Lee Dippers and small pistol cartridges
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  1. #1
    Deadeye
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    Lee Dippers and small pistol cartridges

    I've been reloading rifle cartridges for many years but am just now starting to think about taking up reloading some .380 ACP cartridges. My question has to do with measuring the powder charge.

    I have never owned a powder dispenser but have always either weighed each charge or used some kind of dipper. I mostly use Lee plastic dippers but I have also made up a couple of custom dippers out of brass cartridge cases that drop out specific charge weights of specific powder to match my pet loads. Even though I have great confidence in using powder dippers to measure charges for rifle cartridges, I'm a little hesitant to use them when it comes to measuring powder for a small pistol. A charge variance of a couple tenths of a grain in .35 Rem is relatively trivial. But a +/- 0.2 grain variance in a small cartridge with fast pistol powder seems like it would make a much larger difference.

    Still, I somehow doubt that automatic powder dispensers are much more accurate and consistent than are dippers. Don't you probably see just about as much variation in powder charge with a typical automatic powder measure as you do with the dippers?

    I know that I would probably need to make my own dipper to specifically drop a charge of the weight and specific powder that I want to load. The standard Lee dippers rarely offer the specific volume required for small pistol loads with such a small window between starting and max loads. I suppose I can trickle and weigh each charge until I find a load that I like and then make a custom dipper that doles out a charge that consistently weighs what I want to load.

    So, how about it? Does anyone have any experience loading small pistol cartridges using powder dippers? Was it effective or were there problems? Are there any hazards associated with it? What recommendations do you have?
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  2. #2
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    Small dippers or charge cups do as well as most commercial powder measures, as long as you use a consistent method for measuring the powder.

    I use a small rice bowl, coffee cup or baby food jar to hold the powder, then lower the dipper slowly into the powder, letting it flow into the dipper of oits own weight, then raising it up and striking the charge off level using a card or pen knife.

    Most problems with lack of uniformity in using dippers is cause by running the dipper through the powder like a shovel and trying to see how much you can get into it, causing varying amounts of compression of the powder, which is NO GOOD!

    If you want a dedicated measure to meter small amounts of fast-burning pistol powder for cartridges like the .32 ACP and .380 ACP, the RCBS Little Dandy works well:

    The RCBS Little Dandy measure uses interchangeable, drums or rotors to throw a fixed powder charge. The proper drum is selected in accordance with a table, which lists the nominal charge weight thrown by each numbered rotor, using various powders. Selection of the proper drum or rotor should always be done by consulting current published sources of load data. You should then check the charge weight of YOUR drum against a reliable powder scale. I drop TEN charges onto the scale pan and mentally move the decimal.

    The rotors or drums are usually spot-on to the stated charge weight, or not more than 0.1 grain under. I have never found one which threw more than its stated charge weight.
    I use the Little Dandy in multiple applications, so I therefore, I post this charge table in my loading area:

    These are the rotors I use with my RCBS Little Dandy powder measure and the loads they are used for:

    #00=1.7 Bullseye, practice load for .32 ACP with Accurate 31-087T or 31-090B (OK for steady use in light alloy frames), full charge load in .32 ACP with 2 grains of TiteGroup with Accurate 31-077B or 31-084H bullets. Also .32 S&W Long gallery load with 98-grain HBWC, safe for S&W 1903 Hand Ejector.

    #0 = 2.1 Bullseye,
    full charge for .32 ACP and pre WW2 S&W .32 Long Hand Ejector with Accurate 31-087T or 31-090B (steel frames only).

    #1 = 2.5 Bullseye, “Full charge” load for postwar .32 S&W Long with 31-105T, .32 ACP with 73-gr. FMJ, or .380 ACP with 35-120H.

    #3 = 3.0 Bullseye, standard load for .32 H&R Mag and .32-20 with 115 LFN, and .38 Spl.148 HBWC flush seated.

    #5 = 3.5 Bullseye
    factory duplication load for .38 Special with 158-grain lead. "Full charge wadcutter with 146 DEWC

    #7 = 4.0 Bullseye +P load for .38 Spl. with 146 DEWC and “full charge wadcutter” for use in .357 guns.

    #8 = 4.5 Bullseye Cowboy Load for .45 Schofield with 230 grain lead.

    #9 = 5.0 Bullseye Cowboy Load for .45 Colt with 255-grain lead. Service "hardball" charge in .45 ACP for 230-grain FMJ

    #12 = 6.5 Bullseye
    Factory duplication load for . 45 Colt 250 LFN, also 200-grain .44-40, .44 Mag 240-gr. “medium” velocity.

    #13 = 7.2 Bullseye, Maximum charge for .45 Colt 255-gr. lead.

    #15 = 8.4 Bullseye, 1100 fps with 240 JHP in. 44 Mag revolver, 100-yd. target in .30-'06 plainbased 150 to 205 grains.
    Gallery practice with JACKETED bullets in .308 Win or .30-’06.

