Gun Review: Beretta 950B

Beretta back face

(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)

By Eugene Hamrick

Going to the local gun shop and looking at the used gun section often ends with me drooling over the SIG SAUER collection that I can’t afford and leaving disappointed. Occasionally I will buy something on the cheap that is unique and fun to shoot at the range, but rarely do I find anything that is applicable to my daily carry needs.

A few months back I walked into my LGS and found a Beretta 950B (also known as Beretta Jetfire or Minx depending on the caliber). My first thought was “what a funny looking mouse gun,” as if someone took a shrink ray to a Beretta 92. After picking up the pistol, checking out its features, and finding out that was nearly 50 years old, the $250 price tag was tempting enough for me to take it home.

Beretta front face

History

Introduced in the 1950’s as a backup gun for law enforcement and a concealed carry gun for civilians, Beretta marketed the 950B as a concealed carry gun, ideal for protection or plinking (depending on whether it was the .25 ACP or .22 model).

The Beretta 950B that I bought was made in Italy and based on the Roman numerals stamped to the frame, it was built in 1968. Having an Italian-made Beretta definitely added to the cool factor of the gun as the Gun Control Act of 1968 eventually led to Beretta moving their manufacturing Maryland. After production started in the U.S., Beretta added an external safety to 950B renaming it the 950BS.

IMG_2373 (002)

Features

The 950B is a single action only blowback design made of a carbon steel barrel and slide and an aluminum frame. The tip-up barrel design allows for one in the chamber and an 8-round magazine for a total of 9 rounds of .25 ACP, all without having to rack the slide or cock the hammer.

Tip up Barrel

While there is no external safety, the 950B does have a half-cock mechanism to keep the trigger and hammer safely locked while loading and carrying. The lack of an external safety is ideal for left-handed shooters like me that struggle with right-handed design like you see on most 1911s or on the M&P Shield.

Takedown is simple by rotating up the tip-up barrel and then removing the slide from recoil spring attached to the frame.

Beretta Ad

An ideal backup gun

While I do like the reliability of .25 ACP over a .22 rimfire cartridge, the 950B is not something I would consider a primary CCW given its caliber limitations. There are too many better options on the market from micro .380s to single stack 9MMs, that I would much rather carry my SIG 320 or Honor Guard 9mm for the extra firepower.

IMG_2381 (002)

The 950B is much more suited as a backup gun to keep in the car or throw in my pocket, particularly when I leave the house in a hurry or a hot summer day has me weary of pressing anything against my skin. This mouse gun disappears in my pocket due to the short height and length, giving it a big advantage in the concealability department.

Ergonomics

For being an all metal design, the Beretta 950B is extremely light, weighing just under 10 ounces. The grip is short and has room for two fingers, but it felt right in my hand and I had no issues with getting a good purchase on the gun.

The magazine release is a button on the lower left-hand of the grip; I didn’t have a single issue with the mag release even with my entire palm covering it while shooting.

The tip-up barrel feature makes the gun easy to load for those who lack the hand strength to chamber a round with the slingshot technique. This was an unintended but pleasant surprise at the range as my wife has a form of arthritis that makes it incredible difficult for her to rack the slide on most of our handguns, especially striker-fired ones.

Trigger

Unlike newer Bobcat 21A and Tomcat 3032 models that feature a DA/SA design, the 950B has a 1911 style trigger. This avoids the trigger trouble that many including myself have with mouse guns where the longer trigger pull can lead to your finger curling around to touch your palm on the other side of the frame.

Shooting

I have found through trial and error that mouse guns and micro compacts are usually not fun and are sometimes painful to shoot. The trigger on the Ruger LCP and M&P Bodyguard have left my trigger finger hurting for days in the past and I typically do not associate smaller guns with a good time at the range. The 950B is an outlier in this department as I found myself not only having pain-free fun shooting at targets, but running out of ammo and wishing I had more the run through the 48-year-old gun.

Due to the metal construction of the 950B there was no felt recoil; the gun was easy to shoot and fired most rounds with a one-hand grip.

Barrel

Accuracy on a gun this small is limited by distance and the lack of actual sights (there is a small post in the front). My experience with micro guns has shown me that 10 feet should give you somewhat decent accuracy and anything over 15 yards you should be happy if you hit the target. After putting about 200 rounds through the Beretta 950B I had fairly accurate shots at seven feet off-hand.

