Group size vs. placement


March 19, 2005, 11:15 AM
OK, here's my question: why does everyone, I mean
every manufacturer, every gun rag&website, every
armchair Rambo, brags about how tight the groups are,
and NOT about how CLOSE they are to the bullseye? I
assume they zero the rifles and handguns beforehand.
When they show the targets, more often than not, the
groups are a few inches away from the center of the
target (I also assume that's what they aim at). Two
inches at 100yards is a guaranteed miss at 300-400
yards, so, what good is it to send all the bullets in
the same hole, if I miss the target?

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Vern Humphrey
March 19, 2005, 11:24 AM
Because anyone can adjust sights to bring a group on target, if you HAVE a group.

The theme of articles like those you mention is not, "See how I can zero a rifle," but "see how accurate this rifle is."

In addition, of course, for most purpose the rifle is NOT zeroed to hit the bull in the center. Groups are usually shot at 100 yards, and the rifle for hunting purposes is zeroed at a greater range (usually 200 to 250 yards), so it will naturally shoot a few inches high at 100 yards.

March 19, 2005, 12:07 PM
I'm a benchrest shooter. My rifles actually DO shoot like the bragging gunsmith commands claim theirs do.

I _really_ hate having my group form in the mothball (the center of the target). Why?

It is covered by crosshairs/dot/whatever, and that messes with me.

March 19, 2005, 12:09 PM
As vern said, if you have a group, you can adjust the sights to make the shots hit the bullseye, but if you don't have a group, how do you know where to adjust to?

Accuracy isn't hitting the bullseye. Accuracy is consistancy, putting all the shots right next to each other every time. Adjusting the sights will take care of the rest.

It also depends on how the rifle is sighted. For example, my rifle has 4 sight settings, a V sight for 100 yards, and a peep sight for 200, 300, and 400 yards.

Its hard to be real accurate with the V sight, so I usually prefer to use the 200 meter peep sight when I am shooting at 100 yards (the longest range I have access to), but I still want the 200 yard sight sighted in for 200 yards. So when I am shooting at 100 yards, I actually want the shots to hit between 2-4" high at 100 yards.

Here is an example.

The target I was aiming at was the red dot at the very bottom (its the bottom left target on a sheet of 5 targets). If that target was at 200 yards, the shots would be in the orange, but at 100 yards (actually, that was at about 80 yards), they are 3.5" high. So the rifle is hitting right where it is supposed to, even though it looks like I missed the bullseye.

Make sense?


March 19, 2005, 12:19 PM
Consistency is much more important than the initial placement.

A lot of bench rest tournaments don't even care where the group is on the paper. They just care about the size of the group.

Bear Gulch
March 19, 2005, 12:30 PM
"Consistency is much more important than the initial placement"

Maybe in BR shooting. This would not be really great advice for a gunfight however. Whoever hits their target fataally and first, usually wins. However a moratlly wounded chap is quite capable of killing you!

March 19, 2005, 12:57 PM
Because anyone can adjust sights to bring a group on target, if you HAVE a group.I don't agree a hundred per cent with that. Knowing how to adjust your sights is part of the game.

There is only one reason to fire a gun, and that is to hit something. (Except maybe in bench rest shooting :p ) If the objective was to make noise, firecrackers would be a better, cheaper alternative. A small group indicates that the gun is capable of that level of precision and that the shooter is capable of holding the gun steady. If you shoot competition or hunt elephants, a small group is useless unless you can put it on target.

It is possible to shoot small groups and still be inconsistent. A small group indicates that you hold the gun in the same way from shot to shot within a string. To place each group in the same place, you need to have a consistent grip, stance and sight picture from string to string as well as from shot to shot.

Adjusting your sights is an important part of your shooting skills. In competition, such as high power rifle shooting, you have to do so with a limited number of sighter shots. In the field you may not even have that, you may have to judge the wind or the postition of the sun and adjust accordingly (or use Kentucky windage) without the benefit of a sighter shot. Being able to shoot a small group is only half the game. Knowing how to adjust your sights to hit the target, requires practice. It's not something anyone can do, at least not equally well.

March 19, 2005, 01:03 PM
"This would not be really great advice for a gunfight however. Whoever hits their target fataally and first, usually wins."

We're talking about rifles here, not handguns.

