• Harrell Custom 90 Powder Measure

    One thing I have noticed in the benchrest match shooting game is that there are different opinions on what equipment is the best. Many debates have been feuded on what is the best barrel, who makes the best action, and many other arguments on what is the best this or that. One thing that the majority agrees on though is that the Harrell Powder Measure is the best measuring device on the market.

    Earlier this year I was at the Firearms Industry Super Shoot at Kelby’s range, [readers should know that this event draws in the best shooters from around the world] and as I was walking around in the loading barn I started looking at everyone’s set-ups. It didn’t take me long to realize that probably 90% of the shooters were using Harrell’s powder measures. I saw a couple of older Culver modified Lyman 55 measures, Redding 3BR’s and a few others, but it the preferred choice of the masses was obvious. I have been to a few other matches since, and again I have noticed that the majority of people are using Harrell’s measures. The Harrell click measure has in effect become the favored tool for powder measurement by benchrest shooters. For example, when you ask benchrest shooters about their load information they will tell you the powder charge weight in clicks, and if you ask them how many grains that is, many of them can not tell you want that equals out to.

    In benchrest shooting you will see many people copying what others do, and most times they do it just because a big name shooter does it. But one thing sticks out, if everyone is using the same thing there must be something to it and it must be the best thing out there.

    To elaborate further, I saw hundreds of different loading presses at Kelby’s, hundreds of different gun set-ups, and different loading techniques, but again just about everyone was using the same measure.

    Perhaps you are reading this article and you are saying to yourself, “who cares about benchrest shooting?” Well this measure would also be a great choice for the varmint hunter or the shooter that uses many different powders. The advantages of the Harrell measure are that it meters precisely, and set up is simple and quick. I know that if I want to throw a charge of 27 grains of Varget, I turn the measure to 49 clicks. Then if I want to throw another charge of some other powder, I just turn to that amount of clicks, and if I go back to loading Varget, I know all I have to do is go back to 49 clicks.

    I have a Lyman 55 measure and it is super accurate, but it takes several minutes to set it up. With the Lyman I would have to move the slides to an area close to the charge I wanted, and then play with them for a few minutes, checking all charges on the scale until I got it set, I would also have to recheck the weights every so often just to make sure something did not move. Last thing about my Lyman I learned that I had to use the slides in a certain way, because if not it would throw varying weights of charges. The Harrell measures are just so much easier, quicker, and just an all around better set up. The reason I gave the example of the benchrest shooter, is the simple fact that if something does not work and perform top notch they simply won’t use it.

    I decided long time ago that I would buy a Harrell measure, the problem was that they are just so expensive, and being a younger shooter with a family, I find that many times money is tight, so I just would have to save up to get one. I found on their website that they offer an economy model of their measure; it is a plain-jane no-frills package which sells for under $200.00 dollars and it is called the custom 90. I looked into it closer and found that they did save a few dollars with the finish and cosmetic features of the measures, but at no cost to accuracy. Harrell states on their web site that “This measure has been proven in independent scientific testing, to be as accurate as any measure ever produced.” According to their website, this measure has been “designed for varmint hunters and benchrest shooters.”

    They further state that this measure is of the same quality as their most expensive measure, but without all of the expensive bells and whistles. They have used a handle that is quicker and cheaper to produce, with using a thumbscrew to hold in the drop tube, and then using a steel washer for a baffle instead of using a machined brass baffle; by this, they have saved some money producing the measure. The body is machined aluminum that has been finished with a hard coat anodizing that has Teflon in it. Because of these things, they are able to take time and cost out of the manufacturing process without any sacrifice in accuracy or quality, passing the savings onto the consumer.

    I gave Harrell Precision a call and talked to Lynwood Harrell. Lynwood is a great person to talk to as he will take the time to answer any and all the questions you can throw at him. Lynwood urged me if I had any further questions to give him a call. I ordered the Custom 90 measure and Lynwood stated he would ship it right out to me. In a day I had a package on my front porch step, and it was my measure. I opened the box, and found it nicely packed, with two drop-tubes, and a bottle. In the box was a simple one-sheet instruction sheet, which is easy to understand.

    The measure I received looked different from the measure from the website. To start with, I noticed that my measures had the more expensive handle, the one used on the upper model measures. I looked and my measure did not have a steel washer for a baffle, but a machined brass baffle. The drop tubes are held into the measures using a brass thumbscrew. The measure has a dark grey coating on it and a sticker identifying it as a Harrell measure. The measure is super light and very compact. I could not wait to use it.

