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El Hombre Sin Nombre

School me on 97's

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Howdy all,

 

Well it finally happened. I shot a 97 and really liked it. Ever since starting this game, I have been one of those guys in the "97 just ain't cowboy" corners. But after shooting it, I found out that it was really fun. And since I have been working toward shooting more wild bunch (local club has always let me shoot my 87 instead), I suppose it's time to start looking for one. Since I know almost nothing about them, what is it I do need to know before taking the plunge? All I know for certain is that I would like a real Winchester and not one of the Chinese ones. Are there certain models or years that are preferable, and certain to avoid? Thanks for any help provided.

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First of all I love 97s and I shoot them as my main match gun.  First find a good gunsmith who knows them.  They are not Remington 870s that can be field stripped and put back together in 10 minutes.  There are a lot of hand fitted parts.  If possible, have someone who knows them go over it before you buy.  Buy two.  One for your cart and a spare.  They are 100 year old guns and they break.  Don't feel guilty about having a field grade gun cut to your specifications.  There are a lot of them out there and they are reasonably priced.  

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They are a 100 year old design but were manufactured until the mid 1950s so there are nice ones still around. Download a SN listing so you can see when your prospective purchase was built. The newer the better. My 97 is a mismatched SN gun, who knows what happened, maybe a barrel burst. I saved a little, reblues or bad stocks should be cheaper too. Wood is easily replaced. It’s a great shotgun, thanks JMB.

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I believe model E's are the better ones.  I'm a TNN guy myself but have a sweet 16 in a '97.

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A complicated subject.   An original Winchester in good shape will run high 3 to low 4 figures.  There are less expensive ones available, but you have to know what you're looking at no matter what you buy.  Best way to get info is to contact Squibber at the Dusty Bunch in AZ or Outlaw Gambler.  If you are convinced you want to use one then it might be worthwhile to look for a clone.  As OLG indicated above, those with ser. nos starting with CB 97 are pretty well done.  Using one of those before buying a Winchester might be a good idea.  If you are buying one for use in Wild Bunch then a model 12 might be of interest.

Edited by Tex Jones, SASS 2263

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Look hard for a CB-97.

Get in touch with Outlaw Gambler.....

OLG 

No thanks. I am not looking for a clone version. Nothing wrong with them, but for my needs I would like a Winchester.

 

First of all I love 97s and I shoot them as my main match gun.  First find a good gunsmith who knows them.  They are not Remington 870s that can be field stripped and put back together in 10 minutes.  There are a lot of hand fitted parts.  If possible, have someone who knows them go over it before you buy.  Buy two.  One for your cart and a spare.  They are 100 year old guns and they break.  Don't feel guilty about having a field grade gun cut to your specifications.  There are a lot of them out there and they are reasonably priced.  

 

 

They are a 100 year old design but were manufactured until the mid 1950s so there are nice ones still around. Download a SN listing so you can see when your prospective purchase was built. The newer the better. My 97 is a mismatched SN gun, who knows what happened, maybe a barrel burst. I saved a little, reblues or bad stocks should be cheaper too. Wood is easily replaced. It’s a great shotgun, thanks JMB.

 

 

A complicated subject.   An original Winchester in good shape will run high 3 to low 4 figures.  There are less expensive ones available, but you have to know what you're looking at no matter what you buy.  Best way to get info is to contact Squibber at the Dusty Bunch in AZ or Outlaw Gambler.  If you are convinced you want to use one then it might be worthwhile to look for a clone.  As OLG indicated above, those with ser. nos starting with CB 97 are pretty well done.  Using one of those before buying a Winchester might be a good idea.  If you are buying one for use in Wild Bunch then a model 12 might be of interest.

Great information guys and very helpful. I had thought about a model 12, but I would like the option to shoot both cowboy and wild bunch with it. I won't shoot cowboy a lot with it I reckon, as I shoot bp almost exclusively, but there is a cowboy match out here where we can start with stoked shotguns, and a stoked 97 is a hoot to run. Or so I discovered recently.

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My experience, in Manitoba, is that you run across more from the 1900 to 1910 era than the newer ones. Because "the Cowboys" shoot them, the prices are high, $500 and up for ones that are intact, $250 for parts guns. 

 

That reinforces the have a smith check it out.

 

Most are real dirty inside, a complete disassemble and clean are in order. Make a list of the parts that look dodgy, lots of parts, easy to get a long list.

