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.