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My opinions on carry guns have changed. While I prefer packing “full-size” heat, Arizona’s full-size heat can be XXX pistol prohibitive. Around mid-summer, the clichéd “dry heat” heat turns into thick, heavy, saturated air. When the dew point finally hits 55º, monsoon storms blanket the Valley with a magnificent (and dangerous) light show, rivaled only by the aurora borealis. When the weather turns, I turn to flip-flops, tank-tops, and the thinnest shorts I can find. And the smallest practical yet “effective” handgun . . .

The stainless steel Smith & Wesson J-Frame revolver holds a spot near and dear to my heart. J-Frames offer the most compact package around, especially a 2” model sitting in an ITP (in the pocket) holster. But J-Frames have a very short sight radius. It takes lots of practice to become and maintain accuracy. They’re also “capacity limited;” chambering just five rounds. Even with my modern M60, five rounds of .357 Magnum may not be enough to safely or effectively end a confrontation.

Since letting off five rounds of .357 Magnum in a J-Frame is about as much fun as lighting a stick of dynamite in your hands, most people feed their Smith .38 Spl or .38 Spl +P. These are proven rounds. But, as the old saying goes “you have to give a little to get a little.” Compared to a .357 Magnum, .38s give up A LOT of knockdown power.

My quest: a compact pistol offering easy concealability and “proper” firepower. So I looked. And shot some candidates. And looked some more. And shot some more. While I was mildly impressed by a couple of pistols (XD SC and Walther), I wasn’t about to replace my trusty J-Frame with a gun that couldn’t turn mild to wild. Eventually I gave up…

And then I opened up the pages of American Handgunner and spotted it: the XD(m) 3.8 Compact. The lights dimmed, a Bryan Adams song played, and a sulky grin came upon my face. Could this be the one? The one gun to rule them all? Well, no—let’s not get crazy. But it could be a suitable replacement for my trusty J-Frame.

Since I already owned two other XD(m)’s and an XD, I had no doubts about the Compact’s reliability, accuracy, and well-placed controls. I already loved the XD(m)-40; I shot it for my first two months of ’11 competition. My favorite gun shop, AJI Sporting Goods in Apache Junction, AZ, had a Compact XD(m) for sale.

I bought the Springfield Armory XD(m) 3.8 Compact chambered in .40S&W in no-nonsense black. Inside the standard Pelican case: the standard XDm “goodies,” including an extra magazine ($30 if purchased separately). Although I’ve rarely used the XD/XD(m) reloader, mag holder or paddle holster, they look nice in situ.

Thanks to the reliability and non-brick-like grip angle and texture, XDs are quickly gaining a rep as “Glock 2.0.” The accessory industry is taking notice and reacting accordingly. New holster options are appearing every day, including some retention models specifically designed for law enforcement. That said, there’s no need to do another Springfield vs. Glock review. Instead, I’ll focus on comparing the XD(m) Compact to its full-size brethren.

First Impressions

As you’d expect, the Compact XD(m)’s fit and finish is identical to that of the full-size guns. With its “mini-mag,” the Compact’s capacity is limited to 11+1. Mind you, that’s one more cartridge than what’s legal in Massachusetts and other “low cap” mag states. For the rest of us, remember this is 11+1 of .40S&W, a plenty potent round for self-defense. In any case, the Compact also comes with a “full-size” magazine holding 16+1 rounds .

Owners of a full-size XD(m)40 will be happy to know that all of their full-size (16-round) magazines fit the Compact. However, the Compact’s 11-round magazine will not fit into a full-size XD(m)-40 (obvious to some, but worth noting anyway). Just to make things interesting, you can also use or remove the “gap filler” that comes with the Compact.

As RF has pointed out in the past, performing a quick reload with ANY compact gun can end up in a bloody mess. Catching skin from your palm between the gun and magazine base is going to be excruciatingly painful, or bloody or both. There is a quick and easy fix: just leave the gap filler off of the full-size magazine.

Should you need to reload the Compact, the 16-round magazine loads just fine sans filler. Since there is no “pinch point” between the frame and the magazine, the modded mag removes the possibility of getting pinched or bloodied. Bonus! You still gain a “pinky hold via the exposed stainless portion of the 16-round magazine.