 

Check the chamber length, most are shorter than 2 3/4".  12 ga are usually made for 2 5/8" roll crimped shells, so about 2 1/2" if you use today's standard for checking. My 16 was made for 2 9/16" roll crimp shells.

 

Although many just shoot 2 3/4" in their short chambered shotguns, lengthening the forcing cone reduces felt recoil significantly. Lengthening the forcing cone is different than lengthening the chamber. I don't have a chamber reamer, lengthening is what I can do. 

 

Look at the hammer, as it wears it will fail to cock. Some will be welded. Look at the bottom of the bolt when you have it apart, some a worn to heck underneath.

 

Check the little rails at the back of the action block, these wear. 

 

Check the rail area on the bolt, this wears as well. (one should keep these well oiled, see the comment about these are not an 870, they are not an 870.)

 

The firing pin is usually worn to a point, smooth this area so that primers don't pierce. A flat firing pin sometimes works, do your research. I saw this shape on one of my non cowboy guns. Also, lower the tension on the hammer spring. 

 

There are lots of tutorials and videos. 

 

I prefer the takedown models, there is an adjuster to compensate for wear, just like on a model 12.

 

My backup is a Chinese clone, with crew in chokes. I use skeet. It lets me go down to 7/8 and still have the knockdown of an open cyl barrel, YMMV.

 

Remember, 2 piece chamber, some of the promo shells with their soft poop metal heads will stick in the chamber. 

 

Sometimes the spring on the magazine tube needs a bit of tuning, to keep the action locked when running fast. (running the gun, not you running).

 

I still have tons to learn, their are like 500 different parts in these guns, most were hand fitted. If you swap parts it can get interesting. 

 

Biggest indicator of wear, will not cock. Also the most challenging to fix properly.

 

I think you need more than 2. I take 2 to every meet and have one working spare at home, and a few for parts. I do kick myself for not buying up a bunch when they were $20 each before Cowboy days. 

 

They are a dangerous contraption, Winchester recalled about 2 years of production to address safety issues. 

 

Practice, learn your gun. They do not like to get short shifted, slam them into gear like you mean it. 

 

Don't forget to do the slam fire interlock adjustment. Sometimes this little screw is rusted in solid. 

 

The small carrier pin stop screw is sometimes in very neglected shape, beware. If it can't be removed, the action won't come apart. 

 

Have fun, all in all a very fun shotgun. 

 

 

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I shoot Winchesters that were made in 1900, 1904. 1906. 1916 and 1950 they are all great guns.  Do they break, well, yes they do but then so do my Rugers.  My match gun for years and years was the 1906, left extractor broke twice in eight years and the hook screw and ejector broke during the same period.  That's 3 stage ruined issues in eight years in which I shot one match every week and practiced (dry fired) several times a week.  I started using the 1950 gun four years ago left extractor gave up in the first two hundred rounds knock on wood been going good since.  The 1950 gun seems heavier than the older guns but that may be me.  I use the '00 and '04 as dry-fire guns and they seem to be happy right now.  The '06 and '16 are backups and Clays and Five stand guns right now they are holding up well with one or two hundred birds about four or five times a year.    While it may not be necessary I replace the left extractor and ejector before Winter Range each year and in the others as needed.  I have discovered that many Smiths polish the life out of these old guns in the name of smooth and some of these old guns fail because of it.  Mud Flat Mike finds a lot of '97's in and around Seattle and understands what it takes to be a good candidate for CAS and would be a good guy to talk to about finding a good gun.  Everyone has a favorite Smith TL with Cowboys and Indians was my favorite but he has retired the only other I have experience with is  Brisco Joe and I would trust him with my match gun anytime.  You will get another hundred opinions but Garrison Joe and Widder are both knowledgeable and able to express themselves.  Good Luck.   

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First, there was the Winchester Model 1893.  Winchester thought there were enough issues there that they “revamped” the gun, altered the receiver/frame, changed some functionality and “reissued” the gun as the Model.1897.  A “WinModel93” is not SASS legal.

 

(have to go, but I’ll continue this)

 

DONT LOCK OR HIDE THIS TOPIC!

 

Cat. Brules

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All of the reproduction 97s are "solid frame" models.   Some of the originals were,  but most of them were actually take downs.  In fact, I only know that non take downs exist through pictures, I've never actually seen one.

