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Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56mm and 3-18x50mm


Talk about a home run. Vortex really nailed it with these. The package comes with a 4″ sunshade and tools all in fitted foam and a nice looking if understated box. The scope itself caught me off guard in a number of ways.

First, the price. Given the full feature set: Japanese made bona fide’s, amazing glass, locking turrets, illumination, zero stop, etc… and the perfection that they’ve all been implemented with the price is easily 1000 bucks under many contenders. How they’re able to do that I don’t know but I’m going to assume that they’re making up on margins with volume. From the ratio of Razor’s to competitive scopes I see at matches I’m going to venture to guess that such a strategy is at least a component of the resultant low price.

I was actually at a match when I bought my first Razor II, a 3-18x50mm. Another competitor had some of his scopes on the swap-meet table at the match and I bellied up to the bar and took a peek. His Vortex Viper PST’s were not really interesting to me but the Razor, that was an attention grabber. They’re so popular with so many top shooters that I couldn’t help but covet it a bit.


Apart from the substantial heft (more on that later) the entire thing impressed me. Optically it was brilliant, the reticle design was great, turret feel and features were exactly what I’ve always thought of as perfect. The owner told me he got the 3-18x because no 4.5-27x’s were available at the time and he had matches to shoot. Once he got his 4.5-27x there was no need for the 3-18x and so I got it for a song.


As soon as I had one, I started to look at my US Optics scopes and considered how much more modern and comparatively well executed the Razors are and decided to move to Razor II’s for some of my match rifles. So, I went out and swapped my ER-25 from USO for a 4.5-27×56 Razor II and some accessories. It immediately fixed the balance issues I had from the ultra long ER-25 as the Razor is much much shorter in length. The rifle feels a lot better for positional shooting now and there’s no tunneling or vignetting like with the USO variables I’d had on top.

The heft is substantial. No joke but, also not unexpected with a top shelf optic. A 4.5-27x is right over 3lbs once you slap rings on it. The weight is excitingly evenly distributed along the length giving a nicely balanced feel to the thing. Not having the weight biased helps with rifle balance on my guns with their long heavy barrels. The mass of the optic helps shift that weight bias of the weapon system back toward the rear.


Turrets are locking .1mrad with zero stops. Clicks are extremely positive but not difficult and there’s no accidentally landing between clicks. It’s in one notch or the other. The zero stop and re-settable turrets are fairly easy to deal with and allows for a little dial-under below your zero which is nice. The parallax knob is well placed, well sized and has just the right amount of resistance with an amazingly close minimum setting. The illumination control being housed inside the parallax knob helps to keep the package compact and doesn’t interfere with bolt handles like a lot of ocular bell mounted illumination controls. The illumination rheostat has off positions between every lit position meaning you don’t have to spin a bunch on the knob to turn it off.

The reticle is the christmas tree style EBR-2C reticle in MRAD. The hole in the center of the reticle is great and doesn’t obscure small targets. I have been loathe to accept the new tree reticles that have taken over the world but after getting into long range shooting that isn’t done from the prone position and where there are multiple shots and time limits that it’s actually super helpful especially when there’s variable wind in the mix.



All in all it’s exactly what you’d expect from a tier 1 optic. Amazing glass, flawless implementation of every feature and well thought out ergonomics in a compact package that’s superbly capable of doing what it’s advertised to be able to do. A rarity in optics.

I did have one problem setting it up that turned out to be my fault and a quick call to their support line had the instructions I needed to verify a diagnosis and to take corrective action.



US Optics ER-25 5-25x58mm Rifle Scope


Well if you were looking for the biggest and heaviest bit of glass you could top a rifle with, this is it. If I recall correctly from Precision Rifle Blog’s it’s in fact the longest and heaviest of the huge lineup they tested. Street price varies. Some vendors appear to be going below MAP and selling them on E-bay for $2400-ish bucks but those are the standard SKU’s and you don’t get to customize. If you want custom then you’re probably going to pay full price unless you can find one of those angels that has the hookup and can do custom orders.