    A good friend of mine told me to take the powder bottle, place some powdered graphite in it, with some shot, and then shake it around getting the bottle dirty. The reason why I was told to dirty the bottle was that it reduces static electrical charges. I did have a bit of problem with static a first as powder would cling inside the drop tube, so I took a drier sheet and wiped off the inside and outside of the drop tube, and the problem was solved.

    The first powder I experimented with was Varget. I played with the adjustment and found a setting that would give me 30 grains. I then would crank the measure adjustment up and down a few times, and then went back to that same setting, and I found that the measure would throw the exact same charge. I did notice that the measure would shear grains as the handle was dropped. (Every powder measure I have ever seen does this.) I loaded fifty rounds weighing each charge, and found that the measure was right on each time. I tried a few different styles of raising the handle, and what I found that made a repeatable throw every time was, raising the handle up to the top as I counted out to five Mississippi. I would then lower the handle back down to about 90 degrees, and then I slowly raising the handle back up to the top, and I would then slowly let the handle drop to the bottom. This gave me a repeatable charge that was right on the money. With adjustment I found that about every click on the dial changed the charge about one tenth of a grain of powder either way for Varget. (Note: the change in charge weight per click will vary from powder to powder due to difference in the granular size/shape of each powder.)

    The next powder I used was IMR 4350. I found the setting that gave me exactly 37.2 grains, and we did some loading. I found the exact same results using this powder as using Varget. This time we did something different, we did load development at the range. I fell in love with this measure, because once I verified that every click gave me about one tenth of a grain of powder, I did not have to weigh charges. I was able to load three rounds, and then shot them, and then I could give the measure a couple of clicks, and try three more rounds, looking for pressure signs, and the most promising charge weights. I could go back to previous settings, and retest them against other promising setting. (WARNING, I did this at my own risk, for safety factors, all charges should be checked with a scale prior to loading them, I do not recommend using his method I am just describing what I did. If you follow my example, you do so at your own risk.)

    Changing charges at the range was a nightmare with my old Lyman measure because it was so hard to set, and having to deal with the wind and using a scale made the job about impossible. I saved time over using my Lyman measure by not having to find the weight change, then verifying that charge, and then adjusting the measure to find the next weight charge, and repeating it all over again. With the Harrell measure it was just click and go.

    I loaded some H322, and found that with the smaller grain powder, that shearing was cut down. I noticed that the measure is starting to break in and become smoother to operate. I found the setting that gave me 27.5 grains, and again I played around with adjustment and found that whatever click number I found, when returned would produce the same charge weight.

    The only things I dislike about this measure are first, seeing the adjustment, on the measure, the hash marks and numbers are on the filling side of the measure. What this does is that the handle has to be up to see the marks; this is when the measure is full. When decreasing charges there is resistance felt due to powder being full in the cylinder. When going from a setting of 55 clicks to a setting of 45 clicks I had to adjust until I felt hard resistance, then drop the powder charge and repeat until I got to the desired setting. The other problem is this measure only has a range of 6 grains to 90 grains. I am not concerned with the upper range, but the lower range does not give the measure the ability to do many pistol calibers, but I knew this from the beginning. It would also be nice to use Hodgdon style bottles, instead of using the smaller bottles that this measure uses. Besides these slight inconveniences, I have to say that this is the greatest powder measure I have ever used.

    I love the measure and would say that it was one of the best investments I have ever made. I greatly applaud Harrell Precision for making a lower cost model which will perform every bit as well as their more expensive, world-renowned measures. After years of buying and playing with different powder measures I wish I would have just bought a Harrell measure from the start and been done with it. Now, after buying one there is no doubt in my mind why the majority of benchrest shooters use their measure, it is simply the best!

    In conclusion, the Harrell measure is a well-designed, light, compact measure that has been proven to be super accurate. The Custom 90 proves to be a great measure for the person that wants a Harrell measure but is on a budget. The Harrell measures are simple to set up and operate and will last a lifetime. The Custom 90 Measure does not have all the features of the upper line of measures, such as ball bearing supports, but it is just as accurate. The measure has a C-clamp on the back and will mount to stands or bench tops with ease. The biggest plus to the Harrell measures are there repeatability. When you find a load that works, all you need to do is remember that click number, and every time you go back to loading, all you need to do is turn the dial to that number. (Of course verifying the charge with a scale and manufactures load data.) The Harrell measure throws precise charges with a minimal amount of error.

    Additional Photos:

    Harrell’s Precision
    5756 Hickory Drive
    Salem, VA. 24153
    Phone: 540-380-2683