X-Bolt vs AB3 (A-Bolt III) Comparison


Browning AB3 and X-Bolt rifles

The X-Bolt (bottom) has a sleeker looking profile much of this coming from the magazine being lower than the bottom of the stock on the AB3.

The X-Bolt also has a lower profile receiver. Notice how much higher the top of the receiver is above the bolt showing in the ejection port on the AB3. Then notice how much larger the diameter of the bolt is on the AB3 in an image of the bolts shown lower on this page.

AB3 and X-Bolt Palm Swell

Both rifles have a nice feeling right hand palm swell in the pistol grip area of the stock. You can also notice that the stock of the X-Bolt on the right has a softer looking finish from the  Dura-Touch Armor coating.

AB3 and X-Bolt bolt release buttons

The release button to remove the bolt is located on the left, top rear of the receiver on both rifles.


AB3 and X-Bolt Magazines

Here's a top view of the detachable AB3 magazine (above) and the detachable X-Bolt magazine (below). The AB3 magazine has a leaf spring and staggers the cartridges alternating side to side. The X-Bolt magazine is a rotary style giving the top cartridge the same position right at the top and center for an easy feed straight into the chamber.


AB3 and X-Bolt Recoil Pads

Both rifles have the Inflex recoil pad system. This is a nice recoil pad and if you need to add a little length to the stock it is easy done with Browning shims.


Lately I have noticed that the traffic to my A-Bolt vs X-Bolt page on my website has been increasing. I find this interesting because the A-Bolt has actually been discontinued by Browning being replaced by the new AB3. I figure a lot of this traffic is because of confusion that the AB3 is the A-Bolt.

In 1985 Browning introduced the A-Bolt and in 1994 with the introduction of the BOSS system Browning introduced the A-Bolt II. In 2012 Browning introduced the AB3. With the introduction of the AB3 Browning has been fazing out production of the A-Bolt II.

To help deconfusimy the differences and names of the new AB3 I borrowed an AB3 to get some photos to shows the differences between it and the X-Bolt.

Browning's AB3 is stamped with a "A-Bolt" on the barrel. I'm not sure why. All of it's marketing material calls it AB3. AB3 obviously stands for A-Bolt III but the name is clearly AB3. The AB3 is a pretty drastic change from the design over the A-Bolt II which has commonly been referred to as just the "A-Bolt."

I own three A-Bolt II rifles. They have all been great rifles for me. I really like them. A few years ago I picked up my first X-Bolt rifle in 270 WSM. This too has been a great rifle for me. You can read many entries in my blog using my X-Bolt and A-Bolt rifles.

Here's a rundown on what makes the two rifles different and sometimes very similar.

Both have a top tang safety.

The X-Bolt and AB3 both have a bolt lock override button. This allows you to open the action of the rifle with the rifle on safety.

The X-Bolt composite stock has Dura-Touch Armor coating that feels really nice where the AB3 does not.

The magazine on the AB3 is a leaf spring with alternating cartridges from one side to the other where the X-Bolt is a rotary style with each shell lined straight with the bore. The magazine style of the X-Bolt has really  smooth feeding.

The AB3 has a composite trigger and trigger guard assembly. The X-Bolt has a metal trigger and trigger guard assembly.

Both triggers provide a nice crisp break. The trigger on the X-Bolt is adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds and factory set at 3 1/2 pounds. The AB3 is listed as being between 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds... I'm not 100% sure that it is adjustable just yet. I'm still checking on this one.

The bolt diameter is much larger on the AB3.

The safety switch on the AB3 is larger providing lines that are not as clean looking as the X-Bolt.

The drilled and tapped receiver has 4 holes for each base on the X-Bolt and the AB3 has 2 holes each. You will also not want to get confused with using A-Bolt bases on an AB3. The AB3 requires AB3 specific bases.

I know the X-Bolt shoots really well from the experience I have had with my Stainless Stalker in 270 WSM and I'm confident the AB3 should also shoot well. I have no doubt that is does shoot well. Both rifles are made in the Browning Miroku factory in Japan and I know they make great rifles and barrels in that factory.

My favorite rifles of all time the Model 1885 (John M. Browning's First patented firearm) are made in the same factory and they all shoot really well for me.

