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Old October 11, 2013, 03:12 PM   #1
AllenJ
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Premium Dies: Are they worth it?

I reload mostly rifle rounds anymore, 243 Winchester, 264 Winchester Mag, 7mm Remington Mag, 7WSM, 300 Savage, 30-06, 300 Winchester Mag, 338 Winchester Mag. I can get what I think is acceptable accuracy (1" for most, some 1.5", some sub 1/2") using standard RCBS dies but am striving for better. My questions are: Is the added cost of premium or match dies worth it in your opinion? If so, what would be a general expectation of group improvement if I were to start using the better dies?
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Old October 11, 2013, 04:48 PM   #2
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If you're full length sizing all your bottleneck cases, I'd have the die's necks opened up to 2 or 3 thousandths smaller than a loaded round's neck diameter. Deprime cases in a separate decapping die, clean them then lube them to use in the full length sizing dies. Use a case headspace gauge (RCBS Precision Mic or equal) so you can tell when the die's are set to bump shoulders back a couple thousandths.

That's cheaper than buying expensive dies and will produce ammo good enough to easily shoot 1/2 MOA at 300 yards (or further) if you and your rifles hardware are up to it. When set up and used right, most any bullet seating die'll make straight loaded rounds in the cases they full length size.
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Old October 11, 2013, 06:03 PM   #3
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Quote:
I reload mostly rifle rounds anymore, 243 Winchester, 264 Winchester Mag, 7mm Remington Mag, 7WSM, 300 Savage, 30-06, 300 Winchester Mag, 338 Winchester Mag. I can get what I think is acceptable accuracy (1" for most, some 1.5", some sub 1/2") using standard RCBS dies but am striving for better. My questions are: Is the added cost of premium or match dies worth it in your opinion? If so, what would be a general expectation of group improvement if I were to start using the better dies?
What are you trying to achieve? Reducing neck runout of sized cases? Reducing bullet runout of seated bullets? Do you turn case necks?

Do you sort your cases based on weight? How accurate are your powder throws? What bullets are you using?

Are you sure your rifles will support greater accuracy? Have you removed pressure points and pillar bedded? What optics are you using and how much parallax do they have?

There are many things to go into accuracy.
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Old October 12, 2013, 10:53 AM   #4
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Quote:
What are you trying to achieve?
As you stated there are so many things that go into accuracy I'm just trying to determine is the added cost of better dies is worth it.

Quote:
Do you turn case necks? Do you sort your cases based on weight?
Yes. I buy/use mostly Winchester and Remington brass so I try and do my part to make them the best they can be.

Quote:
How accurate are your powder throws?
I stay within 3/10, that is to say if I'm trying for 60.0 grains 59.9 - 60.1 grains is acceptable.

Quote:
What bullets are you using?
Berger VLD, Barnes TTSX, Sierra SBT, Nosler Accubond and E-Tips, Hornady SST, and Remington Core Lokt.......currently. I'm ashamed to say I'm a guy who loves to try all the new things the manufactures bring out, and bullets and powders top the list.

Quote:
Are you sure your rifles will support greater accuracy?
Two should as they are squared actions with custom barrels and stocks with full length aluminum bed blocks. Both have Swarovski Z5 scopes with parallex adjustment.


Quote:
There are many things to go into accuracy.
Without a doubt and trying to guess what steps to take to better both my skills and my equipment towards better accuracy can be a little overwhelming. I've read a couple of articles where the authors really pushed buying the best dies you can afford and want to know if anyone here has an opinion on the subject.


Bart B.:

Thank you for your suggestions. It is an option I had not even considered. I also, prior to reading your reply, ordered a RCBS Precision Mic for one of the cartridges. It should give me a better idea of exactly what my current dies are doing.
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Old October 12, 2013, 11:39 AM   #5
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Sometimes it's the dies and sometimes it's the rifle. I just got my semi-custom Tikka in 260 and it shoots amazingly well (ragged and enlarged one-holers). The dies I have for it are just standard Hornady dies (sizing and seating). One other relatively new rifle is a Ruger Hawkeye 223 and with it I found that I get best accuracy using the inexpensive Lee Collet Die. I used all sorts of neck and FL and bushing dies to see what let me shoot best. It was the Lee die. Second best was the Redding FL type S bushing die.

