RCBS Chargemaster Lite

RCBS Chargemaster Lite: Review


The RCBS Chargemaster Lite is a compact electronic scale with an integrated powder dispenser. It brings speed, accuracy, and convenience to the process of throwing powder charges.

My first powder scale was a secondhand RCBS 10-10 beam scale. I added an RCBS Chargemaster 1500 scale to the bench over a decade ago, then a Chargemaster dispenser in 2014. Both tools brought increased efficiency and ease to the process of throwing powder.

With two young shooters in the house and an increase in the volume of bullet testing I’ve been doing, I considered adding a Chargemaster combo to the bench. The newly-released Chargemaster Lite looked like it might be the answer. It appeared to have most, if not all the features I use on the 1500, and at a reduced price.

This review is supplemented by a VIDEO demonstration of the Chargemaster Lite.

First impressions were positive. It came well-packaged with an excellent instruction manual. The LCD touch-screen display was easy on the eyes and the dispenser simple to operate.

The Chargemaster Lite is designed to run on 100VAC-240VAC and comes with four different prong connectors that snap onto the 12-volt DC converter. I selected the familiar two-prong, 110-volt connector for U.S. outlets and plugged it in. I leveled the scale on my bench using the scale’s built-in bubble and adjustable feet.

Chargemaster Lite Power Connectors

The Chargemaster Lite comes with four connectors and can be used with 100-240 VAC power sources.

One benefit of a digital scale is the effortless reading of measurements. The weight values displayed on the Chargemaster Lite are a whopping 7/16” tall and can be seen from any reasonable angle. The entire 2 3/8” touchscreen display is backlit green when the scale is active, providing bold contrast to the printed keypad and scale readings.

RCBS Chargemaster Lite Display

One of the Chargemaster Lite’s best qualities is its fully-lit keypad.

The Chargemaster Lite can be used as a scale, manual powder measure, or programmed to automatically throw charges each time the empty powder pan is on the scale. The dispenser is designed to throw charges from 2.0 to 999.9 grains in one-tenth increments, then up to 2000 grains in whole numbers. I pushed the buttons during this review for a 2000-grain charge, but stopped the dispenser before the powder spilled from the pan. The pan capacity is around 400.0 grains without making a mess.

When you’re done with a reloading session or want to switch powders, a quick-drain valve on the side of the dispenser drains the reservoir quickly. Be sure to close this valve before adding powder to the hopper again. A short-handled brush is included for cleaning up stray kernels, and stores in the dispenser.

Drain valve on the side of the reservoir. Be sure this is closed before adding powder!

I threw a total of 550 documented testing charges with the Chargemaster Lite during this review. Its operation is simple; choose an operating mode, input the charge weight, and press the GO button.

The scale should be warmed up and calibrated before use. Two 50-gram weights used for calibration are included and store on top of the dispenser. For best results, the temperature in the room should be stable within a few degrees. For a detailed look at the calibration process, see this VIDEO.

Calibrating Chargemaster Lite

Calibrating the scale before use.

Once the scale is calibrated and temperature-stable, choose between MAN or AUTO modes with the MODE key. Manual mode will dispense the charge weight only when you push the GO button. When the dispenser is in automatic mode, the programmed charge weight will throw every time the scale reads an empty pan. To dispense powder, enter the charge weight on the keypad and press the GO button. To stop the auto cycle, press the CANCEL key, pressing the GO button again resumes automatic dispensing. If you want to add to a charge without changing the entered weight, the TRICKLE button will slowly rotate the feed tube, trickling small amounts of powder. The dispenser will retain the programmed charge weight until a new one is entered or the scale is turned off.

The Chargemaster Lite is specified to be accurate within 0.1 grains up to 500 grains. In my experience, this level of accuracy is all that’s needed for reloading quality ammo.

During this review, I checked the scale’s accuracy as well as its consistency. I confirmed accuracy with a set of RCBS scale check weights. The only discrepancy I experienced was one of the 100- grain weights read as 100.1 grains. All other check weights, including the 200-grain sample, read the marked value.

Checking the Chargemaster Lite with a 200-grain check weight.

The most important thing to me when throwing powder charges is consistency. I tested the Chargemaster Lite’s consistency against two RCBS scales I have a lot of experience with: a Chargemaster 1500 and a 10-10 beam scale.

I calibrated both electronic scales and carefully zeroed the beam scale before testing. With a single powder pan zeroed on all three scales, I set up the Chargemaster Lite to manually throw 50.0 grains of RL-26. I threw 50 charges in an hour’s time, checking each charge on all three scales. The 10-10 beam scale and Chargemaster Lite were in complete agreement for all 50 charges. The Chargemaster 1500 read one charge at 50.1 grains. That charge read 50.0 grains when placed back on the Lite, and read 50.0 grains on the second attempt with the 1500. There were zero overcharges with the Lite.

RCBS Chargemaster Lite & 1500 Comparison

Checking the Chargemaster Lite against my Chargemaster 1500 combo.

