I’ve been loading ammo on my Lee Turret Press for about a year and a half now, and I’ve loaded somewhere north of 10,000 rounds of 9mm on it. That whole time I’ve been using the Lee Auto-Disk powder measure. In the beginning I was using Unique powder for 9mm, and I didn’t have any complaints with the Auto-Disk. It threw charges that were accurate enough, and it worked fine. However, a few months back I picked up an 8lb jug of Bullseye powder, which is much finer, and smaller flakes. What I found with the Lee Auto-Disk was that it spilled my precious powder all over my press, and my workbench. Every thousand or so rounds the auto-disk would get enough Bullseye powder under the disk that it would lock up hard, and I’d have to stop loading, tear it apart, and clean it.
When I saw that Lee was introducing the Lee Auto Drum powder measure I was intrigued. It looked like the design wouldn’t allow any spillage like the auto-disk, so I ordered one from Amazon to try.
It arrived while I was loading my ammo for the 2015 NC USPSA Sectional. I finished loading my match ammo on the old auto-disk, then got to work loading about 500rds with the Auto Drum for my last practice session before the big match (didn’t want to change anything for my match ammo when I had something that was working well enough, ya know?).
I unscrewed the old auto-disk from the powder through expanding die, and dropped screwed the new auto drum right into the same place. I immediately noticed some subtle upgrades that the auto drum has over the auto disk:
- The auto drum powder measure has a thumb wheel that is used to screw the powder measure into the powder through expanding die. This allows the body of the auto drum to be turned in any position around the die without affecting the amount of crimp on the brass. With the auto-disk I had to run two of these auto-disk risers to keep the auto disk powder measure from hitting the primer dispenser when it went around on the turret. Not the case with the new auto drum, and that’s a good thing.
- The powder hopper on the auto drum has a shut off valve. It’s stupid simple, but something that I cussed and swore about every time I had to change or work up a new load with the old auto disk. Need to add more powder to the hopper on the auto drum? Simple, give it a twist, lift it off, and fill it up. No worries.
- The auto drum has a feature that’s supposed to stop you from double charging a case. I’ve never double charged a case, so I don’t know if it works, but I hear it click when I pull the lever and charge a case, so I assume it works, and if it keeps me from ever double charging a case, that’s cool. I’ve read on various forums on the internet that some people are disabling this safety thing for fear that it will make them load a squib, but in my experience with the auto drum, I don’t see how that would happen.
The accuracy of the powder measure is probably the part of this that everybody is most interested in. When I first installed the auto drum, I threw about 50 charges through it and they were sporadic, but I think that’s to be expected with any new powder measure until it gets powder all of the way into it, and through it. After those first 50 charges, the auto drum throws 3.8-3.9 grains of Bullseye every time. That’s good enough for me.
The cool thing about the auto drum is that it’s basically infinitely adjustable. Just turn the knob on the drum to throw a little more, or a little less powder. I found that it’s best to adjust in half and quarter turn adjustments. The auto drum ships with two different sized drums, one for pistol, and one for larger rifle cases. At this time, I’ve only used the pistol drum, but I expect the rifle drum would work just as good, it’s just bigger.
Update – November 2015
I published this post about a month ago and since then I’ve been talking to some podcast listeners who have purchased this Auto Drum, and a couple people have mentioned that with their items, they have to press the lever auto drum each time they want to dispense powder, effectively adding a step to their reloading.
Basically, the built-in “safety feature” that is supposed to keep you from double charging a case needs to be manually activated for each round you’re loading. This came to me with a bit of surprise, because I pulled my auto drum out of the box, set it up, and started loading and didn’t have to do this between rounds. If I had to add an extra step in my already-somewhat-lengthy reloading process I wouldn’t have been impressed.
After hearing about this, I wanted to see what the deal was so I went to the garage and started playing with my auto drum to see what was up. I couldn’t make the safety thing work, but I did somehow make it so it would only throw a partial charge, which took an hour of cussing and poking at it before I figured out how to make it work again.