Obviously the AB3 is a much lower priced rifle than the X-Bolt. Lower price doesn't necessarily mean less accurate but the components and esthetics just are not quite as nice. Basically more plastic and not as pretty.

I think of the AB3 as a work horse rifle, like a truck that you're not afraid to get scratched, yet a rifle that should provide great accuracy and dependability.

The AB3 is well built and value priced whereas the X-Bolt and A-Bolt II are premium built bolt action rifles. As far as I know the AB3 is the first firearm that Browning has ever built value oriented. It's definitely not your typical Browning.

I think if you are in the market for an "entry level Browning" the AB3 is going to be a great rifle for you. If you are expecting the AB3 to be a Cadillac of a bolt action rifle like the A-Bolt 2 is, you are going to be disappointed.

AB3 and X-Bolt bolts

AB3 and X-Bolt bolt faces

The AB3 bolt (left) is mostly round and larger in diameter than the X-Bolt bolt (right) that has flat surface plains the length of the bolt.


X-Bolt (left), AB3 (Right) Both bolts have three lugs forming a "A" shape.


AB3 barrel stamp

X-Bolt Barrel Stamp

The AB3 is stamped with "A-Bolt" on the barrel. Not sure why but it is.


Here's the stamp on the barrel of the X-Bolt.


AB3 and X-Bolt bare actions

AB3 and X-Bolt magazines

Receiver and trigger groups. AB3 (top) and X-Bolt (bottom).


Here's a side view of the half metal, half composite AB3 magazine (above) and the composite X-Bolt magazine (below).


AB3 60 Degree Bolt Lift

X-Bolt 60 Degree Bolt Lift

AB3 bolt lever in top position 60 degrees up. This allows for faster cycling and plenty of clearance from the scope.


X-Bolt bolt lever in top position 60 degrees up.


AB3 bedding in stock

X-Bolt bedding in stock

The AB3 stock is bedded at the recoil lug.


The X-Bolt stock is bedded at the recoil lug and between the trigger and magazine. Basically right where both screws hold the action to the stock.


AB3 Disassembled

X-Bolt Disassembled

Simple disassembly of the AB3. Remove the two allen wrench bolts on both sides of the magazine well, slide out the bolt and this is what you get.


Simple disassembly of the X-Bolt.


AB3 reciever drilled and tapped for scope mounts

X-Bolt reciever drilled and tapped for scope mounts

The front and back of the receiver on the AB3 have a two holes drilled and tapped for scope bases.

Note: Make sure you are getting AB3 bases as A-Bolt bases will not work on this rifle.


The front and back of the receiver on the X-Bolt have four holes drilled and tapped for scope bases.


AB3 Magazine release button

X-Bolt magazine release button

The AB3 magazine release latch is found on the front of the magazine port.


The X-Bolt magazine release latch is found on the front of the magazine.


AB3 trigger adjustment screw

X-Bolt Trigger adjustment screw

The hole at the back of the composite trigger guard appears to be a port to use an allen wrench to adjust the trigger pull however I have been told that the trigger is not adjustable. The Browning catalog says "The crisp trigger breaks between 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 pounds."


To get to the trigger adjustment screw on the X-Bolt you will need to remove the trigger guard. The adjustment screw is covered in red locktite in front of the trigger. This trigger is adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds and factory set at 3 1/2 pounds.


AB3 muzzle crown

X-Bolt muzzle crown

The recessed muzzle crown protecting the riflings on the AB3.


The recessed muzzle crown protecting the riflings on the X-Bolt.


AB3 Safety On

X-Bolt Safety On

AB3: This shows the top tang safety and the bolt lock override button. The bolt lock override button is on the right side of the stock just behind the bolt lever. Pressing this button allows you to open the action and eject a cartridge when the gun is on safety.


X-Bolt: This shows the top tang safety and the bolt unlock button. The bolt lock override button is at the top of the bolt lever.


AB3 safety off

AB3 Trigger assembly

Here's another view of the AB3 safety shown in the fire position.


AB3 composite trigger and trigger guard.


AB3 loaded magazine

X-Bolt loaded magazine

The AB3 magazine holds five 270 Win. shells in a alternating stack.