I performed the same test with the two electronic scales, using three different powders and four charge weights up to 99.0 grains. I threw 120 charges from each dispenser, alternating between them and checking each charge on both scales. The scales agreed 100-percent for all charges during that test. That level of consistency is what I was hoping for, as I intend to run the Chargemaster Lite in tandem with the Chargemaster 1500.

So, what’s not to like about the Chargemaster Lite, and how does it differ from the Chargemaster 1500?

To begin with, the Lite’s dispenser and scale are molded together, instead of modular like the 1500. I assembled my 1500 combo from two purchases made almost a decade apart. The Lite lacks the memory recall functions of the 1500. My 1500 scale is old enough to not allow automatic dispensing, and I was never interested in storing charge weights in the machine. For me, the Lite was an improvement, as it added the auto-dispense feature.

The retail price of the 110-volt Chargemaster 1500 is $508.95, the 240-volt version lists for $529.45. The Chargemaster Lite can use either power source and is listed at $299.95.

They’re both imported, and appear to come from the same source. I haven’t had any trouble with my 1500 over the course of a lot of heavy use, and don’t expect anything different from the Lite. RCBS offers the same one-year warranty on both units.

They dispense at roughly the same speed, as documented in this VIDEO. I found the Lite’s backlit keypad slightly easier to see than the 1500’s display. One minor drawback of an otherwise excellent keypad is it’s almost too sensitive. Be careful not to drag knuckles over it!

Chargemaster Lite H4350

My biggest complaint with the Chargemaster Lite is the powder hopper, or reservoir. It’s designed to be removed, unlike the tube on the 1500. Whether it’s for packaging reasons, or to allow access for cleaning, I think it’s asking for trouble. Think twice before removing the lid with the hopper full of powder– use both hands! I think I’ll tack it in place with a little hot-melt glue and use a longer brush to clean out the reservoir.

If I had to pick one thing that’s had the greatest impact on my reloading enjoyment and efficiency, it would be adding an electronic powder scale to my bench. For the past month, the RCBS Chargemaster Lite has been providing the same speed, accuracy, and convenience as my Chargemaster 1500. I look forward to running them together, and can recommend either of them for your bench. Thanks to RCBS and Vista Outdoor for sending the T&E sample. Be sure to visit their websites for more information.

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Sam

As an Idaho native, avid hunter, and long range shooter, Sam has written numerous articles and gear reviews for various online publications. Specializing in long range hunting in the mountains of northern Idaho, Sam founded Panhandle Precision as a way to continue sharing his passions.

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8 Comments

  • Caleb hallett
    April 3, 2017 at 19:46

    Great review Sam, have not messed with one of these yet, just couldn’t justify the cost, but now this may be a useful tool to add to the bench.

  • Jeff
    April 3, 2017 at 20:05

    Thanks for all your videos and write ups!! I follow your techniques and have been extremely happy with the results. Would love to see a video on your rifle cleaning routine. Thanks again for your time!

    Jeff

  • Mac
    April 5, 2017 at 15:02

    Hey Sam, how you and the family keeping? I hope you all are well.
    Thank you for the review, as always you went over all the expectations.
    I have couple questions, first is the lite model “Rs-programable” for the dispensing, etc velocity as is the 1500? Second is, same as many 1500 owners I run the McDonald’s straw but I do still have “bad” over throws, sometimes .3-4 over… I keep my eye on the “without pan” weight after I take the pan with the powder to see if I have had any variation but 98% of the time it is correct… any tips about the over throw?
    Thank you heaps for the “hard” work!
    Mac

    • Sam
      Sam Millard
      April 8, 2017 at 07:02

      I have no idea about the ability to program the Lite. I never messed with my 1500. The discharge tube on the Lite is an improvement over the 1500 tube. I have a straw in my 1500, but left the Lite as is. They both have overthrows when powder clumps at the end of the tube, but not very often. Both scales will drift a little if the room temp changes, but only when the pan is off the scale, or a charge is left on the scale for a long time. It doesn’t seem to affect the actual charge weight, though. This worried me when I first started using the 1500 dispenser. I tested the hell out of it until I had complete confidence. To check for yourself, weigh something close to a typical charge weight and mark it. When you think the scale is funky, stick that object in the pan and check it.

  • Brandon
    May 10, 2017 at 16:21

    I am a varmint hunter and have been reloading for the past 12 years. I still use a RCBS 10-10 scale, a Redding Competition BR-30 powder measure and Redding bushing dies to produce accurate ammo for my varmint rifles. I am interested in an electronic scale and your excellent review of the RCBS Chargemaster Lite convinced me to purchase one in the very near future.

  • Carl Harper
    August 8, 2017 at 13:13

    Thanks! My old PACT just died, this was useful.

  • j Thurman
    April 28, 2018 at 14:36

    almost a year later. what would your final verdict be on the chargemaster light?

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