As I mentioned in my XDm-45 review, the Springfield XD(m)’s trigger is far superior to the XD line. It’s far, far, far, far from a 1911 trigger. But the XD(m)’s trigger is perfectly suited for personal carry, home defense and Production-Class competition. While fairly long and thus “lawyer proofed,” it’s predictable, smooth and linear from beginning to end. There isn’t a hint of stacking and the trigger reset is more than acceptable for a combat gun.

The XD(m)’s sights are adequate. I’ve already changed mine. Since this gun will be CCW only, I ditched the factory sites for a set of tritium-lamped ones. I’ve used Trijicon in the past with much success. A friend gave me a set of TruGlo’s so I decided to try them instead. The rear sights are bright and clear; the front sight is barely noticeable. I suspect that the gunsmith may have damaged them. Either way, I’ll be looking for a replacement set soon.

A good-quality and well-designed holster can make a 1911 feel like a J-Frame. The XD(m) Compact fits into any standard XDm holster, including my favorite rig: the CrossBreed SuperTuck Deluxe holster. The XD(m) Compact also slots into a Blade-Tech Kydex OWB holster or a DeSantis OWB leather holster.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why RF or anyone else would buy a full-size gun with a mini-size barrel. The grip is almost always the hardest part of the gun to conceal. The XD(m) 3.8 Compact makes much more sense than the “standard” 3.8. It’s the perfect size for concealing on the hip.

At the Range

On my first visit to the range, I loaded my regular “Wal-Mart” assortment of WWB 180-gr and 165-gr FMJ, Federal 180-gr FMJ, and Winchester PDX1 JHP 165-gr. I also found some Federal Premium Protection 135-gr JHP and Hornady Custom XTP 155-gr JHP. Fresh out of the box and without an initial “clean” or drop of oil, the Springfield XD(m) Compact-40 was 100 percent reliable.

The 155-gr Hornady was by far the “snappiest” of the rounds. Hornady claims 1180 fps out of a 4” barrel; those figures put this round at well over 400 ft-lbs of energy. The WWB 180-gr FMJ was cheap, easy to shoot, and extremely accurate.

Since I don’t have a rest designed for pistols, I stay away from “accuracy testing,” other than making general observations. While I can sometimes pick out rounds that group better than others, none of the rounds visually grouped better or worse than others at 15-yards. The Federal 135-gr did shoot high (about 1” higher @ 15-yards) but grouped well nonetheless.

Both the “mini-mag” and the standard 16-round magazine performed flawlessly. The pressure needed to seat a full magazine into the gun with the slide forward is much greater than on my full-size XDm’s. Then again, I’ve put over 3000 rounds through each of my full-size XD(m)’s . . .


Back at the homestead, the Compact cleaned-up just as quickly and easily as any other modern polymer pistols. Lock the slide back, rotate the disassembly lever, and work the slide forward. A quick spray down with M7 Pro and a wipe with a microfiber cloth gets the frame and internals clean. The barrel cleaned easily with a bronze brush, some more M7 Pro, and a couple of clean and oiled patches.

To date, I’ve sent 550 rounds through the XD(m) Compact-40 without any malfunctions. The factory sights proved adequate; I won a local Steel Match with the Compact (Production – Class A) using the standard-issue three-dots.

Since I’m a regular shooter at the matches, I have some “match specific” gear: a dedicated gun belt, dropped and offset holsters, lots of magazines, and easy-to-get-to mag holders. I thought it would be appropriate to test my skills by using the equipment I normally carry so I left my “match gear” home. Instead, I used my SuperTuck Deluxe holster, and the factory supplied magazine holder.

If nothing else, I can now say that I’ve used the XDm gear. I was shooting 165-gr WWB FMJ’s (I carry the Compact with 165-gr JHP’s) and started every match with the 11-round magazine. I limited myself to two spare magazines in the mag holders and one magazine in my back pocket (just in case!). Here’s what I learned…

Small guns can be handled well. At speed, I didn’t even notice the “floating pinky” when shooting with the 11-round magazine. The bullets went downrange to their 1/4” steel destinations with relative ease. I had some trouble during one of the stages that had 6” plates at 15+ yards. Perhaps it was because of the shorter sight radius, or because I was just getting tired, but those two plates took six shots.

