'Tuner a little 1911 help please!


May 19, 2004, 06:55 PM
o.k., here's the long version of my problem...

I just got my hands on a Colt 1911 .38 Super that I bought via Gunbroker. The seller advertised the gun as NIB, but already custom tuned by Cylinder & Slide. The description included a scan of the C&S worksheet, including gun type, serial #, and other accurate details, so that seems legit.

So, I get the gun out of the box, and it definitely doesn't "look" like it's been worked on by C&S (often rated up there as the best of the best). The dehorning looked like something I would do, and there were a few odd marks where it appeared the 'smith may have missed the mark so to speak. I check the trigger pull, and it's not even as nice as my completely stock Colt Delta Elite. "Oh well, let's give it a try on the range and see what happens..."

I buy a box of PMC 130gr FMJ, and get out on the range. The first round fails to feed! Hmmm... That's not good. I fix that, then fire the first round. The slide "cycles" and I pull the trigger. Click. Huh?! I check the chamber and find the first case is still chambered! So apparently the first case failed to extract completely, and then went back into the chamber. O.k., manually cycle the weapon... case ejects, new round into chamber. I pull the trigger again... bang. This time the slide doesn't fully cycle! I check the gun and find the fired case has extracted from the chamber, but is still stuck to the breechface and is hung up on the hood(?) of the barrel... a failure to eject. The next 13 rounds all went exactly that way... manually cycle the failure to eject, fire the round, next case hangs up on the hood (is it the hood?). Now thoroughly frustrated by 15 rounds fired, 15 rounds failed to function, I quit shooting.

I left the last round as it sat in the gun (on the breechface and hung on the hood) and showed it to the two competent range staff members (these two actually know a little about guns). Both agree the recoil spring could be too heavy, but without spending time diagnosing the gun it would be hard to say for sure. The spring is supposedly a 16.5 lb. spring, which sounds too heavy to me, but I don't know for sure.

I'd have brought the gun home and taken a picture, but I need another multiple purchase permit in order to get it out of the store. That'll probably take until Monday or Tuesday to get approved. Below is a link to the auction, so you can at least "see" the gun, as well as the C&S invoice.


o.k., now what? I would really appreciate any recommendations or suggestions, since the gun cost me over a grand, and I'm very dissappointed that it performed so poorly. I can probably change a few things over the weekend - like the recoil spring - but for any major work I'll have to get the gun to the local Colt 'smith (who's at a different store).


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Jim Watson
May 19, 2004, 07:04 PM
16.5 pounds is three or four too much for a .38 Super recoil spring.

You have now learned the difference between what the big shops do for magazine centerfolds and what they do for a mere paying customer.

May 19, 2004, 07:11 PM
I'd try contacting C&S. Did they actually do the work on this gun? And if so, will they make it function properly?

May 19, 2004, 07:51 PM
I am not the expert that Tuner is, but I know that it sounds like this gun was set up to cycle hot loads (major power factor) which .38Super is frequently used to shoot in. (That would account for the heavy recoil spring.) You shot tame factory ammo and probably didn't have enough pop to drive it. Your ailments do sound like short cycling (either too much recoil spring and/or tight gun).

Try going to a 12 or 13# recoils spring and see if the problem goes away.

If you still have feeding or extraction problems, they need to be diagnosed one at a time.

May 19, 2004, 07:53 PM
Howdy brad,

First off...Jim nailed it on the recoil spring. A 14-pounder is a gracious plenty for a Thutty-Eight Soup...and you'd probably be okay with a 12-pound spring. I doubt that you'll be able to get by with clipping a coil or two off your spring. I'd order a Wolff 14-pound spring and go from there. I can give you the Brownells part number if you need it. Bountyhunter's suggestion may be exactly what you need. Wolff springs come in 2-pound increments, so it's either 12 or 14.

Second, check to see if the pistol will reliably eject a live round when you hand-cycle it. If the round acts like it wants to hang up, the extractor hook
is too long, and the case is getting wedged between the hook and the ejector. Not sure what the spec is on the Super's hook length. Maybe
somebody can chime in with the length. On the .45, it's .032-.035 inch.

