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Condor 14" and 18" El Salvador Machete in Carbon Steel

Condor Knife and Tool is Imacasa’s premium line that is made for the US market. Most machetes come with no sheath, a rough handle that requires some fitting, and an unsharpened edge. Condor machetes come with a leather sheath or have one available for purchase, fitted handles, and an amazing polished convex edge. They are the Cadillac of machetes.

My favorite machete in the Condor line is the El Salvador. It is a great all around machete largely due to its shape and thickness. It has a nearly straight spine with a slight upsweep, plenty of belly on the cutting edge, a great handle, and it is thick enough to the harder woods that are found in the northern USA while still remaining somewhat light and flexible. This is an exceedingly tough machete. Last year, Condor introduced the El Salvador machete in carbon steel, which made a tough machete even tougher (previously it was available in their excellent 420HC steel, which is the perfect stainless steel for a machete). I purchased a carbon steel version immediately and have loved it ever since.

This year they introduced a 14″ version which I love even more. For most of what I do when I am hiking or camping, I do not need the 18″ version. A shorter, handier machete packs lighter and is more than sufficient for fire prep, shelter building, and other tasks. The 14″ version has a bit more upsweep at the spine which gives it a very “weight forward” feel in the hand. This also really helps its chopping performance. However, the extra upsweep does preclude the use of the excellent plastic GI sheaths that I prefer. I may ground just a little of the point off the machete off so that it will work with my sheaths.

MacheteSpecialists.com is my preferred machete source and they are the only source of the 14″ version. You may also want to watch for an upcoming version of the El Salvador machete with a carbon steel blade and a micarta handle. If you are looking for a machete that is versatile, reasonably priced, and ready to use right out of the box, then check out the Condor El Salvador Machete.

ESEE (RAT Cutlery) Sheaths are Tops

People often ask me for recommendations on which knife to buy. Unless they have some really specific needs, I almost always say get something from ESEE (formerly RAT Cutlery). Why pick ESEE over any of the other great manufacturers that are out there? The answer is simple… it’s the sheaths!

There is no shortage of makers out there that are turning out great knives. ESEE doesn’t really do anything unique with their knives. The knives are just simple, honest designs, made from good materials, with a great warranty, and made by good people. It is their sheaths that give them a leg up. While most makers offer barely functional (and, in many cases, poorly made) sheaths that seem like an afterthought. ESEE knives come standard with sheaths that are versatile, well made, and extremely functional.

Take for instance the ESEE-4 (formerly the RC-4). It comes with a fold over style kydex sheath. That in and of itself isn’t very original. However, the sheath is configured to take a myriad of extra accessories that quickly, easily, and inexpensively add tons of functionality.

RC-4 attached to an Eagle Molle Shroud via Molle-Loks

You can use paracord to create belt loops to carry the knife vertically or horizontally on your belt. Blade-Tec Molle-Loks (included on some models) can be used to carry the knife on your belt or attached to any surface with PALs webbing (backpack, battle belt, vest, etc). ESEE also makes a backer (included on some models) that allows the knife to be carried in situations where it must be “jump safe”. This backer also lets the knife be attached to a belt so that the knife hangs below the belt line which many people find more comfortable. The backer also allows the knife to be attached to any surface with PALs webbing. The sheath can even be connected directly to the shroud on the venerable and prolific Safariland 6004 drop leg holsters or you can use a Blade-Tec Tek-Lok as a versatile mounting option. The number of mounting/carry options will boggle your mind.

The ESEE MOLLE backer can be used as a belt hanger on regular and MOLLE belts.

Choosing a carry/mounting option is as simple as matching the best option with your method of carry. I use the backer for MOLLE battle belt carry. This allows the knife to hang comfortably and securely below the belt line. I also use the backer to attach the sheath to a normal belt when hiking. I use the Molle-Loks to attach the knives to other PALs webbing covered surfaces like my Eagle Industries Molle Drop Leg Panel for Safariland holsters.

A simple piece of inner tube can help lock the sheath in place on your belt when using paracord as a belt loop.

Some of the larger models like the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 have accessory pouches that can be easily attached to the front of the sheaths. These pouches can used to carry small items like sharpeners, multi-tools, and small survival kits. Have an option to attach or remove these pouches is quite unique and useful.

