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I build rifles for fun and work and I say if you buy quality and know how to assemble them, you can build a 2500 rifle without the price. The nice thing is you know whats in it as well. If you do not know how to build them and don't have access to a builder then its not that hard but you can go wrong. Buy a nice barrel and bolt and you are off to a good start. Or just buy a good colt and it will be just fine, maybe a few modifications.
 
Posts: 2727 | Location: Pnw | Registered: March 21, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Anubismp:
I build rifles for fun and work and I say if you buy quality and know how to assemble them, you can build a 2500 rifle without the price. The nice thing is you know whats in it as well. If you do not know how to build them and don't have access to a builder then its not that hard but you can go wrong. Buy a nice barrel and bolt and you are off to a good start. Or just buy a good colt and it will be just fine, maybe a few modifications.


But can you and do you, really?

To truly use the same parts that many of these manufacturers use, you don't end up saving as much money as you would think. Maybe on a $2500 gun, there's some margin there, but if you go buy parts and try to match BCM, SOLGW, Sionics, FN, DD, etc., you still end up spending fairly decent money.

You also don't end up with a manufacturer's warranty, your BCG/barrel are high pressure tested together, etc. You also need the right tools and gauges to really be able to assert any level of QC on your gun(s) beyond "it test fired fine." The cost per rifle for tools goes down as you build more rifles, but the average guy doing one or two is not going to see the cost per gun for tools look reasonable.

I'm not saying you can't build a good rifle on your own, that you can't save a little money doing it, and that it won't be a good rifle, I'm just saying it's not as simple as saying you can make "as good as" without knowing what "as good as" is and why. Having granular control over what goes into the rifle is nice, but a lot of times that level of control is an illusion. If you're a large manufacturer, you're likely specifying things like gas port size, specific steel and aluminum, tolerance level of small parts, etc. Even the smallest pin is not "all the same" and the good manufacturers know this.

For what it's worth, I armor rifles as part of my day job and build one-off guns to order as a small part of my FFL side business. I support home building guns and I've always enjoyed building guns, but this is ultimately not as simple of a solution as guys try to make it out to be.
 
Posts: 4483 | Location: Iowa | Registered: February 24, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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There is literally no market for guns more competitive than the AR market. So in general you get what you pay for. There are a few "brands" that I personally think are lower quality than their price point but that's just me.
In general you get something for the extra $ you spend.
But the trick is that what you might be getting might have no meaning to you.
With the limited info you have posted its hard to suggest the 'best' fit.


“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.”
 
Posts: 10066 | Registered: October 14, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by hrcjon:
There is literally no market for guns more competitive than the AR market. So in general you get what you pay for. There are a few "brands" that I personally think are lower quality than their price point but that's just me.
In general you get something for the extra $ you spend.
But the trick is that what you might be getting might have no meaning to you.
With the limited info you have posted its hard to suggest the 'best' fit.


This is absolutely accurate. You can really tell by how quickly AR prices returned to sanity after the 2020 circus. Sub-$40 lowers are back. $400 guns are back. Etc.
 
Posts: 4483 | Location: Iowa | Registered: February 24, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Due to recent events I expect the AR/military looking rifle market is about to get hot. If I were in the market I would make my decision sooner rather than later. IMO:
Colt is still Colt and for a basic no frills rifle a great choice. Moving up from there it more depends on your use for the rifle. Most will never see more than a few thousand rounds in one person's ownership.
 
Posts: 51 | Registered: August 22, 2019Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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^^^Well, it does still have the 'Horsey' on the side... Wink


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Posts: 5918 | Location: New Hampshire | Registered: October 29, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I was just looking at a S&W for $649 and a Saint for 800 something. I really like the plastic mlok thin furniture on the SA. Whether they are “great” I know not. Mine is predominantly an old 6920.
 
Posts: 5084 | Registered: June 18, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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If your need is to shoot some few hundred rounds, maybe a few thousand in several years, at distances of maybe under 200 yards, your practical need for accuracy is that of a fist-sized group, you have no intention of adding suppressors/aiming lasers, and you don't really plan on betting your life on it - there's not a huge practical difference between most AR rifles in terms of meeting that benchmark. Which for a lot of people that own an AR that's all they really need, and there's not much reason for them to spend more than $5-800, and going with a good brand name or specific look is probably going to suit you just fine.

