• RCBS M500 & Powder Trickler-2 Review

    About a year ago I found myself in need of a new powder scale. At that time I decided to try one of the electronic dispenser/scale comboís, but I found that it was just too cumbersome and slow for my tastes and I made the decision to sell it and go back to a simple and convenient beam-type scale.

    The scale I purchased was the RCBS M500 mechanical scale being reviewed here. The only significant factor that prompted me to purchase this particular scale over the others on the market was that unlike some it has a metal base. Aside from that my choice was mostly price driven as the M500 was on sale for less than $60 at the time of purchase while most other comparable scales were priced at $80 or more.

    The M500 features a 505-grain capacity and uses a two-poise system. Adjustments made using the main poise on the left side of the beam adjust from 5 to 500 grains in 5-grain increments. The small poise on the right side of the beam adjusts from 0 to 5 grains in 0.1 grain increments.

    The M500 uses magnetic damping to eliminate unnecessary beam oscillation. It features a rugged die-cast base with a large adjustable foot for additional stability on the bench. Self-aligning ceramic bearings support the hardened steel beam pivots to guarantee sensitivity to 0.1 grain. The M500 also features an ambidextrous design with dual graduation markings allowing the user to read the weight readings from either side of the scale.

    The M500 uses three separate pointers for easy reading of over and under loads. The center pointer is what is used when balancing the scale and establishing the zero. The top and bottom pointers represent approximately 0.5 to 0.7 grain above and below target load. The top and bottom pointers allow the user to quickly weigh loads knowing that if the beam pointer is oscillating between the top and bottom pointers the load is within +/- 0.5 to 0.7 grains. Having top and bottom pointers also eliminates the need to move the small poise to check powder charge variations.

    Like most beam scales, the M500 uses a weighted support pan that is calibrated from the factory. The weight is in the form of small metallic balls contained within the bottom of the support tray and can be accessed by removing a single Phillips head screw. One can re-calibrate the scale if needed by adding or removing weight from the support, but this should not be necessary if your reloading bench is even remotely close to being level.

    Zeroing the scale is a straight forward process. Assemble the unit on your reloading bench, place the empty pan on the pan support and ensure both the small and main poises are set to zero, then adjust the foot up or down until the beam pointer is aligned with the center point on the base. NOTE: Make sure any sources of moving air (ceiling fan, furnace, air-conditioner, etc) are turned off when zeroing and using the scale as even the slightest bit of moving air will cause the beam to oscillate.

    With the M500 zeroed I proceeded to check its accuracy. While I donít own a set of calibrated check weights, I do have something just as accurate and consistent in weight Ė U.S. coins. Most donít realize that the weight of U.S. coins is extremely accurate making them a suitable means to check the accuracy of a scale. U.S. nickels made after 1866 weight approximately 5 grams which is equivalent to 77.1618 grains. U.S. pennies made after 1983 weigh approximately 2.5 grams or 38.5809 grains, and U.S. dimes made after 1965 weigh 2.268 grams or 35.000589 grains. Rounding those numbers we get 77.2 for nickels, 38.6 for pennies and 35.0 for dimes.

    Using individual and various combinations of coins I was able to verify that the RCBS M500 was spot-on accurate (within the margin or rounding) with every weight tested from 35.0 grains to 501.8 grains. You canít ask for much more than that from a scale.

    While the magnetic field helps reduce beam oscillation, one still needs to use a light tough on the pan and pan support to minimize swaying on that end which will prolong oscillation on the other end Ė a problem common on all beam-type scales that use a hanging pan.

    When I purchased the M500 scale I also took the opportunity to purchase a RCBS Powder Trickler-2 (referred to as PT2 from here on out). Having never owned or used a powder trickler before I was a little apprehensive, but theyíre cheap so I figured what the heck. In the past I had always just used a small Tupperware bowl of powder and a Lee Little Dipper scoop to trickle kernels of powder into the pan, and if I happened to go a little over I could also use it to scoop f few kernels back out. Itís a quick and easy method to use, so I was anxious to see if I would like using a trickler or if I would want to revert back to my old method.

    The PT2 features a die-cast aluminum hopper, two-piece aluminum feed tube, and a weighted and adjustable polymer base. The base is marked with the word ďSCALEĒ on one side, and when mounting the hopper you want to ensure the feed side of the tube is positioned over this marking as the base has a slight angle built into it to help promote powder flow down the tube. If you donít align these marks powder will mover very slowly or possibly not at all as it will be trying to go up hill.

    At its lowest adjustment the feed tube is approximately 3-1/4 inches above the bench. At its highest adjustment the tube is 4-3/8Ē above the bench. This should be more than enough adjustment for most any situation, though one can always use blocks and/or remove the base to achieve lower or higher heights if necessary.

    Final Thoughts

    After using both the RCBS M500 scale and Powder Trickler-2 trickler for a couple months I feel comfortable offering up my opinion on the two pieces of equipment. In regards to the M500 scale, Iíve found it to be extremely accurate and convenient to use. The ambidextrous design allows me to set it up different ways on my bench depending on how I have other items configured that day, and the markings are large, clear and easy to read with the nice white on black contrast. The base also features a nice grains to grams conversion table. While I initially thought the three pointer idea was a little hokey, I actually found it to be a nice feature and time saver. Basically if I could see the beam pointer was oscillating evenly above and below the center pointer I knew the load was the correct weight without having to wait for the oscillation to stop.

    On the other hand, I found that I really wasnít all that impressed with the Powder Trickler-2. While it does indeed trickle powder, I found the rate at which it does so to be quite slow and found that using it slowed my efficiency compared to the Lee Little Dipper method I normally use. Itís much faster and easier to grab the scoop and tap it a time or two to get a few kernels out than it is to turn the tricklersí handle for 5-10 seconds waiting for it to spit out a couple kernels. Thereís also no means to pluck a few kernels out of the pan with the PT2 should you happen to go over.

    Both units do as they say, are well built and should serve the user well for many, many years if cared for properly. The M500 is now my primary scale for reloading, and while Iím not 100% sold on the Powder Trickler-2 I will continue to use it for a while to see if maybe I will grow to like it.

    Additional Photos:

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Robinhood's Avatar
      Robinhood -
      Thanks for the reviews Jim.
    1. RolHammer's Avatar
      RolHammer -
      I'd bought both units a few months before you & I concur with everything you've said here. Fair, true, well-balanced & accurate review of each unit.