I do not know of any other manufacturer that offers a sheath system that even begins to approach the versatility of the ESEE sheaths. So next time you are considering purchasing a knife, make sure you weigh your sheath options. If the knife you are considering doesn’t have a sheath that fits your needs completely (and chances are good that it won’t), take a look at the ESEE line of knives and tools. Don’t settle for a lousy sheath!

More info on ESEE Sheaths and carry/attachment methods can be found HERE. You can also view this 2 part PDF document for sheath info: Part 1 and Part 2. (These PDFs and the following picture are property of ESEE)

Click to Enlarge.

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MacheteSpecialists.com Review

Machetes just might be the perfect survival knife. They are inexpensive yet exceedingly tough. They can be used for everything from clearing a trail, to fire starting, to game cleaning, to shelter construction. You simply can not beat the utility of a good machete. Once you are used to using a machete in the woods, it will be hard to carry anything else (especially an expensive “survival” knife).

Until recently, finding a good machete in the USA could be a bit of a challenge. Many of the best brands and designs were available only in South America where the machete is a far more pervasive tool. There was a serious void in the US market for brands like Imacasa and Tramontina.

The good folks at Machete Specialists have filled that void! Now you can purchase some amazing machetes from all over the world. They offer a 30 Day Guarantee and even have videos on proper machete use that were made by machete designer and knife writer Joe Flowers. Machete Specialists are THE definitive source for machetes on the web.

Review: Emerson SOCFK

I have been carrying a Spyderco Endura 4 with the Emerson Wave for about 3 years now. It is still going strong, but I thought it was time to give another knife a try. I have grown quite fond of the Emerson Wave feature on my Spyderco and I have literally wanted to own an Emerson ever since I have been old enough to buy my own knives, so an actual Emerson knife seemed like the logical choice.

There is no more iconic “tactical folder” than the Emerson CQC-7. The CQC-7 and the Emerson Commander practically gave us the term “tactical folder”. Typically, I hate even uttering the word “tactical” since it is so overused but I suppose it fits in the case of the CQC-7. So, given the iconic nature of the CQC-7, I decided that if I was going to try an Emerson, it should be one that really represents what Ernest Emerson is all about, it should be a CQC-7.

I began search high and low for a plain edge Emerson CQC-7 and the search was proving quite difficult until I came across Extreme Outfitters. Not only did they have plain edge CQC-7s in stock at a reasonable price, but they also had a model that is made exclusively for them by Emerson… the SOCFK.

Click to enlarge.

From Extreme Outfitters:

This knife was developed to address the requirements of individuals who worked in situations where grip may be compromised such as cold, wet environments. The SOCFK is widely used by waterborne teams in the Navy, Marines, and Army.

This hybrid knife is the result of crossing the world standard CQC-7 and the hardcore SPECWAR knife. This crossbred knife is a direct result of specific requests by operators who wanted the proven characteristics of the CQC-7 blade, the size and handle ergonomics of the SPECWAR knife and the wave opening (remote pocket opener) of the Commander knife. It is the first knife outside of the Commander series to employ the wave-opening feature. Basically, this knife was designed by operators, built for operators and used by operators. This knife has all the characteristics needed to put it into the world’s elite class of knives. Knives that meet and exceed the unique demands of the elite special forces units of the U.S. Navy, Army, and Marine Corps.

Click to englarge.

The SOCFK had the blade I wanted with the more contoured “SPECWAR” handle (from Emerson’s earlier SPECWAR model). I was sold. I added it to my cart, paid, and waited. Extreme Outfitters shipped it very quickly (you can’t beat FREE Priority Mail shipping!) and had it to me in just 3 business days. It went immediately into my pocket (after snapping some pics while it was still pristine).

Review

I have now been carrying the SOCFK for several days. I am happy to report that it cuts things. That may sound ridiculous but it may come as a surprise to some people who listen to the pontifications of some individuals on internet forums who talk about how useless chisel ground edges and “American” tanto shaped blade are. This seems to be a rumor that is repeated often enough that it has become truth that people except with out any actual personal experience.

