Cheap Tips and Tricks For Dillon 550B and XL650s

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by COSteve, Mar 19, 2015.

  1. COSteve

    COSteve Member

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    Cheap Tips and Tricks for Dillon 550B and XL650 Presses

    Organize Your Workspace: Many of us aren't fortunate enough to have the space for a really large bench. Therefore, we must learn to organize our area so that we can use it efficiently. My reloading bench is a modified desk that I added a reinforced 6' x 2' top on to. Over the double 1" thick surface plywood top, I added a piece of 1/8" Masonite to give the top a smooth surface and edges a clean look. It's nailed on so that I can replace it if it gets torn up.

    In this space I've reloaded in excess of 170,000 rds over the last 15+ years; first learning on a 550B and then later upgrading to an XL650 with casefeeder. Throughout all that time I've thoroughly enjoyed reloading in part because I customized my setup to work efficiently and effectively for my needs. I never thought I was cramped as I've kept things picked up so I could work efficiently. (My reloading area is in our finished basement and the wife has stated in no uncertain terms, "It's kept clean or it's gone!")

    I have a stereo to the left that plays very softly in the background and on the right is a storeroom with many of my supplies. Behind the sliding doors in the entertainment cabinet is a TV that's never on when I reload.

    My Current 650 w/Casefeeder Setup:

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    My Previous 55B Setup:

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    Bullet Tray & Wrench Holder: Rather than buying Dillon's fixed bullet tray, I needed one that was removable so I could also use my space to clean my firearms, it had to hold a fair amount of bullets, and I wanted it to be cheap. A 550B/XL650 Akro bin is both the perfect size and removable so I decided to make it my baseline. It works with the Strong Mount stand which I highly recommend for your press. You'll have all the materials on hand for the 550B so cost is $0, the XL650's cost was minimal.

    550B: Start with the 550B bench mounted Ejected Cartridge Chute Bracket (aluminum) that came with your press to hold the bin off your bench if you don't have a Strong Mount. Cut the structure off the back, leaving just the face that the bin connects to and drill a couple of mounting holes in it. A 7" long 2x4 cut at the angle of the Strong Mount leg is lag bolted to the Strong Mount from inside leg using existing holes. The bin bracket is screwed to front of wood and holes are drilled for the allen wrenches behind. Spray it flat black and you're GTG and best of all it's free.

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    XL650:
    Buy a Finished Bullet Bracket from 550B Strong Mount set from Dillon (call them and ask for a 550B Strong Mount Finished Bullet Bracket as well as the bolts and nuts to mount it to the Strongmount). Mark and drill two holes in your left Strong Mount leg so that the top will be square as shown below and then attach it. The tool holder is a simply a 6" long piece of 2x4 that's cut at the same angle as the leg so it sits square on the Strong Mount , lag bolted from inside the leg. Drill into top for allen wrenches (I got a ball end set on sale at Harbor Freight for $6 because they are easier to use than the supplied set and picked out the sizes I needed).

    Add finishing nails to the front to hold some open end box wrenches sized to fit the various dies and nuts on the press (I got a set on sale at Harbor Freight for $7 and picked out the sizes I needed). I also added a nail on the back for Dillon's bench wrench. Finally, spray it flat black and you're GTG. It's more convenient that Dillon's tool holder which mounts behind the press where it's hard to reach, it also holds both Dillon's Bench Wrench and some open end box wrenches that the Dillon unit doesn't, and it's cheaper.

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    550B and XL650 Toolhead Die Lock Rings: I mount all my dies, even the Lee die sets using Dillon's special 1" die lock rings (I buy them in the 5 lock ring sets) as it allows me to use both Dillon's wrench and more importantly, a 1" deep well socket I have on a short breaker bar. The socket makes quick work of tightening my dies as it fits right over the top of them.

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    Some of my dies and/or trim dies don't have enough threads showing on top to lock them correctly. When that happens, I just install the lock Ring on the underside of the toolhead. Locking the die from the bottom works just as well as on top.

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    Press Center LED Light: Even with a bench mounted light, the Shellplate is not lit very well to see down into the cases. I recently added a center light that does wonders. An auto LED brake light fixed to a 20ga shotgun hull and slipped into the center hole of either your 550B or XL650's Toolhead will light up the Shellplate perfectly. Then I mounted a switch on the press on the back of the wooden allen wrench holder I mentioned above in a hollowed out wooden support to electrically isolate it from the press. (I removed the allen wrenches so you could see it better.)