 

My first main match shotgun was a 20" Winchester with WPD stamped on the stock.  I like to pretend that it stands for Winchester Police Department.  It served me well for my first few years.   At one point I decided that I wanted to get one with a long barrel, just to have one.   I eventually found a 30" full choke one, and after trying it once, just to try it, it quickly became my primary main match shotgun.  I find that I can get on target more quickly than with the short tube, and I hardly ever miss, something I could not say with the 20" gun.   For me at least, the longer barrel gives slightly reduced recoil and I think it has a better balance.   It can be tricky on closely cramped stages, but you quickly learn to deal with it.

 

This is, I freely admit, the exact opposite of what most 97 shooters will tell you.   Most will say the shorter the barrel the better.   Still, even if you want a short barreled one, they are fairly easy to find.  I always say don't cut a long barrel.  You can't go back, and they are getting harder to find.   Better to buy 2, or just wait till you find a short one.


When you get that very rare stage description that allows you stoke up the magazine on the clock, [I've encountered it twice in about fifteen years] it is a real hoot to load it up and go to town.

 

The oft repeated "You need three.  One to shoot, one for back up, and one out for repair," call has not been my experience.  Maybe I've been lucky.   That being said, many of these gun have been run hard for many decades, so the condition you find them in will vary greatly.  Some are more worn that others.  Much of that wear and tear CAN be repaired, my long barrel one needed to have some work done, for example, but now it is fine.  But in any case, you do need to pay attention to your gun and make sure it is in proper working order.  Once it is, unless you are somehow abusing it, it should serve you just fine.

Big Boston mentioned the chamber length, so I won't revisit that.   If you load your own, you can trim plastic hulls back to a shorter length and then put in an overshot card to prevent them from spilling the contents when the incomplete star crimp is created.  And you don't need to modify your press in any way.  Just put the wad into the hull by hand and then proceed as normal.   I figured this out the hard way.

 

Or, you can go with Magtech 2.5" all brass shells.   I do both.

 

Good luck

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One of the first things you want to do if you get a Winchester 1897 is replace the hook screw with one from The Smith Shop. I have 13 16gauge 97’s and they all work. There’s a local gun shop that gets them in and when they get a 16 gauge I usually end up with it. I agree with you that stoking a 97 is a hoot.

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The Win97 had a 60-year manufacture run, from 1897 through 1957

 

During those 60 years, certain fixes and upgrades were introduced on the Win97, as they were produced, such that Winchester began to mark them (memory fails) as “C,” “D,” and “E” variations. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe any earlier “A” or “B” variations were actually marked.  These variation letter markings are so stamped above the serial number on each shotgun.  Of course the letter gives you some idea of the gun’s age.

 

——-more later

 

Cat Brules

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There is a ton of GOOD info posted above.

 

Because I only shoot an IAC, I won't make any suggestions about those.

 

BUT, write down all the suggestions listed above, ESPECIALLY those names of gunsmiths listed.

Then do a little more research and you should end up a happy owner of a quality 97.

 

Please Note:  Even a 'great' smith might not be your best choice for a '97' smith.  Find yourself a top notch

97 smith that knows the 97 and how best to give it a good feeling AND most important.....Reliability.

 

As some have mentioned above, Outlaw Gambler and Squibber have very good reputations.

My favorite smith is Curly Bill Kelly in Harriman, TN.

His work is, to put it mildly, a dandy.    I not only use his built 97's but so does Red Knee in Oklahoma.

 

..........Widder

 

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...

My favorite smith is Curly Bill Kelly in Harriman, TN.

His work is, to put it mildly, a dandy.    I not only use his built 97's but so does Red Knee in Oklahoma.

 

..........Widder

 

 

I haven't had Curly Bill work on my 97s but I left my '73 with him and, BOY HOWDY, did I get back a smooth gun.

 

I suppose if I had to have surgery and there wasn't a doc around, I would have Curly Bill do the job. He's awesome!

 

Waimea

 

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No thanks. I am not looking for a clone version. Nothing wrong 

They are made from better steel than the Winny and were built for our game.

The CB-97 is far more durable than the original 97 for our use

That is from one who also has a cherry 1957, model 97 Winchester that I use for trap and 5-stand.

OLG 

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I haven't had Curly Bill work on my 97s but I left my '73 with him and, BOY HOWDY, did I get back a smooth gun.

 

I suppose if I had to have surgery and there wasn't a doc around, I would have Curly Bill do the job. He's awesome!

 

Waimea

 

 

I was hoping you'd let me do the surgery......I could do it at the hotel after the match. You know the saying, chicks dig scars.:ph34r:

 

 

 

El Hombre, look for one that have a serial number that indicates it was made in the 1950's. Don't count out an earlier one or a D model. There are some solid frames left out there but are much harder to find and more difficult to tear down.....not much harder but more time consuming. The takedowns are, by far, more numerous. Take your time, don't rush into a purchase.....you'll be glad you did. I personally would not purchase a '97 that I could not inspect for myself, but that's just me.