Accuracy

Reliability is a strong suit of the gun as I went through 200 rounds of Remington UMC 50 grain with only one FTE. Being a used gun, I do not know how many rounds have been through this 950B in the half decade it has been around, but the fact that it was able to shoot through that many rounds with very little issue given its age is very impressive.

Other than the one FTE, the only other issue I ran into at the range was the occasional slide bite. Being a smaller gun the slide is very close to the top end of the grip meaning if you try to grip the 950B too high, the wedge of your hand or thumb could get pinched. This wasn’t a major issue and only happened a couple times, but I was quick to learn that I shouldn’t grip the tiny gun so high and tight.

Overall Impressions

The Beretta 950B is a small, reliable, and useful gun that I am glad to have in my collection. It is a piece of history that also stands the test of time showing how firearm engineering stands up over the years.

Accessories are limited to grips and magazines, but grips are widely available and in many different customizable forms given the 950’s 50-year production history.

While difficult to acquire since being discontinued in 2003, the 950 can still be found for sale and at reasonable prices. A quick internet search showed a couple of them in the $300-$350 range in seemingly decent condition. Beretta has replaced the single action model with the slightly beefier .32 ACP Tomcat and .25 ACP Bobcat that are both DA/SA at prices range from $300 to $450. I may at some point getting one of the two to see if I have any affinity towards DA/SA controls. Until then, I am very happy to have stumbled upon this tiny reliable Beretta.

Specifications: Beretta 950B

Chamber: .25 ACP (Also available in .22)
Length: 4.7”
Height: 3.4”
Barrel Length: 2.4”
Width: 0.90”
Weight: 9.8 oz.
Capacity: 8+1
Cost: $250-350

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability: * * * *
One failure to eject out of 200 rounds, pretty solid considering the age of the gun.

Ergonomics (carry): * * * * 1/2
Other than the hammer, the design is snag-free and disappears in your pocket. The tip-up barrel is great for those with weaker hands. Slide bite may be a concern for those with larger hands.

Ergonomics (shooting): * * * * 1/2
This gun will not win any distance challenges at the range, but for what it is this gun is very accurate within 10 feet.

Customize This: * * *
No sight options available, but the aftermarket on grips is similar to what you see for 1911s. Custom wood grips galore.

Overall: * * * *
For the price paid and concealability, this little Beretta makes an excellent backup-gun. It is worth having this little piece of history around.

comments

  1. avatar Vendetta says:

    4.5 stars for a gun accurate within 10 ft. 3 yds. Seriously.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      It’s not a sniper rifle. It does what it’s supposed to do.

      1. avatar Stinkeye says:

        Sure, but a six-inch group at seven feet? You could get that kind of accuracy from a plumbing-parts zip gun. There are plenty of pocket guns that will put all the rounds in an inch or two at that distance.

        1. It’s perfect for a small woman who lacks the strength to rack a slide.

    2. avatar TruthTellers says:

      What exactly do you want a gun that size to do? Hit sub-MOA groups at 50 yards? Get your head out of your tactical backside and think for a moment.

      1. avatar Vendetta says:

        I appreciate the subtle nuances in your comment but a 6″ group as far as I can throw a fist is not 4.5 star worthy. I have a handful of “pocket” guns that will do a 6″ group at 25 yds with no real effort involved. Im comparing apples to apples here not apples to sniper rifles. I didnt jump his ass and call him a junk gun fanboy or any bs like that so a bit of civility would do you angry toddlers some good. As posted above a non rifled zipgun could do 6″ at 7′. Carry on ragers…

      2. avatar TTACer says:

        It is a very small gun, with very bad sights. On the other hand, with a 638 and a laser sight I can hit a pill bottle at 21′ offhand pretty consistently.

    3. avatar BLoving says:

      Geeking out over here!:-D
      I’ve mentioned my 950 Pipsqueak several time in comments here, most recently yesterday in the QOTD “What’s the smallest gun you own?”
      With no exaggeration whatsoever, I can toss a soda can five or seven paces in front of me and roll it across the field with all eight shots from my little Beretta- never missing once.
      I’d say it’s accurate enough for it’s intended job.