Bear Gulch
March 19, 2005, 02:08 PM
I don't mean to be a trouble maker. I just really think that some shooting applications are, "games" . Many of these activities have become so specialized as to bear little relation to the real world skill that initially spawned them.

This applies to the rifle as well as the handgun. I just think that people should be clear as to what the OBJECTIVE of their exerciseis. If you want to shoot small groups, fine. If you want to stay alive in combat, a different skill set may pertain.

March 19, 2005, 02:20 PM
Accuracy isn't hitting the bullseye. Accuracy is consistancy, putting all the shots right next to each other every time.

Nope. You're talking about precision. Accuracy is putting bullets close to where you want them. Precision is putting them close to each other. The ideal is a combination of both precision and accuracy.

Vern Humphrey
March 19, 2005, 03:08 PM
I don't agree a hundred per cent with that. Knowing how to adjust your sights is part of the game.

Without a group, adjusting the sights is pointless -- and impossible.

But writers generally write about the potential of the gun or load -- and that's simply a matter of grouping. If you read an article about HUNTING or some other USE of a gun, THEN you see them write about sighting in.

March 19, 2005, 04:21 PM
When shooting groups I usually dial off the center of the target purposely. That way I can shoot multiple groups around the same aiming point, not shoot up my aiming point, and have a consistent aiming point throughout the evolution.

The only reason I will shoot a group dead on the aiming point is for bragging to the less knowledgable gunnies I sometimes shoot with, or the last couple shots before the gun gets put away to make sure it is right where I want it.

Shooting groups and shooting to hit the exact spot you want are two WAY different excercises.

March 19, 2005, 04:39 PM
I shoot groups for fun and to test accuracy.

However, in every rilfe I own, theres only one test of paracticality. Where that first shot form a cold, lean barrel is gonna hit. Since I usually shoot 100 yards, with my swede sniper that means a bit higher than bullseye (scope as a cam for range)....same with the ssg...with my 338 that means 2 inches high at 100....

Thats the test, the shot goes there I am ready..

Now with the ww2 rifles, its just center of mass... :)


March 19, 2005, 07:38 PM
Guys, if I just hit the bullseye on a benchrest target, I could shoot a group up to an inch in size. I'm sure that would impress some of you.

I can consistently cut a playing card in half at 100 yards. I can consistently hit a dime at 200 yards.


The top shooters in this "game" can fire five shots into a quarter inch group using a non-magazine-fed single shot centerfire rifle, usually without an ejector, inside 30 seconds.

Welcome to accuracy. Bring money.

March 19, 2005, 07:50 PM
Just a clarification. Accuracy is the ability to hit the intended target (how far off from the bullseye, if you're aiming for the bullseye), while precision is the consistency or grouping. So a weapon that makes 1/4" groups that are always 3" to the left of the bullseye is precise but not accurate, and a weapon that makes 2" groups around the bullseye is accurate but not precise.

It's the engineering definition of the words, but I figured it might be interesting to know.

March 19, 2005, 08:16 PM
Just my thoughts...

In pistol shooting, getting good groups is the hard part. Once you have good groups you tweak the sights and then you have good groups on the bullseye.

In rifle shooting, hitting the bullseye is the hard part. With a good rifle/ammo combo and good technique, any nitwit can shoot a good group at decent ranges by holding consistently from a bench and waiting for no wind or consistent wind. BUT, until he learns about wind doping, trajectory and range estimation, he won't be able to get his groups on the bullseye.

What it really comes down to is that group size is a measure of consistency (gun/ammo/shooter/conditions). Hitting the bullseye is a matter of knowledge (trajectory/range estimation/wind estimation/sight adjustment/etc.)

March 19, 2005, 08:39 PM
I admire and respect the talents of folks like bogie .

I tend to shoot a different game, sport and have different requirments. While I do shoot rifles, I most often grab a shotgun when a long gun is used.