The Cylinder & Slide extractor that I installed in the GI Springfield that I'm wringin' out had a .042 hook...and the pistol wouldn't feed or eject a live round until I shortened it to spec. The fact that yours isn't feeding well suggests that this is at least part of the problem. Remove the extractor and see if the pistol will feed. If it will, you've narrowed it down to the
extractor being the most likely cause. Check the tension to see if that might be it before you file it.

If removing the extractor doesn't make a difference, the breechface may be too narrow...but this isn't highly likely on a Colt.

If you find that yours is too long, drag the tip of the hook sideways on a 6-inch smooth mill file, being careful to keep it level and square on the file.
Take a stroke or two and check it until it'll eject a live round freely.

Keep us posted on what you find. It's usually somethin' simple.



May 19, 2004, 08:12 PM
Hey, thanks to all for the comments and advice. I've ordered the Wolff 14 lb. spring (I thought I had already ordered some, but all I have are 16.5 and 20 lbs.) and hopefully that will cure the problem. I'll keep you posted.


May 25, 2004, 07:29 PM
o.k., I tried a 14 lb. spring tonight... and got exactly the same result. After the round fires the case is still held by the extractor against the breechface and the case mouth hangs up on the hood of the barrel. :banghead:

Is my description clear enough? Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera so I could take a picture.

Now what?! :confused:

I looked at the ejector, and it is not an extended, aftermarket version. Could the slide still be failing to get the case back to the ejector (even with the lighter recoil spring)?

I'm highly dissappointed and frustrated. This gun was supposedly tuned by Cylinder & Slide! And it doesn't function! Should I call them and ask them about it? :fire:


May 25, 2004, 07:38 PM
Brad, the Cylinder & Slide extractor that I got had a hook that was way too
long. I'm suspicious that this is your problem...Everything points to it.
Check your PMs


May 25, 2004, 07:57 PM
Hi Tuner! Thanks for the offer!

I did forget to try the extractor test you suggested; should I try that tomorrow before pulling the extractor altogether?

Thanks - Brad

May 25, 2004, 09:24 PM
Howdy brad,

Yep. See if it'll eject a live round easily. If it hangs up at an angle as it tries
to clear the port, the hook's too long.

Standin' by,


Dave Sample
May 26, 2004, 05:49 PM
14 LBS is enough for any 38 Super round. They have to work hard to get that slide back. I think you may have a problem with any kind of warranty with C&S because you are not the person who they did the work for, if indeed they did it. It should have an extended ejector cut different that a .45 as the thing has to catch the empty case more toward the center. I would return it if I were you and get your money back. I don't think that you got what was advertised and there are a lot of crooks there. You have to ask yourself "Why are they selling a brand new customized 1911?" Obviously because it does not run! I wish you luck on whatever choice of action you take.

May 26, 2004, 07:09 PM
FWIW: the .38S uses the same extractor as the 9mm, and the hook tip does extend farther over compared to the .40/.45 extractor. I think the Kuhnhausen book shows drawings for both. My STI (9mm) came with the 9mm extractor tip still too long (the end of the tip stuck into the corner of the webbing) but it still extracted fine. When I tuned it up, I shortened the length of the tip as well as radiused the bottom edge more smoothly. Now, the edge of the rim rests squarely against the inside edge of the extractor groove as it's supposed to.... and the tip does not touch the brass when the round is under the extractor.

Another point: they may have set too much tension. I have guns that refuse to cycle with a tension above 20 ounces. Some of the pros say the best range is about 12 - 15 ounces. Mine all feed perfectly there, and don't start to "slip the rim" until it drops below about eight ounces. Check the tension and make sure it isn't set too high. Somebody has probably posted how to do it. If you don't have tools, tie dental floss around the rim groove of a spent case and put it under the extractor hook (butt flush with the breech face) then measure the tension it takes to just cause it to slip straight downward. You can use water from a measuring cup into a plastic jug for an accurate weight (one ounce water = one ounce weight).

Make sure the brass is set vertically where it would be when cycling into the gun to get an accurate reading.

May 26, 2004, 07:16 PM
Good info Bountyhunter. Thanks. I feel like the problem is extractor related...At least this part of it is. Hope this is all. Hate to hear of a man
spendin' his hard-earned green on a PITA.

Standin' by...