The X-Bolt magazine holds four 270 Win. shells in a rotary system giving the top shell a position lined up straight with the chamber on every shot.


AB3 and X-Bolt loaded magazines

AB3 Magazine

Another view of loaded magazines from the AB3 and X-Bolt rifles.


View of empty AB3 magazine.



2014 Utah General Rifle Elk Hunt - A Bull Gets Away

Dallen sitting on cliff elk hunting with X-Bolt

Dallen on the lookout for elk. The RealTree Max-1 camo works so well in the rocks and many other western terrians.


Dallen sitting on cliff elk hunting with X-Bolt

Dallen hunting with my X-Bolt, 270 WSM with a  Vortex Viper HS LR 4-16x50 rifle scope and EGW 20 MOA picatinny rail.


Me and the boys elk hunting.

Selfie of me and the boys hunting for elk.


Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope

Using a Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope to glass for critters.



Elk hunting with a Pack Wheel game cart

Me hunting with a 26 XL Pack Wheel collapsed on my back.


Townsend's Solitaire

This Townsend's Solitaire landed next to me while hunting.

Rough Grouse Strutting in the Fall

This Rough Grouse was strutting in the fall. I guess they do strut outside of their spring breeding season.

Bull Elk on Trail Camera

This might be the bull we lost. I clearly saw a 5th point in my binos and Dallen thought it was a 4 point. The shape of the antlers could look like either. Anyhow this bull was in the area the day before he shot the bull. We have however had many 5, 4 and 4x5 bulls on trail camera in the area this year so who knows for sure.

This year Dallen had a rifle elk tag we both have cow elk tags so we decided to hunt the area that I have most of my trail cameras in watching for elk and where our cow elk permits were for. I was successful in taking a spike with my bow back in August, a spike in 2013 and Dallen's bull in 2013 from this area.

For opening weekend we decided to take the little brothers along with us to hunt. This was Dallen's younger brothers first time out big game hunting. They were super excited to go hunting with us. It's always fun to take young kids hunting and see their excitement.

The night before the opener we all headed up the mountain and and slept in a tent. Early the next morning we were hiking up the mounatin in the dark.

We have a spot that we like to sit and watch for elk. There's some cliffs overlooking a draw that has a couple of springs and a couple of my trail cameras. Not a lot of elk frequent the area however if they do the spot provides a great vantage point to get a good shot. This spot proved to be a good spot on Dallen's elk hunt last year.

After making the steep hike up to the cliffs we spent the rest of the day hanging out there watching for elk. We didn't see any elk. We did see a few does and fawn mule deer.

It was a fun day with the boys. I wish we could have seen some elk with the little boys being there. But we all had fun spending time together.

On the way out we pulled the SD cards from the trail cameras. They showed a few elk being in the area but not a lot. Just as I expected based on my experience with watching the area with the cameras the year before. It's cool how you can learn the general patterns of the game in an area with a few trail cameras.

The following weekend Dallen and I headed back up the mountain. Friday evening while hiking in we spotted some cow elk about a 1000 yards below us that headed into some thick cover. With not seeing a bull and the area they were in we decided to hope that something would come out in the draw we like to watch. Well nothing did that evening nor through most of the day on Saturday.

Around midday we decided to switch locations. We headed to the area we seen the elk the day before. As we got within 500 yards or so of this area we spotted a bull moving in and out of the oak brush. There were also several cows with the bull and they were working their way up the canyon.

The trick was that we were on a sidehill that was covered in trees. This presented a challenge to find a window through the limbs to get a clear shot across the canyon. We were able to find a window and setup for the shot. I ranged the bull, had Strelok Pro open on my Galaxy S4 phone. At the range and current weather conditions my X-Bolt 270 WSM with 150 Gr Accubond Long Range bullet needed 8.5 MOA. Dallen dialed the scope. The Bull stopped broadside in the clear and Dallen sent the shot. Whop!

The bull was hit hard. The cows all rapidly cleared the area. The bull very gingerly turned and slowly started walking directly towards us getting deeper and deeper into scrub oak brush. As it was moving in the brush Dallen sent a couple move shots his way. The target size was now much smaller and there was a lot of brush to try and get a bullet to pass through. His third shot hit the bull in a hind leg sending fur flying into the air. Then shortly after this the bull disappeared into the brush.