I still was able to finish the 20-round stage with a total time of 25.36 seconds. Not my best showing, but taking into account the draw and two reloads, it was still good enough for a “W”. As Vin Diesel put it, “it doesn’t matter whether you win by an inch or a mile… winning is winning!” Perhaps Charlie Sheen should take note.

Will the Compact replace my J-Frames? Yes and no. For in-the-pocket carry, the Smith & Wesson J-Frame is still the business. But let’s be honest: how convenient is “pocket carry” anyway? Keys, wallet, phone, extra magazine/speed clips, flashlight, pepper-spray, chapstick, lint . . . killing an entire front pocket with a J-Frame was always a bit of a logistics nightmare, forcing me to wear cargo-shorts in summer months.

I love the J-Frame and I personally believe they (and other compact pistols) are responsible for the recent CCW and women CCW movement. They are relatively cheap, easy to maintain, and damn near bullet proof. The XD(m) Compact offers the same benefits, but provides more round, superior accuracy, and easier handling. I’m certainly not going to go out and sell my J’s, but for summer carry, the Springfield XD(m) Compact is the new king.

Ratings (out of five)

Style * * *
No wood grips but still good looking as far as modern polymer pistols go. The 3.8 Compact is much better proportioned than the standard XDm 3.8, but each to his own.

Ergonomics * * * *
Not as comfortable as the full-size XD(m), but at speed I didn’t even noticed it was a “compact.”

Reliability * * * * *
100% reliable with the “Wal-mart” supply – I would bet money that she’ll eat anything you feed her as well!

Customizable * *
A combat pistol, so what is there to customize? If you are like me, swap in a set of tritium lamped sights and buy a SuperTuck Deluxe.

Overall Rating * * * * *
Dollar-for-dollar the XD(m) is the best gun on the market. The Compact is obviously targeted for CCW rather than nightstand duty. However, with the full-size magazine for the nightstand, and the 11-round magazine for CCW, it’s “2 for 1.” Case closed.


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      • Yechhhh! I’ll take the clean, simple lines of the Glock over that hideous thing any day of the week.

        What’s with all the – for lack of a better term – “crap” all over it? It looks like a child’s toy or an action-movie hero’s gun from a cartoon. Do all those serrations, striations, grooves, checkers and other relieved bits serve some purpose or are they just there for “cool points?”

        • On the grips or the slide? Admittedly, the XD/XDm does look somewhat chunky, but saying that a Glock “has simple and clean lines” is like saying that the ugly girl in class is “nice”.

          The grips on the XDm are funky looking, but prove to be very stable and provide a secure grip. I still haven’t had a chance to shoot a Gen-4 Glock with the RTF, but I hear the XDm is more preferred. Even XD vs. XDm, the XDm grip is much more secure – the main reason why I decided not to get the XD Sub-Compact.

        • Glocks are hideous. The smooth frame is also not very functional if you are in a wet environment since you can’t even grip the slide very well. Plus their default plastic sights and overall ugliness….XDM anyday over a Glock. I sold my Glock 19 and would never go back to it.

    • For the record… empty range, cleared by me and RO, with permission from Range Manager (just as long as the magazine was out) 🙂 Sometimes you just need to ask to get a half-way descent picture.

      • Good deal, especially the having permission part. Forgive me for being picky.

        On my last range trip the guy on my left switched to his not so trusty 1911 and after a few shots and a failure to fire proceeded to point it, still loaded, down the line to the left and backward and was staring at the side left of it dumbfounded and confused. Meanwhile, I glanced over to my right and the guy there left his gun pointing straight down the line to the right, action closed while prepping his next target on the table in the back Lucky me to be in the middle with no guns pointed at me, but still a bit pissy.

  1. Patrick all your reviews really make me miss my XD. I still haven’t gotten my hands on the XDm, but this really makes me want to. Thanks for the great review.

  2. Thanks for another solid review, Patrick! After shooting several XDs of various sizes and experiencing their surprising accuracy and abso-freaking-lute reliability, the only question left in my mind is “Can I get away with buying *another* 9mm?”

    Because I already know which brand it would be.

        • Good point, but when I lined up the magazines, it looks as though capacity in a Compact .45 would be limited to 7, probably 8. It would be hard to justify carrying a “Compact” with only 8 rounds – I’d lean more towards a 5″ 1911 with a Wilson 47-D 8-round magazine. Slimmer, although you would have some weight savings with the XDm.