Like all US Optics scopes, it’s a heavy beast. Like all US Optics scopes it’s not exactly brimming with the most modern specs, it’s still a 5x zoom range and it’s still heavy as neutronium and there’s no true zero stop, no more tactile clicks and it’s a multi-piece scope (meaning the main tube and objective bell are not one homogeneous piece but 2 of them screwed together). What it does have going for it above all other scopes in its class is dead nuts rugged durability. If you’re planning on falling out of a helicopter 30ft onto the ground while (stupidly) still holding onto your rifle, this is the scope you want. It’ll probably live through that if you don’t actually smash the glass and good luck doing that.

Not only is it heavy but the length is almost comical and adding a 4-inch sunshade/ERD to it only exacerbates the issue, somewhat dramatically. Mounting it on my .308 Savage 10FPSR looks pretty silly. That’s fine, it’s not meant to be there forever. I have another USO scope, an SN-3 35mm 3.5-22×44 ERGO, that is meant to go on the .308. I just wanted to take my ER-25 out for a match and there isn’t one that I wanted to shoot my 7mag at anywhere close enough. I also have still to finish load development on those 7mags. There’s more in there, I know it. But, I digress.

My particular scope came out of the box with a now rare but, all too familiar to longtime watchers of USO, immediate RMA. The image was perfect except for at the top of the FOV and it was big enough for me to be annoyed by and the turrets were being inconsistent and something in the turrets felt like it might be wrong. This is not what you expect of 3 grand worth of scope. I got it back from RMA and went shooting and found that something was still buggered in the erector and it wouldn’t pull clicks out reliably when at certain extreme combinations of wind and elevation. It wasn’t that it was at its limits, it’s that the limits were inconsistent… felt like a return spring was busted or a detent slipped. Since I only really shoot in extreme conditions (judging by empirical data) I wanted that fixed. I sent it back again and it’s just been returned. I’ve get it mounted and will get it zero’d soon enough and if the stars align we’ll see how it does mid-next month on some match work. If everything is fine then I’ll also use it for an upcoming special video I’m doing. If not, then the .223 and the USO ST-10 will be the star of the show.

US Optics Scopes, MDT LSS chassis and Burris Signature Series rings.

US Optics Scopes, MDT LSS chassis and Burris Signature Series rings.

Optical quality from any USO is pretty darned good by any standard. Some will argue but I’ve not been any more impressed by any other manufacturer than I have been with USO. Their coatings might not be as advanced as S&B or Zeiss but I don’t know anyone that can tell the difference, certainly not me. There is tunneling at the lower powers because USO doesn’t use a mask. A mask effectively cuts off some of the image to eliminate tunneling but at a cost. The parallax knob has markings which are in my experience, meaningless except at 50m and infinity.

Where the ER-25 normally shines is in dead nuts precise click values and I experienced that within the central 15mils but outside that my specific scope had some trouble, that’s what got it sent back for repair. My ST-10 which is USO’s cheapest (if you can call it that) scope has the same turret setup and is disturbingly accurate and repeatable. Every independent test, review and anecdote I’ve ever heard or read about USO’s click values is, they’re always accurate. Clicks are not hugely tactile but they are at just the right audible level to be heard without being loud like Vortex and some others seem to me to be.

I got the ER-25 because they no longer made the SN-3 ERGO models and because I had the money, US Optics is my preferred scope vendor and I really wanted one. I’m satisfied with the purchase and with the support so far.

The process to get warranty work is super easy:
1. Have a US Optics scope. This is key.
2. If you have a problem call them and explain.
3. Send it back with the RMA number they give you.
4. Wait a month.
5. Receive your scope back and check it out.
6. Repeat if necessary.

Hey, I said it was easy, not that it was not operated by humans. On the upside, I’ve spend time with a good number of ER-25’s in the last year and mine is the only one anyone reported any problem at all with so I’m going to chalk this one up to the curse of Tahquiz. Don’t take this as a rip on USO or the ER-25. I’ve looked through enough of them to know they’re a rock star optic and optically this one is no exception. I just happened to get the one that needed immediate repair put into it and that sorta happens with manufactured goods. It’s custom, not bespoke.

Burris Signature Series XTR Rings

34mm Rings & Fancy Packaging

34mm Rings & Fancy Packaging

In the tradition of Burris’ excellent Signature Series rings come the XTR line. They’re designed for tactical applications and built tough and you can tell right out of the box. The Pos-Align inserts that users of the Burris Signature Series Zee rings are used to are there but no longer made of the slick polymer used in their 1″ and 30mm Zee rings. Instead the inserts appear to be a fibre reinforced polymer of much duller sheen. Possibly meant to provide greater friction against the scope tubes of the giant scopes normally mounted in 34mm tactical rings.