If you want really good accuracy, then take the rifles to a good gunsmith and have everything squared up and tuned up. Then tinker with the loads, which you've probably already done.
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Old October 13, 2013, 05:09 AM   #6
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The cheapest dies on the market are Lee. Lee dies routinely produce sub-MOA accuracy.

Changing to a more expensive brand of dies may help you shave a few fractions of a minute off your group size. But I highly doubt you will see dramatic improvement.

If your rifles are hunting rifles, and based on the calibers you listed I'm sure a lot of them are, then 1.5" groups at 100 is more than tight enough to ethically take game even at long range. I would pick ONE rifle in one caliber to be your "target rifle" and start the accuracy quest with that rifle.

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Old October 13, 2013, 07:43 AM   #7
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Do Lee dies routinely produce sub-MOA accuracy in all rifles?
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Old October 13, 2013, 07:53 AM   #8
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IME, cheap dies are hard to adjust precisely and change adjustment quickly. Better dies have more adjustability. Also, I can't say for sure, but better dies IME are cut to build a slightly larger case. Cheaper dies are basically just machined to provide a safe, non-issue product for the maker.

When I say cheaper, I'm talking RCBS and Hornady basic sets. When I say better, I'm talking Forster dies with the ultra seater. Redding high end sets are a level beyond, but I don't like the process.

To me, I want an FL die which will minimally change the outer case wall, bump the shoulder back and pull the neck id to the proper size. IME, this gives me good exterior case runout and good bullet runout.

A body die and bushing neck die are probably fine if you neck turn, but the basic engineering is 2 tool setups, so you are adding variation. That added variation might be less than single process variation, but you would have to prove it to yourself.
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Old October 13, 2013, 08:20 AM   #9
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Nathan, why are cheap dies hard to adjust precisely and change adjustment quickly?

And what's wrong with the process with Redding high end sets?

Do you think a full length bushing die could produce 1/4 MOA accuracy at 200 yards with unturned necks nor any other case prep stuff?
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Old October 13, 2013, 08:57 AM   #10
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Bart,

For clarity....a seater without a micrometer is a guess and check proposition. With a micrometer a .010" is a .010" move.

I don't have the experience with Redding because, like I said, I chose the Forster and my results are acceptable for my long range hunting rifle....about .6 MOA. I've seen that at 100 and 300....not sure how 200 would be. I said I do not like redding because of the 2 setups require. I work with these issues at work daily. Unless there is some fundamental flaw in a single setup process, it is usually most accurate.

I think any die set which matches the rifles chamber well, make measured straight ammo and is matched to a proper rifle/shooter, will produce 1/2 MOA or close for 5 shots at 100 yds.

200 yards and 1/4 MOA will require some luck, skill, planning to get there. Those numbers would likely be easier to achieve with a benchrest rifle and no shell holder...is that what we're talking about here?

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Old October 13, 2013, 09:14 AM   #11
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Bart B.
Quote:
Do Lee dies routinely produce sub-MOA accuracy in all rifles?
The answer is no.

However, there is NO brand of dies that routinely produces sub-MOA accuracy in all rifles, as there are rifles that are incapable of shooting MOA no matter the brand of reloading dies used.

Ask a better question next time, not a non sequitor.

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Old October 13, 2013, 09:24 AM   #12
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Custom dies can get expensive

http://www.warner-tool.com/reloading.htm

http://www.neiljones.com/html/micro_dies.html

http://www.whiddengunworks.net/reloadingdies.html

This is picture of dies I posted on another site for a factory 30-378Wby custom 300Wby and 223AI http://www.noslerreloading.com/viewt...hp?f=4&t=11615

This is picture of other Jones dies I use
http://www.noslerreloading.com/viewt...hp?f=4&t=11624 I started using these dies long before Redding and other started marketing bushing dies and here is set of neck dies I had made for a 223 http://www.noslerreloading.com/viewt...hp?f=4&t=11617.

Dies are just one part of accuracy and in a factory chambered rifle custom dies and be a hit or miss deal.