If, however, your intended use falls outside of the above "casual plinking/hunting" type role and you want to start getting into suppressors/lasers, or more importantly this is something you're going to bet your life on, you probably want to step up more into the "duty" type rifles. A lot of good mentions in here - FN, SOLGW, POF, Colt (minus the CR line), Sionics, Centurion, BCM, the list goes on. Most of these are baseline $1000 or so for a no-frills carbine, up to $1500-1900 for up-optioned models. Notably FN is kind of backwards, their TAC-15 with wedgelock rail and other added features sell for less than their basic M4. I would strongly advise AGAINST building your first AR for self defense.

A complete gun has an added tax on it. Buying a complete lower and complete upper might save you money. Given your comments in the thread my pick would be a complete BCM lower in whatever flavor you prefer, which your local shop might have some of. Add to that a BCM ELW 16" MCMR 13" complete upper receiver. That's their enhanced lightweight (ELW) barrel profile that is similar to a lot of the "modern" contour barrels, but it's a very light profile that doesn't do too bad when it starts to warm up, nothing like some pencil barrels will do. The MCMR handguard is their slim MLOK version, and getting it in 13" shaves off a little weight vs. the 15". The MCMR rail is very slim, tough and stiff, it should serve any need you have. This combination is probably quite a bit lighter than a lot of other similar offerings in this price range, and the BCM quality is no slouch. I've got two friends with this setup using the original obsolete KMR magnesium rails and I still marvel at how little weight they have up front.



