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Why do some guns cost substantially more than others? That’s a question many of our readers have and you see it reflected in the comments, particularly when we review a more expensive gun.

TTAG reader GC recently asked . . .

I have long wondered what makes one common 9mm pistol have a perceived worth in the $700 to $900 range while another is only valued at $250 to $400. When I read reviews of various brands, e.g. GLOCK, Ruger, S&W, Beretta, SCCY, KelTec, etc., I see very little difference in performance. But it seems the author of the lower valued reviews focus on the aesthetics and personal preferences to pull down the score.
So my question is, what is it that makes the FN 509 a bargain at almost $700, while a KelTec P11 is just barely acceptable at $280, if you take the personal preferences (grip style, trigger ‘feel’, etc) and base the rating on objective, measurable, evidence?


That’s a question that’s either extremely easy to answer or fairly difficult, depending on how far into the weeds you want to get. Sometimes it’s understandable. An LMT MARS has lots of proprietary features for an AR platform rifle, which will always make it pricer than, say, an Anderson or PSA. What about the price difference between an HK and a GLOCK? Why does a USP cost a grand and a GLOCK around $550-ish for a standard Gen 5 model?

What makes the price of the HK nearly double the GLOCK’s? Well, for one reason . . .

Because They Can

You can’t repeal the laws of economics and the law of supply and demand is always on the table. HK can sell the thirty-year-old USP design for that higher price point because they can. At that price, plenty of customers still purchase the gun because plenty of people want USPs. They are admittedly nice guns, and for some people, they have a certain caché. It’s the gun of Rainbow Six and one of HK’s signature firearms. The same thing goes for guns like the Mark 23.

HK Heckler & Koch Mark 23 Mk23 review
Woody for TTAG

Companies that have a proven track record building high-quality guns can and do charge more. GLOCK, Smith & Wesson, HK, SIG SAUER, and more have relatively good reputations and are household names outside the gun world. A company the public hasn’t heard of will have trouble breaking into the same market with a pistol priced like that of a similar gun made by a company. For example, Hudson’s H9 was an expensive pistol.

Hudson H9
Jeremy S. for TTAG

Supply and demand for certain guns are one of the biggest reasons they can sell for more money, despite having odd rails, no optics compatibility, and being 1.3 inches thick. That’s a big factor in their price but it’s not the only factor.

Country of Origin

Country of origin will be one of the biggest factors in a firearm’s price, in my experience. A gun from Germany will cost more than a gun from Turkey or one from the Philippines for various reasons. First, a German’s labor is more expensive than a Turk’s, and it’s admittedly often of higher quality (or perceived to be). Everything from a country’s unionized labor and minimum wage laws to specific taxes on firearm manufacture and export can raise the price of a firearm.

Turkish guns can work perfectly well and they’ll always be relatively less expensive.

Typically, Western countries tend to have high levels of quality control and more focus on innovation. Higher wages for skilled labor usually come along with better quality control and a higher resulting sale price.


I’ll use the term innovation to cover anything outside the norm. The SIG SAUER P365‘s magazine design and svelte frame took some serious R&D work. SIG recoups that R&D investment by selling the gun at a higher price than something like the GLOCK 43. Any time rifles or handguns use unique operating systems (or anything new, unusual or novel), we typically see that reflected in the sale price.

If you look at a nice 9mm AR that uses a standard straight blowback system, it’s likely going to be less expensive than the CMMG Banshee or MkGs line with its radial delayed blowback system.


One of the big reasons why certain guns are so comparatively inexpensive is that they’re popular enough to be made in high volume. Machinery, skills, and manufacturing capability are fairly common. When we go back to the law of supply and demand, we see a lot of supply, so the price is steadily reduced. This is why AR-15s can be so affordable. The same could be said for GLOCK Gen 3 clones. It’s why AR mags, handguards, stocks, and more are so frequently used in other firearm designs.

Ease of Production

How easy a gun is to produce is another important factor in its final price point. We see this a lot in metal frame vs. polymer frame guns. Metal is tougher to work with and requires more machinery and work to produce.

Looking back at an old Gun Digest book, we can see the used price of these older guns. The 1989 model lists a used SIG P220 for $400. In 2023 dollars, that’s about $1,000. A GLOCK 17 in the same book was about $325 or $800 in today’s money.

