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Lead Head Bullets
Rifle Magazine
November - December 2003
Volume 35, Number 6
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 210
On the cover...
The C Grade Model 700 is fresh out of the Remington Custom Shop with a Burris scope, mounts and rings. Rifle photo by Stan Trzoniec. Whitetail photo by John R. Ford.
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Product Tests

Lyman Model 1200 DPS

DPS? That translates into Digital Powder System: Madison Avenue English for a combination powder measure and weighing scale with a programmable memory tossed in for good measure.

Lyman’s Model 1200 is a fairly compact unit - light too. Eleven-and-a-half inches wide, it’s 7 inches deep and 5 inches high. When installed, of course, the powder reservoir tube adds almost 8 more inches in height to the rig. Easy to use, it’s everything the Lyman ads claim it is - well, almost everything. It’s unbelievably accurate and remarkably sensitive - almost delicate, in fact - so it must be used, moved and stored with those characteristics in mind. It’s equipped with a memory capable of storing 30 different loads too. But is it fast? Hardly. (We’ll get into that a bit later.)

Because it’s so sensitive, the 1200 must be set up on a perfectly level surface, one immune from vibrations of any sort. That eliminates loading benches, of course. For testing purposes, my office desk was cleared off and the 1200 installed there. All windows had to be shut and the air conditioner turned off because even the slightest draft can affect a reading.

While we’re on the subject of sensitivity, it should be noted that the 1200 should never be shaken or turned upside down. Dropping a 1200 probably wouldn’t be a very good idea either. To sum up: The Model 1200 is a very touchy electronic instrument. It must be handled with care.

To check the 1200’s accuracy, a competitive electronic scale was positioned nearby so its readings could be compared with those of the 1200. To begin with, 20- and 50-gram brass test weights were placed on both scales. Both instruments read exactly the same. Later, when the Model 1200 was dropping measured charges, quite a number of them were transferred to the other scale’s powder pan. Both instruments read the same - every time. If the 1200 were churning out, say, 40-grain charges, those same charges read precisely 40.0 grains when spilled into the other scale’s pan.

Since the 1200 require a half-hour to warm up – that’s what I said: half an hour - the sooner the ON/OFF button is pressed, the better. During warm-up, the scale and powder dispenser are locked out. The 1200 can’t be calibrated or zeroed either. The tubular powder reservoir can be installed and filled with propellant though. In the meantime, keep an eye on the LCD window. Its message will alternate between “Warm-Up” and the number of minutes and seconds to go before the warm-up period is completed. The only functions available to the operator during warm-up are those provided by the memory. New settings can be entered; existing ones can be edited, recalled or deleted.

A warm-up period can be cancelled at any time simply by pressing the CANCEL button on the keypad. User directions caution that if the 1200’s circuits aren’t brought all the way up to operating temperatures, accuracy may suffer slightly until the proper heat levels are reached. They might be off .10 grain or maybe .20, plus or minus.

Once warm-up is concluded, it’s time to zero the scale and dispenser. First, the scale is set to zero, then a 20-gram test weight is placed on the scale, a zero reading is obtained, the weight removed, the scale set to zero again and finally the powder pan is placed on the scale and the zero button pressed one last time. At that point, scale and dispenser are both calibrated. The entire sequence takes about 30 seconds.

Now the 1200 is ready to spit out measured powder charges. First, punch in the desired weight of the charge by pressing the appropriate numbers on the keypad. Next, press the ENTER button. The small tube jutting over the powder pan resting on the scale will begin to rotate, spilling powder into the pan below. As the charge nears completion, the tube’s rotation will slow, then stop. If the charge isn’t quite complete, the feed tube may rotate just enough to kick out one or two more powder granules. When the programmed weight is reached, the 1200 beeps loudly, and the feed tube stops rotating. The pan can then be removed and the charge dropped into the waiting cartridge case.

Instead of pressing the ENTER button, the process can be quickened by pressing the FAST button and holding it down until the LCD panel shows most of the charge has been dropped. Let’s say 37 out of a programmed 40 grains have been spilled into the powder pan. At that point, the FAST button can be released and the ENTER button pushed. The three remaining grains of powder will be dumped into the pan but at a noticeably slower pace to prevent an overcharge. By using that approach, charging time dropped to 18 to 20 seconds per case.

That’s considerably longer than it usually takes to slip an empty case under the discharge tube of a manually operated powder measure and crank the handle once. What does the 1200 offer in exchange for the extra operating time it demands? Consistently exact powder charges, right down to the last .10 grain.