They’re packaged in a water tight case reminiscent of those from Pelican that’s made by Plano. It’s a hell of a lot of case for a set of rings that are more or less impervious to water in the first place but whatever makes the little cars go round and round right. If nothing else it provided me with a neat little case to keep all the tools and parts for my optics in my normal match kit.

US Optics Scopes, MDT LSS chassis and Burris Signature Series rings.

US Optics Scopes, MDT LSS chassis and Burris Signature Series rings.

A cross bar lug machined into the bottom and made to slot into a Picatinny rail and six screws holding down top halves mean your scope won’t be shifting in the rings and the rings won’t be shifting in your mounting base.

Note the machined in lug.

Note the machined in lug.

These rings are designed for use with bases having a Picatinny slot size. That’s necessary to accommodate the lug. I haven’t tried to fit it in a conventional Weaver base and I’m not going to either. The fibre reinforced ring inserts being clamped down by 6 torx head screws means even the largest and heaviest scopes will be very securely set against the forces of recoil. My rings are hugging a US Optics ER-25 which is one of the heaviest tactical scopes you could possibly find to hang on a rifle so I’m glad for the holding power. The inserts also help prevent damage to the scope finish or pinching of the tube but this by no means is meant to assert that extreme care should not be taken while mounting the scope in the rings. You have to do it evenly and consistently and be careful to not over-tighten them.

Thick and tall, thick and tall. I went with a taller ring than I should have which means either replacing them with a shorter set of raising the comb on my rifle. Guess which one won out in the short term. Hey, at over a c-note a set, it’s non-trivial to keep lashing out greenies. That is what will happen though in the end. The ring caps are pretty thick on their own though and on my ER-25 with it’s relatively short back half of the main tube and super low profile EREK elevation knob means that I can’t see squat of my knob settings (elevation or windage) without having to come slightly off the rifle. It does break up my position which means I have to rebuild the position. It’s right here where MTC and a proper zero stop on the ER-25 would be good. With something like a Vortex Razor with taller knobs the thickness of the ring shouldn’t matter as much. They’re also kinda heavy for aluminum. I didn’t toss them on a scale but they’re certainly not light other than perhaps being light for their size if you’re familiar with the weight of steel rings.

Each ring set includes one set of the +/- 0 MOA concentric, one set each of the +/-5 MOA and +/-10 MOA, and two sets of the +/-20 MOA. With these inserts, it is possible to make 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 40 MOA of cant in the scope mount without a canted base. This means 2-piece bases are a possibility which can allow lower mounting of the scope relative to the bore but they’d have to have Picatinny slot size to work. All of the 2-piece slot-type bases I’ve seen are on the similar but very slightly different Weaver pattern which has slots that are too narrow to accommodate the recoil lugs on things meant for use with Mil-Std-1913 rails and mounts.

Cost is not heartwarming but not heart stopping unlike the cost of, say, US Optics rings. The Burris XTR Signature Series are over $100 on the street. Mine were $134 + shipping. I only use Burris Signature rings on my rifles for a reason. They’re top quality and they don’t mess up my scope finish which helps to retain value on my pricey optics. If you have room in your weight budget and you’re using any scope without an EREK knob then you’ll probably love them. Definitely get your scope in your hands with your rifle and base before ordering your rings and then measure 3x and order 1x.

Vortex Viper PST 6-24×50 FFP Mil/Mil EBR-1

Normally I review scopes I own or get loaned to me by the manufacturer for the purpose of reviewing. I don’t like to write about those that I don’t have long term access to. I find that the proper way to do things is to get an initial impression and then refine that through longer term use. This is especially true, and largely because of the fact that I end up buying all these optics and that stuff is occasionally heart thumpingly expensive.

Some background on this particular scope review: My coach is an old school shooter and likes his scopes second focal plane with a small dot and fine crosshair reticles with insane magnification levels and 1/8 MOA clicks. These are fantastic for target work at known distances and where you’re not spinning a lot of DOPE each time. His total used adjustment range on the old Nikon was 14MOA and distances were maxed out at 500m. Well, PRS type work gets out a lot further and the targets are scattered randomly in their distances everywhere from 200m to 1000m so you’re constantly dialing up and down and holding off and he needed turrets that were meant to take a little more constant use.