The chisel ground edge is just another way to make something sharp (and this knife is VERY sharp). It cuts and cuts well. It may have a tendency to draw the cut to one side or the other but this can be controlled. It has advantages and disadvantages just like any other type of grind (convex, flat, saber, hollow, etc, etc, etc). If you listen to some you would think that a chisel ground knife was useless. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The angular “American” tanto shape that Ernest Emerson made such an icon is actually very useful. It has a long section of useful straight edge like a sheepsfoot or wharnecliffe style blade. It also has a very fine (but still strong) point which is one of the most useful features of any knife. It also has a leading edge which can be useful for scraping and other cutting tasks. In my opinion, it is a very useful blade shape.

The handle on the SOCFK is an ergonomic wonder. It has many contours which often means the knife will be comfortable in only one grip (usually hammer grip). But surprisingly, the SOCFK is comfortable in ALL grips. I am not sure how Ernie did it but this handle shape is magic.

The lock up on my SOCFK is typical Emerson. Many people talk poorly of liner locks. Often their opinions are based on cheap liner lock knives that do have poorly constructed locks. The lock on this SOCFK locks up like a bank vault. The titanium liner is very thick.  It also locks up very early (meaning it locks up on the near side of the tang) which is a good thing. Early lock up means that it will take a long time before the lock wears out. I also like how well the handle slabs protect the liner lock on this particular knife design. This reduces the danger of accidentally disengaging the liner lock when “white knuckling” the SOCFK. This knife is the blueprint for the way that liner locks should be made.

The handle features nicely shaped and aggressively textured G-10 slabs. The texture coupled with the handle contours make this knife very easy to retain even with wet/muddy/bloody/snotty/oily hands. The blade features a very evenly applied and attractive black coating. All of the screws used by Emerson are either slotted or Phillips head so you don’t need special tools to work on them. That is a nice touch.

Emerson Knives are still made right here in the USA and backed by some of the nicest people you’ll meet in the knife industry. The warranty and customer service are excellent.

This is a lot off knife for the money. If you are shopping for a new folding knife for everyday carry, duty use, or even collecting, the SOCFK could be the knife for you.

Details From Extreme Outfitters

Overall Length 8.75 in.
Blade Length 3.40 in.
Handle Length 5.0 in.
Blade Thickness .125 in.
Hardness 57-59 RC
Weight 5.53 oz.
Handles
Black G-10 epoxy / glass laminate
Liners
Aerospace grade Titanium
Blade
154 CM
Finish
Black – T™ or Satin Finish
Grind
“B” Blade – Chisel ground Tanto style
“A” Blade – Conventional V ground spearpoint

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Review: Danger Close Consulting Low Pro Scout Mount

Here is the bottom line up front…The Danger Close Consulting (DCC) Low Pro Scout Mount is the mount that should come with the Surefire M600 Scout Light from the start! I have had this for a couple of weeks now and it is everything that I hoped it would be and does everything I hoped it would do.

The DCC Low Profile Scout Mount works great on the Daniel Defense 9.5FSP Lite Rail.

Problem Solver

I think the one of the best compliments you can pay to a piece of gear is to say that it solves a problem. This mount solves multiple problems. The M600 Scout Light is a great weapon light in its stock form but it has some shortcomings, especially for those who will be using it without the remote pressure pad switch (I despise them). The stock mount places the light too low in relation to the shooter’s support hand grip. The light falls in a place that is awkward to reach with the support hand thumb. The stock mount also places the light high above the rail and has a large thumb screw that can be a snag magnet.

The DCC Low Pro Mount allows the user to place the light at around 11 o’clock on the rail and it tucks the light in very close to the rail. This is a much more natural position to hit with the thumb of the support hand and there is no more thumb screw to snag anything and everything.

Here you can see just how low profile the mount really is.

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is often what separates good gear from great gear and the DCC Low Pro Scout Mount is great gear. The mount is very nicely machined with no visible machining marks. The hard anodized finish is smooth and evenly applied. There is a large hole that has been machined away to save weight. It would have been easier and cheaper to just machine a round hole, but DCC chose to mill a more complex shape that would save more weight. The set screw that provides tension against the rail even has a small rubber pad to prevent the steel screw from gouging your aluminum rails. That is attention to detail.