  3. I have a XD subcompact in 9mm. I really like it, although it could be a bit slimmer (but then wouldn’t be a double stack) I don’t really have any complaints. My buddy on the other hand has a 4.5 XDm in 9mm. Damn. That gun is lighter (unloaded) than my 3″ subcompact and holds 19+1. I havent held a 3.8″ XDm but I would suspect it is similar to the 4.5″. Unfortunately due to the standard grip it is hard to conceal on him, 6″ 190#, which is probably the only drawback. Shoots really well though.

    I only hope that they make a .45ACP 3.8″ XDm. I would be all over that. Currently it is only offered in plain XD form or 4.5″ XDm form.

    • I have two 3.8 XDm 9mm – one full size (bought before the compact came out) and one compact – and a .45ACP XD Compact. All have XS Big dot sights and Springer Precision triggers. They handle the same and 9mm is lots cheaper to shoot. And no one has made a .22 conversion kit for the XD. When the .45ACP 3.8″ XDm comes out I will be all over it.

      Everybody has preferences, and yes I have a Glock 23 and 27 (with XS sights and trigger jobs), but the XDm just fits my hand better. When it comes down to it, the XD/ Glock argument is just what you feel better having in your hand when things go south. XDs just naturally point better for me and my little hands.

      • I held both guns today at a gun show , I have big hands. The compact 3.8 40 cal feels 10 times better than the glock 23! The glock was a little smaller and might be a tad better to hide, but the springfield wins for me.

  4. Nice review. I’m not a fan of the grip safety or the bread loaf sized slide, thus prefer Gaston’s invention better.

  5. Great review, very well written and thorough! I have carried and shot Glocks most of my law enforcement career. A co-instructor friend of mine bought a XD in 9mm and the first time I shot it I became a fan. It’s a great gun! I am currently in the process of moving to south Florida and with their caliber restrictions for concealed carry I am having to ditch my Glock .40 cal and switch over to a 9mm. (damn politicians) I am in the market for a XDM subcompact and can’t wait to get my hands on it and head to the range! I am like you though, have to change out those sight for something that can be seen in low light situations.

    • Caliber restrictions? I am from South FL, Boca Raton area. This person is full of !@#$%^&*. There are no restrictions. FL is the best state in the Union for concealed carry.

      • I am quite sure he meant that not the CC laws, he was talking about Law Enforcement regulations. read the post twice before you call bullshit. I might be wrong, but that is what it looked like to me.

  6. You have to be kidding me! Florida limits you to 9mm for concealed carry? What is it-Mexican rules (limit to .38 special)? Or is it the soviet republic of little havana?!? You must have to be a coke king to get away with .40+! What’s happening to my South? What’s the shotgun limit, 410 gauge? Rifle-.22 mag?

  7. Great review. Thought I would comment about holster choice though…you should really try out a “answer” from Tucker Gunleather. It’s a much higher quality (albeit more expensive) version of the Crossbreed…internet stories indicate that the Tucker version was available long before Crossbreed showed up.

    I own both for the same gun, and in my opinion the Crossbreed is a very poor imitation. When compared for all-day comfort, body fit, materials, durability and gun fit/retention, I think there is no contest.

  8. “There is a quick and easy fix: just leave the gap filler off of the full-size magazine.”

    A 15 round single stack 1911 .45 magazine, when inserted with a bit of force while the slide is locked back, will go past the mag catch and become inextricably entwined with the ejector, turning your gun into a brick.

    Are there no such concerns with the XD?

  9. I too live in Arizona, I just picked this gun up in bitone silver and I am just blown away by how much I am in love with it. This is by far the best bang for your buck and for CCW. I’ve shot glocks before and they come nowhere close to the awesomeness of the XDm. I feel like im playing with a plastic Chinese air pistol everytime I pick up a glock.

  10. I’m actually going to pick this up very soon only I may go with the 9mm until I can afford two handguns (wife and me). This way we are both protected (although I would want the .40) and she would be able to handle the 9mm and there are more rounds for her. Does anyone know a good shop (online or otherwise) that has great prices and will ship to my local FFL?