    #18 = 14.5 #2400, standard load for .357 magnum 158 to 160 grain lead SWC or FN,

    #19 = 15.4 #2400, full charge .357 Mag. 158 jacketed, 200-yard target gascheck load in any. 30 cal. from 7.62x39 to. 30-'06
    Using bullets from 150 to 205 grains. Also very good in. 30-30 and. 32-40!

    #22 = 17.9 #2400, full charge load for Winchester 1892 in .44-40.

    #25 = 20.8 #2400, Standard charge 44 Mag. with 240-260-grain LFN
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    Esteemed Sharpshooter
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    I've been dipping powder charges for 47+ years. I found the plastic Lee dippers to be static-y and the powder wants to stick to the thing. Dang it! I make all my dippers out of old cartridge cases and check the charge weights with a Lee or RCBS scale. Cut the cases down until you get the charge weight you want, or find the correct case in the collection. Handles are whatever is around. Twisted wire, old broken screwdrivers, or a Harley spoke. Epoxy or silver solder secures the assembly. No static cling to brass cases. Keep a chart with dipper # and charge weights with various powders.
    The old, original Lee dippers from 50 years ago were made of aluminum.
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    @rob42049,

    Quote Originally Posted by rob42049 View Post
    I've been dipping powder charges for 47+ years. I found the plastic Lee dippers to be static-y and the powder wants to stick to the thing. Dang it! I make all my dippers out of old cartridge cases and check the charge weights with a Lee or RCBS scale. Cut the cases down until you get the charge weight you want, or find the correct case in the collection. Handles are whatever is around. Twisted wire, old broken screwdrivers, or a Harley spoke. Epoxy or silver solder secures the assembly. No static cling to brass cases. Keep a chart with dipper # and charge weights with various powders.
    The old, original Lee dippers from 50 years ago were made of aluminum.
    When first used, static is indeed a problem with the plastic dippers. However, once some of the graphite that coats most powders gets on the plastic dipper the static problem goes away. The dipper looks nasty and dirty from the graphite, but don't clean it since that coating is what allows it to work. The biggest problem with dippers for pistol calibers is getting one that delivers an amount of powder that is close to what you want to use. Therefore, I also make custom dippers from cartridge cases and straightened out paper clips to fill in the gaps.

    Marshall
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    Used to wash my plastic funnels in Dove to stop static electricity.
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    Quote Originally Posted by shawlerbrook View Post
    Used to wash my plastic funnels in Dove to stop static electricity.
    "Dove" or "Dawn"? I've used Dawn before on plastic to control static. I just wash the plastic with the soapy water, skip the normal rinse routine, then let the plastic air dry. It will keep a super thin film of detergent on the surface for a while and greatly reduce static cling.

    jd
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    When dispensing the powder into the case from the dipper I use a funnel with the cartridges in a block on a level just above the powder container as inevitably some powder is on the shaft of the dipper and I do not want that to go in the case. The powder on the shaft falls back in the container. A block of wood serves the purpose. My favorite funnel is an old plastic Bair that has a removable case adapter that also can be used to dump the dipper reservoir of powder back into the powder canister.

    Cases are moved in the loading block in sequence to keep them near its edge and over the container. Cases are base up until they are to receive powder. Once a reasonable number are charged I then seat bullets. This works great for loading at the range in experimental sized testing. A powder scale works poorly outdoors and dippers or a powder measure with known dispensing rotors or disks is a great asset.

    Best done with good metering powders......Bullseye, Titegroup, W231, WST, etc.

    I have a big collection of Lee dippers from when they were red plastic as well as the current yellow plus nonstandard ones from their die sets so I can dip some pretty small charges. If you want smaller or larger many spent cartridge cases from rimfire on up will serve.

    Dipping charges never made me feel like a second class citizen and the chronograph says I fare pretty well.
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  9. #8
    Deadeye
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    So, it seems like others have used the dippers successfully with small pistol cartridge loads. That's mostly what I needed to know. If I started loading pistol cartridges in quantity, a good powder measure will likely be called for. Until then, I think I'll start small and follow my rifle loading routine as much as possible.

    Thanks to all for your responses!
    Golphin likes this.
    "...it is the man behind the gun that makes the difference. An inch or two in trajectory or a second or two in rapidity of fire is as nothing compared to sureness of eye and steadiness of hand." -- Teddy Roosevelt

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    I've found dippers to be faster, easier, and just as exact as a powder measure. This coffee cup has loaded a few hundred thousand rounds over the decades, it's like an old member of the family. A good loading block and flashlight are essential. Be careful and keep it simple.

    Picture0128180848_1.jpg

    This is a .380 auto shell, it dips 6.3 grains of IMR Red or Alliant Red Dot. Perfect for .45 Colt SAAMI standard or .44 Mag target/plinking loads. A 9mm Luger shell dips 8 grains of Unique, also good for those two cartridges. I've never seen the need for a powder measure. Dippers have no moving parts, nothing to break or adjust.
    Last edited by rob42049; 04-22-2019 at 09:09 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rob42049 View Post
    This coffee cup has loaded a few hundred thousand rounds over the decades, it's like an old member of the family.
    How long did it take you to train it, and can you train more?


    Vooch

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk
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