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Summary: Walt Rauch’s review of and rating for the SIG Sauer P290 pistol, including a range report, photos, pricing, specs, user ratings and user comments. (Click here to see all of Rauch’s pistol reviews.)
A gun maker faces many challenges when asked to create a 9mm pocket pistol. It must remain small and light enough for carry—i.e., it must go almost unnoticed by its wearer while using minimal concealment over long periods of time and, of course, be masked from everyone else. Naturally, such a pistol must be reliable. It must also be intuitive in operation and provide handling characteristics that aid in accurate shot placement. And firing the gun should not evoke an “ouch!” for every shot fired.
Of course, the final product should remain affordable and, if possible, allow for adding a gun light or laser. The gun should also be robust enough to sustain ongoing live-fire practice.
A tall order, but based on the sample pistol I tested, the SIG Sauer P290 it hits all these benchmarks. SIG did a good job here with some subtle touches that don’t leap out at first (or even second) glance but greatly contribute to its shooting and handling characteristics.
The P290 is double-action-only with a listed trigger pull weight of 9 lbs. My sample’s measures 9.25 lbs. A spurless external hammer is used, and it doesn’t lay flush into the slide when a round is chambered or the action cycled. The hammer rests in the hammer safety intercept notch, which prevents it from contacting the firing pin. If the trigger is pulled through its full movement and the slide isn’t retracted, as with a misfire or an empty chamber, only then will the hammer be fully forward against the firing pin.
SIG offers four variations of the P290 using two core versions: one with a Nitron finish over either a blackened stainless steel slide, or a natural stainless steel (grey). You can easily add SIG’s Integrated Laser Module (290-ILM) to either; it mounts on the frame’s dust cover. Without laser, the P290 weighs 20.5 oz.; adding the laser gains 1 oz.
The P290’s slide moves on four steel rails that, along with other operating parts and controls, are in the polymer frame. Dual recoil springs encircle a polymer guide rod. A modified Browning lock-up system is employed, and a slide-mounted passive firing pin safety supports the spring-loaded firing pin. A large external extractor is at the right rear of the also-large ejection port. Five diagonal grasping grooves are rearward of the ejection port.
The front and rear sights are dovetail-secured and drift-adjustable for windage. You can get the pistol with SIGLITE sights or standard SIG sights. The latter feature a white dot in the front sight and a white bar beneath the rear sight notch. My sample has the SIGLITE sights, which feature tritium inserts encircled with white-colored rings in the sight faces.
With either, you can accomplish elevation adjustment with the front or rear sight because differing sight height combinations are available from SIG. Each rear sight change moves point-of-impact (POI) approximately 2″ at 25 yards, and each front sight switch moves POI roughly 1″ at the same distance. If a change is necessary, SIG says “… it’s easier if you change the rear sight first.” On my sample, the front sight is numbered 6, while the rear sight is numbered 8.
The P290’s six-round magazine (SIG says an eight-round magazine is in the works) has a metal body and follower. The polymer base plate is removable. The magazine body has cartridge witness holes numbered 2–6 on each side. The base plate fits flush and is surrounded by the frame except at the bottom-center of the grip, where the plate is enlarged to fill a now-relieved portion of the frame. These grooved areas provide a finger hold on the otherwise fully surrounded magazine body. To release the magazine, press the magazine catch located at the left rear of the trigger guard. With this sample, the empty magazine ejects. Also, despite the instruction book stating the catch is reversible, it’s not, as is stated on the supplied correction sheet.
Back to the trigger guard. On its lower inner shelf, there’s an upward bulge beneath, forward of and rear of the trigger’s lower tip. Its purpose: to guide your trigger finger onto the trigger face, while not allowing the finger to catch on the trigger’s lower tip.
This sort of attention to detail—call it human engineering—is also reflected in dual-sided, shallow-relief scoops on either side of the frame behind the trigger. The scoop is wide at the front and narrows to the rear of the frame. It also aids in guiding your trigger finger to center placement on the trigger face and does the same for the opposing grasping thumb. Other plusses: Although the P290’s backstrap is wider than some pocket pistols, this narrowing of the grip makes for a less bulky feel and should be appreciated by someone with smaller hands because it makes it easier for them to reach the trigger and the magazine catch.
More attention to detail: SIG included a concavity surrounding the right side of the slide-stop pin that permits the head of the pin to be recessed to so shooters don’t inadvertently dislodge it (you can still easily push the pin inward for removal). The operating side of the long slide catch is raised front to rear in a longitudinal and grooved sweep.
Up front, the dust cover has provision for attaching the SIG’s proprietary 290-ILM laser. A rectangular opening in the dust cover is filled with a soft plug. The 290-ILM has what is termed a “laser key” matching this opening. You insert the slotted metal key and turn it in a figure-8 relief to lock the laser to the dust cover. The laser has momentary operating buttons on either side.