When I shoot a playing card in half - it ain't really cheating if it works is it? ;)

March 19, 2005, 09:55 PM
well i dont have the experience a lot of youse guys do, but for me, when i want to take a target and show it off, i'll shoot from the bench and with my ar cut nice groups out (thanks to the tripower, with iron sights i suck).

thats just to boost my own ego. when i step into the fantasy world of being an Urban Fat Smelly Ninja, i tack up the torso silhouette target and just hammer away. i dont bother much with getting good groups, as long as i keep the shots in COM anywhere from 7 yards to 100.

the goal of todays UFSN is to put hot lead into the target. multiple times.

as far as handguns are concerned, i'll shoot for giggles at 50 yards. but then i'm only interested in hitting the target, not groups. i can hear the rounds hit and thats good enough for me. bring the target in to 7 yards and for defensive purposes, one should be able to keep shots within a 6-8 inch circle, under duress. thats either a COM or head shot. put shoot-n-sees on your torso silhouette at that distance and see how good you are at hosing the target. fire the first mag at COM, reload and fire at the head. if there are any hits outside the shoot-n-see, you know you need to practice a bit more.

then, for more giggles, turn the target sideways a bit, give yourself a smaller COM and head to shoot at.

March 19, 2005, 10:01 PM
BTW, I want to make it clear that I'm talking in general terms when I say anyone can get a good group from a bench. Not a good "benchrest competition group", a "good group" as defined by mere mortals... ;)

Zak Smith
March 19, 2005, 11:32 PM
I normally shoot groups when I'm developing a new load or evaluating ammo. Groups will be measured and annotated, calculations made, and then typically I'll make a decision which load to proceed with. From then, I just dial the correction, reset the set screws in the knobs, verify one final time, and then verify the new long range data by shooting at small reactive targets.

You should absolutely not assume anything about one's ability to make hits at any range from the relative positions of the POI and POA in a published "group".

The thesis of the thread-starting post is poorly thought out, and that's why this thread sucks.


March 20, 2005, 11:06 AM
Excuse me...

Saying that a rifle is not accurate because a group is not centered on the bullseye is just...

(the high road...the high road...)


(oh, the heck with it...)

A saying in benchrest competition is that your first shot is free... You've got a 0.000" group. It's when you drop the second, third, fourth, and fifth on top of it that you enlarge the group.

When you screw up on the first shot, you haven't ruined the group. You get to "chase" your group. That involves altering your aiming point such that your following rounds will hit the errant shot.

If that ain't accuracy, I don't know what is.

I routinely shoot 0.4" groups at 200 yards. Occasionally 0.3", and I'm still hoping to break into the twos.

Another thing - this isn't some sort of cute widdle rimfire thing that we're pulling the trigger on... 10.5 pounds for the rifle and scope, a Jewell trigger, and a .220 Russian (same parent case as the 7.62x39) necked up to 6mm... Cram as much V133 or surplus 8208 as possible in it (I use an 8" drop tube), cap it off with a 68 grain match bullet, and when you pull the trigger, it moves out at about 3450fps.

These are not wimpy loads... The brass wears out after a weekend's use... A weekend in which each piece may be used to fire 10-20 times... The head expands, it gets real easy to prime, and it work hardens... Since we pay CAREFUL attention to how we size it, we're not so worried about "gernading" (grin) with a case head sep -the brass doesn't get a chance to stretch lengthwise. We just spank it so hard that it quits.

You can always adjust your scope/mounts to move your point of impact. Now, if you have your point of impact centered on the bullseye, and all you can manage is a 2" group, that ain't accuracy. Yeah, it'll work on Bambi, but it ain't accuracy. Or precision. Maybe you need to screw a full choke into that puppy.

March 20, 2005, 11:27 AM
OK, here's my question: why does everyone, I mean
every manufacturer, every gun rag&website, every
armchair Rambo, brags about how tight the groups are,
and NOT about how CLOSE they are to the bullseye?
RomanKnight ~

Gun writers do it that way because they are reviewing the gun's potential.

The writers aren't in a competition to see who shoots the best. They are simply assessing whether the gun they're reviewing is capable of decent accuracy. To that end, all that really matters is whether the group is big or small. Sure, it's nice if it ends up centered on the bullseye, but it's irrelevant to the point of what they're doing.


March 20, 2005, 05:51 PM
If that ain't accuracy, I don't know what is.

You just said it yourself.

Would you really say that a string of fire aimed at a deer, goblin, whatever, is "accurate" if you miss 5 times, albeit the misses are so close together that the bullets are stacked end-to-end in the dirt?

Nope. That's precision.