Well finally, after a year of shooting with me and seeing the things I’m able to do with a scaled reticle in FFP and fixed power scopes and how easy it looks and how good the glass I use is and how well the turrets track (particularly for the price I pay) he decided to make the jump and get a high quality FFP MIL/MIL optic. Part of the reason for the jump was that in prepping for a long range precision match a couple months ago we found out his Nikon target scope was busted and wouldn’t dial any windage and he was way out of elevation for hitting the 900m target. Fast forward to last week and he’d ordered a new Vortex Viper PST FFP 6-24x with EBR-1 reticle.

Now this new Vortex optic is mounted on a 6.5mm BR single shot bolt action Rem 700 based metallic silhouette race gun. The thing is meant exactly for doing 5-10 shots rapid fire at long range… the hard way. Standing up. Using it for PRS style work was actually really successful the first time out despite it being unable to dial wind since it’s nasty accurate, wind bucking and low recoiling. Still, the busted fine hair and small dot Nikon scope was only helping drop his score. This new scope is sure to help his scores in PRS type matches. How it’ll do long term in metallic silhouette has a lot to do with how long it takes him to become friends with his new scope. His skills are wicked sharp anyway so if he takes to it rapidly it could be dramatic. If it isn’t so quick for him to pick up his scores will still rise but not quite as fast.

Anyway, I digress a bit. As soon as the new Vortex Viper arrived he ran over to my place and I popped a set of my 30mm Burris Signature Series rings on the scope with 20MOA of cant dialed with the eccentric inserts. We got it mounted and took to bore sighting at yesterdays match. The scope was within 2MRAD of dead nuts right there. Looks like they’re definitely set up from the factory for a 20MOA mount.

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the EBR-1 reticle compared to his old target dot (but nothing near as much as in the EBR-2 tree style) and in silhouette there’s a saying that every change in weapon/scope/spotter takes a year to overcome. Busy reticles can be hard to deal with when trying to hold 2MOA offhand. Apart from the newness and differentness for my coach, we just slapped a tactical oriented scope on a custom made race gun built specifically for metallic silhouette and not so much for tactical. Just how will this look? Just fine as it turns out. Quite a number of shooters in the silhouette game have gone to SWFA and Vortex optics with scaled reticles. Partly because of price and partly because these sorts of tactical scopes have a reputation for accurate click values so shooters can use computed shooting solutions instead of having to establish actual data on previous engagements (DOPE) in a little notebook. That means less ammo spent verifying data before a match and all the benefits that burning less ammo brings along with some extra time in our pre-match schedules to make sure we’re fed, warm, hydrated, head in the game, etc…

So far it looks like this change didn’t take very long at all for him to deal with. He picked up 3 targets more than he has in the past 4 matches with that rifle with the new scope and we’d only just zero’d it right before the match started. First time behind the new combo and he was making 1″ 3-shot offhand groups at 200m during our pre-match practicing.

In the set-up and zero and practice time I had some time behind his rifle with the newest Viper PST and I gotta say that while there are several design/feature elements that I really don’t dig on, the overall quality and especially the glass was extremely nice. Bright and clear as hell all the way to the edges even on 24x and while there is a bit of a preference for greens and browns in the color rendition it’s everything I’d expect from about 800 bucks.

Yeah, yeah. I can hear you grumbling. Asking yourself, “What the hell is it that he doesn’t like if it’s so great?”

Ok, here’s a list:

5MRAD per turn turrets.
Pinch screw turret cap attachment system.
Visible gap between objective bell and sunshade when so equipped.
Mechanical illumination.
Illumination rheostat location.
Non-intuitive direction of rotation for side parallax and small numbering there.
Side parallax knob is too low profile and not knurled.
Turret labeling and the little window thing on the elevation turret is really busy and can be hard to read quickly.

As you can see. Not a single one of my complaints has anything to do with the ability of the scope to perform reliably or accurately or even exactly as you’d expect. They’re as close to first world problems as you can get but they do affect the speed and ease of use which are important criteria to me.

