Lees Dipper Accuracy


July 16, 2011, 01:48 AM
How accurate are the Less dippers supposed to be? Reason I ask, is that for IMR4064, in 4 different Lee documents, it says to use the same dipper for different starting charge levels. For example ...

3.7 dipper = 49.7g per the Lee slide rule in the Powder Measure Kit

3.7 dipper = 52.8g per the Lee Modern Reloading Book 2nd Ed

3.7 dipper = 51.0g per the recipe card on the Lee 30/06 die kit

I see similar discrepancies with the 3.4 dipper & IM4 4064.

Do I not understand something or are their measurements all over the map?

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Shadow 7D
July 16, 2011, 02:08 AM
Hate to say this, but, like all volume measures it depends, more so as there is a skill to using it, I would suggest that you scoop ten measures and weigh each one. As I have found that it CAN vary much more than 10% on whether the powder is packed or not.

Also, powders vary over time, the recipe can change, they keep the burn consistent, but the milling process might vary, changing density.

July 16, 2011, 04:29 AM
Please get a scale. You should be able to verify for yourself how accurate and precise your dippers are with a given powder. Lee's load info is just a guess. It depends on powder lot and humidity, as well as how you dip.

Steve C
July 16, 2011, 04:46 AM
Since some loaders will use the chart instead of a scale to double check actual charges thrown by the dipper. The powder charge level on the charts is generally higher than what you will get in actual use. It would make sense that Lee lists the absolute maximum amount of powder you could possibly throw with a particular dipper for each powder thus building in a reasonable safety margin for those that only use the chart.

With practice and proper procedure you can get good repeatable powder throws using the dippers however they generally will not be as uniform as what you would get from a more expensive powder measure. Using the dipper to get an approximate amount of powder you seek on the scale and then trickling in the rest is the only way to get both precise and accurate charges from powder scoop dippers.

July 16, 2011, 05:39 AM
The other thing to note is that the Lee powder measures are fixed volume and the dipper recommended is the closest to the MINIMUM charge that you can use safely. If all the powders are somewhat closely matched in both volume density and speed of burn the will be listed with the same dipper. Also note that there will be NO dipper listed if there was not a safe STARTING charge sized one available. If you do not have a scale you should get an inexpensive balance type one and use in combination with your dippers. The weight of the charge is king and the dippers will work to give you a usable load but if accuracy is wanted a scale will get you closer. You can make your own dippers from old straight walled cases and adjust the volume to suit your needs by filing off the mouth or filling the excess space with epoxy to get the correct charge weight thrown but need a scale to calibrate your measure and find out what it the charge is first.

Also the next larger dipper may be an overcharge with many load sizes. Lee states in his book that over filing a particular dipper will still leave a safe charge for you but I would take this with some caution. I have done this and measured the results. Do not try this as it is almost always unsafe in my experiments.

July 16, 2011, 06:37 AM
The values of the dipper do vary according to the powders used. I find them acceptable to about 0.3 grains with Tu 5000

July 16, 2011, 09:23 AM
"Lee's load info is just a guess'? Not really. Most of their data is copied from other sources. Powder density can vary over time and formula and depending on who did the scooping that day and weighed the results, there can be a variance.

There is NO substitute for a scale but most all powder dispensers used in reloading are volumetric and do exactly what the dippers do to throw a charge- fill a specific sized chamber with powder and dump it into a case. Some powders work better than others in different measures.

July 16, 2011, 12:54 PM
OK, it seems to me its sloppy accounting by Lee or something else.

Lee's tables indicate that the same powder (IMR4064) in the same scoop has a power/density variance of 6.24%. If this is not sloppy record keeping by Lee, it means the scoop method lacks repeat-ability due humidity, scoop method, scoop dimensions, etc. Or it means IMR does not have a good handle on their quality control. I think the former is the case here.

Not a big deal for plinking ammo. But as said above, out of the box, the dipper system will have trouble producing consistent and known results.

July 16, 2011, 01:04 PM
Dipper, or volume measurement of powder is never going to be what a book says it is.

Reasons include:
1. Every powder lot of the same powder may likely have slightly different densities.

2. An open can of powder my lose solvent or moisture and be lighter then it was when the can was first unsealed when new.

3. It may also draw humidity from the air and get heavier.

If you use dippers, or a powder measure, a scale is an absolute necessity to find out what the charges actually weigh.


Friendly, Don't Fire!
July 16, 2011, 01:20 PM
I have a set and I use them only to throw a charge that is a bit on the light side, into the scale pan, then dribble up to the exact weight. I also use my RCBS powder measure the same way.