Precision might be the same as accuracy when the goal isn't to get all your shots on the bullseye, but when scoring on where you hit, a 5 shot group centered in the 1 ring is 5 points, no matter how tight it is.

Zak Smith
March 20, 2005, 06:35 PM
Rhetorical question: What if my intended POI is not at the bullseye, does that still count?

March 20, 2005, 07:02 PM
Would you really say that a string of fire aimed at a deer, goblin, whatever, is "accurate" if you miss 5 times, albeit the misses are so close together that the bullets are stacked end-to-end in the dirt?

Nope. That's precision.

Wrongo, tacticaldude...

That's incompetence.

ANYONE can take an accurate rifle, and shoot horribly.

The reason that scopes and sights are adjustable is so that one can move the point of impact around. If one CHOOSES to have the point of impact out of the bullseye, and the shots go where intended, that's great. If the shots look like Bubba left his Improved Cylinder choke in, that's not so great.

I can have all the shots hit at 6 o'clock, 9 o'clock, one or two rings out, whatever. You want, I can drop 'em all in the mothball, but that messes with me, because I don't like my group behind my crosshairs. In fact, if it's a day with little mirage, rather than centering the crosshairs on the mothball, I'll aim at the edge of it. Aim small, miss small, and all that.

Tell ya what... Let's shoot some ten-ring targets, for score. Bring money.

A while back I was at the range, chatting with a fellow accuracy buff. He'd been playing at 200 yards, getting ready to go on a varmint hunting trip. Some Bubba walked up, looked through the spotting scope, and informed him, with great know it all about boomsticks attitude (if I recall correctly, it was just before deer season, and the Bubba in question had hisself a .30-30... and had punched a few holes at 50 yards...), that he was shooting high, and that he needed to aim lower.

He was zeroed for 300 yards, shooting at a 200 yard target. OF COURSE the groups printed high. Doh!

Anyone here remember a fellow named Warren Page?

March 20, 2005, 10:13 PM

Thats almost exactly the same thing that I showed above with the photo. Zero for 200 yards, but shot the group at 80 yards, and it hits right where it is supposed to.

But it's not the bullseye, so according to several people on the thread its a miss. :rolleyes:


March 20, 2005, 11:20 PM
Think we can talk any of 'em into showing up? And bringing money?

Lot of folks here lately who talk a lot, but you gotta wonder how much they shoot...

Zak Smith
March 20, 2005, 11:37 PM
$5 says no. :evil:

Jon Coppenbarger
March 21, 2005, 01:29 AM
I have not shot .4 or .3 groups before. Well maybe for a few shots but never over the 20 shots I shoot prone most every weekend in matches.
The 20 shots I fired in slow prone this weekend was only a 200 reduced match and maybe if I had not screwed up and dropped that one 9 out the left just off the 10 ring my group would of stayed under 2" for the day instead of 3". My bad as it was only my first match of the year and it still killed me to drop that 1 point for a lousy 199. It should teach me to pay a little most attention to what the wind is doing and those nasty sudden let offs. But I do have a tendency to drop a few points once in awhile at 600 yards also. My rapid prone sucked also because those 20 shots were only 3" also.
You guys know what I call a good group?
It is when I pull the trigger and I know every time EXACTLY where my shot went on every shot good or bad no matter if I am standing in a 20 mph wind or prone on the ground at the National championships.

I believe and I know alot of others that believe the same thing that if I am shooting a rapid prone at 300 yards and my group is like 3" then I stand a whole lot better chance of a good score than the guy shooting a 5" group.
If I miss that wind call or it gusts or lets off during that string and yes I have made a few changes in a string because of that. I know that 1 moa group I just shot or even a 1 1/4 moa will still keep me inside the 10 ring no matter if I missed the wind or had a light change for elevation.

Now I know that what I do is primitive. Laying out in the snow or cold or rain or wind or hot sun on a mat or dirt or grass with just the sling, glove, jacket and OH dang those allfull AR15 sights is not what some of you are considering a test of your metal but Me and a few friends try.

Now every one should with a little practice know what sight change it should take to get your group to the middle.
Now I do know that if I take even my lousy score from sat. and take the lousy 10 points I dropped in the first 10 shots of off hand, and the lousy 3 points I dropped in the first string of rapid sitting and the clean in the rapid prone string and the lousy 1 point I dropped in prone my score for a 50 shot leg match would have come out to a score that would of put me in the top 100 scores fired in a EIC match last year and more than likely the top 50. But so What, I made the list last year anyway.