  2. avatar Crowbar says:

    I enjoyed your review of the little Beretta. Are magazines for it hard to find?

    1. avatar Mad Max says:

      I think Cheaper Than Dirt has them. I bought one there about a year ago.

  3. avatar passthebrass says:

    I stumbled across a used 21a a few years ago, and had a similar “well look at that lil bugger” moment. It wasnt in the best shape cosmetically but $200 later and it was in my pocket. These little guns are alot of fun to shoot.

  4. avatar Tym O'Byrne says:

    For the price you paid? My last Ruger LCP bought new with a stainless slide cost me $239.

    If you like it ok but for a back up firearm you could have done better.

  5. avatar Leo says:

    Small yes reliable maybe, but useful? .25 acp is not a caliber I consider useful. Of course i don’t want to be shot with one and any gun is better then none. But they are MANY better choices. Got rid of my CZ70 in .32 acp and very happy with S&W Shield.

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      Years ago I took over management of a movie theater in Dayton, Ohio. The previous manager had been working late and investigated the sound of breaking glass, his Raven Arms .25 in hand. He was hit from behind by the burglar’s partner, they took his pistol and shot him three times before leaving. He survived. I always carried a .357 S&W 29 while I worked there.

      In a conversation with a Dayton cop he told me of a call he went on. A man answered his front door to be confronted by his girlfriends ex. Said ex put all 8 rounds of .25 into the victim with the final shot entering his mouth and breaking several teeth, which knocked the victim out. Believing his rival dead, the perp fled. The victim survived the assault.

      The first rule of a gunfight – have a gun. The second rule – It’s a good idea to have a gun with a caliber that will reliably do the job.

      1. avatar NineShooter says:

        S&W model 29 is a .44 Magnum, not a .357.
        If it was a large N-frame Smith .357, maybe it was a model 28 or 27?

        And I’d say the lesson from the first encounter is: if you are going to be so tactically unaware to allow yourself to be jumped from behind, then carrying a gun in a pipsqueak caliber might help you survive the situation. If he’d been carrying your .357, he’d be dead.

      2. avatar Rusty shackleford says:

        Yeah, yeah. And I’m sure you carry at least a .40 because 9mm doesn’t have enough “stopping power”. Old wives tales exist about any caliber.

    2. avatar Sertorius says:

      For those who like Marshall and Sanow’s books on statistics from actual shooting incidents, according to their numbers, .25 ACP is literally the worst caliber that exists. Worse even than .22 LR for self-defense.

  6. avatar jwm says:

    .25 acp was designed by Browning to give the same performance as a .22lr out of a 2 inch barrel without the reliability issues of the rimfire ammo in a semi auto. In about 1903.

    100+ years later we have small semi autos in service grade cartridges. That doesn’t mean the older guns are useless. And not everybody likes plastic.

  7. avatar Skyler says:

    Even a mouse gun should be accurate to 20 yards easily. I think the accuracy problem is the trigger actuator, not the pistol.

    1. avatar Jay in Florida says:

      Nah its the pistol. I thought I had issues with my 21A when bought new back in the 80s. I couldn’t hit a standard NRA 22 slow fire target with it and sent it back to Beretta.
      They fired it from 15 ft no more. I still have the target they sent back with it.
      And a note saying don’t expect it to be a 4 inch 25 yard gun. Its not gonna happen. Now not in those exact words.

  8. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    When I 1st started carrying a handgun back in the late 80s. One of my 1st purchases was a 21A. Its most of the time better then a hammer. And it will go with me when a “real” gun cant be carried.
    Id been so ingrained against 25acp by all around me back then. 60 ft pounds isn’t much more then a whack from a medium sized ball peen hammer. Now 30 years later I wish I had bought the 950. A 25acp isn’t much but at 10 feet it will go bang while my 21A. Not so much. Although the number of FTFs. I can count on 1 hand. 100% reliable with high velocity 22s.
    30 some odd years later Im still wondering if I made a mistake every time I put it in my pocket.
    All those little Berettas back then were under $200 new.