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    I mounted the converter to the press with a Tye-Wrap to keep it out of the way and allow me to run the wire for the light over the top of the Toolhead but with enough slack so that I can pull it out when swapping Toolheads.

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    The LED light and converter are not common as the light only has LEDs on the flat and the converter goes to 12 volts, but I found both on the web from China. Two bulbs and a 110 volt to 12 volt converter cost me $6.21 delivered.

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    Note: some of the new Toolheads have a different size center hole. My new one on the left has a slightly larger hole that will allow the 20ga shotgun hull to drop right through without the added washer I hot glued on. The older Toolhead on the right with the ring around the hole fits the hull perfectly.

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    550B Primer Actuator Rod Walkout Fix: I noticed that during a long run, my Primer Actuator Rod would sometimes walkout of the housing which caused binding. I fixed the issue by adding a simple rubber band around the aluminum Primer Actuator Rod Housing and rod. This helps keep the actuator rod from walking out of the hole. A drop of oil in hole is a also good idea.

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    550B Spent Primer Catcher Chute Pivot Pin: I found that the Spent Primer Catcher Pin (p/n 13998) which is simply a cotter pin, is too soft and bends over time impeding the operation of the Spent Primer Catcher Chute (p/n 13899). A simple fix is to replace the cotter pin with a finishing nail the size of the holes, cut about 1/8" longer with the tail bent up a bit. The finishing nail makes a better pivot pin and will last forever without hanging up the chute.

    Primer Follower Trim Piece:
    To add a bit of 'bling' as well as making it easier to grasp, an empty .45acp or 45 Colt case you picked up from the range will fit on the head of the primer follower rod perfectly. Gives it a bit more weight, it's easy to grab, and it looks good too. I used a 45 Colt case.

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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2015
  2. COSteve

    COSteve Member

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    550B Empty Case Bin and Bracket: Before Dillon came out with it's Empty Case Bin Bracket, I made my own. It's a simple process. You'll need to bend out the lips on the original bracket mounted to the right Strong Mount leg so that the Finished Bullet Akro bin with sit level after you've added the angle bracket. Also, you'll need to file down the top edge of the angle bracket you're adding where the Empty Case Akro bin hooks on because it's a bit too thick. Some black paint and you're GTG.

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    Akro Bin Fronts:
    A removable front on your Akro Bins will allow you to put more items in it without spilling out the front. T hey are easy to make out of light gauge tin. Make a template out of paper with the tab big enough to fit into the card holder in front and then you just cut them out. I used my band saw but tin snips will work just as well too. Then I set the bend over the end of my workbench, painted them, let them dry, and slipped them in. Look at my first picture above and you'll see I currently use 12 of these as they cost almost nothing to make.

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    There is still enough room in front of the plate to still slide in a card with contents information if you'd like. BTW, you can't have too many Akro bins. I have 42 of them (check out my picture of the entire bench above) and I could use some more if I had room to put them.

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    Lower Your XL650 Casefeeder: It's hard to reach into the hopper to switch out the feed plates and in truth, the hopper just doesn't need to be that high when you have a Casefeeder so I decided to lower it. Mark a line on the Casefeeder Mount Post just under your Casefeeder, remove the casefeeder and measure distance from that line to top of post. Mark a 2nd line just above the top bend in Casefeeder Mount Post where the bottom of the Casefeeder will sit.

    Now measure the distance between your 1st line and your 2nd line. Cut that same amount off of the top of the Casefeeder Mount Post and you'll have lowered your Casefeeder. Now, cut same length off of the feed tube at bottom, not the top (the top has a beveled opening and you want to leave that there). Mount everything as usual and your Casefeeder will now sit lower so it's easier to check, fill, change plates, etc. Finally, I attached the power cord to the Casefeeder Mount Post with black tape to keep the cord out of the way and to make a neater unit.

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    Casefeeder Media Holders: The Casefeeder has two holes in the rear to allow any media that's in the cases to escape without jamming the Casefeed Plate. To keep your bench clean, I suggest you add some simple holders to catch this media. A cheap idea for them are some large straight walled rifle cases you might find at the range. I used a couple of .444 Marlin cases and some packing tape to hold them. Just pull them off and dump them every few thousand cases and they'll keep your bench clean. When the tape loses it stick, just replace it.

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    XL650 Casefeed Interrupt: There are times when you might want to stop your cases from feeding in the middle of a run to clear out an issue. A simple tool can keep the Casefeed Arm open so new cases won't feed onto the Shellplate.