Note the lightening cut.

Locked Down

This mount is solid. The light is held to the mount with 2 screws (provided). I used a bit of Loc-Tite on both screws. The mount itself must be slid onto the rail from the end. The set screw should then be positioned in a rail slot. Once the set screw is in position, you simply tighten the set screw. This keeps the mount from moving forward and back by dropping into a slot and by pulling the mount up against the under side of the rail. It is rock solid.

Here you can see the two mounting screws and the green rubber pad on the set screw.

In Use

The difference when you are actually using the light must be felt to be believed. Those who are familiar with trying to use an M600 Scout Light with the factory mount will know immediately what an improvement this mount has the potential to be. I shoot with a vertical grip but I don’t wrap my hand around it. I use a thumb forward grip on it much like I would with my support hand when shooting a handgun. The original Surefire mount didn’t work very well with this grip. It was simply too low since it could only be mounted at 9 o’clock on the rail. I would have to contort my hand and shift my grip to get my thumb down to the tail cap which basically meant that I left the light unused. Now, with the DCC, the tail cap falls much more naturally under my support hand thumb at around 11 o’clock on the rail. I no longer have to shift or contort my grip and the light is much more usable.

Verdict: Buy One!

Jon at DCC is a genuinely nice guy and he is active in the Army Special Forces so he knows a bit about what makes gear work. If that isn’t enough reason to buy one, then knowing that this is the only mount of its kind should be. If you running the M600 Scout Weapon Light with the “clickie” tail cap then you need this mount. Buy one.

Look for an upcoming interview with Jon at Danger Close Consulting on Jerking the Trigger.

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Review: SWAT Magazine

I have never paid for a magazine subscription in my life. I have been given subscriptions as gifts, but i have never paid for one with my own money. That changed recently after reading several issues of SWAT Magazine.

SWAT is not just a gun magazine. It is a tactics and training magazine. There are reviews of training courses in just about every issue. There are amazing articles from Pat Rogers on technique and training. This magazine is for shooters, not gun owners.

The contributors really set SWAT apart. You will see names like Pat Rogers who you may know as, perhaps, the premier carbine instructors in the nation. The Pat Rogers articles alone are worth the price of admission. Jeff Randall, co-owner of ESEE Knives and premier survival/escape & evasion trainer, contributes regularly. Louis Awerbuck is in every issue. Mr. Awerbuck is one of the real thinkers in tactical training today. There are also many other well-known and influential contributors.

SWAT also is more than willing to tell its readers when a product is garbage. You simply will not find that in most magazines because they are afraid to lose an advertiser. SWAT seems to be more concerned about making sure their readers don’t buy and stake their lives on a piece of junk. That is the way it should be.

The title may be SWAT but this magazine is geared toward the civilian shooter. The editor, Denny Hanson, does an excellent job of balancing politics and gun content. He is also a constant advocate for gun rights in his editorials and responses to readers who write to the magazine.

It is truly worth your time and money to purchase and read.

Review: Leupold Yosemite 6×30 Binoculars

The word is out on the Leupold Yosemite binoculars (bins). If you read any forum dedicated to optics you will find people praising these bins for their brightness, clarity, and ergonomics. Their performance is unmatched by bins costing two to three times as much money. So how good can a pair of $80 bins be? In this post, we will take a look at what makes the Leupold Yosemite 6×30 binoculars special and we will learn a little about binoculars along the way.

Porro Prisms

The Yosemites use porro prisms instead of roof prisms. Porro prism bins will generally cost less than roof prism bins. They will also generally outperform low priced roof prism bins. The old rule used to be that you would have to spend three to four times as much on roof prism bins to get equal performance to a good set of porro prism bins. That rule is not quite as true today thanks to the proliferation of quality, low cost imported glass, but it is still true that inexpensive porro prism bins will outperform similarly priced roof prism bins. If you are on a budget, porro prisms will yield the best bang for your buck. Porro prisms will generally offer wide field of view, great depth of field, and a more three dimensional looking image than typical roof prisms.

The biggest drawback of porro prism bins is that they are typically larger because of how they are constructed. Roof prism bins can have straight barrels which means they can be more compact. Porro prism bins have two 90 degree turns incorporated into the construction. This makes the barrels larger. Even with these larger barrels, the Yosemites are still quite compact at only 4.6 inches long and 6.3 inches wide.