    1. avatar John P. says:

      Same situation here. Long before the current generation of pocket-stuffer guns were available, I carried a 21A on the premise that having some sort of gun was better than nothing. Then as always, my thinking was that regardless of what you carry, it’s better to avoid trouble than anything else, and to try to get away from it if it finds you, but if neither of those options work out… well, you do what you have to with what you have.

      I always enjoyed shooting the little Beretta. It’s more than accurate enough for its intended purpose, and surprisingly good with the right ammo and a shooter who does his/her part.

  9. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

    THIS again? As a collectable yeah but this isn’t even a 22. And yet I saw someone carrying a similar one yesterday. How do you get 4 stars? Good review nevertheless…

  10. avatar Joe R. says:

    Nice review. I’m a Beretta addict, and would have bought anyway, but good to see one, and get a brief range report was good. Thank you.

  11. avatar TruthTellers says:

    I don’t know if the author is available to comment, but if he is my question for him is: between the 950 and the 21 or 21A, which is better? Obviously comparing the .25 ACP versions.

    1. avatar Eugene Hamrick says:

      I’m not 100% as I haven’t shot the 21A Bobcat, but the versatility of a DA/ SA is certainly something I like over a cocked and locked SAO. The biggest problem I have with the manual safety on the 21A is I’m left handed and they only have a one-sided safety option.

      Thanks for reading.

      1. avatar TTACer says:

        Nice review. I have a Tomcat and I like having the option of using the external safety or not, and I prefer DA/SA in general. I did have to send it back to Beretta b/c the barrel hinge got really loose and they ended up replacing rather than fixing it. I thing if the 7 .32’s didn’t do the trick you could always beat someone to death with the slide. It looks like something from a railroad car.

  12. avatar John in AK says:

    Elderly pistol designs such as this are a lot of fun to own, handle, and shoot, but putting such a gun into service as a carry gun may not be such a good idea. This one, in particular, either has no external safety, or a single rudimentary hammer-blocking external safety (similar to a 1911); It doesn’t have any internal interrupters, blockers or lockers to prevent the inertia firing pin from falling onto the primer of a chambered cartridge, nothing to stop the hammer at rest from hitting the end of the firing pin, nothing to prevent a cocked hammer from falling (in the case of the no-safety version) except the fragile sear, nothing but a tiny ear of metal to stop the hammer fall on a ‘safety’-equipped model (not intended for ‘cocked-and-locked’ carry)–which means that a chambered round in this gun is a BAD idea unless you intend to fire it NOW. Beretta’s own manual for the gun advises against a chambered round for carry as well.
    Nearly all of the old SA designs are very similar–as rudimentary internally as a Colt percussion revolver. They are NOT drop-safe, and NOT intended for carry with a chambered round.
    There are much better and far safer modern choices in the same price range available than a design such as this one.

  13. avatar Ralph says:

    It’s a cute little popgun and I’d like to have one in my safe.

  14. avatar Anner says:

    Law enforcement are civilians; there’s no literary distinction. LE are civilians whose job is law enforcement.

    The “opposite” of civilian (to grossly simplify the definition) is military.

  15. avatar Hoplopfheil says:

    Psshhh. It’s pretty nice, sure, but it’s no Intratec Protec 25.

    🙂

  16. avatar LarryinTX says:

    I bought a .25 Jetfire for my girlfriend (now wife) during her freshman year in college, 1965-66. This was BC, as in, Before Jimmy Carter, and bought new at retail it cost me $25. She carried that gun (chamber loaded) until about 1974 when I replaced it with a Colt Detective Special. Note that when I bought it and gave it to her (straw purchase) I was 19 and she was 18. I fired it before I gave it to her, and I was accustomed to hitting soda cans at 100 yards with my 4″ Python, but since I only wanted to function test it to make sure it would go “bang”, I just set a soda can on a fencepost and emptied the magazine from about 6-7 feet without making the can wiggle. I was about to die laughing. But when I took her to shoot it, she got more and more discouraged at her poor performance, couldn’t hit squat, and once when I saw a snake about 15-20 feet from us and took its head off with one shot from my Python, I thought she was going to cry. Finally, I talked her into trying the Python (“I couldn’t, it’s so BIG!”) and she blew shit out of the can she had just fired 50 rounds of .25 at without scratching it, after 6 rounds she had 6 holes in it, looked like swiss cheese. I made her understand (she was, and is, a babe!) that the goal was to thumb the hammer back, then if distance from the threat allowed, fire one shot at the street. If anybody attacking her got close enough, shove the gun in their ribs and start a nice cadence of “bang, bang, bang” until he didn’t want to play any more. I figured that the bullet would punch a puny little hole, and then the burning gasses behind it would enlarge the hole to several inches across. Like most, we never found out.