For pistol loads, I use my powder measure that has a micrometer screw plunger adjustment. I can dial-in the same number I used before and it is always exactly, right-on!

I batch-load on Frankford Arsenal Trays of 50, so I fill a tray of 50 cases then scrutinize the levels of every one, compared to the others. I weigh about every tenth to twentieth charge, just to be sure I am right on.

July 16, 2011, 01:51 PM
I'm sure Lee used math to determine how much powder is dipped (size/volume of the dipper, in ccs, density of powder from factory specs.), so Your results will vary. I have no idea why the amounts vary from printed source to source. I have used dippers from the beginning, circa 1969. My next purchase was a scale, and I began weighing my charges (I was using a Lee Loader and was in no hurry). You can "customize" your dippers by reaming, opening up the cavity for slightly larger charges, and drop epoxy in the cavity for smaller charges, trial and error of course. When I got a rhythm going I could be very repeatable dipping charges; within 1/10th grain...

Lost Sheep
July 16, 2011, 04:34 PM
Prove dippers' accuracy/inaccuracy for yourself

If you have a theory, the "Scientific Method" is used to prove or disprove it.

The Scientific Method:
Make a statement to be proven or disproven. Devise an experiment to test the statement. Collect the data in controlled experiments and analyze it. Come to a conclusion that the theory is 1) proven, 2) disproven or 3) still just a theory.

Theory Statement:

The consistency of weight of gunpowder measured by a dipper's volume is greater than or equal to my powder measure.

Experimental method:

Get your most accurate powder scale, some powder, a bowl, a tablespoon, a brick and a powder scoop/dipper.

Set up and zero your powder scale
Fill the bowl with powder.
Brace the dipper on the brick above the bowl to ensure the dipper is absolutely still
Take a spoonful of powder and pour it into the dipper from above (close or far, but always the same)
Do not shake the dipper
Strike off the powder mounded atop the dipper with the tablespoon's edge
Do this the same way every time
Weigh each powder charge and record it
Do this enough times to get a good statistical sample.

Gather the same number of samples from your powder measure.

Compare, then conclude.

Let the gathering of empirical data begin.

I performed this test to my satisfaction in 1977 with 2400, Bullseye and Unique and do not have the data any more or I would share it here. But it did not take long to establish very clearly that technique is important and if consistent, my powder drops are very repeatable, measure to measure. If I ever get any cylindrical powder, I will perform it again.

I do have a couple of Lee Auto-Disk powder measures. Their accuracy is not as good as the dippers, but acceptable for handguns in the load ranges I am using, and the speed and convenience is an adequate trade-off.

Lost Sheep

July 16, 2011, 05:33 PM
Not a problem, it is like measuring the color of a shirt with a ruler, wrong standard. When using dippers and comparing powder weight/volume use the same powder and dipper, if the dipper changes, the volume changes, if the powder changes the volume stays the same but the weight changes.

Volume as being reliable? All of my powder measures measure powder in volume, Ohaus, Redding, B&M, Herters, lyman, Pacific, Dillon and RCBS. The one I do not need an excuse for using is the Little Dandy by RCBS, the Ohaus is convertible, one drum does pistol and rifle by removing the drum and then turning it over.

F. Guffey

July 16, 2011, 05:49 PM
iso, iso

July 16, 2011, 05:51 PM
and Lee was scientific, the difference between a level scoop full and all it will hold with a scoop that is heaping full is the same as minimum and maximum load and the safety factor is the maximum angle an automobile can climb without losing traction, meaning if a grain is added to the heap of powder, one grain will slide off.

F. Guffey

July 16, 2011, 05:58 PM
It,s in the book of Modern Reloading,

The part about the hill climb came from an Automotive Book. The Automotive Book also listed repair shops that repaired wood spooked wheels, the book is old, but, they knew something about hills.

F. Guffey

dagger dog
July 16, 2011, 06:25 PM
Use a scale to check the dippered weight of your selected powder, if your desired charge weight does not coincide with the dipper charge weight slide rule, use combined dippers to get the charge weight desired.

Using Lee's data the charge will always be lower with the Lee dipper system, this is with the modern YELLOW dippers the older RED dippers are a system of their own.

Then weigh every tenth charge once you are confident you can throw the correct weight with the dipper-dippers combo.

That will be the charge for that powder on that day, you will need to recheck your dipper charge if you use that combo for another day.

If you use that powder charge weight combo frequently making your own, or modifying a dipper is probably worth the time.