As sick as the bull looked I figured the bull would be dead within minutes and by the time would get across the canyon we would find him dead.

We slowing approached where we though he would be dead. As we approached the bull was about 30 yards off from where we though he would be and he jumped up and took off into the trees where Dallen couldn't see to get a shot. Dang it!

We started following the bull we ran into two other hunters, friends of my cousin and the bull had just ran into them and they had bumped the elk down a creek bottom. This could have been good if they were prepared to see an elk but may have just pushed the elk harder...

Well, to make a long story short we never found him. We spent the rest of that evening looking into the dark, most of the next day and went back another day searching for him, but no elk.

Dallen is pretty upset about the bull getting away. He made a good shot and sometimes elk just don't go down. I would really like to know exactly where the bullet hit, the amount of penetration and recover the bullet. This bullet should have performed very well at 550 yards. With the weather conditions Strelok Pro shows that the bullet was going 2400 fps and had 1900 ft lbs of energy, still plenty to kill an elk.

Some would argue that we shouldn't be shooting distances this far but Dallen has proven his marksmanship skills time and time again. He can shoot and this bullet should have done the job. Again, I would really like to know exactly where that bullet hit, the penetration and expansion...

As I write this we still plan on going back and looking for birds to help us locate him and at least recover the rack. Hopefully we will still be able to find him.

The boys sitting on a cliff elk hunting

A bull moose he saw elk hunting

The boys on the lookout for elk.


Here's a bull moose Dallen and I got within about 35 yards of.


KB smiling while elk hunting

Landen elk hunting

KB with some of our snacks around his lips.


Landen having fun elk hunting.


Moon on skyline

Beautiful fall colored quaking aspens

The last glimpse of the moon as it passes behind a ridge.


Some beautiful fall colored Quaking Aspens.



Strelok Pro Ballistics Calculator Using Galaxy S4 Internal Sensors

Strelok Pro with Samsung Galaxy S4 Phone sensors

This screen in the Strelok Pro android app on my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone shows the option to read the three internal atmospheric sensors: Atmospheric Pressure, Temperature and Humidity.


Strelok Pro with Samsung Galaxy S4 Phone Table View

For hunting I like to set leave the Strelok Pro android app in table view set to 1000 yards in 50 yard increments. I just have to unlock the screen and I can quickly view MOA adjustments for shots out to 1000 yards.

270 WSM Berger VLD Hunting Bullet

My favorite long range load a very accurate hand loaded 270 WSM Berger VLD Hunting Bullet.


I have been using the free Strelok ballistics calculator app on my Samsung phones for a few years now. The app has been wonderful in calculating long range shots. Over the years I have learned a few things. For instance on my last trip shooting at Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf range I found that I didn't have the atmospheric pressure correct. I also found that the bullets dropped more than anticipated at ranges beyond around 700 yards. After reading up on the G1 and G7 models for ballistic coefficients I realized that with the bullets I am using the G7 would be a better model to calculate my longer range shots.

For the past several months I have been researching apps and analyzing how I could calculate my shots better and shoot better at longer ranges. I started looking for expensive Kestral weather devices to help give me accurate atmospheric conditions. In the process of researching Kestral devices and apps that would automatically feed the data from the Kestral via bluetooth I stumbled on the fact that my Galaxy S4 phone has had the sensors built in all along.

Knowing my phone had built in sensors I now needed an app that could automatically feed from those sensors. I narrowed my app search down to Applied Ballistics, Shooter and Strelok Pro. I could find that they all appeared to be able to feed via bluetooth from a Kestral but I could only find that Strelok Pro would feed directly from my phone.

Just to be sure I emailed the Shooter app's developer and waited and waited, never getting a reply. After waiting a couple weeks I emailed Strelok and within a couple minutes the developer, Igor Borisov replied that his Pro version of app would do it.

A trip to the Google Play store and I now have Strelok Pro and love it. The interface is already familiar to me from using the free version for years. I now can use the G7 BC model and get atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity readings directly from my S4 phone. With the exception of measuring the wind, I have one device to calculate my shots and no manual inputting of atmospheric conditions. Yeah!