If you have 300mag and it's getting 1" groups how much wear do you want on that barrel trying to get smaller groups plus cost of the dies bullets etc.
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Old October 13, 2013, 09:55 AM   #13
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As Nathan points out , dies with micrometers are easier/qwiker to work with .

other than custom sizing of the neck in a die regular dies suffice for the hunter/plinker.

There are dies with interchangeable neck sizers , but are expensive but do offer customizing to your firearm.

A true "custom" die reguires a chamber cast & could be in the hundreds .

I have Lee, RCBS, Hornady & C&H dies , but the 1 thing I do is install the Lee retaining nut with the rubber O-ring , it allows the die (seater) to float & I consistently get lower runouts doing this no matter what brand of die used.

The 1 thing I do to help set up on the single stage presses is make a dummie round, it helps to resett the die up, as the Lee collars don`t "lock"

Hope this was helpful in some way .

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Old October 13, 2013, 12:55 PM   #14
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For what it's worth, I've used standard RCBS full length sizing and seater dies to make 30 caliber ammo that shoots under 1 MOA at longer ranges in well built rifles. Good commercial match ammo will do the same and that ammo's not made with expensive custom dies. One can handload new cases with decent components and do the same thing. At 100 yards, such ammo and rifles will shoot under 1/3 MOA with ammo so made. I don't think the ammo accuracy difference between standard dies and expensive ones is all that great.

Nathan,

Adjusting a 14 tpi die body for a .010" change in height requires the same amount of skill and knowledge to adjust a seater stem the same amount. Seater dies sometimes have micrometer adjustments, but if their thread's 28 tpi, they can be adjusted just like die height by using the same grade school math to do it. 1/7 turn of the die moves it about .010". 1/14 turn on the seater stem moves it about .010". Close enough not to require micrometer thimbles on either. Time needed to do either wasn't mentioned. And the spread of bullet jump to the rifling will still be about .003" if the micrometer on the seater's moved any amount unless they're seated to touch the lands and be set back a little bit in the case neck when the bolt's closed.

A full length sizing die made to match a chamber will have the same dimensions. It will not resize a fired case. Full length sizing dies have to be smaller dimensions than a chamber to resize cases fired in it. So, please define "a die set which matches the rifles chamber well."

Jimro,

You mentioned an objective of shooting 1 MOA with a rifle. The standard of that objective was stated as 1 MOA. Only one condition was full length sizing dies were needed to resize cases from it. No mention of any specific rifle type was mentioned as another important condition; a critical part of what your objective stated. I did not ask a non sequitur question but instead asked about the other important condition that was left out. "All rifles" covers all of them, if that's not a rifle type condition for your objective to be met with, then I think a more restrictive condition should be stated.

But I get the gist of what you're saying, it would have helped if the conditions of meeting that objective were a bit more explicit.
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Old October 13, 2013, 01:44 PM   #15
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Bart B.

I wrote, "The cheapest dies on the market are Lee. Lee dies routinely produce sub-MOA accuracy." Routinely is not a synonym for "always" by any stretch of the imagination.

Your question was clearly rhetorical and served no purpose since my initial statement had the caveat that Lee die do not always produce 1 MOA or better ammunition by the choice of the "routinely" instead of a "always."

If you really wanted me to further qualify my statement with "Lee dies routinely produce sub-MOA accuracy from rifles capable of performing at that level" that seems like petty quibbling.

Paying more for more expensive dies may have zero impact on performance, or it may cut group sizes in half, or it may increase group size. But there is no way to quantify it without doing it. As an engineer I respect told me once, "anything that can be quantified can be optimized."

Since we can't quantify how much better group sizes will be this thread has gone into other benefits, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is easier to adjust seating with a micrometer style seating die, no arguments there. But it is impossible to quantify that change in group size without actually comparing. So there is no way to predict any benefit based on die prices.

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Old October 13, 2013, 03:44 PM   #16
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An excellent resource that my help you can be found here,

Unfortunately it is out of print and the cost right now is really high. One interesting part of the book compares the "premium" dies with just routine dies. There was no clear cut winner. So just because you spend the extra money for say a premium bullet seating die, your loaded ammo will not have less bullet run-out. The data was interesting.