The GLOCK 43X is carry friendly and now packs a ton of ammo. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Fast forward to 2023. A SIG P220 will set you back almost $1,000 but a new GLOCK 17 can be hand for $500 or so. Over the years, we’ve gotten better at using polymer. It’s easier to work with and certainly cheaper for use in firearm frames.

On top of that, a striker-fired action is very easy to produce. It’s why so many regular Joes can easily install a new GLOCK trigger. Striker-fired guns are easier to produce than DA/SA guns and, in general, easier to produce than hammer-fired guns. A DA/SA action tends to be fairly complicated, but SAO and DAO designs are easier to produce and take less room in the frame. That’s why we don’t see any DA/SA pocket .380s.

Good revolvers tend to be more expensive to produce and generally more costly due to their overall design. Revolvers aren’t quite clockwork, but they’re pretty close. American-made revolvers tend to be priced fairly high compared to American semi-automatics, and European-produced revolvers like the Manhurin guns tend to be very expensive. The same goes for lever action rifles. Compared to ARs, they are relatively less common and are comparatively more involved to produce.

Historically, we’ve seen this trend as we moved to mass-production models. Guns like the Winchester Model 12 were discontinued and replaced by the cheaper and easier-to-produce Model 1200.

Designs and Features

The design and features of a gun will also drive its price up. You’ll be expected to pay if you want an optics cut, removable backstraps, suppressor-height sights, a rail, and all the modern fixings. Stuff like ambidextrous controls or HK’s famous grip insert design on guns like the P30 don’t come free.

Add match-grade barrels and more refined triggers and we the price go up even more. Refinements require more time, effort, better materials and more skilled hands, increasing the final price. If you have a DAO trigger with a 17-pound pull weight, you can bet it’s just been slapped in there without much thought or effort.

Side cuts and stuff on Ed Brown ZEV 1911 (courtesy
Fancy features will cost more money.

Some guns require builders while others only need assemblers. There’s a big pay difference between those two positions. That’s not to say a gun is bad because it doesn’t have all of the refinements of one with more features.

Material Appeal

What a gun is built from will also affect its price. MIM parts are cheap and can be perfectly fine. Ruger does MIM well, but not all MIM is equal. If you’re not careful, it’s fairly easy to mess up and turn out fragile MIM parts.

Early owners of the Smith & Wesson M&P Sport AR-15 likely learned that a MIM trigger group didn’t last long under high round counts and abuse. It didn’t feel as nice as a machined trigger either. (The M&P triggers are much better now than those early ones back in the day.)

Aluminum is less expensive than steel and easier to work with. A blued finish is beautiful, but it’s tougher to do right compared to Tenifer. A good finish will last almost forever and withstand substantial amounts of abuse, while a cheaper finish can show wear in the first year of a gun’s life.

In the good old days of wood stocks, the checkering was often offered in different grades, greatly affecting price. These days, we see the same thing in the modern polymer frame world. GLOCK pistols have a great texture, but the Shadow Systems or ZEV pistols have a better texture in most people’s opinion.

Benelli Ethos Sport

Different levels of craftsmanship and molding methods also come into effect. It’s common to see the seams from where the frame meets during construction with more affordable firearms. That’s not necessarily a detriment to the gun’s operation at all, it just shows a relative lack of refinement.

Does a Higher Price Mean a Better Gun?

Ah…that, of course, is the $64 million question. Price alone doesn’t necessarily indicate a good gun. Christensen Arms makes a 9mm AR, and I’m sure it’s quite nice, but at $1,700-ish dollars, it’s still a straight blowback 9mm AR. That’s tough to swallow compared to similarly priced radial delayed blowback CMMG designs.

CMMG Banshee short-barrel rifle
Short-barrle rifle .(Jeremy S. for TTAG)

At the same time, a DPMS and a BCM both make ARs, and there tends to be a huge gap in price between the two. That gap is warranted because BCM pours more time and attention into their rifles. They ensure the parts and components are configured correctly, that things like bolt carrier group are HPT/MPI (high pressure tested/magnetic particle inspected), and that parts are staked and typically available in modern configurations.

That said, price is more often than not a good clue to the quality and material used to make a firearm. You can typically expect a more expensive firearm to be more featured-filled and quite modern. With that said, are there times when a cheap firearm is “better” than something that’s fairly expensive?