Another really nice feature I recently found on in Strelok is the ability to "use camera for slope angle." This makes using my old reliable Bushnell Elite 1500 that doesn't measure the angle work just fine. No need to upgrade my range finder.  I can get the range from the range finder and then use the app to calculate the angle and weather factors. I really like this app!

Below are a few videos from my last trip to Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf when I was using the free Strelok app. I shot fairly well but I'm feeling much better with using Strelok Pro for the next time I head out the the range.


2014 Utah Muzzleloader Season - Large 3x4 Buck Out Smarts Me

Deer Hunting with my Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter with EGW Rail and 1x20 Nikon Scope

Hunting with my Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter.


Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 with Ultrec Carbon Fiber Tripod

I just love my new Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope. Lightweight, compact and nice clear glass. This scope works great with my carbon fiber Ultrec tripod.


Deer Hunting with my Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter with EGW Rail and 1x20 Nikon Scope

Using a 26 XL Pack Wheel hauling all my hunting gear. The Pack Wheel worked awesome at getting me a long way in.


TC Encore Vortex Razor HD Spotting scope

Last rays of light from the sun one evening on my TC Encore, Alps Pathfinder pack and Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope.


Hunting with Salomon Trail Running Shoes

I've "seen the light" in a different style of footwear for hunting, that being trail running shoes. I have been using trail running shoes for a year or so while hunting and this is my first time using Salomon mountain trail running shoes. As long as it is dry these shoes are awesome for hunting. I also have some Salomon gaiters on order to keep the debris out for my next trip out.

These shoes aren't going to last like a full leather hiking boot but they are so comfortable to hike in. They are extreemly lightweight, offer awesome traction, very breathable, and have great cushioning. I think they are greatly helping my bad knees.


Bivy Camp

My bivy camp out on a small point for a couple days.

Because bivys don't breath well and condense a lot of water on the inside I usually place my sleeping bad on top of the bivy and if it is going to rain I put it inside.

After a couple scouting trips. I was ready to spend some time on the mountain with my new TC Encore muzzleloader and see if I could get a nice mule deer.

The opener was on Wednesday so on Tuesday morning I had my brother and father drop me off at the trail head. It was over five miles to where I wanted to camp for the first evening. A 26 inch wheeled Pack Wheel made the trip ver enjoyable.

Tuesday on the way in I checked my trail cameras. Nothing! Since about the first of September the cameras have had almost no deer at all on them. At first I thought the camera was messed up but all three of the cameras I had in this high country were devoid of deer starting around the first of September.

One cool thing I found on the trail cameras was two young bull elk up in the really high country. This is cool.

Thursday evening I found three Mountain Goats. I believe they are all billys but I'm no goat expert. In fact I believe these are the first mountain goats I have ever seen. What's is also cool is that they are on a mountain that has three major roads and highways that they would have had to cross to get to this mountain. These guys are living far from where anyone can hunt them. They have potential to live to die from natural causes in a wicked nasty canyon where few will ever dare bug them.

The lack of deer on the trail cameras should have been a clue that I needed to head down the mountain to find the deer. But I stuck it out and hunted hard where I knew there had to be some good sized bucks hiding somewhere.

Hiking up and down the mountain to hunt morning and evening in 500 to 1000 vertical foot increments for three days I was a little tired. Yes, I was a little tired but I was excited the my bad knees were handling the hiking very well. My last surgery has done wonders on my quality of hunts.

I did see a couple four point bucks one day out of muzzleloader range. One looked to be a 150 buck with a 24 inch or so wide frame. One morning I briefly spotted a buck down in a nasty hole on the mountain. I could see he had good main beams going out to at least the tip of his ears. I quickly tried to get my spotting scope out to get a better look at him but by the time I had the scope out he had disappeared in the brush.

The next day I decided to try and sneak down into the area I had seen the buck the day before. Getting down into the area was not as easy as I thought it would be. There was a lot of chaparral brush with little to no deer trails in the brush. I worked my way into position over the spot I had seen him the day before. I sat there for an hour or so and didn't see a thing. I decided to try and sneak into the hole and see if I could gently bump him out and have him do the classic bounce, bounce, stop, turn look followed with a boom!

