March 10th, 2012

Shot Order and Calibration When Using Electronic Scales

Here’s a tip that can help you score higher at matches and get more predictable results when weighing loads with an electronic scale. Kelly Bachand, a top prone shooter and electrical engineering major at the Univ. of Washington, tells us that all digital scales can drift. Therefore Kelly recommends re-calibrating electronic scales often. In addition — and this is key — Kelly recommends that you shoot the ammo in the exact order in which it was loaded. Arrange your loaded ammo in a box in the order of loading and shoot it first-loaded to last-loaded. (Or, if you prefer, shoot it last-loaded to first-loaded.) The important thing is to maintain the order and not mix everything up. That way, if your scale drifts, the effect of drift on charge weight will be incremental from one loaded round to the next, so point of impact change should be negligible. Conversely, if you shoot your last-loaded round right after your first-loaded round, the effect of scale drift is at its maximum, so powder charge varience is maximized. And that can produce a different point of impact (POI) on the target.

Tips on Loading with Electronic Scales
by Kelly Bachand
If you use a digital scale to measure powder charges, recalibrate the scale often. I like to do this about every 25 rounds or so. Additionally, most electronic scales rely on eddy currents for their precision. Eddy currents are easily disrupted by static electricity so keep a cloth or ground strap nearby to remove any static currents should the scale start acting up; I usually just use a fabric softener sheet that has gone through the dryer once.

Shoot Ammo in Order of Loading
I shoot my rounds in the same order or reverse order as I load them. If the charge weight varies due to scale drift during use, the difference will be gradual if I shoot in the same order as production (or reverse order). I should be able to adjust for the slight varience in charge weight without having any wildly high or low shots (see the charts below for a graphical demonstration). I usually load my ammunition just 100 rounds at a time. Give yourself plenty of time and remember that you will make your best ammunition when you are fully awake and alert.

Electronic powder scale chart

This graph demonstrates the effect a .01% (that’s 1/100th of 1 percent) difference in scale measurement would have over the course of 100 rounds assuming the desired load is somewhere between 46 and 47 grains. The final round made would have almost 1% less (or more) powder than the first, that’s almost an 0.5 grain difference from the first. If shot back to back, these rounds will invariably have different points of impact on the target.

Electronic powder scale chart

This graph demonstrates the same .01% difference in scale measurement but this time with a recalibration every 25 rounds. By recalibrating the scale every 25 rounds the furthest a weighed charge ever gets from the original is less than 0.25%. Again if the charge being weighed is between 46 and 47 grains then the 26th round made would vary from the 1st by .12 grains. Even that small difference would likely show on target.

Either way it is important to note that if the bullets are shot in the same (or reverse) order as they are made, the biggest difference from bullet to bullet in this example is less than .01 grains.

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