The Range at Austin: Here’s The Plan

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Building a range: how hard could it be? Put a bunch of concrete walls up, slather a few firearms for sale on the walls, and hey-presto you’ve got yourself a range! The problem presents itself when you’re trying to elevate the range experience from the “dingy basement” level of most indoor ranges her in Austin, Texas there’s a little more planning involved. Little did I know exactly how much of my time was about to be consumed poring over at engineering diagrams . . .

Starting on January 1st I officially became the newest employee of The Range at Austin. Things had been moving full speed ahead well before I was hired; the plans for the building are dated from May of last year. But even before those plans were finalized a ton of thought had to be put into the design.

When you head to a range here in Austin, what exactly do you want to do? That question needed to be answered pretty smartly. Are most people there to shoot handguns or rifles? Do they want short range targets or long range?

According to our TTAG reader surveys, most people head to the range one to three times a month. Roughly a third of shooters head to an indoor range. And 69 percent of customers go to shoot handguns. Obviously the majority of the space would need to be useful for that kind of activity, but there’s a large portion (53 percent) who also want to shoot rifles.

Downrange, the solution is pretty obvious: make the backstop capable of handling all of those calibers.

Every backstop at The Range is manufactured by Action Target. We’ve opted for their higher level solution that allows us to fire a fully automatic 12.7x108mm DShK at it all day long. If we wanted.

Then again, we don’t really want to be replacing the backstop all that often. The plan: limit shooters to a much more reasonable caliber like .375 H&H Magnum. The higher level protection means that even on the short range “pistol” lines you can whip out your WASR-10 and blast away to your heart’s content.

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Short range firing is cool and practicing with handguns doesn’t need a lot of distance, but there are shooters who want a longer distance. Texas hill country is prime hunting real estate. Giving people the opportunity to sight in their hunting rifle at a full 100 yards is an important marketing opportunity. Sixty percent of people in the TTAG survey are hunters or aspiring hunters, so providing a space for them to perfect their zero should be very appealing.

There’s another reason why this is awesome and that has to do with isolation.

TTAG’s gun reviews all use a 100 yard five-round group as the gold standard for accuracy comparison. Doing that on an outdoor range can introduce all sorts of nasty variables into the equation. Humidity, temperature changes and crosswind can all widen out the group size independent of the actual accuracy of the firearm.

There’s only one other place in the local area that has a covered 100-yard range. TrackingPoint’s R&D facility near Dripping Springs isn’t open to the public. The Range at Austin’s 100-yard lane will be miles better (so to speak), controlling all of the variables and providing a test facility for any accuracy conscious shooter looking to test the true measure of their firearm.

A gun store is the last piece that’s an absolute must-have.

Austin has a ton of gun stores, but none of them are run the way we want one to be run. The traditional setup featuring a burly plaid-shirted man sitting behind a counter blathering about politics and pushing their firearm of choice on every customer that rolls through isn’t our ideal firearms purchase experience.

The Apple store concept is a whole lot more appealing — an open and inviting space where customers can pick up and hold the guns they want to buy, dealing with a friendly knowledgeable sales staff (no longer separated by a big glass case) who wants to help customers find their perfect firearm.

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All that on its own would be an amazing range, one that I’d love to use all the time. But what if we took that whole experience and made it…better?

How about staff that know you by name and have your ammo ready when you walk in the door? A lounge where you could hang out and relax for an afternoon? (Complete with local food, non-alcoholic drinks and RF’s mandatory cigar lounge.) A conference room for business meetings? We’re building a VIP experience unrivaled in the state of Texas.

The day I started pulling my first paycheck from The Range At Austin was the same day the slab was laid down. The planning work is now complete, including ground-breaking features I can’t discuss at this time. TTAG’s home range — and maybe yours — is on its way.

comments

  1. avatar Gunsplain says:

    I would relocate to Texas from Tennessee to work in a place like that.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      I would relocate TN to TX with a shovel to work in a place like that.

      I would crawl there from OK, using only my lips, to work in a place like that.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        Need a “wet-snail” system

        http://www.2ashootingcenter.com/

        1. avatar Eye-roller says:

          That’s frickin’ brilliant.