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    I just took some rod stock and bent a tool like this.

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    Drill a couple of holes in the wrench mount you made so it stores behind them where it's readily available when needed.

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    XL650 Simple Powder Check Adjustment:
    It's a pain in the neck to have to readjust anything over and over and that includes the Powder Check caliber specific rods. Instead of constantly resetting yours to fit the caliber you're working on try this. Using your calibers, adjust each of your Powder Check Dies to the same height on each case prep toolhead.

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    Then give Dillon a call and buy some extra weights, caliber rods, and nuts so that you can make up one for each caliber you reload. After you adjust each, just mark the weight with the caliber it's for and you're set. All you have to do is clamp the Powder Check on the toolhead, drop in the correct caliber rod and you're good to go.

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    Powder Measure Fail-Safe Override:
    Some of us don't like the 'clunk' the Powder Measure makes with the Fail Safe Assy. If you feel comfortable enough with your press operation to over ride this safety feature, here's a simple way to do it. Just remove the rod, insert a bolt and nut in the hole in the safety and lock it all the way down in the slot as shown.

    It doesn't require that you modify your Powder Measure so it can be returned to normal operation by simply by removing the nut and bolt. Then just insert the operating rod in the slot and you're ready to go. You can buy the old style Powder Measure Springs from Dillon to wrap around the measure and hook on the tab at the rear adjuster end. I recommend two springs even though this picture only shows one.

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    XL650 Adjustment to Completed Bullet Chute:
    I had an issue with the metal chute side of the Chute/Bin Mount bending out of place and contacting the Platform if I overloaded the Finished Bullet Bin. I solved this impingement issue by flaring the front edge of the Chute/Bin Mount to pull it away from the Platform. NOTE: I use black reinforced tape to keep the 'clinking' sound down and so it shows up in this picture. I curved the edge of the chute slightly to the left and really makes a difference.

    As overloading the Finished Cartridge Bin causes the Chute/Bin Mount to bend, I found that supporting the bin's far end will help avoid this issue. A 4x4 block of wood, cut to the right length, works just fine. Also, when I've got a large run to do, I just take a 30cal or 50cal ammo can, tip it towards the strongmount leg and put a block under it instead of using the Akro bin.

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    Cure Your XL650 Index Jump and Powder Spill: We've all seen that our XL650s Shellplates stop abruptly in position and this causes powder spillage of powder. We've all probably cut ½ coil off our Indexing Ball Spring to soften the abrupt stop and found that it works better but still our machines have that jerk at the end of the advance that can spill powder.

    I decided to look over the operation to see if I could eliminate the abrupt stop completely, not just soften it. After observing the operation close up, I found that the abrupt indexing in the XL650 is the result of the press needing a slight adjustment. The abrupt stop is the result of the Shellplate 'jumping' into it's final position because the spring loaded Index Ball is pushing it into it's final position rather than the pawl driving it there.

    It turns out that the Indexer Block below can be adjusted fore and aft. It drives the Ring Indexer which houses the Indexer Pawl. All that's required is to loosen the two bolts on the Indexer Block and adjust it fore or aft until the Indexer Pawl drives the Shellplate exactly into it's final position. When you've got it adjusted correctly, the jump and resulting spilled powder will disappear.

    [​IMG]

    Align Your 550B and XL650 Platform:
    The Platform on your press (aluminum part under the shellplate) must be re-aligned if you remove it to disassemble your machine to clean and lube it. When you reassemble your machine, you must adjust it using the Dillon alignment tool and instructions pictured below. If you need one, just call Dillon and tell them you want to remove the Platform and they'll send you the tool and instructions for free. The same tool is used for both the 550B and XL650 and the instructions will walk you through the process.

    [​IMG]

    Wood Powder Measure Knobs:
    Use a 2" hole saw and drill plugs in a 1/4" thick hardwood. Drop 1/2" hex head bolt in center hole and mark head shape. Take an Exact o knife and cut out shape for press on fit. Paint knob, file notch in top edge, mark notch with white crayon, and press on to powder measure adjustment bolt. Print labels on self stick blank and apply.

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    Be sure to mark both sides of the knob because the back side is what you'll see when you're working your press.

    550B and XL650 Primer Assembly Stands: Owning a second Primer Assembly so that you have one set up for both small and large primers makes changing out primer sizes a quick treat. I made these stands from scrap stock I had laying around. Be sure to mark your Primer Assembly (Small or Large) so you don't forget which is which.