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I have a C, a D and an E series, all 12-ga takedowns.

The C un was left stock.  I shoot the D and E guns when shooting smokeless.

I paid $225 to $495 for complete and working guns.

Best place to start is likely your own family.  Many of these guns are sitting in the back of closets or safes.

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so how old would one be if it was an A or B series ? asking because neither of mine are marked to a series , one is 1911 the other 1909 , just curious , would be fun to know 

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I started with a Norinco/IAC and currently have two. I'm not going to try and convince you to go that route, the screws are soft and I don't take the guns apart anymore for fear of stripping threads. The one I started with still runs strong, I've had hook screws break, the hook itself has broken and the ejector on the outside left of the receiver is a pretty common part that breaks. This was my Chabot gun, Cowboy gun and original WB gun, it's had a ton of hard use, most of which was being fully stoked and run as hard as I can run it.

 

Whatever you end up with it's best to replace or have replaced the hook screw as mentioned above from the Screw Shop. I'd consider having the action hook inspected or replaced as well. 

 

TL in Utah use to do some really nice 97's, but I don't know if he still does. 

 

I'll bring my Chabot gun Sunday to Richmond, you can borrow it until you find something. No BP please through it :)

 

Tully

Edited by Tully Mars
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I started with a Norinco/IAC and currently have two. I'm not going to try and convince you to go that route, the screws are soft and I don't take the guns apart anymore for fear of stripping threads. The one I started with still runs strong, I've had hook screws break, the hook itself has broken and the ejector on the outside left of the receiver is a pretty common part that breaks. This was my Chabot gun, Cowboy gun and original WB gun, it's had a ton of hard use, most of which was being fully stoked and run as hard as I can run it.

 

Whatever you end up with it's best to replace or have replaced the hook screw as mentioned above from the Screw Shop. I'd consider having the action hook inspected or replaced as well. 

 

TL in Utah use to do some really nice 97's, but I don't know if he still does. 

 

I'll bring my Chabot gun Sunday to Richmond, you can borrow it until you find something. No BP please through it :)

 

Tully

Thanks Tully. As usual, always a great help. See you Sunday then. And what's with the no BP? You assume I have anything else?

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Guns marked with an A or B are Model 1893's. Just like with the C, D , and E versions of the 1897's Winchester made improvements to the '93s over the years before they recalled them and issued the 97 in its place. You could turn in your '93 and Winchester would replace it with a new '97. Out of the 34,000 or so model '93's made I know of at least two that were not turned in, 'cause they're sitting in one of my safes, one an A and the other a B:D

Edited by Wyatt Earp SASS#1628L
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My wife runs one so we tend to have a few around ,I think 9 currently,  the most at one time was in the neighborhood of 20. 

  Around here they are cheap and plentiful.   The local toy store calls me whenever they get one in and it usually comes home with me.  Most of the time it was grandpa old shotgun that just sat in the closet for decades.   A little cleaning and they work.   The most I've ever spent on one was 350.  Usually I get them for about 200.  

  We only have one replica and that's because we won it. 

 

  They are a fun gun to play with and a great gun to start out. Just throw a shell in the hole and pump. 

 

 

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The IAC were very close copies but with two major differences. 

1.  They use metric threads

2.  They used much better steel compared to the originals.

 

The imports do vary some in quality but most are excellent once a little tuning is done.

Originals can be slicked up very slick since they have weaker steel - so they are very slick but will wear much quicker.  But since you plan to shoot them rarely, that shouldn't matter much.

(I wore out 2 Winchesters after just a few years while my Norinco and IAC are still in very good shape with only a couple parts replaced.)

 

As to the A and B models, those refer to the Winchester 1893 models.  Winchester made a major change with the 1897 and started with the C model.  Then the D and finally the E.  They made different models (C&D and later D&E) at the shop at the same time.  Evidently it was up to the individual craftsmen. 

 

Essentially al 97s are marked as having 2 3/4 inch chambers, but they measured them with the roll crimped shells in mind, so none met the modern standard for 2 3/4" chambers.  But they are still safe to shoot since the forcing cone allows the shell to fully open.  BUt you will have increased pressures since there is very little of the forcing cone left.  So unless you have a thin barrel as was sometimes used in the fixed version, you can readily lengthen the chamber and forcing cone to reduce pressures.