          Another thing I hate about indoor ranges, the potential for pollution. That thing looks like it’d eliminate a lot of the worry.

      2. avatar WedelJ says:

        Joe R, look up Wilshire Gun in OKC.

    2. avatar rcpylon says:

      if you are close to nashville, Nashville Armory is pretty close to this.

      1. avatar Gunsplain says:

        Great!

        Are they hiring?

  2. avatar Rock 392 says:

    I can’t imagine how much fun this is going to be! I have to admit…I’m very jealous! But happy for you too

  3. avatar James69 says:

    I’ve heard the EPA has some interesting rules for ranges.

    Fun Range story – I used to shoot at the range in Long Beach Ca. This was the range on the backside of the police range.Big long steel water tank. It’s prob closed now if I know Cali. Anyway, we were there (some guys from the ship) Banging away with our brand new Ruger P89 mk2’s woo hoo! I had recently returned from leave and brought back one of my old black powder revolvers – Navy colt repro- made by some Italian feller. Loaded her up. Moved to the line and fired…… The resulting fireball set off all the unspent powder on the ground in front of the firing line, not just a small patch almost the whole damm line. Horns sounded and the RM came a running. Scared the hell outa us. Made for a great story, and alot of attention for a Redneck from Alabama. I guess no one had shot a dinosaur hand cannon there before, like ever.(Cali – go figure) Needless to say we shot my whole tin of caps that day. Good Times.

    So I would be sure to add that into the range cleanup at the end of the day.

  4. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    That place will be the gold standard.
    This looks fantastic!

  5. avatar Narcoossee says:

    “According to the TTAG reader survey, most people head to the range one to three times a month.”

    Correction: “According to the TTAG reader survey, the universe of people who chose to answer the survey head to the range one to three times a month.”

    Potentially a yuuuge difference between the poll responders and the general firearms-owning population.

  6. avatar Bob says:

    The things I hate about indoor ranges (and I seriously avoid them) is that, generally the rules are so tight and the targets are all single pieces of paper, laid out directly out in front of you.

    Basically I can’t practice any 3 gun activities and I can’t shoot steel. So during the PA winter I shoot airsoft in the garage vs going to a indoor range.

    Also, FWIW, I HATE the Apple store. Their overfriendliness and oozing douchiness makes me ill.

    1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      I’m with you on this. I’m not a fan of the “Gucci gun range” style. We have one of our own like that here in Houston at the Athena gun range. To each his own, I say, but for me, I like my gun ranges like I like my bars and comedy clubs, just a little on the gritty side.

      I’m all for everyone going home safe. I just don’t think busybody octogenarian range safety officers hovering over you and stop-watching time between shots is necessary.

      1. avatar Randy Taylor says:

        Yep. At least the Beretta Gallery in Dallas is classy. Austin will be the perfect location for a hipster douchebag gun range though. Hope y’all hire some hot baristas.

  7. avatar gs650g says:

    Leghorn is no doubt familiar with elite shooting sports in manassas Virginia. I would call that the gold standard for indoor ranges.

  8. avatar Pascal says:

    @Nick Leghorn:

    Just a question, not trying to suggest anything.

    Last year Dan Zimmerman did a post regarding the CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park. I do not expect you to spend the $20mm that park costs, but did you perhaps visit that facility for some inspiration and perhaps a discussion with those folks? I know you boys in TX have plenty of nice facilities some of which I have visited in my travels, but that CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park is still a standout IMHO.

    One feature of a range I have always wanted to see is a dedicated lane to zero a pistol and another to zero a rifle. These are isolated and closed off and have a bench and rest. It helps both the staff at the gun shop when they are working on something for customers and is a nice value add for range members. Since you are trying to zero, better than normal lighting helps and space for tools to help adjust your firearm. In the same vain, a way to safely allow someone to work up their loads with a chrony. Even though I am a member at private range, I have been in trouble several times for placing my Chrono ahead of the firing line because it is against their rules.