What are some of the actual differences between low cost guns and the "duty" types? Generally speaking, based on stuff I've seen, not calling out any specific brand or saying everyone conforms to this or not, but we'll say potentially, working back to front;
  • Receiver extensions, or buffer tubes, should be drop forged 7075 with a dry film lubricated interior, and rolled threads. The difference used to be "commerical" were larger diameter, cut threads, 6061, etc, and "mil-spec" were as described. Now companies make a lot of "mil-spec" components to not-that-spec. 6061 machined "mil-spec" buffer tubes.
  • Castle nuts and end plates are both steel (sorry, I forgot the type), assembled with anti-seize or grease, torqued to 38-42ft-lb, and the end plate staked into the castle nut in two locations. Deviations: aluminum parts, dry assembly, no staking, not tightened to spec. Sadly some of the more expensive brands get this wrong like Daniel Defense that doesn't always stake their nuts.
  • Lower receivers - if they're in spec there's not much that can go wrong. You have to put an effort towards making sure all of your stuff is in spec, and it really shines in places like the lower receiver. There is also potential for things to go horribly wrong, and any brand can screw something up, some are systematically better than others.
  • Cheap guns almost universally have shit triggers. They don't even go for the nicer OEMs of small parts like Schmid Tool that a lot of better brands use, even low cost rifles. Look for the S in a square box, Schmid Tool, this is good shit and OEM behind all of the ALG/BCM/SOLGW/etc stock and enhanced triggers.
  • While we're on small parts, the general springs and pins used vary quite a bit. It's hard to describe, but the cheap guns and kits come with cruddy springs that are thinner, lighter weight, less consistent kit to kit, they change OEMs often due to cost and supply so it's hard to nail things down, could be a lot of foreign production here with MIM, investment cast, and a few other processes all competing in a race to the bottom. I know some brands use Dependable Spring Co, Connecticut Spring, Sprinco, there are probably others, but they're all fairly consistent (like there's a spec they all follow and do it right?), effective, and much longer lasting than the budget alternative. Detents especially, the cheap stuff rounds off in a hurry and things feel snappy at first and mushy after they break in, the good stuff just works right from the start.
  • Upper receivers are like lowers, if they're in spec it's hard to mess up a forging. The nose of the receiver where the barrel seats, and the tolerance of that bore for the barrel are common spots for mistakes, usually being loose. Feed ramps tend to be more problematic for cheaper brands. The tolerance-driven brands will have "thermal fit" uppers, where the bore for the barrel is an interference fit and needs to be heated to expand far enough to accept the barrel - this is seen as an advantage in high firing schedule guns that will see extended high temperatures and is a feature BCM has, per my above rec..
  • Bolts should be Carpenter C158 steel, heat treated, magnetic particle inspected, and high pressure tested. 9310 steel is an alternative, but the heat treat is much more difficult to hit correctly, and most of the cheaper bolts aren't going to be inspected, or MPI only. Common early failures are broken lugs, broken at the cam pin bore, and cracks through the bolt - the first two are not exclusively caused by the bolt. Extractor claws need to be shaped correct, with adequate spring pressure, and more pressure is needed the shorter the barrel is. Similarly the ejector needs to move freely and have adequate force. Extractor and ejector tension are more often an issue due to cheap, underpowered springs.
  • Bolt carriers need to be in-spec, but that has a wide range of tolerances in various places and a combination of measurements between the bolt and carrier need to result in an adequate gas seal to drive the gun. Some manufacturers will not do a good job of controlling these tolerances, produce a "leaky" BCG, and compensate by adding more gas. Added gas is added velocity, is added wear, and things like stretched bolts, broken at the cam pin bore, broken bolt lugs start coming back into play. Carrier length is also important as falling outside spec could cause the carrier key to contact the lower receiver. In addition, the gas key needs to be properly mated to the carrier, bolted and torqued in place with proper hardware, staked in place. Commonly a YFS brand screw is used here which is too strong and brittle for the application and can shear off. Unstaked gas keys, leaky gas keys, under and oversized bore to the gas key, etc.
  • Barrels have some of the most controversy. Some love their cheap barrels, some say trash, some say theirs is made by so-and-so for this brand so that means it's just the same at that. Suffice it to say you can fuck it up in a hurry, and the cheaper brands are going to be less consistent with less effort put toward tight specs and tolerances. Gas ports are a fun topic and I could talk to death about it. Suffice it to say cheaper brands "tend to" go big so you get as much gas as possible to drive the gun, which will help it work with weak loads, or when somewhat dry or dirty - meaning this is done more so to limit customer complaints than it is to build a proper rifle. It works, it might beat itself to death, but what do you want for $500? Big names get it wrong, too, as mentioned in the thread.
  • Gas blocks should be steel, properly aligned to the gas port and tight fitting all around. Aluminum is sometimes used here, and getting a secure fit between the gas block and barrel remains a challenge for some. Some gas blocks leak like crazy. If cross-pinning isn't used a more secure method is to dimple the barrel for a knurl-tip set screw and use red locktite or rocksett.
  • Barrel nuts again need to be steel, and some people think aluminum is ok (it is not). We have another steel/aluminum bolted interface, so the threads are to be lubed (Aeroshell 33MS/64 if you want the spec stuff), and you are meant to bring the barrel nut to full torque and remove it 3 times. This is to force any deflection the threads will allow and better marry them together for a secure connection. This is sometimes skipped. The torque value is a pretty wide range, but going too high has potential to cause damage depending on how the parts are being help, and disassembly of an over-torqued nut can be equally destructive, much to the delight of unsuspecting home builders trying to take things apart. Again, there are big names that get this wrong. And of course too loose is apparent. But again, you need to care about how you're building your guns and train a team and put quality checks in place to make sure this happens correctly every time. Big brands that also make an AR tend to not put in the level of detail at the builder level that the dedicated AR brands might (again, trying to stay vaguely specific).
  • Handguards is a fun one because everyone makes a different one, none of them are mil-spec, and it's hard to tell what's really going on. I'm talking only about freefloat rails and not GI/mil-spec type arrangement. All of them are generally 6061 save a few oddities, 7075 extrusions just aren't available readily enough so everyone is pretty well stuck with 6061. There are a few things that actually matter - locking to the barrel nut and preventing itself from moving, remaining rigid to hold your accessories/sights, and doing so with some amount of use/abuse. Better designs do all of these well, have added features, are slicker than goose shit, but they're expensive. Cheaper designs do less of these things well, have less added features, tend to be rougher, boxier, simpler designs. The cheaper ones are mainly using a lug on the bottom side of the barrel nut to clamp as tightly as possible, with mixed results. "My handguard came off while shooting" is not an uncommon thing to see reported about various cheaper brands.
  • Finish is very subjective but I put it here anyway. The minimum is TypeIII hardcoat anodized to whatever thickness and blah blah is in the correct mil spec. Unfortunately that's not everyone's minimum, and any of the bright color finishes you see are TypeII (at least they're not usually marketed for duty). Some brand tend to have chalky, rough anodizing (even KAC), and subjectively I like the brands that put more effort into a nice gloss, clean finish.

    You can get all of that wrong and still have a working gun. It might not work for very long, which begs the question "how do you make it run longer?" but that leads to the next tier, and I don't have the time to delve into the higher cost options. Suffice it to say there's either something custom that catches your eye, or you shoot enough that the cost of bolts and barrels and terms like "Mean Time Between Failure" needs to be factored into your purchasing decison.