Beretta Tomcat 3032 Inox
Jeremy S. for TTAG

Sure. I love the .32 ACP cartridge and own several guns in the caliber, including the KelTec P32 and Beretta Tomcat. But if I had to pick between the $200-ish KelTec P32 and the over $600-ish Tomcat for concealed carry, I’d pick the KelTec. It’s lighter, holds the same amount of ammo, and has less recoil than the blowback-operated Tomcat.

Image by Boch

The Tomcat is also more ammo sensitive, and you can’t use any ammunition with more than 129 foot-pounds of energy. If you use more powerful loads, the frame can crack. Sure, the Tomcat has a better single-action trigger, and I enjoy the gun, but its high cost doesn’t make it a better option.

All of that makes the KelTec better for me. Does that make it a “better” gun? That depends on what you want it for and how you’ll use it.

Clearing Up Some Misconceptions

I know I’ve likely missed a few reasons why some guns cost more than others, but I think I’ve covered the bulk of the reasons. Price doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better gun, but more often than not, the price does help ensure you’re buying a well-made, feature-filled, modern firearm.

Do you have more questions like this one? Send them to and we’ll try our damnedest to answer them.

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  1. Do people asking such questions also wonder why a Ferrari costs more than a Pinto?

    Why does a D&B handbag cost more than one from Walmart?

    Why does a diamond cost more than other gemstones of the same weight and quality?

    Why does gold cost more than silver?

    Why does a hot chick date wealthier men than an ugly chick?

    • “Why does a D&B handbag cost more than one from Walmart?”

      It sure explains why the market in knock-off handbags is so strong…

    • Best advice- buy the best ____ you can afford.
      fill in the blank….:car, house, gun, tool…

      My first pistol (unapologetically Taurus G2c PT111) allowed me to also get a decent holster, practice AND self defense ammo and a couple of classes. 1000+ round count.

      GRANTED it’s not currently my first option (Beretta92 or Hellcat osp pro) BUT IT IS AN OPTION.

      Keep your bragging rights and window stickers, sheepdogs don’t advertise.

      Websites and articles like this likely help everybody. If they don’t help you, just move along.

      Snarky comments just reinforce people’s insecurities.

      • If it feeds bad guy bleeds. So long as it fits needs, budget, and hand it’s fine (needs including reliably functioning) I was in a weird situation where my first pistol ended up more in VP9 territory as the shelves were cleared out of the happy medium budget zone for covid by the time my permit was approved.

    • “TRUST ME…You get what you pay for!”

      Not always, as a TTAG review once proved. It was a supposed-to-be higher quality 1911 clone with really tight manufacturing clearances. Working the action was, “Like Buttuh”.

      To look at it and handle it was a joy. Drop-dead *Beautiful* metal work.

      About $6,000 each, if memory serves. TTAG reviewed it, and discovered those tight clearances made it *highly* sensitive to the ammo you fed it. Lot’s of stoppages and general hiccups. It just wouldn’t run consistently. Not something you want to rely on.

      So, no, much more expensive is not proof it’s better… 🙁

      EDIT –

      And, how many Ferraris and Lamborghinis spend more time at your mechanic’s shop than in your garage at home?

      • Or like Jaguar where you had to buy two. To keep rotating between the one you were driving and the one in the shop.

        Especially with Lucas “Prince of Darkness” electrics.

    • Well… you almost never get what you don’t pay for*. You usually, but not always, get what you pay for. But there is a limit beyond which adding money does not necessarily add performance, only aesthetics, exclusivity, etc. Consider the 1911 market, for instance.

      * except in California and similar Leftist utopia states.

  2. Kinda explains the pricing of High Point🤔

    One can hardly pick up anything in a store and not see Made in China.

    Why is it you don’t see firearms for sale that are made there? Is it because their quality control is garbage?

    • {Made in China}

      “Why is it you don’t see firearms for sale that are made there? Is it because their quality control is garbage?”

      It’s the same reason ‘spam cans’ of dirt cheap 7.62×39 have been gone from the gun shows for *decades*… 🙁

    • In attempting to hamstring US gun buyers by doing import bans its really backfired in an odd way and become implemented protectionism of US manufacturers.