    Good luck, I am sure it will be a difficult but rewarding journey

  9. avatar Eye-roller says:

    Some things are so painfully obvious that I will probably come across as a mook for even mentioning them, but …

    1. You really need bulletproof panels between range lanes. I’ve got no idea how newbie the person next to me might be, and I don’t want to be constantly muzzled or fired at between lanes…

    2. sound-absorbing material on the walls. I hate indoor ranges because of the absolutely deafening echo. Yes I double-up, yes it helps, but sometimes I (or someone else) wants to fire something loud (.454, .460, or those guys with rifles with muzzle brakes) and it can be unpleasant when the sound’s bouncing off bare walls. Throw up some carpet at least, if not some genuine sound-absorption material, to make it a more pleasant experience.

    3. Pull the firing pin out of any gun on display. You really don’t want to become a news story if someone brings a round of ammo with them. People use ranges to commit suicide occasionally, you definitely don’t need that happening in your Apple store.

    4. I love the idea of a lane with a chrono in it. Of course, people are gonna shoot it, so put up some bulletproof plexi in front of it, or maybe put a bulletproof wall in front of it and a GoPro pointing at it, with a monitor in the lane, so people can see the results but not actually shoot it (even with buckshot).

    Like I say, painfully obvious for anyone, but — sometimes the obvious gets lost in the planning for the details.

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      “sound-absorbing material on the walls.”
      Acoustic foam covering the walls and ceiling from the firing line back makes a HUGE difference.

      I like the chronograph lane idea, too. A range could charge a little extra to use it. And you wouldn’t even need the Go-pro camera and monitor, just a separate printer and/or display that plugs into it.

    2. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      Hell why not a camera at the targets at longer ranges? Skip the spotting scope type stuff. Just have a monitor for the lane where you can see your results easily.

    3. avatar Kendahl says:

      Anything that absorbs the report and muzzle blast is a very good idea. Even the panels that separate shooters reflect sound and blast back at the shooter. I prefer outdoor ranges with no cover overhead because the sound and blast radiate away.

  10. avatar LKB says:

    “There’s only one other place in the local area which has a covered 100 yard range, and that would be TrackingPoint’s R&D facility near Dripping Springs that isn’t open to the public.”

    Uh, what about Red’s South? Granted, it’s decades old (and looks it), is probably a future Superfund site, and the reflected concussion from all of its uninsulated cinder block walls will rattle your fillings, but in a pinch you *can* shoot to 100 yards there.

    1. avatar Warren says:

      Not to mention Lonestar in Lockhart, which has a 100 yard rifle range. Cheaper than Red’s, too. But I guess guys like Nick aren’t inclined to “slum it” at places like Red’s or Lonestar.

      1. avatar John says:

        He said “covered”, but I think he meant indoor (as far as controlling the variables and such). And I didn’t think Red’s allowed heavier calibers?

        I’ve shot at the Lockhart long range, it’s not bad at all, in fact, that range is where I typically go. The only improvements I think they really need is some paving, particularly on the pistol ranges. I would like separated shooting stations on the pistol range, since I’ve been bombed with brass more than once there, but that’s a “like” rather than a “need”. The San Marcos range has a great setup for that, but they have run into legal issues and their rifle and pistol ranges have been shut down.

        A tactical bay would be sweet, either Lockhart or the new Range at Austin. But that brings a whole ‘nother batch of issues. I would love to be able to practice some practical shooting, but as it is now, I just need to start going to the local competitions and consider that the only practice I can get.

        1. avatar Warren says:

          “Covered” got edited in after I pointed it out. RF fixed it shortly after. And Red’s allows shotgun slugs, so I’m not sure what sort of caliber restrictions they could really have? I supposed a 50 BMG might get frowned on a bit.

        2. avatar LKB says:

          I haven’t been there in a while so I don’t know if things have changed, but I’ve been one lane over at Red’s South from a guy who was shooting a 300 Win Mag. . . . with a muzzle break! (I had ear plugs and heavy duty over-the-ear protectors, and my ears were still ringing for days.) You see people in there regularly sighting in their deer rifles, so I don’t think there are any caliber restrictions.

        3. avatar Stinkeye says:

          You can shoot anything short of .50BMG at Red’s.

  11. avatar Warren says:

    “Giving people the opportunity to sight in their hunting rifle at a full 100 yards (something no other range in the area offers) is an important marketing opportunity.”

