do, and since there are literally dozens and dozens of articles and videos out there explaining how to do it I won't go into it here, but basically you want to fine tune these points to the charge weights and types of powder(s) you are using. Many owners also report that the folks at RCBS are also very willing to help walk their customers through the reprogramming process and offer up recommended settings. I ended up using the settings recommended in the video I watched as a starting point and then tweaked them slightly from there until I was happy. The settings I settled on are as follows:

    HSB_A1 = 10.00; Grains under target weight to go from full to high speed
    HSB_B1 = 3.00; Grains under target weight to go from high to slow speed
    BSP_C1 = 1.25; Grains under target weight to go from slow to final trickle speed

    Comments 17 Comments
    1. LoneWolf's Avatar
      LoneWolf -
      I've been using my Chargemaster to load for my 243win match rifle for about a year now. It's currently the only thing I load for and have no issues with accuracy of charge weight. I usually load up 50-100rds at a time and only have a couple of over throws a batch. I've noticed that keeping it in a good level area shaded from unnatural lights has kept it more accurate. Also it's best when the air is nice and dry. I have quite a few more over throws when the humidity kicks up, so I usually try to do my loading early in the day before the heat kicks up the humidity.
    1. rotts4u's Avatar
      rotts4u -
      I have used balance beam scales, digital scales, volumetric powder chargers over the years until I got the charge master. First all I don't suggest weighing tiny charges of pistol power for plinking with a 38 or 45acp etc. For those small charges I use a volumetric charger and it is WAY faster that anything else. I guess that is why most all progressive reloading equipments like a Dillon use volumetric chargers. Also for trail boss you will find that it performs much more consistently if you do NOT WEIGH it. Thats right don't weight it but charge it volumetrically. I set my charger to dispense "about" 10 grains and then let it vary as the size and density of the kernels are very inconsistent. I find that my velocity spread has been cut in half when dispensing Trail Boss this way.

      When I am using the charge master I am mostly using it to do high volume of tightly weighed charges for rifle shooting. I too have adjusted my parameters to some slightly different than yours and my last loading session I loaded 100 rounds of 6.5x47 Lapua with 40.6 grains of H4350. Over that 100 rounds I only had 1 over charge and it was only .1 grains. I think part of using any tool is knowing when to use it and when to use something else and I don't think the charge master is suited for 3.0 grains of pistol powder. There are much easier and faster ways of doing that.
    1. Handloader's Avatar
      Handloader -
      I use a Hornady, and have the same issues. I find (if) I use it, I set it to stop about 1 to 1.5 grains shy of my final weight. I then use my Lee dipper to add to final weight. The only real benefit is the the speed to get to the final drop weight by typing in a weight number vs adjusting a powder drop.
    1. rotts4u's Avatar
      rotts4u -
      Quote Originally Posted by Handloader View Post
      I use a Hornady, and have the same issues. I find (if) I use it, I set it to stop about 1 to 1.5 grains shy of my final weight. I then use my Lee dipper to add to final weight. The only real benefit is the the speed to get to the final drop weight by typing in a weight number vs adjusting a powder drop.
      What charge weight and what powder are you using? surely it is not over charging by 1-1.5 grains is it? Before I made any changes to the program I would occasionally get a .1-.3 grain overage but never 1.0 unless I was bumping the table the scales sits on or something.
    1. J.Baker's Avatar
      J.Baker -
      Quote Originally Posted by rotts4u View Post
      I have used balance beam scales, digital scales, volumetric powder chargers over the years until I got the charge master. First all I don't suggest weighing tiny charges of pistol power for plinking with a 38 or 45acp etc. For those small charges I use a volumetric charger and it is WAY faster that anything else. I guess that is why most all progressive reloading equipments like a Dillon use volumetric chargers. Also for trail boss you will find that it performs much more consistently if you do NOT WEIGH it. Thats right don't weight it but charge it volumetrically. I set my charger to dispense "about" 10 grains and then let it vary as the size and density of the kernels are very inconsistent. I find that my velocity spread has been cut in half when dispensing Trail Boss this way.

      When I am using the charge master I am mostly using it to do high volume of tightly weighed charges for rifle shooting. I too have adjusted my parameters to some slightly different than yours and my last loading session I loaded 100 rounds of 6.5x47 Lapua with 40.6 grains of H4350. Over that 100 rounds I only had 1 over charge and it was only .1 grains. I think part of using any tool is knowing when to use it and when to use something else and I don't think the charge master is suited for 3.0 grains of pistol powder. There are much easier and faster ways of doing that.
      Typically I would agree with you about using this for light pistol loads, but this was a review and as part of that review I wanted to illustrate how it performed with a wide variety of charge weights and powder types to gauge the performance and accuracy over a larger spectrum.

      I'm sure with enough experimenting one could come up with program settings that would provide 95%+ accuracy with most any given powder/charge weight, which is precisely why I included the last paragraph in my summary. You own example in how you use yours with your 6.4x47 Lapua illustrates this perfectly. But as I noted, I don't think it's the ideal solution for those who want to use it for a variety of different cartridges with a variety of different powders as they would most likely need to reprogram it each time to work best with that powder/charge weight combination. In such cases, based on my own experience, a standard volumetric measure and powder trickler is a faster and more accurate option. The only real benefit here, as pointed out by Handloader, is that with the electronic unit there's no set-up time to get a specific charge weight - unless of course you factor in the time to reprogam the unit as needed to work accurately with that particular charge weight/powder combo.