  3. The deep pockets who pay too much are why some firearms cost too much. That prompts the cost minded majority to search around for the best bang for the buck. And when they find good as or better with moola savings they buy it.

  4. Besides the firearm and ammo import restrictions from China brought about by the rapist bill clintoon have you checked the prices of used MADE IN CHINA SKSs, AKs, 1911s and M1As lately?

    • One of the best 1911’s I own is Norinco made in xhina. I’ve shot it so much the rifling is just about gone and the only thing I’ve ever replaced was the recoil spring. It rattles a bit but still hits where the sights are pointed.

  5. @Travis

    Thank you for penning a decent overview of “Why?”

    Esthetics and “feel” are secondary to function as far as I’m concerned. I have several “ugly” guns that simply work EVERY time.

    We all have our own reasons for the firearms we cherish…and those we don’t.

    Shot a Korth revolver…it was very nice…will never own one as I can’t accept the price versus performance curve. However, a well-timed and tuned S&W K-38 is a joy and pleasure to shoot for a fraction of the price of a Korth.

    An Old Guy’s $0.02.

    • S&W K frames straight from the factory with no mods are the handguns that I consistently do my best shooting with,

      Add a few mods and Oh My.

  6. Sometimes people pay more simply because they want a particular brand for bragging rights.

    A few years ago, my brother and I both bought new motorcycles. He got a Harley, and I got a Honda. Both look relatively similar, but his cost over double what mine did, and then he spent a few thousand more for customizations. The irony is he’s had to bring it back to the dealer twice already to fix some issues (covered by warranty, but factory defects nonetheless). When he drove it over to my house one time to get my assistance for a minor repair, it was interesting to note (once the seat and fairings were removed to expose the frame & motor) that the bike’s parts were no better than the comparable ones on mine.

    Since then, I’ve spoken with several other Harley owners who have all told me the same thing…they’re good bikes but are mostly for bragging rights to be part of the “Hog Club”. IMHO, I’m very happy with my Honda and am glad I saved a ton of money. I paid mine off within a single year, while my brother is still paying on his.

    Guns can be like, too. A Daniel Defense is really nice, and I’ve love to have one. But my standard AR hits the target just like a DD. A Stocatto would be nice, but my Polymer80 “Glock” hits the target every time and is reliable for a fraction of the cost.


    • I haven’t ridden in years. But pound for pound Honda made a better bike than Harley. And none of my guns are top tier. But they all work.

      My old man has been gone for some years now. But in his waning days he bought a farm in KY and finished out his time there. He did not farm outside of a kitchen garden. Walk into his barn and there were only two things there. A BBQ grill and a Honda cycle.

        • If a chimpanzee can do it a possum can do it better, a sissy bar is a place to wrap your tail.
          Ride on Ride on

      • A bunch of us that ride “rice burners” got sick of hearing about how we shoulda bought American…. ever see a Harley with it’s pajamas off? Keihin, Nippon Seiki, Showa, Nippon Denso, Nissin, Yuasa – plus engine blocks and other castings marked Hencho in Mexico. Instead of Harley Davidson, we’ve taken to calling them “Handme Gaviscon” whenever they’re on a trailer back to the mothership for service.

    • I just never encountered a Harley that was capable of tripling the speed limit (what I call the ‘triple double nickel ‘) so I never bothered with that slow junk. Now that I’m an old fart I’ve moved over to Triumph bikes. Fast enough (for an old speed junkie) but the aesthetics are top notch+. Hope I never get old enough to ride a Harley.

  7. any gun that saves your life, family members life, or life of another is the most valuable gun in the world at the time of saving your life.

    • correction: “…most valuable gun in the world at the time of saving your life.”

      should have been…

      most valuable gun in the world at the time of saving that life.

    • “any gun that saves your life, family members life, or life of another is the most valuable gun in the world at the time of saving your life.”

      Why I won’t give someone of limited means crap about a HiPoint, good on ya for at least having something more than dirty looks and harsh words to defend themselves…

  8. Because supply and demand, production costs and consumer trends Branding, marketing, and all that jazz.

    Thing is, many (most?) people are stupid sheep and follow the flock.