    I think I've rambled enough for today.
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    Posts: 5999 | Location: Romeo, MI | Registered: January 03, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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    I have noted some inaccurate remarks regarding Geissele Automatics. They have been making their own barrels in-house since 2018 and sending them out for the chrome lining. Basically, they make everything in house except for springs, grips and stocks. They forge their own lowers and everything is over-engineered: ie: their bolts are made from Carpenter 158+ Steel and have tested to over five times the life of a mil-spec bolt. The triggers, especially the SSA-E X, are head of the class. I have a couple of their rifles and have used a lot of their parts in fifteen of my current rifles.

    Rustpot gave an excellent rundown. He does not mention the castle nut and endplate, but I always us an FN plate, Aero Precision castle nut, and VLTOR extension, with a lot less torque on the nut. I use the Geissele 42 spring in both rifle and carbine builds and I recommend the VLTOR A-5 system that is listed in the below build sheet.

    Here is a copy of one of my build sheets and is typical for a carbine (with additional notes):

    UPPER RECEIVER: Aero Precision M4E1
    Barrel: 16" Aero Precision, .223 Wylde chamber, Fluted Stainless Steel
    Gas System: mid-length
    Gas Block: Aero Precision (note: I highly recommend the Daniel Defense Clamp low-profile gas block, Geissele and pinned gas blocks)
    Muzzle Device: Smith Enterprise Vortex A4
    Rail: 15” Aero Precision Atlas S-One
    Bolt Carrier Group: Geissele Reliability Enhanced BCG
    Charging Handle: Geissele Super (Blk)
    Sights: Front only: A.R.M.S. 71-LF
    Light: SureFire M340C Mini Scout, #A200771, 500 Lumens, CR123A battery

    LOWER RECEIVER: Aero Precision M4E1 # M4-00-----
    Trigger Group: Geissele SSA-E
    Safety Selector: Geissele Super Duty Ambidextrous Dog-Leg
    Bolt Catch: Geissele Maritime
    Mag Release: Geissele with Geissele button
    Pivot Pins: Geissele Super Duty
    Receiver Extension: VLTOR A5 System
    Buffer: VLTOR A5 H2, 5.3 oz. w/ Geissele 42 spring
    End Plate: FN
    Castle Nut: Aero Precision
    Stock: Mission First Tactical, Battlelink Minimalist Milspec Stock
    Grip: Magpul MOE+
    Vertical Grip: Magpul MVG
    Miscellaneous:
    SCOPE: Trijicon ACOG TA31-CH, 4x32, # 008-----, Red Crosshair
    Mount: American Defense MFG: AD-B3-C-H CANTILEVER -TALL (2110)
    Weight: 7 lbs. 12 oz.

    You might say that what I use is overkill for everyday rifles, but I also have put the safest tires on my cars regardless of cost.

    I trusted my life in Nam to government spec, low-bidder everything. I survived, but learned that there are certain things in which you never cut corners.

    .


    “Leave the Artillerymen alone, they are an obstinate lot. . .”
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    Posts: 2189 | Location: Louisiana | Registered: January 15, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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    Cannot comment on current quality and pricing but IMO AR’s aren't a one and done gun. One leads to another and so on.

    I think very few here can say they have only one ar and that the first ar they bought has served all needs and wants. If they can then they were not that interested in the ar platform or were very lucky with the first choice. AR’s are a really fun path to go down. The choice's, options and configurations are endless.

    I would start with a decent quality and priced that doesn't break the bank. This will allow you to get your feet wet and then lead you in a direction which your use and interest takes you.
     
    Posts: 17249 | Registered: December 26, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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    ^^^ The last two sentences above is good advice from Mustang-PaPa to get started.
     
    Posts: 1139 | Location: Western WA | Registered: September 11, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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    i think there is a lot good info posted. Having said that.

    A S&W M&P shot until it got so hot it caught on fire is a pretty good testament to what an entry level AR can do.

    Rugers, DPMS, Anderson, etc. Can compete with their more expensive counter parts. Whether in a defense situation or plinking situation.

    I think a lot of the "tier" talk is overrated myself.

    If there is a difference it is not substantial.

    So imho opinion if you want or feel you need an AR for whatever purpose. Buying one from a reputable source is going to serve you well every time if you care and maintain it.



    "Practice like you want to play in the game"
     
    Posts: 17260 | Registered: September 21, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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    Depends. (doesn't it always)

    As with most firearms, there a "tiers" so to speak.

    There is bargain basement junk.