  11. Bought this gun. This thing is amazing. I love the back strap and trigger safeties. Fits so well in the hand and adjusts well to aiming.

  12. A good article, and a good review. I could not help but chuckle at some of the comments about its appearance. I personally don’t care if it is a little boxy looking. I care about functionability and reliability, and this pistol provides both in abundance.

  13. Excellent review! I love your practical, down to earth approach. I own a full-size XDM and think I will be trading it in for the XDM-compact. I think the new XDM compact is the most versitable handgun on the market, covering home defense with the full-size magazine and concealed carry with the compact magazine. Great review and keep up the good work.

  14. How does the xd .40 compact compare to the xdm .40 compact? Looking to purchase one, but not sure which version. The xd I have found to be $100 cheaper.

  15. I have the XD subcompact in 40 cal and just picked up the XDM 4.5 40 cal. I have owned the Glock Model 22 40 cal and sold that P O S a month after making the mistake of buying it. They are hard to break down if your hand or the weapon are wet or oily, the way the Glock fits in my hand makes me cock my hand to put it on Target. The XD subcompact is so accurate and fits perfectly in my hand that its almost not nessacary to aim. I can point and shoot and hit my Target with suprising accuracy! The XDm 4.5 hasn’t been fired yet but the way she fits my hand is great and having 2 other back straps to choose from is an added bonus. I can’t see myself owning any other pistol except when I move to OR where I will need something much larger for protection from Bears. I have wondered if the 4.5 with a full clip in 40 cal would stop a bear but I don’t want to find out it doesn’t;) any recommendations what I should be looking for for a bear stopper? 44 mag maybe? And advice advice for this Michigan boy from someone who has experience would be appreciated. I have lived in Utah but never ran across a bear out there.

    • 19th SFG,
      Do some searching on .460 Rowland conversions for your .45 XDm….I’ve got one, handload for it….44 mag velocities out of your XDm! And VERY controllable recoil…great bear and hog stopper…I’ve killed 9 big hogs with it now, and it will definitely put the hammer on them….better than the 10mm….and the XDm’s are so far superior to a Grock, that it’s not even worth the discussion for me…most who criticize the XD series haven’t shot them…I’ve sold at least 15 XDm’s for Springfield Armory now….after buddies of mine shot them….lol! And 3 of them are hardcore Grock guys!

  16. To fix the “floating pinky” buy Pearce grip extender for only 10 USD. Best purchase i made for my XD

  17. You could argue it as 4-in-1 given 9mm conversion barrels are about a month away. Certainly not for carry but abarrel & mag for $200.00 will make range time less costly. Not to mention the versatility if yit ever hits the fan. Got the .40 compact at favorite shop last week (550.00) and Waiting on it to arrive.

  18. Been shopping for more than a month now for the Springfield XDM 3.8 and I think after reading your comments that you’ve convinced me that what I read and thought in the beginning about this pistol, proved out true and I will order this gun now. I understand they’re hard to come by but believe the wait will be worth it. Thanks for your review.

  19. I traded a Pontiac 400 engine for this gun about 18 months ago and use it for CCW. Its comfortable and shoots better than any autos I own today including my 1911s. I thought I needed smaller weapon to conceal so I bought a 3″ Kahr PM9(A great pistol and good trigger for a double action). I always go back to the XDm compact 40 for Its acuracy and dependability. It gives me peace of mind.

  20. It took me a year to figure out what pistol I would purchase . I read every article I could find on different guns that interested me . I always came back to the XDm . The next choice was caliber . I had people saying I should go with the 9 because it is fast or the 45 for bullet size . Research showed me that the 40 had the best of both worlds , speed and weight . So I made my puchase and have never been happier . I did make one mistake , men don’t do this ! I got my wife a LCP for her to shoot , she didn’t like it . To snappy and not enough hand space . I let her shot my XDm and she loved it . We are now looking at 3.8 compact for her in 9 , may have one soon plus get a deal on it if she takes shooting lessons . Win win for me .

  21. I have the full sized XDm 40 3.8 and love it. I ordered it from the factory with Tritium night sights. However the front site would lose the Tritium inside its chamber and go out. Springfield has a great warrantee. Plus the fact I live about 30 minutes away from the factory in Geneseo hen’t minimal time waiting for a replacement. I haven’t heard if others have had the same problem but after the second time it happened I asked them to put a fiber op front sight which they agreed to at no extra charge. I find the I prefer the fiber op in front as it gives more definition of the front sight.