I've found some powders to throw just about the same regardless of temp.-humidity- static cling, other have a pretty wild swing.

July 16, 2011, 07:16 PM
I use the Lee dippers just as a ball park but also weigh each charge. If it's too light, try using the next size up but also weigh...

July 16, 2011, 10:56 PM
I have found the Lee dippers to be excellent for one thing. If you want to load a bunch of rounds quickly and you are loading them well under max charge the dippers work great. Dip and drop, dip and drop.

If you are trying to work up a serious load or you are close to max charge, get a scale.

July 16, 2011, 11:08 PM
I think what the OP is saying that I haven't seen anybody directly respond to (and ive just been skimming, so pardon me if this has in fact been addressed). He is saying that Lee is publishing THE SAME dipper with THE SAME powder as producing DIFFERENT volumes of powder for 3 different cartridges. Lee is saying using dipper #1 with powder A in the loading data for cartridge X will give you 20gr of powder, then in another place (presumably in the same loading table) they give the SAME dipper and the SAME powder as dispensing 25gr of powder for cartridge Y.

Obviously any time that dipper #1 is used with powder powder A in Lee reloading data it should always show the same volume or Lee is not consistently updating it's load data when a powder undergoes a change, or different Lee load data authors are not using the dippers in the same way - either of these errors call into question the reliability of the entire load data table.

Jeff F
July 16, 2011, 11:18 PM
I use Lee dippers and also home made dippers made out of empty shell casings. I find dippers to be very consistent but you have to be consistent in the way you use them. I would not use them without checking the charge weight on a good scale and check it often.

July 16, 2011, 11:48 PM
I think what the OP is saying that I haven't seen anybody directly respond to (and ive just been skimming, so pardon me if this has in fact been addressed). He is saying that Lee is publishing THE SAME dipper with THE SAME powder as producing DIFFERENT volumes of powder for 3 different cartridges.

You are right, but its worse than that. Lee publishes with the same dipper and same powder, 3 different grains the dipper will provide for the same cartridge. Like I said, I think its just sloppy work by Lee. They many other inconsistencies in the documentation.

Separate from this ... today just for giggles, I took a bunch of measurements with the Lee 3.7CC dipper in the same 4064 powder and weighted it. Ranged from 50.1 to 52.2 grains (4.2% spread). So as long as your life or income does depend on accuracy, and you are not pushing the max load, probably not a big deal.

July 17, 2011, 09:49 AM
Sounds like that particular powder does not like to be dipped? lol

July 17, 2011, 11:49 AM
Yep, you will experience varying results using dippers..........what's not been said is that you will ALSO experience varying results using the very finest of hopper style dispensers!

The reason is as was stated, differing powder lots, grain milling technique, moisture absorption or loss, and probably some obscure other factors not stated.

The bottom line is that no device made that depends on a volumetric standard will ALWAYS render the precise weight.....not volume..... desired.

I recall one comment, maybe it was in Lee's book maybe not, by one reloader that claimed he could obtain more consistent charges by his technique of filling the dipper than with his RCBS or Lyman dispensers.......he claimed that he would insert that dipper into the powder allowing it to fill completely and then use a 3X5 card to level the amount.

I use those dippers, I use RCBS/Lyman hoppers along with several much older devices, not to mention my Dillon stuff-----ALL require adjustment from time to time........but hey, take two scales from the same manufacturer and check them against each other.....better yet, try one from Lee then Lyman then RCBS and see just how much difference you get.

July 17, 2011, 02:14 PM
Being old and slow and never trying to hurry, I use the method that works best for me. Lee dippers, a Hornady trickler, and I weigh every charge on My RCBS 505. I am a newb to the reloading hobby and am certainly anal about the charge weight. I don't see that changing any time soon.

July 17, 2011, 06:00 PM
Being old and slow and never trying to hurry, I use the method that works best for me. Lee dippers, a Hornady trickler, and I weigh every charge on My RCBS 505. I am a newb to the reloading hobby and am certainly anal about the charge weight. I don't see that changing any time soon.

This is probably my preferred method of using dippers. I use homemade dipper of a 9mm shell when loading 9mm. I use dipper for Trail Boss and .44 Magnum for fun loads sometimes, but usually the dipper to get me close, and then trickle until the desired weight has been reached, and honestly I can do this as fast as a charge mate or whatever the $300+ dollar digital dispenser thingy is called. I just have to pay more attention than I would if I was pushing a button to get the same results.

The OP mentioned a weight discrepancy of 3.4 grains. I have found discrepancies equal to that in a box of factory rifle loads. More than once I might add.

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