So what does all of the above mean? NOT A DANG THING!!!!!!!

I could not hit the side of a barn with a pistol or with a shotgun shoot a perfect score in trap either or without practice shoot a .3 or .4 with a scope off a bench while its tightened down in a vice either.

So where does that leave me?
Well I could send you a schedule of my matches to come and I get beat on a regular basis but I tell anybody this on this site!!!
IF you beat me at 600 yards at my game or even 200 yards at my game in prone and I will give you my equipment to use so its all equal if you do not have your own I will buy the beers or lunch if you win and you know what I would most likely buy anyway if I won!!!

Will I come and play your game NO I won't because I do not care to as I have my schedule full enough with my own sport.

So Zak you keep your $5 and just show up at the any any match at Buffalo Creek on the 17th of April and lunch after the match is on me. I trust I will see you at a match very soon I would think?

March 21, 2005, 03:04 AM
I guess a couple people beat me to it, but many of the people responding to this thread are assuming that the goal is to hit the bullseye and that is the only possible correct outcome. They shot a great group, BUT since the goal is to hit the bullseye, then it was a wasted effort.
But as Zak said: "Rhetorical question: What if my intended POI is not at the bullseye, does that still count?"
What if your zero at the range you were shooting was two inches above your point of aim. You decided that the center or "bullseye" was a good aiming point. Your group went EXACTLY where you intended it to go: 2" high. You had no interest or intention of hitting the red dot or whatever. You didn't miss anything. The only problem is that a bunch of people who don't know what you are doing see this as some kind of weakness on your part.

Jon Coppenbarger
March 21, 2005, 07:44 AM
Exactly my point 444. I agree with you 100%

March 21, 2005, 08:20 AM
Anyone up for the chicken or the egg argument??

If you're rifle is sighted for a specific distance and you want to see where the shots land at half the distance, your aim is going to be at a fixed point and you can see where you/your rifle/ammo is going to hit.

The bullseye is only a convienient aiming point. After I get used to what my rifle/load combination does, I'll adjust my aiming point at said range so the bullets will strike the bullseye. I do the same thing in the field on game, whatever it might be.

I too, have had those who advise me to adjust my sights to "hit the bullseye" at a specific range, but those helpful folks assume it is what I am trying to do.

Not necessarily, and I don't mind the advice, either.

If I am trying to learn what my weapon will do at various ranges in the game field, I go with the assumption that my quarry is not going to hold still for that perfect shot while I'm dialing this or adjusting that.

I don't expect bambi to run over to a point where they are exactly 200 yards or so from the muzzle so I can place the shot "in the bullseye". It's called "holdover" or maybe "holdunder".

Your weapon has to be able to hit with some kind of consistancy in order to line everything up, the ammunition has to make the bullet leave the barrel the same way with every shot, and more importantly, the shooter has to be capable of shooting the weapon consistently in order to make it all happen.

If you take away anything out of that combination, you are not likely going to hit what you are aiming at, whether or not its the bullseye.

March 21, 2005, 08:43 AM
Oh yeah... Time for my favorite gripe...

"Ain't you gonna shoot that target more than once?"

March 21, 2005, 12:52 PM
Delmar brings up the next thing I was going to say. Once you leave the target range, you arn't shooting at a bullseye. And unlike the popular myth, close is good enough. Most people that know what is going on, zero their hunting or defense rifle in order to take maximum advantage of the trajectory of the cartridge it is chambered for. For example, with an AR15, a zero of around 200 yards (actually a little further) means that against a humanoid target, you hold in the center of mass from the muzzle out to just shy of 300 yards and you will make a COM shot. It doesn't need to be on the third button on his shirt or it doesn't count. Same goes with hunting: you find a distance to zero your rifle using that particlar load that provides you with the greatest distance that you don't have to hold over or under your target. You don't need to hit a bullseye. The chest cavity is as big as a pie plate. And besides, you can't estimate the range close enough to hit the bullseye in the field at unknown ranges over varied terrain.

Jon Coppenbarger
March 21, 2005, 01:34 PM
I have given that some thought but have not tried it.
I have noticed when shooting at a target from like 200 out to 600 that the width of the target on my front post gives me a ideal of the distance.
Have any of you tried that as I have not yet?