Exit Pupil

The Yosemite is also offered with 8x magnification and the same 30mm objectives. These are also quite clear but will be dimmer than the 6x model. This is due to exit pupil. Exit pupil is basically the virtual aperture that is created by your bins. Only light that passes through this aperture can be transmitted to the eye. The human eye is dilated to about 4mm in bright light and opens to 5-9mm in low light situations. The larger the exit pupil of your bins, the more capable they will be in low light. If the exit pupil is too small, the bins will appear dim because they are not transmitting all the light that your eyes can receive.

Exit pupil is calculated by dividing the objective size by the magnification. In this case, 30mm divided by 6 magnification, equals an exit pupil of 5mm. Using the same formula on the 8×30 model we get an exit pupil of 3.75mm. So, as the magnification increases, the objective size must also increase in order to provide the same amount of light. As objective size increases, so does the size of the binocular. The 5mm exit pupil of the 6×30 Yosemite bins mean that they will provide enough light to work very well at dusk and dawn while still being compact.

Magnification

Some of you may be thinking that 6x magnification is not enough. However, most binocular users are surprised to find that they can actually see more detail with lower power bins! Bins with higher magnification not only magnify the object you are viewing, but also the shakiness of your hold. Sometimes you can even see your heart beat. Most users would get more out of their bins if they stuck with 6-8x magnification.

Other Features and Specs

  • Rubber Armor for toughness and improved grip
  • Available in black, tan, and camo colors
  • Center focus wheel
  • Right eye diopter
  • Waterproof/dust proof
  • Comes with lens covers, soft case, and neck strap
  • Leupold Lifetime Warranty
  • Eye relief: 20mm
  • Field of view: 420 feet at 1000 yards
  • Weight: 17 ounces

So What?

Everything above may not mean much to you so I will break it down. These bins are light weight and compact. They carry very light and don’t take up much space in a pack. I have found them to be very durable and very easy to use. The focus wheel is stiff enough without being too stiff and the diopter stays set. The eye cups work well and seem well made. These are constructed very well, but the real story here is the optics.

If your only experience with bins are cheap compact models from the grocery store, these will blow you away. They are extremely sharp and bright. They offer excellent low light performance. The colors are bright and true to life. The optics are just excellent. To put it in perspective, they are slightly brighter, clearer, and sharper than my $250 8×42 Nikon Monarch bins. I can actually see more detail with the 6x Yosemites in some scenarios than I can with the 8x Monarchs. That is impressive for a $80 pair of bins.

ESEE Knives Micarta Izula Scales

Here is the Izula with a simple cord wrap. Click to Englarge.

The ESEE Knives (formerly RAT Cutlery) Izula is already one of the finest small production fixed blades on the market. It is compact, yet usable, light weight, brute strong, and comes with one of the most versatile sheath systems you will ever find. How do you improve on something that is already so great?

Here is the Izula with the new bolt on Micarta scales. Click to Enlarge.

ESEE has released bolt on Micarta scales for the Izula. These scales offer a huge upgrade in grip on this pint size blade. With the scales in place the thickness of the Izula’s grip is quadrupled which makes the knife much easier to hold! The canvas Micarta also has a texture that further enhances grip. The scales are also designed to maintain the usefulness of the unique loop at the end of the Izula’s handle. This loop can be used for a number of things, including clipping the Izula to a backpack strap.

The kit comes with the screws and scales needed to install the scales on your Izula. It couldn’t be easier to install them. Simply snap the two scales in place and then affix both screws. I used blue Loc-tite on the screws to make sure that the screws wouldn’t loosen with use.

These are in stock now at many ESEE dealers.

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Review: Nite Ize Figure 9 Rope Tighteners

There is no substitute for a working knowledge of knots but sometimes a well designed piece of gear can make your life a lot easier. This is the case with Nite Ize Figure 9 Rope Tighteners. These little things are deceivingly simple in construction, extremely versatile in application, and shockingly easy to use.