My reason for asking the questions I did, was to understand what "quality" of ammo you are currently producing. If your bullet runout is 0.006 to 0.008" TIR, the technique you use to set up your die can impact the results. Using an O-ring under the die lock nut allows the die to center itself in the press. Tightening the bullet seating lock nut on the stem while under compression from seating a bullet will improve (reduce) bullet runout. Just some things to consider.

I have Redding competition seating dies but I can adjust a standard die to seat just as accurately on OAL.
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Old October 13, 2013, 04:43 PM   #17
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Bullet seating and straight rounds:

http://www.redding-reloading.com/tec...icity-problems

Best thing to do with standard seating dies is wrap thin tape around the seater head so it's a slip fit in the die. This centers it in the die when locked in place.
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Old October 13, 2013, 05:42 PM   #18
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Jepp2, this is one of the better test I've seen on bullet seaters and bullet runout.

http://riflemansjournal.blogspot.com...ie-runout.html
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Old October 13, 2013, 06:54 PM   #19
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You must be able to measue first!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenJ
…ordered a RCBS Precision Mic for one of the cartridges. It should give me a better idea of exactly what my current dies are doing.
A good step in the right direction and really goes to answering your question.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimro
…As an engineer I respect told me once, "anything that can be quantified can be optimized."
Excellent advice. To really evaluate the performance of your dies & your techniques you must be able to measure your physical results. The accuracy of your rifle is only one indicator of how good your ammo is, even though that is the ultimate goal. Investment in various gauges to evaluate how physically precise your loaded rounds are is a must, IMO.

FWIW…

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Old October 14, 2013, 02:26 PM   #20
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I want to thank everyone for your reply's, some very good information and awesome articles. Prior to asking the question I was leaning towards spending the money for premium or match dies. Think I'll stick with what I have for now, unless of course the Precision Mic brings new information to light.
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Old October 14, 2013, 04:07 PM   #21
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Allen,

A very simple test will tell you whether the fancy tools will help. You've got the Precision Mic, and if you next acquire a good runout gauge, like the Sinclair, I think you'll have all you need. Simply load a good size lot of ammunition as you usually do, then sort the ammo out using the gauges to be similar. , to get the straightest, most identical rounds you can, and to find the worst ones you can. See how they shoot. If the straight ammo is better, then you want to look at seeing what tools might help make your ammo straighter.

You can improve your odds of detecting a difference between the best and worst loads by using a felt marker to mark what point on the side of the cartridge was the high (or low; doesn't matter which, as long as you're consistent). When you shoot, keep indexing the mark on the rounds 90° in the chamber for each shot to get worst case spread due to bullet tilt. Some chambers are a lot more sensitive to this than others.

The micrometer heads on seaters are most useful for changing bullets. If you keep the lock rings in the same place, you can record numbers for each bullet you load and switch back and forth between bullets, going straight to the right number each time. But if you always use the same bullet, as many do with established match loads, and you're just going to set the die for best performance and leave it there, then the micrometer head probably has little utility. You can print paper scales to help you adjust a standard die.


Jepp2,

I learned some time ago that Amazon is frequently the most costly place to buy a book. There are resellers there that positively rape the uninformed buyer. I've seen Bryan Litz's book, Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting, which is still in print, listed used for almost twice what Litz asks for it new.

Instead, look at anyplace else you can find, first. Here's a place asking $27 new, instead of $148.38, much less the $1,737.26 that one outfit selling through Amazon wants. (I need to get into that business, I guess, though I have no idea how long they languish between sales.)
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Old October 14, 2013, 07:39 PM   #22
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I'm going to waste my money on a sizing die with custom neck bushing (sized to my rifle's chamber) when the reloading fund replenishes...

I think...based on what I've gleaned online...that consistent and correct neck tension is one of the "biggies" when discussing accuracy (which as we know, is based mostly on consistency).