 

Below is some of the information I've collected from many folks over the years.  The top portion deals with the 97's.

http://marauder.homestead.com/Shotgun.html

 

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oh , thanks for the further explanation , means mine are a C-D-E model then , ill look a bit closer , 

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I keep reading that the chinese guns have better steel than the Winchesters. So does this mean that the Winchesters made in the 1950's have inferior steel to modern chinese steel?

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I keep reading that the chinese guns have better steel than the Winchesters. So does this mean that the Winchesters made in the 1950's have inferior steel to modern chinese steel?

 

I don't know the answer but you can Google 'Chinese steel vs American steel' and read some

good info on it.

 

..........Widder

 

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From what several gunsmiths have told me, the steel is better in the copies.  You can even hear the difference when you cycle the guns.

 

Steel has improved so greatly since WW 1.

The last couple of years of the Winchester productions were generally using up their inventory.  They were still well fitted but were almost "parts guns" comparied to when they were in their "hay day."

 

Some folks talked to Winchester many years ago when SASS was really going and asked if they would ever remake the 97's.  The lady on the phone said in a rather clear way, "No."  They were a rather complicated hand fit gun.

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I don't know the answer but you can Google 'Chinese steel vs American steel' and read some

good info on it.

 

..........Widder

 

Widder,

 

I googled and read.

 

Here--> https://gensteel.com/building-faqs/building-comparisons/chinese-steel-quality-vs-american-steel-quality

 

And here--> https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ACYBGNTLJycNTAaQBhIcLpbiA9dJLciYtg:1575429463232&q=chinese+steel+failures&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjg8piMhJvmAhWDtp4KHWzcCPcQ1QIoBnoECAwQBw&biw=1600&bih=736

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Yes, the general standard for steel in China is not up to the American standard.  Not a surprise at all since it was a socialist country and that is what happens.

 

But there can be individual cases where they make top quality. 

Norinco/IAC had incentive to make better steel and a cowboy gunsmith worked with them very closely to improve their quality and it worked.

 

I sure miss the days that the U.S.A. was the leader in industries that make stuff. :(

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There is a ton of GOOD info posted above.

 

Because I only shoot an IAC, I won't make any suggestions about those.

Please Note:  Even a 'great' smith might not be your best choice for a '97' smith.  Find yourself a top notch

97 smith that knows the 97 and how best to give it a good feeling AND most important.....Reliability.

 

My favorite smith is Curly Bill Kelly in Harriman, TN.

His work is, to put it mildly, a dandy.    I not only use his built 97's but so does Red Knee in Oklahoma.

 

..........Widder

 

As the author and gentleman mentioned in his post are two of the better '97 shooters in the game, you are well advised to pay heed. 

 

Remember; none of the guns we use were ever intended to be shot as fast, hard, or often as CAS shooters do, and there is no better example of this than the '97. 

 

I will weigh in on the "Chinese vs. American steel" issue.  If you have an early C or D model, the American steel manufactured at that time was using 1800's technology.  That is virtually stirring molten steel with a stick, and hoping for the best.  Where the Chinese fall down is in tolerances and assembly.

 

For this reason, Jim Bowie doesn't like to work on Chinese guns.  As they were made across literally generations, and tolerances have been mix-and-matched to meet convenience,  Boogie doesn't like to work on American ones.  You pays your money...

 

My advice; have more than one with you.  And stay away from C model forends.

 

Cheers,

FJT

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As the author and gentleman mentioned in his post are two of the better '97 shooters in the game, you are well advised to pay heed. 

 

Remember; none of the guns we use were ever intended to be shot as fast, hard, or often as CAS shooters do, and there is no better example of this than the '97. 

 

I will weigh in on the "Chinese vs. American steel" issue.  If you have an early C or D model, the American steel manufactured at that time was using 1800's technology.  That is virtually stirring molten steel with a stick, and hoping for the best.  Where the Chinese fall down is in tolerances and assembly.

 

For this reason, Jim Bowie doesn't like to work on Chinese guns.  As they were made across literally generations, and tolerances have been mix-and-matched to meet convenience,  Boogie doesn't like to work on American ones.  You pays your money...

 

My advice; have more than one with you.  And stay away from C model forends.

 

Cheers,

FJT

Didn’t you sing a song for awhile about yer affection for the Old 97?:D  It’s good to see you back.

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Stop by the trailer at Winter Range the wife plays it almost every time company comes.

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