    False on the ‘no other range in the area’ bit. Lonestar in Lockhart has a 100 yard outdoor rifle range. Red’s indoor range in Oak Hill offers a 100 yard rifle range as well. Granted, they each have their drawbacks, but I’m hard-pressed to think you honestly “forgot” these two ranges exist, and offer exactly that.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      Point taken, text amended.

    2. avatar Clint Patterson says:

      Lockhart also offers Kreuz and Black’s BBQ.

    3. avatar Scott C. says:

      I live in NW Austin so I go to Eagle Peak. It’s outdoors but I like it a lot more than Red’s and it’s a butt ton cheaper too

  12. avatar Jaffas says:

    Anything like that in Michigan???
    We are a gun friendly state ( so far anyway ) and though we have a few indoor ranges for pistols they are nothing fancy that I know of.
    Business opportunity here ?
    PS. I live in central lower Michigan.

    I have a very unprofessional shooting lane in the woods in my back yard / land where there is virtually no chance of overshoot hitting anything like people or their possessions but I would go to a nice indoor range if one was available and reasonably close ( less than 3 hrs. away).

    1. avatar oldandshaky says:

      Try Ann Arbor Arms in Ann Arbor, with 2 bays of eight lanes each. One bay takes rifles up to .308, I think. 30/30 no problem. Twenty five yards only, but a third tactical bay, also eight lanes, allows you, if qualified, to shoot targets programmed to move. Customer service helpful without being pushy.

  13. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    “The traditional setup featuring a burly plaid-shirted man sitting behind a counter blathering about politics and pushing their firearm of choice on every customer that rolls through isn’t our ideal firearms purchase experience.”

    I’m pretty sure that isn’t ANYONE’S ideal firearms purchase experience.

    So… why are there so many of them?

  14. avatar Scott Long says:

    If your in the Cincinnati area, check out Ready Line in Newtown.
    http://www.readylineonline.com/index.html

  15. avatar John says:

    It fun selling guns rent them on gun rang. As far working at one it hard work most time that hard work spent keeping indoor rang clean sweeping up brass on indoor rang empty lead traps take out trash doing general maintenance like clean shooting booths cover in lead dust unburnt gun powder. All amaze when work 2 indoor gun rang how people when first work indoor gun rang did realize how much work it is run indoor gun rang. All employs indoor rang ones get do all jobs indoor firearms rang suck. Only advice I can give you never think some well never commit suicide in rang because you made them sign paper have video surveillance ever where on indoor rang. I when worked at 2 indoor firearms rang we had 8 suicide where people rent firearms where caught commenting suicide on surveillance videos . When suicide happen at indoor rang employees clean up mess I remember when guy rent three 9mm handguns shot self in head covering three handguns in brain matter blood. Next day came work I was busy clean brain matter blood off indoor rang long with cleaning all three handguns try out before killed him self with one put head witch was covered in blood brain matter. So not all fun games work indoor firearms rang.

    1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      Sorry you got stuck on brain detail. Most people don’t realize that when that goes down or there’s a defensive gun use someplace, there’s no government agency that comes out to clean up. If it’s your business, home, car, where someone’s brains are blown out, it’s on you to clean that up. If it’s a restaurant, the health inspector may require that you have it professionally cleaned, but that’s still at your expense.

      1. avatar John says:

        It was just part job working at indoor firearms rang. Truth being I had more fun shooting at indoor firearms rang as customer than I did at working at one. It made story about guy killed him self one three handguns rent at indoor gun rang work at time was last person see him alive sell last box ammo that used last round kill him self with. One first people find him died on rang so very personal matter.

  16. avatar Ralph says:

    TRA seems almost as nice as my “home” range in MA.

    (Hear that noise? That’s a whole dump truck full of sarc passing through)

  17. avatar Lew says:

    I say you have a couple dedicated “Bernie” lanes which would of course include no fee plus free ammo!

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Interesting thought.

      A Socialist lane would require that everyone who shows up throws all their guns and ammo into a big barrel, then everyone gets to use them all equally.