    Decades later, when she had 2 .38 Spls and a .380, I took it to a gun show (Post Jimmy Carter) and sold it for $150 without trying. Being able to tip up the barrel to drop the hammer safely, load the chamber, unload the gun, etc was a big selling factor, to me and her both.

  17. avatar 357M28 says:

    Thanks for the write up. I have the 950BS. It was handed down to my wife (me) after FIL passed. I find the sight picture nonexistent and I often tip up the barrel accidentally when trying to shoot it. Heck, I like this little thing, because gunz.

  18. avatar Cato DeCarpeti says:

    Love those little pocket guns! (Pay no attention to nay-sayers in the Peanut Gallery).

    My favorite is the Baby Browning – all steel PLUS an external safety. Many kids of the generation X,Y, etc, pooh-pooh the 25 auto, however, it was, and still is, a good round. I even reload it!

    My dear departed Dad, a multiply decorated Airborne Ranger, told me once that the tiny little bullet his gun shoots will kill a man just as fast and just as dead as an atom bomb.

    He was partial to a Sterling .22 semi-auto derringer as well as other tiny pistols. He, and all of his poker buddies, had similar guns in their pockets at all times. They are fun to shoot and will bring a smile to anyone at the range (for a variety of reasons) . . .

  19. avatar AR says:

    A little off topic, but can you comment on (or perhaps Review) the Honor Guard? There’s a hole in my collection 1 stack of 9×19 wide.

    1. avatar Eugene Hamrick says:

      There is actual a review on TTAG that was done on the Honor Guard back in May.

      http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/?s=honor+guard

      My two cents: I personal love the gun, it feels like a Sig p320 trigger in an M&P shield with a really good grip. It is a bit heavy and people rip on it for large font on the slide, but it was well worth it for the price I paid ($380+FFL).

  20. avatar miforest says:

    I am sure the tales of 25 acp woe above are true, but my experience are is different. first as far as accuracy goes, My baretta 950BS gives me accuracy similar to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6wAXXn8_2w a few inches at 15 yards. I have had mine for 25 years. as an old guy, I remember when a ” permit” was unheard of in the vast majority of states. prior to the “shall issue ” revolution in the 90’s, you weren’t getting one. 25 was the most popular cartridge in guns like this and the baby browning’s and ravens. as far as power goes , I personally know of one incident of a large irritated person being stopped with one contact distance round of 25 to the heart. I spoke to the person involved. I c tell you I was a sad thing for him to have to do that, but he had to and was not charged. I know there is much better out there, bit this one gives you 9 rounds of dependable center fire deterrence, and mine at least has been stone cold reliable .  When very descrete pocket carry is the order of the day, this gun is viable.   here is a longer video on this gun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aluBrpNNFjA

  21. avatar Penetty says:

    A Beretta 950B MINX was left to me by my father, originally bought for my mother. When the review says .22, it should say .22short. As for the reliability, that MINX frequently fails to extract. Without an extractor, the gun relies on blow-back to push the casing out. So either it hates the ammo or it’s still dirty after repeated cleanings. I’m not limp wristing it.

  22. avatar Specialist38 says:

    This was one of the few quality pocket pistols back in the 70s and 80s.

    The only problem was the pathetic 25acp cartridge.

    Still better that a stick at distance.

    We would have given a lot for an LCP back then, now they are common as salt.

    Still an interesting gun, just maybe not one I’d carry as a first choice.

    The stainless DA/SA version is still a great little trail and picnic pistol,

    They are usually more accurate than you can hold since they are so light.

    I like Berettas, even baby Berettas.