The thing they got really right: The tactile feel of the clicks. There’s no mistaking that your turning it but they’re not too clakkity that they force the rifle to move when you make an adjustment.

All in all it’s a fantastic scope. I’d hope for 800 bucks they could do a 10mil per rotation turret but beggars can’t be choosers and if that’s the biggest gripe I have for 800 bucks, that’s pretty damned good.

Vortex’s warranty is as bullet proof as any in the industry and they go to great lengths to prove it. Given the quality and performance I could only recommend this if it’s in your budget window and the feature set is appropriate to your game.

Crosshair Precision Mossberg MVP Extractor Upgrade Extractors

Owners of Mossberg MVP rifles might have noticed that Mossberg isn’t into selling parts to individuals and as far as I can tell they won’t sell to gunsmiths either. If you break a part right now you’re mostly relegated to sending the rifle back to Mossberg and having them repair under warranty. That sucks a lot and denies that many shooters are easily capable of installing most replacement parts.

MVP rifles in .223 have been popping extractors like pop-tarts especially with protracted use of steel cased ammo and barring sending the rifle back to Mossy the only other option has been to put the rifle back in the safe until Mossberg pulls their heads out of their butts and gets the spare parts machine working. Well, those days are OVER.

Thanks to Crosshair Precision we now have spares available and they’re not just a replacement, they’re an upgrade. I’ve personally tested these under very abusive conditions and they’ve taken a serious beating without fail. Check out for details. If you’re not a member sign up and send Bob a private message. He’ll get you squared away. Price is set at $20. I suggest buying 2 sets of spares. You know you’ll drop one in the dirt someday. Might as well have a spare spare.

Labradar: Rock Star Technology For the Rest of Us

For years we’ve all dreamed of having a chronograph system that could be used in the way we want it to:
1. Set the device down near the shooting spot.
2. Shoot
3. Read velocities.

We didn’t ever want to deal with diffusers, metal rods, infrared illuminators, lighting problems, angle problems, shooting the chronograph in the face, failure to detect/trigger, straps, plastic things attached to the barrel, POI changes, cable length, dim remote displays, blast effects, tiny shot windows, or not being able to move the gun. All of those problems are native to extant systems for noting muzzle velocities. Many of us hold chronographs in general in a sort of love:hate relationship. We know we need them and we treasure being able to get data but we are also sick up and fed with the three little pigs (a metaphor for the endless little niggling problems that make chronographs annoying or difficult or both to use).

Enter Labradar. Apart from being something that my autocorrect can’t seem to leave the hell alone it’s a brilliant solution to a long standing problem. Not only does it provide velocity data but there’s a lot more there that can be used to refine ballistic coefficient data (I have not tinkered with that but it’s possible now that multiple velocity measurements can be taken for the same projectile).

I was given the chance to use one recently and it was great. We tested with a small 1-inch bore black powder cannon which is not something you could use a Chrony or even a magnetospeed for. Barring the availability of the Labradar it would not have been possible to get a good MV reading.

I would love to more extensively tinker with one and give a more thoughtful and considered appraisal. Perhaps someday Labradar will be kind enough to allow me to eval a unit before I end up just buying one (which I will do). In either case whenever I can lay my hands on one again I will make sure to provide a thorough review with useful information. In the short term I can say that setup is not quite trivial. It takes a minute or two to fiddle with it and you really really want to read the manual. I didn’t do the latter but I did a bit of the former.


Once you have it set up usage is stupid easy. You just shoot. If you have it triggering off of the report of the gun firing you’ll have the best luck and battery life. You’ll want to have an extra set of batteries if you plan on a lot of chronograph readings being taken. Battery life isn’t terrible but you are operating a doppler radar unit, they’re not exactly low energy devices. Cost is pretty tall but you get what you pay for. For the man who hunts while dragging around gear with labels like Sako, Hensoldt, Le Chameau, and Turnbull & Asser this is about what one would expect to see them using. For the rest of us, it’s still the best bit of kit for the purpose and all things considered it’s not that expensive.

Magnetospeed V1

I’ve been collecting and making my own chronographs for a few years trying to find one that does what I need when I need. In doing so I’ve collected and used extensively quite a number of them. Of those 3 seem to come to the front of most people’s decision tree. Here we’ll cover one of the more expensive options.
MagnetoSpeed V1:
Pros: Easy to slip on, when it works it just works, stores large number of shots, attached to the gun, easy to use, aluminum cam-lock strap.