    550B:
    A spare Primer Assembly makes primer size changes on your 550B a 20 second effort. The Primer Assembly was like $30 and the p/n is listed on pg 5 of the on-line 550B manual. Buy an extra Primer Track Bearing (flat plate underneath the Primer Slide, p/n 14015 on pg 3) and 2 mounting screws (p/n 14014). Shorten the screws so that you can use them to keep Primer Slide attached when it's off the press. You can even leave primers in it when not in use.

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    I realized quickly that you've got to mark the Primer Assemblies so you can tell which one you've got on your press.

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    XL650: Dillon sells a spare Primer Assembly for the XL650 which also makes primer size change a 20 second effort. No more dissembling the Primer Assembly to swap out the Primer Magazine and Rotary Primer Disc as you set one up for large and one for small and you're GTG. A nice stand for your spare keeps everything tidy and you can leave primers in it. Note the 'Small' label on this primer assy so you can tell them apart.

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    Primer Filler Tube Holder: I've made various versions of these over the years (note the earlier version in the 'Lower Your XL650 Casefeeder' above) but they all had the problem of being in the way and easily knocked over (remember, I'm also a klutz). I settled upon a version that's cheap and easy to make out of a quart plastic bottle mounted to a base and cut to fit under the rear of the Strong Mount and out of the way (the notch on the right is to clear the press mounting bolt). The tubes are surprisingly easy to reach but don't clutter up my bench.

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    XL650 Primer Cup and Primer Chute Mods:
    Take a 4" long piece of electrical tape and fold it over 1/3 of it's width and stick to itself. Then take tape and stick to rear top edge of primer cup to avoid primers missing cup.

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    Do the same thing with the Primer Chute and your primers will stay put.

    [​IMG]

    Switching XL650 Primer Punch Assembly Sizes: I found it much easier to switch the Primer Punch Assembly if I removed the Primer Chute first. Simply remove 2 bolts and the Primer Chute comes out giving you a lot more room to get to the Primer Punch Assembly.

    Dillon Trimmer Mods:
    I can't leave well enough alone so I decided that the Switch Box on the Trimmer should be mounted on the press to keep it from being in the way. It's also easier to switch it on and off when it's mounted. I selected on an open space on the back of my XL650 press (between the 2 rear mounting bolts) where it would be easy to reach and up off the bench.

    [​IMG]

    A better view from the back of my press showing the fabricated mounting bracket with it between the 2 rear press mounting bolts. Simply make a flat bracket that will mount to the rear press bolts holes, drill 2 holes for mounting bolts in the bracket and the 2 more for mounting the Trimmer Switch Box, mount the box to the bracket, and then mount the bracket to the press and you're done. It is solid as a rock and worked out really well. As you can see, it's between my custom bullet bin & tool holder I discuss above. I routed the power cable to the Trimmer up the Casefeeder Support Post as shown above and the cable to the wall outlet along side the cable from the Casefeeder.

    [​IMG]

    I considered drilling a hole in my bench to route the cables under it but in my case the drawers were in the way so I had to route them on top. So I shortened them to remove any slack across my bench to where they connect to a wall outlet I added. It just makes for a neater looking installation and I can still unplug them should I need to do any servicing.

    After mounting the trimmer, I cut a 2½" long piece of old shop vac wand and after rasping out one end, pushed it on the Dillon Vacuum Manifold. It fits tight and makes attaching the vacuum a cinch. The red box highlights a wood 'Collar Stay' I made and will discuss below.

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    Trimmer Collar Mod: I fired it up and started trimming. After a bit I noticed that the Dillon Collar (blue plastic collar that the vacuum hose attaches to) would cant from the weight of the cantilevered vacuum hose attachment. This would let the brass shavings escape from the trimmer head and spray around the area. I noticed this when a brass sliver bounced off my glasses.

    A quick once over and I realized that the collar needed to be held down for proper and safe operation so I took a piece of scrap plywood and cut a circular 'Collar Stay' to hold the collar down on the toolhead and slipped it on. Make sure that you position the cutout under the air vent in the back of the Dillon Collar so it can suck in air. It works like a charm.

    Note: The thickness of the Collar Stay is dictated by the gap associated with each caliber you use your Trimmer for. The one shown was made for .223 trimming.