  18. avatar larrylarry says:

    sounds cool. here’s some thoughts, in no particular order…

    1. Dining: Please have the dining/bar area sealed (double door access) and on a separate HVAC and filtration system. Separate bathroom facilities within the dining area, with lead removing soap. Lead removing hand sanitizer stations in main dining area (dunno if they make that…). There’s a nice range in north TX, that has gotten hit with several OSHA fines for lead levels being WAAAY over limit. Even cashier/front desk staff were over exposed, and the dining/bar area is just steps away.

    2. Rifle lanes: Make sure you have several. If you’re going with one backstop system that can handle anything, maybe think of a way to adjust on the fly? Modular walls? You get a rush of rifle shooters, cease fire for 10 min and reconfigure. Likewise for a rush of pistol shooters.

    3. Shotguns: Maybe some dedicated shotgun lanes in isolation? I personally hate it when some guy on the pistol range puts a target at 7 yards and blasts away like Robocop with his home defense scattergun.

    3. Pricing: I don’t know what prices are like in Austin area, but keep them in line with competition, despite your “premium” vibe. For a lot of shooters, all the cool frills are nothing, if it’s just way cheaper to go somewhere else. Also, don’t have crazy price differences between rifle and pistol lanes. Why it should cost 2x more to shoot rifle on some indoor ranges is beyond me (unless they went for cheap-o backstop).

    4. Salespeople: Chicks… Have women working as range officers, doing training, selling guns. Guys and gals like to see them. Dudes… Neckbeards, jocks, operational operators, fudds. I don’t care as long as A. they know what they are talking about B. they don’t exhibit a superiority complex C. they don’t try to force opinion on people D. they don’t talk politics

    5. Merchandise: Just make sure you have a little of everything. Especially accessories and training crap. Someone comes in and buys a new carry gun, and then has the pleasure of browsing your selection of 4 Uncle Bucks neoprene holsters… Exciting! Someone comes in for training and instructor tells them “dry fire practice rocks”. Store has no snap caps in popular calibers, no laserLyte products, no instructional materials (a lot of internet experts, don’t discount the appeal of a physical book as trustworthy)

    6. Facilities: CLEANLINESS!!! Good, plentiful parking. Smart, obvious flow from entrance to store or range. Lockers and a prep area, separate from main store/check-in, but before range entrance. Good lighting on the ranges.

    1. avatar Steven Calvaresi says:

      http://www.eliteshootingsports.com/

      you mean like this? I work there and it’s just about everything you mentioned.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        Twenty bucks an hour?

  19. avatar DAN V says:

    Check out Nexus range in SoFla. It has some interesting stuff.

  20. avatar Chris says:

    Sounds like Athena Gun Club on the west side of Houston.

  21. avatar Austinite says:

    Based on the prices so far published, this is probably going to be a range for the 1%.

    $7000 initiation fee and then $300 every month?!

    Are prices for guns going to be competitive or will prices be like Gander Mountain prices, i.e., msrp+.

    I thought Reds at $450 per year was expensive.

    1. avatar Scott C. says:

      I shoot up at Eagle Peak, it’s an outdoor range. The targets are fixed, big deal to me (I don’t care if I have to shoot at 50 yards instead of 45 or 100 instead of 95 lol). It has the basic distances. Pistol range is 3, 7, and 15 yards and the rifle range is 50, 100, 200 and 300. Plus they have skeet launchers for shotguns (good luck with that at any indoor range). And oh yeah, It’s a one time fee of $15 for a range card (plus 50c if you want it laminated) and then it’s $15 to shoot all day. I could virtually shoot here every other day of the year and not spend as much as that new place.

    2. avatar Stinkeye says:

      Good lord! At those prices, you could buy yourself a few acres of land out in the sticks and shoot whatever and whenever you want. As a bonus, you wouldn’t have to put up with the insufferable rich pricks this place will attract.

  22. avatar Lupinsea says:

    How about . . . a shooting-gallery like area?

    I love going up plinking where I can hit reactive targets: tin cans, soda bottles, etc. And do so with a mixed variety of firearms (pistols and rifles). But that’s tough to do at an indoor range.

    But what if there was a way to recreate a shooting gallery-like space with pre-set up reactive targets? Think Hickock45’s back yard range brought in-doors. Maybe not have all the soda bottles but you could probably set up a number and variety of reactive metal targets at various distances and heights but located in one large bay with several shooting positions at a bench with separate partitions.