  9. I try to educate others on the difference between a cheap gun and a bargain gun. I’ll take a finish worn S&W .38 over a similarly priced perfect Rossi or Charter. Further, some take less care with less expensive guns and baby the safe queens. If you treat your budget banger well it will serve you well, just like driving a beater. Properly maintaining your old rust bucket is the reason why you’re still rollin’ while your boy in the new truck has engine issues because he forgot to do oil changes or check filters, fluids, and wear.

  10. Huh. I thought this was going to be an article about why certain guns identify as male or female.

  11. Most of the time, you get what you pay for.

    Sometimes you don’t get what you pay for.

    But you NEVER get what you didn’t pay for.

  12. Get the best gat you can afford. I don’t give a dam about what other’s opine about my gunz…

  13. I have been looking at an obvious one. Savage 110 vs the new Savage Impulse with say a chassis style stock. These are comparable as to options yet the 110 can be found for $500 or more less. Why? 110s are common and have been available at least since this 70+ year old was in high school while the Impulse is comparable, although it can cycle a little faster, but the latest thing.

  14. You can spend 400 dollars on a 1911 or a AR. Or you can spend 4,000 on a 1911 or an AR. Often the 400 dollar one shoots better.

  15. Could I spend less for some AR platform rifle than another semi-auto rifle?
    But I do not find anything to get excited about a AR. Just, meh.
    There are some 1911s out there that not only can you feel the quality of the fit, the finish they nearly look like works of art. And then look at a Glock. Meh.
    In the end, to each their own and what they are willing to pay for.

  16. if you really want to play this game price shotguns and not your pedestrian Mossberg or Remington. There’s nearly no limit to the price on fine English or Italian examples.

    • Diminishing returns does tend to hit in the 4 digit options for most but yeah many options that exceed over inflated home values in price.

  17. To me, the question is almost without meaning. Why does anything cost what it does? There are a million factors that go into play. From politics to manufacturing techniques and quality of parts. From international shipping to availability of raw materials.

    Around here you could get a Beretta 92FS for around $650 before Covid. Now the same gun is around $700. But I saw it get over $900 at the height of the pandemic.

    There is a pair of 1911’s made from a meteorite that are worth millions. Does that make a 1911 from Taurus less valuable? No it doesn’t.

    You can make all your purchasing decisions based on reviews if you want to. That would be a mistake in my opinion. Online gun reviews (even from TTAG) are there for a reason and that does not mean that the particular gun is right for you. It isn’t a reflection of how much is on the price tag either.

      • This.

        There absolutely is an attractiveness to “Being the only kid on your block that has one”… 🙂

  18. One more thing. If you choose your firearms wisely, and know what you’re doing, you’ll never lose money. I pulled a little over $5000 out of my savings account last week and bought three new to me firearms. I’ll wager they appreciate in value faster than the interest the bank is paying me.

  19. This is… Interesting.

    “75 officers on leave after ‘thousands’ of shots fired in Garfield standoff”

    I bet that was LOUD.

  20. Case in point, I have always wanted a Shiloh Sharps “Quigley.”
    My lovely wife bought me one pre-COVID. I opted for a few upgrades like wood finish, brass, bedding.
    Am I paying for it? You bet. But for a all hand made, one at a time, fine fit and finish and something I can hand down as a heirloom is worth the cost to me.

    • “Case in point, I have always wanted a Shiloh Sharps “Quigley.””

      Does it shoot as good as the one in the movie?

      Does it kicks like a pissed-off mule, or is it very firm shove?

  21. Yes, you get what you pay for… but that doesn’t mean you have to pay a premium for a reliable firearm. My first CCW was a Taurus Model 85, stainless steel 38 special snub nose. Bought it in ‘94, practiced a lot and carried it every day for 5 years. It now has 3,000+ rounds including at least 1,000 +P through it. It still goes BANG! every time and shoots to POA/POI at 15 yards. Now it’s my bedside insurance policy. Yes, S&W J frames are great guns. (I discovered the Airweight 642 in late ‘99, much easier to carry). But the Taurus was an excellent value at ~$200 less.

    • “My first CCW was a Taurus Model 85, stainless steel 38 special snub nose.”

      I love those things — I have three. Blue 2″ 85, stainless 2″ 85 UL, clone Rossi M68 2″, blue.

      I guess I like ’em.