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    Super Swager 600 Holder: Many of us with the Super Swage may not have the room or the desire to permanently mount it on our bench. I took the mounting plate idea a step farther and made up a base that holds both the ready (right) and swaged (left) cases. A few pieces of wood, a couple of screws and some black paint will do the trick. The 'ears' are used to clamp it in place.

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    Bench Work Light: I've found that a bench light with a magnifying lens in it makes working with small parts and inspecting your brass a snap. You can find an inexpensive articulated light with 3x magnifier at Loews or Home Depot.

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    Air Compressor: A small air compressor set at your bench is a great tool for both keeping your press going and also a godsend when cleaning your firearms. It makes a great suggestion for a gift to someone who finds you hard to shop for. They can even be anti-gun and still feel good about buying it because you don't have to tell them what it's for. Mine came in a kit with the hose, fittings, and air nozzle. I added a set of quick disconnects to it so that I can also use it with my brad nailer around the house. Every reloading bench should have one of these.

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    Tuck it under your bench, make a hanger for the nozzle, and you're good to go.

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    Powder Funnel: A powder funnel is handy for returning your unused powder to it's original container. A 2 liter soda bottle top works perfectly and best of all it's free. Just cut it off and you're good to go. The rim under the cap holds it on your keg of powder perfectly.

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    Empty Brass Holders: You may already be buying some food items in large plastic kegs. These are pretzel kegs and they make wonderful brass holders. These types of jugs come in all types and sizes and best of all, they're free because you're already buying them.

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    Last edited: Mar 19, 2015

  3. anm2_man

    anm2_man Member

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    I need to make a comment in this thread. Steve has been a prolific poster over and AR-15 for many many years. He has a wealth of knowledge in the realm of reloading. I've read many of his posts over the years, and always walked away with another tidbit of info (And I've been reloading for over 28 years).

    Steve Welcome aboard. I think the people here will appreciate your insite.
     
  4. OldManMontgomery

    OldManMontgomery Active Member

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    Very Much Appreciated

    I have a pair of XL 650s. I will be incorporating some of your ideas in the future. Thank you very much.

    Check out my blog for my solution to storing tool heads with dies adjusted. Also all the other bits and pieces for changing calibers.

    Again, thank you.
     
  5. rjd3282

    rjd3282 New Member

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    Really liked the center light and the powder measure adjuster knobs.
     
  6. cotex

    cotex Member

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    Thank you for the kick *** post
     
  7. GDWaters

    GDWaters New Member

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    I have a 550B and plan to implement many of your great ideas
     
  8. Lman57

    Lman57 New Member

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    Steve some great mods I have a 550B that I will be using your Mod for the light and I likr your set up on the Super Swage Thanks.
     
  9. ECPunk

    ECPunk Member

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    Nice post Steve. I am new to reloading and have purchased the XL650 setup. I may use some of your adaptations.
     
  10. locutus

    locutus Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Steve,

    Are you sure that isn't Dr Sheldon Cooper's workbench???:D:D.
     
  11. Pounce

    Pounce Member

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    Just saw this post.A little late sorta. I have a Dillon 550b too. Not all those bells and whistles though. Basic. Also Lee 4 hole turret.
    I just can't get over how immaculate your bench etc is!
    I'm gonna have to straighten up mine a bit.:(
     
  12. Unclefudd

    Unclefudd Active Member Supporter

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    GR8 post

    Thanks Steve for taking the time to post and show us your ideas. I have both 650 and 550 and will most certainly use many of your ideas.
    Also, where do I get a picture of the F5A Freedom fighter shown in your second picture? LOL
    I was on the original Talon Test Force with the T38s and then worked on the first F5as and Bs.
    UF
     
  13. partdeux

    partdeux Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Rifling82 likes this.
  14. Rifling82

    Rifling82 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I’ll take some pics of my Square Deal B.... would you like pics from behind? Full frontal? Low light? :p:D
     
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  15. Oldoutlaw

    Oldoutlaw Well-Known Member Supporter

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    OK, that's it rifling! Keep your darned clothes on. I don't wanta see any of your lewd pics!!!
     
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  16. Rifling82

    Rifling82 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    :p:D
     
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  17. Oldoutlaw

    Oldoutlaw Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If your dog reads this, you are in trouble! He's gonna tell your wifey right away. :D
     
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  18. Rifling82

    Rifling82 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Fat Flash can’t read;)
     
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  19. Oldoutlaw

    Oldoutlaw Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You hope!
     
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  20. freefall

    freefall Well-Known Member

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    Then how can he text us pics of you?
     
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