Well it didn't quite work out the way I planned. I slowly started working my way down into the jack quaking aspens and other brush and trees. I noticed a fair amount of deer sign in the area and fresh rubs on the aspens. As I got down in the middle of some aspens I could hear him and saw him bounding out and up through the oak brush of the other side of the canyon. Unfortunately, I was not in a spot to get a shot and I had to run out of the aspens to find a spot to setup for a shot. The buck was larger than I thought he was. He looked really nice but he never stopped until he got to around 450 yards.

I was able to get a few pics of him running out of the canyon. Dang it! A good 3x4 with a solid 28 inch frame.

I paid close attention to where he ran off and that evening I moved my camp over about a mile further in to be able to try and locate the buck again for the remaining evening and following day I was hunting. Well even though I was in great looking deer country I didn't see another deer the rest of the hunt.

All in all I had a great time on the mountain. I only saw one other person across a canyon one day. It's nice to get out and just enjoy the mountain, see the different wildlife and unwind from all the stresses of life.

I was so hoping to get a good buck this year with my new muzzleloader but it wasn't to be. Dallen has his mind set on trying for the big 3x4 with his rifle in a few weeks. We'll see if we can find him then.


Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat

One of three Mountain Goats I watched off and on during the hunt.


Another photo of a Mountain goat below my camp.


3x4 Mule Deer

3x4 Mule Deer

This nice looking 3x4 didn't stop after I bumped him until he was 450 yards away. So I took his picture running out of the canyon.


Another pic of the large 3x4 buck. He's a dandy. I would have loved to have been able to get him.


Rock Squirrel

Hunting Chaparral Brush

This rock squirrel was keeping an eye on me one morning.


I hate chaparral. I was stuck in this crap for a few hours thinking I was taking a shorter route back to camp.


Here's some footage of the small bucks I found in the high country. So the cameras didn't find any good bucks for me but they did help me know where not to waste my time hunting. The also showed a mass exodus of the deer the first of September.

Final Scouting Scouting Trip for Mule Deer - Utah Muzzleloader Season

Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 Spotting Scope

Glassing for mule deer with my new Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope in preparation for the upcoming Utah muzzleloader mule deer season.


Clarks Nutcracker

Clarks Nutcracker checking me out.


A week before the opener and I was hiking back in to scout and check my trail cameras. On this trip in I was taking my new Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope out for the first time. It's a really good piece of glass that is nice and compact for my pack hunting and scouting trips.

I didn't see too many deer on this scouting trip.

After checking the cameras I found quite a few really young bucks but nothing even close to tempting me. I also noticed that the number of deer on camera greatly decreased a little into September. This is a little concerning.

I decided to move one of my cameras to another location a mile further in and near what appeared to be an elk wallow. We'll see what it gets next time in.

I bumped a nice two point in one of the canyons I hiked through. He pause just long enough for me to snap a photo.

I'm thinking I probably will be hunting further in just because I don't have any good bucks on camera in the canyon I was hoping the cameras would find a good buck in.

We'll see what's on the cameras the next time in when I'm back to hunt with my new Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter.


Large 2 point Mule Deer

Samsung Galaxy S Tab 10.5 Reading Trail Camera SD Cards

The buck gave me a nice pose for a second then headed out.


Using my Samsung Galaxy S Tab 10.5 to review my trail camera video in the field.


Here's some of the trail camera footage of the small bucks I found in the high country.


  • Big Game Hunting

    Journal entries from hunting mule deer, elk and whitetail deer.  You'll find hunts with 243 WSSM and 270 WSM rifles to muzzleloader and archery hunts.

  • General Hunting and Shooting

    Journal entries covering general information related to hunting and shooting. Many of these journal entries are from shooting on the rifle or archery range. There are also entries related to my experiences with the 243 WSSM, rifles, optics and other equipment and products I use.

  • Varmint Hunting

    Journal entries from hunting coyotes, rock chucks, prairie dogs and the like with 243 WSSM and 223 Rem. rifles.

  • Backpacking and Camping

    Backpacking, Pack Wheel camping and other camping adventures.

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