What I see is the target at 600 yards is pretty thin so I would think it would be hard to hit right on it with hold over but with a standard m16 elevation wheel I would think I could just dial it to the 600 mark and be on.
Because just 100 yards would make a difference in the sight picture I know as going from 600 even down to 500 the target seems so easy and 300 and 200 is like nothing. I know my center of mass is the same for 200 as it is for 300 so the little difference it to me does not really matter as it is still in the chest.
Will have to see how many minutes difference it is so ?
My question 444 is could you possibly use the size of the target on your post giving that most average folks are the same size to give you a rough estimite of distance with open sights.

Just something I have thought about when you say that. I do not know?

Zak Smith
March 21, 2005, 01:40 PM
Using mechanical or optical methods to range using angular demarcation are error prone, but better than nothing. They depend on knowing the size of the target and being able to measure the angle precisely. Even on a fine mil scale, errors of 25 yards or more are common at ranges beyond 800 yards, with moderate to small targets. If you don't know the size of the target accurately, all bets are off.

Jon Coppenbarger
March 21, 2005, 03:51 PM
Zak thanks .
Thats what I was kinda thinking but as you said it would be better than nothing and for the average Joe it most likely would be a case do not fire either unless you do not have a choice or you know what the yardage is.

thanks Jon

March 21, 2005, 05:07 PM
Anyone here remember a fellow named Warren Page?

But of course. He was the best of the gun writers (wellllll ... He and Elmer Keith. Elmer didn't write quite as well, but he told better stories. Hell, He Was There!). And he (Page) taught me how to zero a hunting rifle, right there in the pages of Field & Stream. The same method works today.

Back then, nobody else that I knew in the town of 1101 understood what I was doing and some of them chewed me out for my idiotic sight adjustments. They got real huffy when I adjusted my sights so that the point of impact was not in the center of the bullseye, despite their instructions otherwise. I am amazed at the drift of this thread into more or less personal challenges to others' shooting skills, but it's the same as back more than fifty years ago. Many people just don't get it.

"Accuracy" in a rifle is exactly the same as "precision" and "consistency" and is fully characterized by group size. "Accuracy" in a shooter is the ability to hit where he wants to hit.

"Accuracy" in a specific shooting event can be scored by size of group, or by preprinted scoring rings on a target, or by targets falling, depending on the event. The small accurate group can easily be moved onto the desired point of impact by adjusting the sights, but the coincidence of POI and POA is not "accuracy", it is "sight adjustment". Most of the highpower shooters that I know use a six-o'clock hold, meaning that their aiming point is substantially below their desired impact point. But that POA/POI relationship is carefully adjusted to put the POI in the X-ring.

Wind and other confounding factors are irrelevant to the concept of "accuracy" even though they may dominate the scoring in the shooting event.

This is not hard stuff.

Jon Coppenbarger
March 21, 2005, 05:17 PM
nope your right its not

March 23, 2005, 10:57 AM
Thanks, folks, for all your informative replies.

March 23, 2005, 07:53 PM
"If that ain't accuracy, I don't know what is."

I do. As others have said, it's PRECISION.
The terms accuracy and precision are traditionally misused by gunrag writers who never took or have forgotten what they learned in Physics 101. (More often, the term accuracy is used to apply to everything having to do with where the bullet hits, and term precision isn't even mentioned.)

Sloppy use of language. The worst of it is, most don't even know the difference nowadays.

March 23, 2005, 11:29 PM ain't the size that matters, but where you put it. :rolleyes:

I don't buy that argument in either meaning of the double entendre. If I got the groups, I can figure out how to put them where I want them.

If I don't have the groups, I'll never hit what I want to hit.

March 24, 2005, 12:33 AM
Yeah, well, some folks at a local gun shop think that I'm strange...

Their take on accuracy:

"Hey, it'll bring home the game."

My take:

"Hey, well, should I aim for the center of the shoulder, the side of the shoulder, or an inch behind the shoulder?"

And don't even try to explain how bullet drop drastically increases over distance - one GSC (gun shop commando)'s ironclad rule of thumb was that a bullet drops 1" per hundred yards, which is why they're dangerous out to a mile.


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