  23. avatar Scott C. says:

    Umm yeah, Those membership fees and dues are ridiculous (basic is $7,500 up front in addition to monthly dues all the way to $12,000 plus monthly dues). Great, the 1% has a place to shoot so they don’t have to interact with us common folk.

    1. avatar Zach N. says:

      Seriously, there are 2 of them in the DFW area now and I cannot figure who they are marketing to. Rich oil tycoons with out their own land to shoot on? If you have enough free money to blow on an over blown place like that you can afford your own property and building to shoot in.

  24. avatar Chris says:

    Doesn’t Reds indoor range have 100 yard rifle?

    1. avatar Scott C. says:

      Yes, I haven’t been to a Red’s in years though. I shoot up at Eagle Peak, it’s an outdoor range. The targets are fixed, big deal to me (I don’t care if I have to shoot at 50 yards instead of 45 or 100 instead of 95 lol). It has the basic distances. Pistol range is 3, 7, and 15 yards and the rifle range is 50, 100, 200 and 300. Plus they have skeet launchers for shotguns (good luck with that at any indoor range). And oh yeah, It’s a one time fee of $15 for a range card (plus 50c if you want it laminated) and then it’s $15 to shoot all day. I could virtually shoot here every other day of the year and not spend as much as that new place.

  25. avatar Bruce L. says:

    Just a thought, how about doing reviews of ranges in the US? Maybe just the internet site but some ideas what it’s like there.

  26. avatar jberger says:

    Create an app where members and the general public can reserve a lane and check availability, and even get an alert if a slot becomes available.

    We have a great local indoor range that’s just a few minutes from the house, but it stays so busy that we have a hard time getting a lane. It’s been anywhere from 1 hr to 3 hr wait for the last 2 months and I just can’t hang out that long.

    Keep the lanes highly utilized by giving your members a way to reserve and I think you’ll see it pay off in a very short timeframe.

  27. avatar SpeleoFool says:

    How about on-site firearm storage? Maybe as a perk for paid members?

    Here’s my dilemma: I’m planning a trip to a local indoor range with people from work, one of whom is a manager. Our workplace has a “no weapons” policy that extends to the parking lot. It’s not practical (too far) to drive home after work to retrieve my handguns, then head to the range.

    If would be helpful if I could just swing by the range in the morning, check in my guns, then check them out again when we arrive for our range session. Easy, peasy and it avoids any uncomfortable conflicts with workplace policies.

    Are there any ranges that offer services like this? I haven’t seen any, but then I haven’t looked *too* hard yet.

    1. avatar Scott C. says:

      I was under the impression that under Texas castle doctrine, you could keep a firearm in your personal private vehicle no matter what your company policy is because it is your private property. You might what to check into that, as will I.

      1. avatar Scooby says:

        Texas is also an at-will employment state. You can be right and unemployed, or go along with the hoplophobic policies of your employer and keep your good paying job.

        I have a client that is a large, high-tech employer that has their 30.06/30.07 signs at the entrances to the parking lots, and says in the orientation to get your work or contractor badge that firearms are prohibited from the entire site. For me, concealed means concealed, and what they don’t know won’t hurt me. If something happens and I need it, I will gladly take the criminal trespass citation.

        1. avatar Scott C. says:

          That’s what I’m thinking, judged by 12 or carried by 6

  28. avatar Matthew Howe says:

    Let’s see, great music, great BBQ and now a great range. What are housing prices like in Austin and does anyone need a cameraman?

    1. avatar Scott C. says:

      Just so you know, that “great range” is going to have a minimum of $7,500, up to $12,000, membership fee plus $300 in monthly dues which is not so great IMO. There are plenty of other ranges in the area, both indoor and outdoor, which cost next to nothing compared to this place. As for your housing price question, it’s laughing stock, an average 1 bedroom apt. is around 1k/month and the average home price is close to 250k. I’m disappointed with the way Austin is heading, a liberal, yuppy hole.

  29. avatar AndyT says:

    So you’re saying it’s like the Frisco gun club in DFW?

    Hopefully with a lounge that’s open to us peons and doesn’t just cater to the filthy rich though.

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