      • Keep meaning to try out some Taurus revolvers but don’t really know anyone who has one or ranges that rent them so always looking any time I am out on vacation. Maybe this time for KY/TN.

        • Dang snubby Judge with .45lc bout snaps my old man wrist. Cheap a$$ boomer with a cheap a$$ boomer.

        • While I wouldn’t call the judge line particularly cheap that was a great bit of humor.

  22. Best advice- buy the best ____ you can afford.
    fill in the blank….:car, house, gun, tool…

    My first pistol (unapologetically Taurus G2c PT111) allowed me to also get a decent holster, practice AND self defense ammo and a couple of classes. 1000+ round count.

    GRANTED it’s not currently my first option (Beretta92 or Hellcat osp pro) BUT IT IS AN OPTION.

    Keep your bragging rights and window stickers, sheepdogs don’t advertise.

    Websites and articles like this likely help everybody. If they don’t help you, just move along.

    Snarky comments just reinforce people’s insecurities.

    • “sheepdogs don’t advertise”

      As the owner of a goat dairy with a large flock and four sheep dogs, I can assure you that sheep dogs do advertise. Loudly. All night long.

  23. There are overpriced guns out there. There are fairly decent quality lower cost guns out there. And there are crap guns cheap out there. A little care and some research will tell you what is what. Get the best quality you can afford is a no brainer. But take into account exactly what you actually need. If I’m going into combat I want the best equipment I can get, costs be damned. If I’m looking for a paper puncher or varmint gun that will see a couple hundred rounds a year, why pay top dollar?
    I have very high quality EDC weapons. I have a Hi-Point to toss into a bug out bag as third level back up. If, it somehow walks off, I’m not out as much and thief doesn’t get a hi value pawn or ally sale.

    • oldmaninAL, check out the Thompson Center Compass or Compass II. It can be had in a number of calibers for under $300 used or about $450 new. Mine, in 6.5 Creedmoor, drives tacks.

  24. Wilson Combat isn’t a better boat anchor then a HiPoint.
    Mosins make better canoe paddles then an AR.
    Hungry birds say, “cheap cheap”

  25. When I was racing sports cars, we had a saying in the paddock:

    “You got a $50 head? Get a $50 helmet.”

    • Safety gear is worth every penny you pay in motorsports.

      I hung out with friends who did SCAA autocross racing in the mid-80s, A Street prepared, using Datsun 240s with triple Mikuni carbs, aluminum flywheels, rock-hard chassis bushings, inch-thick swaybars, and Yokohama A-008R sticky tires.

      Fun times at the tracks, and the bars after… 🙂

      • I ran in Solo, stock class, about 10 years. We were still required to wear a helmet, but a Snell-rated motorcycle helmet was accepted.

        Mine cost about $50. 🙂

        • There’s something yummy about racing tire compounds so soft and sticky a fingernail can carve out a chunk. 😉

          But they last maybe 1,000 miles on the street if you’re lucky… 🙁

  26. I was dove hunting with a Guy that just spent $1200 for a semi auto shotgun and was talking g smack about how his was so much better because it cost so much more than my $150 pump gun.

    I got tired of his crap and hammered an incoming dove. Looked at the guy and asked if the dove knew how inferior my cheap gun was.

    If it works for you, go for it.

  27. A Nighthawk Custom costs more than a Staccato, for example, because it has HOURS of hand fitting and machinework into it.

  28. “So my question is, what is it that makes the FN 509 a bargain at almost $700, while a KelTec P11 is just barely acceptable at $280″…if you could (try to) shoot 50 rnds thru both those guns and knew your life depended on it. The FN509 would look like a bargain.

  29. In the complex world of firearms, price variations are a conundrum. 🤔 Ever wondered why some guns cost substantially more than others? It’s more than just metal and craftsmanship; it’s a nuanced interplay of brand reputation, features, and market demand. Yet, understanding this dynamic can be a game-changer for both buyers and sellers. That’s where Competitor Price Tracking and monitoring software by Priceva comes in. 🌟 With automated tracking and price change notifications, it simplifies the intricacies of the market. A single interface to manage all metrics, combined with comprehensive analytics, helps find untapped opportunities. The AI-based repricing tool crafts a perfect strategy for you, paving the way for informed decisions. Explore more at Happy exploring

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