September 25, 2023
This new scale from Hornady is intended to provide best-in-class, ultra-fine weighing capability. Company spokesman Seth Swerczek said, “The Precision Lab Scale was designed to compete with other lab-grade scales, like the FX120i, which has become so popular in the reloading world.” Since it’s specifically designed for handloaders, I’ll wager Hornady’s scale will not just compete, it’ll dominate.
Why is a $500-plus scale that weighs obsessively tiny increments important? Candidly, for everyday hunters and shooters who reload—and even to serious PRS competitors and long-range hunters—it’s not a necessary tool. However, for accuracy-obsessive hand–loaders and particularly for benchrest and extreme-range competitors, the ability to weight-sort components to a highly refined level can make all the difference.
Lab-quality scales are more sensitive and provide more detail than common reloading scales. They also cost more—a lot more. The well-respected A&D FX120i retails somewhere around $720, and if you opt for all the accessories, that package can top $2,000.
Hornady’s Precision Lab Scale, on the other hand, has a suggested retail of $566. And it possesses all the weighing functions vital to creating super-consistent, benchrest-grade handloads.
This is not a powder charger with a scale attached to it. Yes, you can use it in concert with a trickle charger to weigh powder, but that’s not its forté. There are purpose-built units that are more efficient for that.
Where the Precision Lab Scale excels is in weight sorting. It’s ideal for weighing and sorting cartridge cases and projectiles. Its brain has multiple modes—including count, compare and percent functions—that simplify the process of selecting the most consistent cases and bullets in your batches.
Maximum weighing capacity is 3,000 grains—whereas the FX120i tops out at 1,882 grains. Sensitivity is top-tier. The Hornady scale provides 0.04-grain accuracy, and the readout displays increments to 0.01.
If you don’t need that level of weighing perfection, the Precision Lab Scale has both high and low sensitivity settings. If you’re more into efficiently weighing mass quantities of brass or bullets, or if you’re using the scale for trickle-charging powder, there’s a setting for this. If, on the other hand, you want to isolate the most consistent 50 percent of your Berger bullets for the F-Class regionals next Saturday, the scale excels at this.
Like all ultra-sensitive scales, the Precision Lab Scale is susceptible to temperature and atmospheric pressure shifts, so Hornady made it super easy to calibrate. This enables handloaders to adapt on the fly if a summer storm rolls through.
Such scales are also susceptible to every tiny breeze, so Hornady engineered a sliding-window protective shield. Not only does the top lift off, the clear, high-impact plastic front and both side panels slide open, individually or in combination, for easy access.
Like other lab-grade scales, the Precision Lab Scale is susceptible to electromagnetic fields. Keep electronics such as small motors, radios, phones, light strips and such away from the scale. Even the static electricity radiated by the human hand can affect the scale, so it can be beneficial to wear light cotton gloves when operating in high-sensitivity mode.
The scale comes with the windscreen assembly I just mentioned, a scale tray, a powder pan, 10- and 50-gram calibration weights, a nine-volt power cord and plug adapters for both U.S. and European/African/South American plugs, and an RS232 printer cable.
I won’t attempt to re-write said manual here. However, it’s worth pointing out that the Mode menu allows handloaders to access several cool functions.
Compare. Allows you to set a nominal weight, along with a tolerance range, and compare items to your acceptable range. This is really useful for weight-sorting brass and bullets.
Percent. This is cool, too. It enables you to input a nominal weight and compare a batch of brass or bullets—or whatever you want—to that acceptable weight, in percentage form.
Piece. It’s not something most handloaders will use regularly, but if you’re creating bulk batches of something and measuring by volume, then confirming by weight, the scale will use the weight of a small sample size to count the number of items placed on the platform.
Settings. This enables you to toggle between high and low sensitivity settings, change the speed of the scale, and pick the units being measured (grams, grains or ounces).
The front of the Precision Lab Scale has a nice, high-contrast touch-screen display. All the various controls are there, with the exception of the On/Off button, which is an actual button atop the front left corner of the unit. Press the button to turn the unit on; hold it down for three seconds to turn off.
Touch-screen buttons on the display serve their specified functions, plus a secondary function once in the Mode menu. There, the big central Zero button serves as Enter, and the various others serve to toggle up, down, forward and back through options.
To put the Precision Lab Scale through its paces, I accessed the Compare function and weight-sorted a new 50-count batch of 7mm PRC cases. Using the device for the first time, I confess I found it complex. However, that’s the case with most particularly capable electronics.
Once I figured out that when in Compare mode, you can simply place a case on the platform, then tap and hold the Zero button to establish its weight as the NOM WT (nominal weight) benchmark, I was good to go. I’ve never weighed and sorted 50 cases so fast.
Next, I added a tolerance range. Following the instructions in the manual, I set the upper and lower thresholds as one grain high and one grain low.
This sped up the process even more. As long as the display read “tolerance ok,” I simply added the case to the in-spec pile. I set those that weighed high or low to the right and left of the unit, respectively.
Even with the tolerance function engaged, the Precision Lab Scale still shows exact weight above or below the benchmark zero, so I was able to eliminate any cases that were drastically over or under weight, and to sort those that fell between, say, one and three grains over into a secondary lot.
I was impressed. Aside from challenging the level of my tech savvy, I found the Precision Lab Scale super easy to use. It’s ergonomic and well-engineered for precision handloading tasks.
Because I’m not a benchrest shooter, I’m not likely to use the Precision Lab Scale every time I sit at my reloading bench. However, anytime I feel the need to assemble handloads that are as precise and consistent as possible, you better believe I’ll use it. A specialized instrument for the advanced handloader, Hornady’s Precision Lab Scale is a winner.