May 26, 2004, 08:47 PM
Hi All,

Thanks for all the extra info. Frankly I'm out of my element. I can take my gun apart and put it back together, and that's about the extent of my ability. I would like to learn how to do more myself, so perhaps this is the incentive to do so.

o.k., I tried hand cycling a few rounds tonight. I loaded the magazine with three rounds, then cycled the slide by hand three times. Every time the rounds extracted and ejected perfectly. I felt like a fool, since it seemed to work fine. So, I tried shooting those three rounds... Nope. Same problem all three shots.

The case mouth gets hung up on the barrel hood, and the case ends up about 5 deg up on the bore axis as looking from the side, and about 5 deg (or less) right on the on the bore axis as looking from the top. Does that description make sense?

I remembered my camera today, but then my camera batteries died on me, so again no pictures. :mad: (I think I'm cursed with this gun.)

This is getting ridiculous... Is a 14 lb. spring still too heavy? Who wants a little 'smith work? I just want this thing working... :fire:

Thanks to All!

May 26, 2004, 09:22 PM
Okay Brad....Let's check the length of the hook.

Remove the extractor and hold a round up to a strong light. Slip the rim under the hook, as if the round were in the chamber, and the slide in battery, but as though you were watching it all happen from the top.

Is the tip of the hook touching any part of the case?

Now, rotate the round up and sideways, as though the case were ejecting at 2 O'Clock. Keep the inside of the rim pulled against the inside of the hook, as though it had been struck by the ejector.

Is the FRONT of the ejector hitting hard against the case forward of the rim?

There's something getting the case in a bind between the extractor hook and the ejector. Either than, or your slide isn't getting nearly its full travel.

Lock the slide on an empty magazine. Drop the mag and pull the slide rearward. Will it unlock and go to battery...or do you have to manually
release it by pushing on the slidestop?

Is there a shock buff in the recoil system? Is your recoil spring stacking to
coil bind and stopping the slide from moving through its full travel?

Standin' by...

May 26, 2004, 09:27 PM
You can cycle them by hand just fine but not when shooting?

Are you sure the slide is travelling fully rearward?
This almost sounds like a short stroke malfunction.

When you cycle slowly by hand is the slide travel smooth? Is there any rough or tight spots?

I used to come across this often in the 70s when guys would chuck their slide in a vise and squeeze it too tight, mistakenly trying to get better accuracy. I bought more than a few GI 1911A1s cheap because of this.

May 26, 2004, 09:49 PM
You can cycle them by hand just fine but not when shooting?

Yes, that's what happened. When cycling by hand everything works just fine. When firing, the empty case hangs up, I'll give the slide a sharp tug to the rear, the case will eject and the new round will go into battery - just like clockwork. Shoot the next round... case hangs up again... slingshot the slide... everything functions.

Are you sure the slide is travelling fully rearward?

No, I'm not sure about that. The gun doesn't have an extended ejector, so I was a little suspicious about that, but I'm no expert. Is there any simple way to determine if the slide is/isn't travelling fully rearward?

When you cycle slowly by hand is the slide travel smooth?

I hadn't tried that. I'll give it a try on Friday when I get over to the gun store to visit my gun (I'm still waiting for a multiple purchase permit from the State Police). The slide does seem smooth during a normal slide rack, but I'll try it slowly...

Thanks for the suggestions!

May 26, 2004, 11:58 PM
I;m startin' to think that the gun has a .45 ejector in it instead of a .38 Super/9mm....

Brad...Measure the width of the front, right at the hook with a dial caliper.
If it's the right extractor, it should be about .150 across.

It's gotta be the extractor or a short stroke malfunction...:scrutiny:

May 27, 2004, 12:12 PM
FWIW, my STI Trojan in 9mm had stovepipes and extraction woes when new. The guys at STI said it was because it was new and tight and the 9mm round doesn't have a lot of pop to get the slide back smartly. I don't think stock .38S ammo is much hotter. They recommended going from the stock 12# recoil spring down to a 10# until it loosened up, or just ignore the problem until it broke in. I did the latter and it works perfectly now.

Your problem does sound like short cycling. To see if the slide can go all the way back: lock the slide back onto the slide lock lever (drop the mag out). Pull firmly back on the slide and watch the lever. The slide should be able to go back far enough to force the lever down and allow the slide to come forward. I have a couple of 1911's which will NOT drop the lever this way because they have thick shok buffs. They cycle OK anyway, so I elect to keep the buffs and use the lever for loading.