  23. avatar Dave Lewis says:

    All of our tactical people forget that good .25 autos were state of the art for deep concealment 60 or 70 years ago. There were a few .32 autos on the market but in the days before lightweight polymers, PPKs and Astra Constables were heavy and somewhat clunky. A Baby Browning, Colt Junior, or Beretta 950 (or 21A) rode in a gentleman’s pant or vest pocket. Ladies dropped one in their handbag. Law enforcement officers carried a .25 or the old High Standard .22 Magnum over and under derringer in a cuff case or down their boot. Sure these pistols were pretty anemic but they were all people had unless they went to a much heavier and bulkier pistol in a “real” caliber. In the early 70s my old captain carried a Model 19 duty pistol and a Colt Junior in his left front pants pocket. He called the Colt his ear gun. If a bad guy tried to get his service revolver. the Cap was going to draw the Colt with his left hand, stick it in the bad guy’s ear and shoot until the BG quit being bad or until the gun was empty. That was the theory. Thankfully it was never tested.

  24. avatar Robert says:

    Get a seecamp LWS .380 basically the same size/weight and in a more potent .380.

  25. avatar skiff says:

    Has anyone ever heard of the Beretta Model 20? It’s a single, double action .25. Not too many were made in the early to mid 80’s. It’s a nice shooting gun and very accurate!

  26. avatar cisco kid says:

    It was one of the last of Beretta’s quality guns. Today Beretta makes garbage including the newer made Model 92 that has a junk cast locking block, junk plasticky safety and a junk plasticky trigger and junk plasticky op-rod..

    Beretta’s 950 is no longer made anymore either but beware the American gun had a lot of problems with the safety wearing out and flipping on during the firing cycle, The best thing to do is simply disable the safety or have it permanently altered to be in the off position.

    My own two Italian model 950’s (they did not have a safety) work flawlessly and no I will never sell them. I had one nickel plated and carry it in very hot weather when no other gun can be carried. I carry it in the same holster as shown in this article as it keeps the gun upright in the pocket and keeps any sweat leaking through your pants pocket off the gun which by the way will eat right through the aluminum frame and the steel slide. So beware.

    All in all perhaps one of the very best .25 pocket pistols ever made so naturally they discontinued it to make more money selling their current made plasticky garbage like the Nano which should be called the big stinking Turdo which I would not own if you gave me one and that includes their garbage current plasticky model 92.

    And before you bad mouth the .22 lr or .25acp take a look at the President Reagan shooting and see the one security guard spin around half way and hit the ground as if lightening struck him. He was hit with a .22lr that did not expand but acted like a full metal jacketed round and it still knocked the shit out of him. He was hit in the shoulder.

  27. avatar R.F. says:

    HELLO, CAN ANYONE OUT THERE TELL ME WHY THE RECOIL SPRING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF MY BERETTA 950 JETFIRE GO’S OUT OF ALIGNMENT. IF I TAKE MY 950 APART NOW, I HAVE TO TAKE THE PLASTIC GRIPS OFF FIRST, AND THEN REMOVE THE SLIDE. IF I TAKE THE SLIDE OFF FIRST, THE RIGHT SIDE
    OF THE SPRING GO’S OUT OF ALIGNMENT AND STRIKES HARD UP AGAINST THE RIGHT PLASTIC GRIP WITH TOO MUCH FORCE. I KNOW THAT EVENTUALLY THE RIGHT GRIP IS GOING TO CRACK IF I WERE TO FOLLOW BERETTA’S INSTRUCTION ABOUT REMOVING THE SLIDE FIRST. THE SPRING GOING OUT OF ALIGNMENT JUST RECENTLY STARTED TO OCCUR, I HAVE NO IDEA WHY, AND THE GUN STILL SHOOTS.

  28. avatar R.F. says:

    Hello, can anyone out there tell me why the recoil spring on the right side of my Beretta 950 jetfire go’s out of alignment. If I take my 950 apart now, I have to take off the plastic grips off first, and then remove the slide. If I take the slide off first, the right side of the spring go’s out of alignment and strikes hard up against the right plastic grip with too much force. I know that eventually the right grip is going to crack if I were to follow Beretta’s instruction about removing the slide first. The spring going out of alignment just recently started to occur, and I have no idea why. My gun still shoots well, out of the last 500 rounds fired, I only had one malfunction.

  29. avatar R.F. says:

    I cancelled the very top Comment (in bold upper class letters) but the cancel did not go through. Sorry about the upper class letters.

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