    There is decent

    and there is "top of the line"

    For most of us, either of the latter two are just fine.

    It really depends on what you are going to do with it.

    If you are gonna shoot it at the range, then really, anything is fine except the lowest of the low.

    I have a couple mid/high end AR's, and a couple of mid range AR's.

    I don't have any uber high end ones. Not that they aren't nice, but I don't see the need for one.

    If you want to put good optics on it and use it as a longer range rifle (at least for a 5.56 round type long range) then certainly spend the extra money to get the best.

    If you are gonna play at the range, and keep a good rifle to defend you and yours with, get a decent mid range one, and invest the money you save into ammo to train and practice with.

    I'll take a mid range rifle in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, vs a high end rifle in the hands of someone who doesn't shoot it any day.





    Strive to live your life so when you wake up in the morning and your feet hit the floor, the devil says "Oh crap, he's up."
     
    Posts: 33044 | Location: St. Louis MO | Registered: February 15, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
    quarter MOA visionary
    Picture of smschulz
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    IMO, if you are asking a question like this ... you need to get some experience with one and then you will truly know the difference.
    At least go to a store and physically examine them and talk to the gun store guys to figure out what you need to start .
    Then shoot it and you will figure it out.
    Asking questions with zero experience is largely meaningless as it doesn't apply to you.
     
    Posts: 20443 | Location: Houston, TX | Registered: June 11, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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    If you are looking for a general purpose AR-15 that is reliable and accurate enough for HD and hitting steel plates at 250, there are a lot of reasonably priced choices. I have shot many Colts, FNs, Sigs, M&P 15A & T models, etc.. that do fine for this. If you want to spend more for incremental improvements, then think through exactly what you need the weapon to do.

    Don’t forget about the basics that you’ll need. A good sling for example is worth every penny. Chances are good you’ll spend as much or possibly more money on add ons than you did on the rifle.

    +
     
    Posts: 2702 | Location: Unass the AO | Registered: December 16, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
    That rug really tied
    the room together.
    Picture of bubbatime
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    The hate for Colt is nonsense. I have a gamut of old and new Colt rifles and the new stuff is just as good as the old stuff.

    It doesn't say M4 carbine on the side anymore. Oh noes!!! The horror!! Throw it in a dumpster !!

    Its STILL a good rifle, with properly made mil spec components made by govt contractors. Its reliable. And accurate. I have looked at many new Colt rifles and cant find anything wrong with them. At all.

    Its STILL a better rifle than a Smith Sport and yes they can still be found for under $1000. Every Colt rifle I have ever owned has been superior in every way to every BCM rifle I have ever owned.

    Id throw a brand new Colt 6920 into the back of any police cruiser and consider that officer well armed, with a well made, reliable weapon.

    Colt was purchased by CZ and they are a far better company than anything that ran Colt for the past 20+ years. Look for great things to come out of Colt in the next decade.


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    Posts: 6401 | Location: Floriduh | Registered: October 16, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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    Agree Bubba. Lots of Police Cruisers had (some probably still have) iron sighted 6920's. I'd feel comfortable with a 6920 as my Patrol Rifle.

    And thanks for clearing the air about the Colt nonsense.
     
    Posts: 1139 | Location: Western WA | Registered: September 11, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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    ^^^Nothing wrong with the 'old' Colt AR's, but the new Colt's are absolutely NOT the same quality. Watch the video you both must have missed at the bottom of the previous page and you'll see that much has changed on the new production Colts.

    Since Colt lost the US .mil contract, they've ceased many of the QC processes that defined the Colt AR...FN is the new Colt!


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    Trump 2024....Save America!
    "May Almighty God bless the United States of America" - parabellum 7/26/20
    Live Free or Die!
     
    Posts: 5918 | Location: New Hampshire | Registered: October 29, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
    Green grass and
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    ^^^^^This has beat to death. There is Colt and then there is colt. There is a difference. Para has posted a video as others have about the issue. It is real and confirmed.



    "Practice like you want to play in the game"
     
    Posts: 17260 | Registered: September 21, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
    Res ipsa loquitur
    Picture of BB61
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    I’d start with the bolt carrier group. If a company is cutting corners there, they are probably cutting corners elsewhere. I have a a friend with a Rock River LAR15. It has never failed but the gas key isn’t even remotely staked. It would seem safe to assume that if a company is cutting corners in the manufacture, testing, and/or assembly of the parts in a BCG, they are probably cutting corners elsewhere.


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    Posts: 11790 | Registered: October 13, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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