I agree to check and make sure you have a .38S extractor not a .45. If I recall, the difference is easy to pick up: you can hold them up straight up and with a side view looking at the tip and see the difference. The .38S extractor tip extends farther out than the edge of the pad just below it, the .45 tip is shorter and does not extend out past the pad edge beneath.

Because springs are cheap, I'd try a 12# spring before going hog wild on other things. I guarantee that 16# is too much.

May 27, 2004, 05:57 PM
Brad...another thing ocurred to me. Field-strip the gun and check the
locking lugs...Are they sharp and square at the front? Do the front corners
look rounded or "rolled"? Can you feel a burr on the tops of the lugs by
raking a thumbnail from back to front?

A certain type of timing problem won't let the barrel link down in time for the slide to get past it will damage the locking lugs like this...and inside the slide too. It's caused by either the impact surface in the frame being too far forward...the lower lug on the barrel being set too far rearward...or a
long link. Also a possibility of the lower lug feet being too tall and not allowing the barrel to drop far enough in the frame.

When the barrel lugs are still partically locked to the slide as the slide passes over, it will cause short-stroke stoppages like yours.

A 14-pound spring might well be a little too much for a .38 Super...but it
shouldn't cause this type of stoppage on every round.

Standin' by...


Dave Sample
May 28, 2004, 12:34 AM
I have another thought after listening to the type of malfunction. It could be a wild idea but if there is too much tension on the disconnector, it could be slowing the slide down enough to cause this problem. I have seen this happen a time or two in the past. Check the top edge of the barrel throat, also. If it has a sharp edge, that could be a part of the problem. 38 Super's are not an easy gun to manage and I can't believe that C&S would not put an extended ejector in it. Actually, I am afraid I can belive that. It has to have a 9mm/38 Super extended ejector in it to function. Everything I know points to the ejector. But what do I know?

Dave Sample
May 28, 2004, 12:42 AM

This 38 Super has 49,000 through it and has a 2 LB trigger that has never followed. I used to build a lot of these. This one is mine. It was finished in 1992. I used to shoot Praire Dawgs with it.

May 28, 2004, 05:57 AM
o.k., I'm working up a parts order from Brownells. Here's what I've got so far:

Wolff Recoil Springs - one each 10 to 13 lbs.
Kings Extended Ejector, .38 Super, Stainless

I was thinking about getting an Ed Brown Hardcore Extractor - would it be worthwhile just to get it (or a different extractor) to have on hand?

Is there anything I should get just in case?


May 28, 2004, 06:13 AM
Howdy Brad,

Before ya call Brownells, check my last post above Dave's to see if there's any damage to the barrel and/or slide. If there is, the top-end's toast.

Standin' by...


Dave Sample
May 29, 2004, 11:39 AM
Make sure you order a 38/9mm extractor. It will have 1/2 of the donut in the middle and has a different hook shape on it. I am not familiar with King parts but do not order an ejector with any kind of sharp point on it. Make sure that it's a 39/9mm part also. You are in for a hard job in getting the pin out of the lower end and them removing the ejector and replacing it. This is not really as easy as some people think or imply. The new ejector has to have a notch filed in the front stud for the new pin and the ejector legs may have to be shortened. Good Luck! You also need a 1/16 roll pin punch for the job. They are soft and hard to manage so be careful when you drive that pin out. It comes out from left to right.

May 29, 2004, 06:57 PM
o.k. folks here it comes...

I went to a gun show this a.m., and picked up an 11 lb. Wolff spring to try. I later went to the range and stripped the gun. Getting the barrel out was difficult, and the feed ramp (it's a fully ramped barrel) would not easily slip past the part of the slide where the recoil plug goes (I don't know the nomenclature). I had to give the barrel a good tug to get it through, and it nicely scratched the side of the feed ramp. I did my best to inspect the locking lugs on the barrel and slide, and I neither saw nor felt anything that seemed unusual (compared to my other 1911s). I then reassembled the gun, replacing the full length recoil spring guide and plug with a standard length guide and standard plug, then put in the 11 lb. recoil spring. I tried the slow cycling by hand thing, and noticed the first inch or so of travel was smooth, but from that point on it felt like the gun was full of sand (if you know what I mean). I did that a few times to affirm my perception, and the last 1 1/2 inch or travel or so was definitely rough feeling. I then when into the range to see if the spring helped. Four rounds, four failures, same problem. Only this time - Surprise! - I brought my camera! I have pictures! After the four failures with the factory PMC ammo (130gr @ 1050fps), I decided to try some Georgia Arms ammo I picked up at the gun show. The Georgia Arms ammo is a bit hotter - 147gr @ 1200fps - and I thought if anything would cycle the gun, this ammo would be it. Well sure enough, five rounds, five fully cycled shots! It's a miracle! However, I could definitely feel the gun fighting the cycle. It just felt rough, like I had two pieces of fine sandpaper trying to slide by one another.