Seems to me that matching the ammo to YOUR chamber, is the key. Not sure what "match grade" means, otherwise- because SAAMI specs are about useless for this purpose.
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Old October 15, 2013, 08:33 AM   #23
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While "matching ammo to the chamber" (or other words meaning the same thing) are often stated as the path to best accuracy, with bottleneck cases headspacing on their shoulder, only two "matching" dimensions are critical. Most important one's the head clearance, or space between the bolt face and case head when the round fires. 2 to 3 thousandths is about perfect. Put another way, if the .308 Winchester round is at hand and the chamber headspace is 1.631", the cases should be 1.628" to 1.629" from case head to shoulder reference. This is easy to control with proper sizing die position in the press and a gauge to measure case headspace after firing and after resizing it. Diameter differences between chamber body and case body are not critical; no part of the case body touches the chamber except at its back end at the pressure ring. And a .001" difference in the case at that point means a .0005" difference in the bullet's tip in the barrel; an insignificant amount.

Such ammo centers at the front in the chamber by the case shoulder being perfectly centered in the chamber shoulder as it's pushed there by the firing pin when it fires. It doesn't matter how much clearance there is around the case body or case neck to the chamber walls. The back end of the case is pressed against the chamber wall opposite the extractor anyway. But up front, where it counts, even a .243 Win case centers its neck and bullet dead center in a .308 Win. chamber; the shoulder's are identical on each.

Best results typically occur full length sizing fired cases in a die whose neck diameter is 1 to 3 thousandths smaller than a loaded round's neck diameter. Without an expander ball (noted for bending necks too much coming up through the sized down case neck still inside the die), the case neck's diameters are only sized down then spring back naturally and are typically better centered on the case shoulder as the full length sizing die keeps everything aligned on the same axis.

Too many people have won matches and set records with the .308 Win. with ammo neck diameters about .336" in standard SAAMI chambers with neck diameters at .344". The .004" clearance around the case neck to the chamber is quite uniform all the way around; bullets are well centered in the bore. Sierra Bullets' .308 Win cases fit their test barrels that way and their match bullets shoot 1/4 MOA in their 200-yard test range.

Therefore, the bushing in a full length sizing die should be a few thousandths smaller than a loaded round's neck diameter. Or have a standard full length sizing die's neck honed out to the desired diameter and don't use an expander ball. Doesn't matter what the barrel's chamber diameters are. A much more important diameter to get correct is that of the bullet for best accuracy. They must be at least .0002" bigger than the barrel's groove diameter. Even a full thousandth larger (yes, a .3090" diameter bullet in a .3080" groove diameter barrel) will drive pins (they're smaller than tacks) at all ranges.

The other critical dimension's how far the bullet jumps to the rifling. Doesn't matter if it's zero. 5, 10 or 20 thousandths; whatever's best for accurate ammo. But it needs to be the same so variables don't change the pressure curve. For cases headspacing on their shoulders, the case shoulder is the reference to set the bullet to. The bullet's contact point on its ogive has to be the same distance forward of the shoulder, not the case head. Virtually all cases have a couple thousandths or more spread in this measurement and that spread gets transfered to the bullet's contact point with the rifling. I don't know of any bullet seating die that uses the case shoulder as the stopping point relative to the bullet's contact point in the seating stem. Unless you seat bullets so they're set back by the leade when chambered, a couple thousandths spread in jump is not a big issue; several thousandths is. And you have to keep seating bullets shallower in the case neck as the chamber throat erodes away.
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Old October 15, 2013, 08:38 AM   #24
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The 1 thing I do to help set up on the single stage presses is make a dummie round, it helps to resett the die up, as the Lee collars don`t "lock"
Change the rings out for locking ones.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:08 PM   #25
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He could, but then you lose one advantage the rubber has, which is to let the die position flex and self-align a little. I think maybe it was John Feamster I first read suggesting putting an O-ring under a standard lock ring for this same purpose. It seems to work particularly well the RCBS standard rifle seating die, which seats bullets pretty straight for a standard type die. Using a little thread lube with this arrangement helps.

It also helps to put an index mark on your press and one on the top exposed thread of the die body. That lets you get it quickly back within a thousandth or so of the same position. With steel dies like the Lee dies, cold blue makes a good way to color the top exposed turn of the thread, then a scratch awl can put a clear, sharp index mark in it that's very repeatable.
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