  22. What is the weight empty and weight loaded?
    Someone wants to sell me one, and that is all that matters for a carry gun.


  23. Does anyone know if they make a 22 conv slide for the springfield xd40 like the glock does so i can save when shooting at the range?

  24. This is a very well written review of the Springfield Armory XD(m) 3.8 Compact (.40S&W). I have been carrying the same gun for six months and have put about 1500 rounds down range of various brands of ammo with no issues with the exception of frangible ammo when shooting indoor steels. I did find the rear sights sharp corners can be quite painful when bending over with a low cut inside the pant style holster. That was easily remedied by carefully grinding a touch off of the corners then touch-up re-bluing the rear sight to rid that problem. I am impressed with this guns accuracy and it is also fun to shoot on a regular basis.

  25. You mention being disappointed with factory sights. I was too. But a heads up for a good set of sights is “Speed Sights”. They have a very cool, very intuitive set of high contrast (with tritium for night if you want) “diamonds”. It puts the standard stuff to shame. It’s a lot easier to see what I’m talking about vs me trying to explain it. Just Google sppedsights to check it out if your interested in some kick ass sites.

    • Eric, thank you for the Speed Sight info. I will have to check that out. I am hesitant to touch the sights because the gun came sighted perfectly from the factory.

  26. My dad just bought me an XD(m) Compact (.40) and I LOVE IT! I had my heart set on either a Glock 22 or 27 but couldn’t make up my mind between a full-size or compact. He warned me when we moved down the table towards the Springfields, saying “Be ready to change your mind…” and he was right. After picking one up and feeling the trigger pull, I was sold. Hands down, best of both worlds if you’re looking for an all-purpose gun. I’ll probably end up changing the sights, as some others have said here, but I haven’t found them to be unusable – I’d just prefer something with a little more contrast. Great review!

  27. Yes, the XDM compact is a very nice pistol indeed, and made it to #2 on my list when I made my most recent purchase. I have had many pistols, too many to mention, but all the good ones: SIG, Walther, Springfield XD (not an M or compact), Glock (could not stand this pistol), Beretta 92, Colt 45, etc, ect.

    For me, love at first sight was a H&K P2000SK (SK for sub compact). Go hold one, and you will know why. Good luck, there are no wrong choices here (and yes, I know you can buy two XD’s for the price of one HK, but I have never regretted my decision).

    Thanks for a great review.

  28. I’ll keep my Glock 27. XDMs have a hi bore axis, are chunky, and the grips are too aggressive for the purchase they provide.

  29. I own 3 Springfield pistols, a “GI” 1911 .45acp, an XD sub compact and XDm 3.8 compact, both in .40 S&W. I’m obviously a fan of the XD products, finding them to be well built, reliable, with great triggers and consistently combat accurate. I once owned a Block, but got rid of it after the frame rubbed skin off of my trigger finger. They may work for some folks, but they absolutely do not fit my hands. I’m not a competition shooter any longer and select my firearms for their utility in self and home defense. Like Patrick, my trusty S&W 642 “J” frame is my daily summertime carry with a couple of reloads. I rely on Hornady’s critical defense in all of my carry guns. Been shoot’n over 50 years, 30 of those as a cop and 4 in the military. I’ve shot just about everything at one time or another, and Springfields work best for me. Your mileage may vary.

  30. Most security guards can’t carry higher than a 9mm but my understanding you can carry anything you want concealed I know police officers that have 40-cal so maybe it’s just in that part ir near Miami some districts limit to what you carry but most of FL state is pretty much anything

  31. i have been waiting for right price on XDm 3.8 in 40 and finally was on sale for 430.00 out the door, jumped on it. Will give my humble opinion soon as possible. Can’t wait. Will be ordering Pearce mag. extension, pinky hanging can be annoying.

  32. I own the 40 xdm 3.8,,, great gun.. bought it used 4 yrs ago. have pinky grip added
    to my 2- 11rd mags. 6 – 16 rd mags and one 25 rd mag which is usually parked in
    it next to my bed. I use the reflex holster for open carry.

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