o.k., so that's about it... Anyone want to see some of the pictures? I included a photo of one of the regular "hang-ups", but I haven't figured out how to attach multiple photos, and I have about 18 total. Anyone have any thoughts or suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

P.S. On a happier note, the Springfield XD-9 I picked up today worked like a champ! I like it... I like it a lot! :D

May 29, 2004, 07:12 PM
Howdy Brad,

It sounds like there's something not fitted right. Try to determine where it is.

Bare slide on the frame...Still a rough spot?

Barrel and bushing in slide and repeat...how now?

Check the link pin to see if it's sticking out on one side of the lower lug.
If it is, it will keep the barrel from falling into the frame on linkdown.

Is the slide making hard contact with the top of the dust cover? There will
be a line on the slide in that area if there is.

Is the hammer in a bind against the top of the grip safety as the slide passes over it after it's at full cock? With the hammer cocked, and the slide on top of it, the hammer should have a little more travel before it hits
the grip safety. Look to the top of the safety for signs of hard contact.

This one's a poser, for sure. hard to put a finger on the bug without the
gun on the table....:confused: :scrutiny:

Standin' by...


May 29, 2004, 07:30 PM
Yeah, I suppose it's pretty tough trying to perform surgery when you don't even have the patient in hospital ;)

I'll try some of the things you've just recommended, but I think I'm done trying to do this myself. The problem might be simple, but I now believe it's really not going to be simple enough for me to handle on my own.

Once I get the gun out of the store I'll take it to our match armorer and see what he can do with it. This guy builds match 1911s for the Marine Corps, so I doubt he'll have any trouble getting this one figured out.

Thanks for all the advice. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Best Regards!

May 30, 2004, 02:45 PM
Field strip the gun.
With no internals at all, slow cycle the slide on the frame. Does it still feel gritty?

If so then you have a slide to frame problem. If not it's dragging somewhere else.

Slide the barrel bushing down the barrel. does if move freely. Does it travel the full length of the barrel?

If the only problem seems to be slide to frame fit, then some Tuners Infamous Slurry and West Carolina Gravy Mix might be needed. ;)

Dave Sample
May 30, 2004, 09:07 PM
You gave yourself some really good advice. Take it to some one that knows something.

June 1, 2004, 02:49 PM
I didn't intend to resurrect this thread, but I've one more question. Could the barrel link be too long or large? One of the more competent range staff (or at least he seems more competent) asked me about that this morning when I went to visit my gun. We talked about the malfunction and my limited efforts to fix it, and his comment about the barrel link was something like, "if the link is too long, then it'll prevent the barrel from dropping down properly after it unlocks, which could cause the malfunction." It sounded plausible, but I know only enough to be hazardous...


June 1, 2004, 03:24 PM
was something like, "if the link is too long, then it'll prevent the barrel from dropping down properly after it unlocks, which could cause the malfunction."

IF the link is so long that the barrel can't link down early enough or far enough to get the lugs clear of the slide...yep. If the locking lugs look good, that's not it.

Did you check for hammer binding between the slide and grip safety?

June 6, 2004, 03:30 PM
Sent you a P.M. . Talk with me after you get back from Lejeune.

July 29, 2004, 02:41 PM
Well, after many weeks of fussing around, I finally got my Colt .38 Super down to our match armorer. It appears 1911Tuner may have nailed it from the beginning. After checking and doublechecking the proper fit of all the parts, the diagnosis is a bad extractor, with far too much tension. If I followed the discussion correctly this morning (since I was shooting my annual pistol qualification course I may have been a bit distracted), apparently the extractor tension was so high it would not let go of the spent case after each firing. So, he has installed a new Wilson Combat Bulletproof extractor and is fine tuning it for me. With a little luck I'll be up and running tomorrow.