      I plan on keeping the ChargeMaster Combo for the time being and will continue to play with it trying to get more consistent accuracy from it, but I can't deny that using it has really slowed down my reloading process which is the exact opposite of what I bought it for.
    1. Robinhood's Avatar
      Robinhood -
      using it has really slowed down my reloading process which is the exact opposite of what I bought it for
      Profound.
    1. doctnj's Avatar
      doctnj -
      Is the over charge weight reflected on the charge master scale or are you re weighing it on another scale?
    1. Handloader's Avatar
      Handloader -
      Quote Originally Posted by rotts4u View Post
      What charge weight and what powder are you using? surely it is not over charging by 1-1.5 grains is it? Before I made any changes to the program I would occasionally get a .1-.3 grain overage but never 1.0 unless I was bumping the table the scales sits on or something.
      Same here, but it takes just as long to shake out one grain with a dipper as it does to shake out 0.2 grains. BUT, it takes allot longer to pick out 0.2 grains!I use lots of different powders (TAC, H4198, H1000, TightGroup, RL22, Retumbo, H4127, LilGun, etc.). I reload allot of subsonic stuff, and really small differences in weight can make a round go sonic.

      Like the OP said, using a powered powder drop has slowed down my reloading time.
    1. Robinhood's Avatar
      Robinhood -
      It shows on the scale if you wait for it to clear. If you modify the speeds of the drop tube it usually only happens on the first charge and at other times it has to do with the size of the kernel of powder. There are some tricks to eliminate it. I will say it will drop most of the charges very close with small kernel powder. If you are loading for match, every now and then you see enough of a variation that requires double checking everything on a Parker calibrated beam scale or a precision lab scale.
    1. J.Baker's Avatar
      J.Baker -
      Quote Originally Posted by doctnj View Post
      Is the over charge weight reflected on the charge master scale or are you re weighing it on another scale?
      Over charges show in the charge master scale, and were verified on beam scale. Most ranged in the 0.1 to 0.4 grain range, but I did have a couple as high as 0.8 grain.
    1. LongRange's Avatar
      LongRange -
      i bought a charge master about a year ago and after 2 weeks of playing with it i returned it without ever firing a round loaded with it...and yes i tried every trick there is and like MrFurious about 50% of the charges were over and id say 50% were .3g or more.
      i use a scott parker beam a LPPM and trickle but i want my charge weight as exact as i can get it.
    1. doctnj's Avatar
      doctnj -
      Ok, so now I have loaded around 300 rounds with this machine. I did the straw trick and it helped. I went from 60 % error rate to 10 % or a bit higher. I have not re programmed the speed yet. I did however find it necessary to glue my mc d's straw in the spout because after a while it kept coming out. a drop of super glue on the outside of the straw and that is no longer a problem. I was having a problem with static cling but LR gave me solid advice about rubbing it down with a dryer sheet. It is kind of slow but I make good use of that time by seating the bullet in the case I just put powder in, check the OAL, put it in its box and the next charge is waiting right about then to be picked up. Im waiting arrival for some different powder to load some 300 h&h mags. This batch Ill have it re programmed. So far over all, I think it was a good purchase.
    1. EFBell's Avatar
      EFBell -
      I have had none of these issues with mine. But I only load 22-250 and larger rifle loads with it. I do get that occasional .1 over charge and just dump it back in. I never did a real "evaluation" of the frequency but I'll guess it's one in 15 or so. and that is with IMR stick powders more so than ball powders or small grain powders. I do not store anything in the memory and punch in the charge I want when I want it. takes no time at all really. I run 3 or 4 charges and dump them back in the hopper and go from there. I love mine and wouldn't even think of going back to beam and trickle.
    1. dpollard's Avatar
      dpollard -
      I recently bought the Chargemater combo. My experience reflects this review. For what it costs I expect better performance. Wish I had saved my money. Rcbs is shipping out my 3rd unit this week as the first two were defective, that is all fine and well while my 1 year warranty lasts!
    1. folmonty's Avatar
      folmonty -
      Had one for about 3 years but only use it when loading .223. I like doing lots of chronograph test loads and use it for that but only as a scale function. In my opinion it's overkill for loading pistol but works fine to check throws from my old Dillon RL450. Not had too much trouble using Accurate 2015, or H335. The scale is very sensitive to air flow in the room. Even cracking a window slightly can cause uniformity issues. Changing powder can be a little time consuming but getting better at it. Not a routine thing generally. Definitely an expensive scale but pays off doing rifle cartridges. Just added .308 to my mix so it should be beneficial there as well.
    1. J.Baker's Avatar
      J.Baker -
      As I stated above, I never had any real intention of using it for loading pistol ammo. However, as I stated in the review (and the whole point of a review) is to test it over a wide range of uses (i.e. charge weights) with different types of powders. That includes light pistol loads, heavy rifle loads, and everything in between.

      That said, it's accuracy is still ho-hum even when running rifle loads. Most recently I loaded up 20 rounds of .375 Winchester with a 37.8 grain charge of Reloader-7. It took 34 cycles to get 20 that were on the mark. That's roughly a 40% accuracy rate which is piss-poor in my opinion. That's with the straw trick and reprogramming so it switches from low speed to trickle when it's at 2.0 grains below target weight.
    1. Teancum1's Avatar
      Teancum1 -
      I've been using a Chargemaster I inherited from a friend about a year ago. Using H4198, I have loaded 500 rounds with perhaps 2 cases overweight by 0.1 gr on an 18.2 gr throw. I've loaded over 800 rounds using Silhouette at 6.0 and 6.2 gr and possibly 1 in 100 will be over by 0.1 gr. It has worked fine with IMR 4250 throwing 30 - 56 gr charges as well. I've used it on a variety of loads and powders and found it to be amazingly accurate with rifle and pistol, flake, spherical and cylindrical powders. Maybe I just got lucky.


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