The Figure 9 comes in 3 sizes to handle different diameters of rope and different sized loads. They appear to be cast from aluminum and are very light weight. There are directions for their use laser etched directly on the Figure 9, though you will probably never need to reference them once you have used them a couple of times. Nite Ize makes them in both bare aluminum and black-coated finishes.

I have some of the largest ones (“big” size) that I use with climbing rope in my truck in place of ratchet straps. I have found them to be much more versatile than ratchet straps for securing loads, though there may still be times when the compound leverage of the ratchet strap is needed.

I also have several of the “small” size. My favorite use for them is to tighten the guy lines on my poncho/tarp tents. I have really come to appreciate the usefulness, light weight, and small pack size of a simple poncho or tarp in place of a tent when hiking. There are few more versatile pieces of gear than a simple GI Surplus or Ultra Sil-Nylon poncho. These Figure 9s make pitching a tight, crisp tarp/poncho tent fast and easy. They also make taking it down fast and easy. I can take down my poncho tent in less than 1 minute thanks to not having to pick apart knots.

The “small” size works well with paracord which I am sure many Jerking the Trigger readers use frequently. It also works well with braided spectra line, tether cord, and my favorite, jute twine. I typically keep a roll of jute twin in all my kits since it is cheap, it doesn’t stretch like paracord, and it makes an excellent tinder for fire starting. Nite Ize does not recommend that you use twine with the Figure 9 but so far I have not had a problem. Twine can fray relatively easily so I certainly wouldn’t use it to secure a heavy load in any application where I had to keep reusing the same piece of twine.

These Figure 9 Rope Tighteners make a great addition to your emergency shelter or general purpose tool kit.

Diamondback Tactical Short Open Top M4/M16 Magazine Pouch

I have been using Diamondback Tactical’s (DBT) Short Open Top M4/M16 Magazine Pouches for almost 2 years. They are sold under DBT’s Battlelab tactical nylon brand. I have used both the MOLLE version and the belt mounted versions. Both are excellent products at a very reasonable price (about $16 per pouch).

 

 

PMAGs work very well with this pouch. Click for a larger view.

 

These work great on a MOLLE belt which is where I use mine most of the time. They will also work on chest rigs and plate carriers. The strength of this pouch is the speed at which it presents the magazine. It is purposely cut short to allow a full grip on the magazine which promotes speedy, fumble-free reloads.

 

This is the MOLLE version. Click for a larger view.

 

The pouch itself is very simple. It is essentially just a an open top “box” made from 1000D Cordura nylon. The magazine is retained two ways (other than gravity). There is a shock cord  retainer strap that loops over the magazine to keep it in place. The pouch is also lined with a textured rubber material that provides friction so that the mags actually stay in place pretty well without the shock cord retainer. This liner also serves as a wear resistant layer that protects the already wear resistant nylon.

 

 

Note the interior rubber lining. Click for a larger view.

 

I have found these to be very versatile. I use them primarily with 30 round AR mags. I have found that they fit with USGI, PMAGs, ARC, and Lancer magazines. I have also found that they work very well with my favorite AK magazines, the 20 round Hungarian Tanker Mags. In fact, these are my favorite pouches that I have ever used for these Hungarian Tanker Mags.

 

 

Hungarian Tanker Mags fit perfectly. Click for a larger view.

 

These pouches offer reasonable retention without the bungee retainer in place. If you turn the pouch upside down and shake it when it is holding a loaded mag, the mag will fall out readily without the retainer. However, in 2 years and countless drills of all types, I have yet to loose a mag out of one these pouches with or without the retainer. The rubber lining is sufficient to keeps the mags in place unless you are upside down.

I am currently using these as my primary mag pouches on my belt rigs. They serve that purpose very well. They offer the kind of speed that you need to really leverage the advantages of reloading from the belt. In a training situation where I am expected to bring more ammo to the line (I don’t recommend more than 2 or 3 primary mags on your belt), I simply feed these pouches from a chest rig so I can reinforce going to the belt for my reload.

These are great pouches that would work well on a belt rig or as a speed reload pouch on a plate carrier. This Regular Guy recommends them highly.

Update: I recently ordered three more of these pouches and found that the new ones seem a bit tighter which is welcome. They still work well with AK mags but seem to have a bit more grip on my AR mags.

 

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