Cons: Muzzle breaks and magnums = unreliable operation, POI change, bayo slip-off problems, cables (what no bluetooth), no display weapon mount, standard plastic cam-lock sucks, bayo pitting.

The V1 comes in a cardboard box with fitted foam padding. The V2 and 3 come in a proper plastic case which is nice.

For the most part this thing is fantastic. I really love the ability to change where I’m pointing and still gather data. It works without regard to the lighting which is excellent. The low end cam-lock setup is junk. Broke out of the box. The aluminum upgrade dealie they offer for about 20 bucks is money well spent and apart from a ridiculous strap routing complexity it’s pretty easy to use.


I’ve found I get more shots before it tries to work itself off the barrel if I use both rubber adapters, one on either side. I’ve found that I’d really like a weapon mount for the display as well. On my .223 it works perfectly with no brake. On my .308 it didn’t like working with the brake on it but was just fine without it. On my 7-mag it hasn’t been totally reliable even without the brake on the gun and was completely non-functional with the brake on. My brakes are shorties, only about an inch and a quarter longer than the barrel and they’re barrel diameter or less with tight exit ports so blast shouldn’t be an issue however it seems to be (I’ll update on this as I shoot the big gun more). With my 7br it was 100% reliable.

No weapon mount seems like they missed a logical next step. So does the lack of bluetooth (or iRDA or 2.4GHz or whatever not fucking wired) connection between bayo and display. They really missed the boat on those two bits. Not everyone sits down or lays down with their rifles. Some of us like to shoot standing up too. Some of us have spotters that are taking down data for us or want to put the display somewhere else than on or next to the rifle. First, it’s a little awkward when you have your display unit gallivanting around the bench top as it gets jerked around by the cord or to have it dangling from the end of your rifle. Long cables are a treatment but not a solution. It’s more awkward to have only just a little flexibility about where I can put the display. Weapon mount makes it so cables are still ok (if primitive) and un-cabled makes it so weapon mount or not is irrelevant.

The display on my V1 is old school LCD. For 300-400 bucks or more a little better display could have been used. Backlighting in blue (or white) is nutty for sure though. Red would have been the appropriate choice if only one color were to be offered. Battery life is so far pretty good but I’m not sure exactly how good yet. I haven’t replaced the battery so far after a couple hundred rounds of data gathering and powered on lag time in the many hours range.


The bayo unit has started to pit and while that’s only cosmetic for now I’ll need to periodically hit it with a coat of epoxy to fill in the holes so it doesn’t get worse. I think this is actually a great selling point for the choice of the plastic they are using. It’s durable and tough up to a point and it’s still repairable by most people that can figure out how to open a tube of epoxy. The epoxy treatments so far are done just like bondo. You don’t want a lot, just enough to smooth the surface. I find a good 2-part steel epoxy works great as an ablative layer there.

The way the bayo mounts is a little nerve tickling for a bit until you get used to it and realize you’d have to have a massive taper rate on your barrel in order to get the bullet to strike the bayo. It’s still something to verify each time but it’s not something to be pissing your pants over unlike the possibility of a guest shooter pushing a rifle bullet right through your optically activated chronograph. If you let other people shoot through your conventional rabbit eared chronograph, eventually one of them is going to drop a round in the unit itself and kill it. Either that or you will. In any event the Magnetospeed does a solid job of alleviating this hazard if even the tiniest amount of sense is used in installing it onto the barrel.

Finally is the price. It’s a bit gouge-y if you know what you’re getting. A couple hall effect sensors, some injection molded plastic and a very limited bit of software, an relatively primitive display, and a small amount of inexpensive microelectronics. They’re certainly making their profit on the hardware bits in spades.

Competitors are basically optically activated setups like ProChrony, ShootingChrony, Oehler and other similar more traditional chronographs and not much of a damned thing else. Labradar is a radar based bit of vaporware that has been due out shortly for two years. In the meantime if lighting is something you can’t always control or you’d like to have aimpoint flexibility then for now Magnetospeed is the only game in town and it’s not bad at all. It’s a bit expensive and some of the hardware is a little janky but it’s worked so far.

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