I still like the auto-drum, but beware, the safety feature thing can be finnicky.
I like it. It’s relatively inexpensive, ($45 on Amazon with free shipping at the time of this post being published) and it works well. It’s more expensive than the auto disk, but fact that I don’t have to run the extra riser with the auto drum makes it a wash. Add in the extra features, like being able to close a valve and remove the hopper, and that it doesn’t spill my powder all over my bench, and it’s an even better value. If you use a Lee reloading press, I’d take a serious look at the auto drum powder measure.
Thanks for the heads up on a great product. It looks like you could attach this to the lee powder through/expander die and use it in pretty much any press with that uses standard dies, correct? That might be an option for people with a dillon, Hornady, or RCBS that want a new toolhead for a different caliber, but don’t want to drop the coin on a complete conversion kit from one of the other manufacturers.
Yeah, goes right on the powder through expander die.
Total sweet spot post. Love my Lee Classic Turret (16,000 rounds and counting), but the Auto-Disk powder drop thingee feels like the weak link. You can only drop powder in the increments provided by the disk (I was shooting Winchester Super Handicap powder because it was the only thing I could get, and the smallest aperture on the disk was still a little too big).
This looks (sounds at least) better. Ordering mine now. Thanks!
I picked one up a couple weeks ago. Utterly trivial to set up, almost a drop in replacement for the Auto Disk.
Yeah, exactly. Super happy with the purchase.
Do you still have to use the auto disk riser with the drum?
Negative, it’ll screw right into the powder through expander die.
Great. Thanks Lucas. So the extra cost of the drum measure will be a wash since you don’t have to purchase the riser. Not that $15.00 is a big deal, but still. Thanks for all you do.
Exactly, it’s a complete wash since you don’t need the risers.
Started installing mine and think I’ve decided to disable the anti-double-charge mechanism. I don’t see how I’m going to double-charge anything, but I sure could see how this would help me load a squib round.
How so? I’ve heard this, but mine hasn’t lead me to think it would make me load a squib? Maybe mine is defective?
Here’s the thinking.
You click the little double-charge thingee, so when you raise the ram (pull the lever), the case activates the powder drop, the plastic drum rotates, and voila — powder drops.
If you *don’t* click the double-charge thingee, the case still feels like it’s activating the powder drop, but no powder drops.
That’s a bit of a UI problem.
If it’s not going to drop powder, it should make it clear it’s not dropping powder (it should freeze up or a hand should reach out from under the bench and grab your leg, or something).
Think I’d rather just eyeball the case after the drop (which I do).
Plus, in terms of simple productivity, clicking that lever is one more thing to do.
I don’t have to click the thingy. Maybe mine is defective. If you have to click it for every round, that’s a nightmare.
Yikes. One of us appears to be screwed.
And yes, I need to “disable” the double-drop lever every time the case acitvates the drop to get powder.
After I wrestle the kids into bed tonight I’m going to disable the double-charge thingee (as per their directions) and see what happens.
And speaking sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, I hope yours is the defective one, not mine.
Removed my double-charge prevention thingee last night. Now it drops powder every time a case activates the powder drop (as god clearly intended).
Life is good.
Midway USA’s listing for the Auto Drum has a link to a pdf of the owner’s manual, at the very end, it goes step by step how to remove the double charge lever thing.
Thanks for the review. I’ve been using a Lee classic turret press for several years now. Loading pistol rounds and .223 the auto disk measure has worked well for me, but I’ve recently started reloading bigger rifle rounds (.308, .30-06 and .45-70) and some of the charge weights for those exceed what the auto disk can handle even with the disks double stacked.
I was hoping that the auto drum would be a viable solution and, thanks to your review and a few others I’ve found around, I’m very hopeful. I’m going to order one today while my Midway USA birthday discount is in effect.