Thanks to all,

Dave Sample
July 31, 2004, 09:04 PM
If this guy is an expert and he didn't suggest a problem with the ejector, you may be surprised when you get it back. Good Luck.

July 31, 2004, 10:33 PM
I took care of worries about the ejector by giving him a Kings extended ejector to put in the gun for me. He was pretty certain the true problem was the extractor, but putting in the new extended ejector shouldn't hurt anything (at least I hope).

Dave Sample
August 2, 2004, 08:44 PM
Good Man! I can rest easy now.

August 3, 2004, 06:41 PM
OH YEAH! Now it shoots like a champ!

I didn't realize... our match armorers don't go to school per se, they actually learn to build match weapons on the job by building and repairing guns for the Marine Corps precision weapons shop. They spend a couple years building and repairing various match weapons, then they can transfer out to whatever unit is in need of a match armorer. Maybe that doesn't mean much by the commercial professional gunsmith standard (whatever that is), but I feel pretty confident these guys know the right way to do things.

Anyway, the Sgt who's helping me said a few things about the gun. One, the extractor was holding the case too tight, which contributed most to the failure to eject problem. Two, the barrel was fit super tight with the bushing, and that also didn't help (I can't recall the full explanation). Last, the hammer is rubbing pretty hard on the bottom of the slide as the slide cycles.

He replaced the extractor and ejector, and refit the barrel to bushing. He didn't think the hammer rubbing would cause any problems, but offered to refit parts if I wanted. It didn't affect the gun at all out on the range, so I didn't ask him to bother with it. Anyone disagree with leaving the hammer as is? I don't know enough to say one way or the other.

One last item... The gun still has an 11# spring in it. Should I increase the spring weight any? I read somewhere a good generic rule was to divide power factor by ten, which would call for maybe a 14# spring with the PMC loads I'm shooting. I don't want to deviate too far one way or the other in spring weight...

Thanks to all who've chimed in on this one!

August 3, 2004, 07:00 PM
Howdy brad,

The Super's "standard" recoil spring is 14 pounds, but the rate for best function can vary a little, depending on the mainspring loading and even
the slide to frame fit. Try a 14 and see what happens. If you get short
recoil, drop to a 12.

Your quote:

I didn't realize... our match armorers don't go to school per se, they actually learn to build match weapons on the job by building and repairing guns for the Marine Corps...

Yep...That works. :cool:



R.H. Lee
August 3, 2004, 07:04 PM
bradvanhorn said

It appears 1911Tuner may have nailed it from the beginning.

Just wanted to repeat this for anyone who missed it.


Official Member
Tuner Appreciation Club :)

August 3, 2004, 07:52 PM
Proof one again that even a blind squirrel can find a nut ever' so often...:cool:

Dave Sample
August 3, 2004, 11:41 PM
I am resting easy on this one. Our Hero has done it again! Atta Boy, Tuner. I am sorry I ever mentioned the ejector, but I have built a lot of 38 Supers.

August 4, 2004, 07:10 AM
Dave said:

I am sorry I ever mentioned the ejector...

NEVER be sorry for offering a suggestion that might lead to a cure!

We're all takin' shots in the dark here. Next time you'll squash the bug
while everybody else is stompin' all around it. I've never built a Super,
and can only go with a generic answer.

The ejector absolutely can cause a stovepipe FTE. It just didn't happen to be it this time. Next time it might turn out to be the Wiffle bearing or the
Witchet pin. Dang pistols can be more confusin' than wimmin sometimes!


Tuner the Lucky

Dave Sample
August 5, 2004, 04:04 PM
Thanks Tuner. The 38/9mm ejectors are set off toward the right so it can catch the smaller case rim. There is no way that a 45 ejector is going to do anything but cause problems. It also is extended because the Supers Cycle different that a 45ACP. Years ago, some of the early Colt Commanders slides were cut for a 39/9mm ejector and it was always a surprise when you discovered that. I have no idea what they were smokin' when they came up with that idea. I will refrain from any comments about C&S. If you can't say something good, keep the mouth shut!

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