Another approach that can speed up the charging process is to dump powder into the pan first, using a powder dipper adjusted to throw 2 or 3 grains less than the desired charge. Place the pan back on the scale and press the ENTER button. The feed tube will rotate just enough to bring the pan’s charge up to full weight.

Placing a load in the memory bank is so simple, I did it right on the first try. Just hit the NEW MEM button. That triggers the LCD to flash “Mem-01.” When the ENTER button is pushed, the LCD flashes “Cart,” then displays “C=.” The cartridge designation can then be punched in with the aid of the keyboard.

Each key represents a number and three or four letters. Sometimes, a key must be pressed several times in succession to bring up the required letter. Once the cartridge name is punched in, the display pauses a few seconds then POWD is flashed on the LCD. Punch in the name of the powder, press ENTER and after another slight pause, the LCD will flash “Wght,” the display “W0.0 gn.” Enter the charge weight, press the ENTER button once more and that load is safely stored in the 1200’s memory. Pressing CAL/ZERO cancels the memory mode.

To order the machine to begin pumping out one of those memorized loads, all that’s required is to push the RECALL button twice. The first stored load will flash on the LCD’s panel. If that’s the desired load, press the ENTER button twice and the feed tube will dispense the correct charge. If the first load in the memory bank is not the one sought, keep pressing the RECALL button until the wanted load appears.

Pressing the FAST button will also bring successive loads into the display panel. If it’s necessary to back up, pressing the TRICKLE button will take care of that. To return to the standard dispense mode, just press CAL/ZERO.

When a memory-stored load is no longer needed, it can be cancelled. Its place in the memory bank is left empty. That prevents other loads stored there from changing positions. A new load can be entered in the now-empty location.

Emptying the 1200 of powder, once a loading session is over, brings out one of the less endearing sides of the 1200’s character. As mentioned before, shaking the 1200 or up-ending it is not a good idea. Some of its electronic innards might object. Instead the first step, when unloading powder, is to lower the cleaning chute that leads to the powder box located beneath the tubular powder reservoir. The chute is located on the backside of the 1200. A container must be placed under the end of the chute when it’s lowered, otherwise powder will spill over everything.

Once it’s empty, the powder tube can be removed. Next, slide the small latch on top of the unit to the left. That frees the tube’s base. Lifting that piece off the 1200 reveals the powder box underneath, still partially full of powder. Next, place the end of a small, cane-shaped rod in the coupling connected to the feed tube. Those tiny holes in the coupling were put there to accept the rod’s end.

Holding the coupling still, with the help of the rod, allows the feed tube to be unscrewed and removed. That, in turn, leaves the way clear for the powder box to be slipped out of its nest. Pressing against its back with the fingers lets the box pop out just far enough for the fingers to grasp it and pull it free of the unit. Any powder in or underneath it can be whisked out with the aid of a small brush supplied with the 1200. Reassembly is in reverse order.

The whole thing sounds more complicated than it is, but obviously it does chew up some time to disassemble, clean and then reassemble. Frankly, it takes much of the fun out of using the 1200 too. As long as different powders are used for different loads, of course, it goes without saying that utter cleanliness is a must.

In my judgment, a Model 1200 should prove to be extremely useful to a competitor who reloads hundreds, perhaps thousands, of rounds a year. To a shooter like that, consistent, dependable velocities are a basic requirement of his or her sport. One thing a 1200 is guaranteed to do is drop uniform powder charges. Its memory capability might prove to be an advantage for such handloaders too.

Its ability to weigh accurately is another plus. Anyone who depends on cast bullets will find the 1200’s scale can make life easier for weighing, segregating by weight and identifying those bullets with hidden voids.

As far as the experimental handloader is concerned, it seems to me a 1200 would be of limited value. It can throw incredibly accurate charges, of course, but its memory banks would be of no particular benefit and more time would probably be devoted to disassembling, cleaning and reassembling than to charging cases.

In short, Lyman’s Model 1200 isn’t for everybody. It’s a marvelously accurate machine, no two ways about that, but it has a few minuses as well as all those pluses. It has to be handled and positioned with care. For the handloader who insists on accuracy, sensitivity and repeatability above all - and who’s willing to pay $333.25 for them - this computerized powder measure/dispenser is capable of boosting reload quality to an entirely new level. - Al Miller

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