The 290-ILM is shaped to blend into the dust cover and forward trigger guard face and weighs just .8 oz. To adjust it for windage and elevation, you turn two small allen screws with the supplied 1.5mm allen wrench. Also included: a 3VCR1/3N lithium battery, which is inserted within the bottom center of the laser body beneath a hinged cover. Shooters activate the laser to constant on by pressing one of the well-protected, rubber-faced buttons located on either side of the laser body.
The frame’s gripping areas feature finely molded stippling, including the frontstrap, backstrap and the removable side panels that lie flat into the frame. You can remove these panels from their grooved tracks by taking out a cross pin at the lower rear of the frame.
The purpose of the panels, according to SIG‘s Web site, is to “… allow for customization with aluminum, wood and polymer and [they] can be engraved with your initials for a true customized pistol (coming soon).” I can also see them being replaced with thicker, rounded inserts that would provide an even better grip for someone with large hands.
Speaking of the grip area, at first I didn’t think it was adequate because when I picked it up at my FFL dealer, King Shooters Supply in King of Prussia, Pa., I found that with my habitual high grip, the web of my hand was almost in line with the bottom of the slide. I foresaw the slide cutting me when shooting or my hand stopping the slide from cycling. Fortunately, I was wrong—neither happened to me or three others who also shot the gun. I now think this very high grip is a design feature, not a flaw, particularly because it’s encouraged by an equally higher relief area beneath the trigger guard that assists in acquiring such a grip.
I appreciated the high grip when firing the P290 because the combination of a small gun and 9mm ammunition can make for some serious muzzle flip. The gun still delivers some serious upward movement—when we fired it indoors with the laser on, an observer noted the laser beam moved upward almost vertically with every shot. But thanks to the high grip I hadn’t noticed it; the gun snapped right back down and on target for all six rounds.
Next, while the grip appears thicker than some, the frame has a depressed area on both sides running from near the backstrap to almost the rear of the trigger guard. These depressions form the grip into a slightly-narrowing wedge shape, which provides a good, firm and comfortable grip and, as just noted, promotes quick sight recovery.
My efforts at shooting for group at 17 yards were frustrating because I simply couldn’t shoot up to what I thought to be the gun’s potential. The best I could do were 3″–5″ five-shot groups despite the nice, smooth 9 lb.-plus double-action trigger pull, which felt lighter. I shot Black Hills 115grain FMJ, CCI Gold Dot 124-grain +P (Short Barrel) GDHP, Cor-Bon 115-grain +P DPX and Winchester 147-grain SXT Personal Protection JHP ammunition and had no malfunctions, but also no outstanding groups.
On my second range trip, I lucked out as one of my shooting buddies, Ted Murphy, came with me. I still wasn’t getting what I wanted in group size, but when I took a break and turned the gun over to Murphy, I said, “How about you shooting a nice group?” A few minutes later Murphy came out with a Shoot-N-See target in hand while grinning and asked if the results were satisfactory. He’d place five rounds of the115-grain FMJ Black Hills ammo into 1″, and there were witnesses. I then remembered his skill with a revolver—he’s classified Master in Standard Service Revolver Class for International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) competition. (I’d managed to get Expert classification in the same game, but that was more than a few years ago.) The point: The gun has an intrinsic accuracy—this one anyway—and with good ammo, this group can be duplicated. With lots of practice!
Here are the results obtained using a ProChrono Crony chronograph shooting five-shot groups through the P290 at 300 feet above sea level with ambient temperature of 60 degrees at 17 yards using a gun-bag rest:
- Black Hills 115grain FMJ: 1,030 fps, 1″ group
- CCI Gold Dot 124-grain +P (Short barrel) GDHP: 1,103 fps, 5″ group
- Cor-Bon 115-grain +P DPX: 1,251 fps, 3.5″ group
- Winchester 147-grain SXT Personal Protection JHP: 935 fps, 3″ group
The P290 is the first pistol of the new crop of pocket 9mms that I and my shooting partners found to be actually pleasant to shoot a reasonable amount, not painful (with standard-pressure loads, that is). This big plus comes at the cost of slightly increased size and weight compared to the other pocket nines, however. The P290 pushes right up against the limits of what constitutes a pocket pistol in the weight category, and with its weight and grip girth, the P290 will sag in lightweight pants or coat pockets. Bottom line: For serious users, this should be an acceptable trade-off.
Truth be told, I can see the P290 also being pressed into service as an off-duty or regular belt-mounted carry pistol, particularly when used with the forthcoming eight-round extended magazine.
Walt Rauch received a BS degree from Carnegie Tech and completed service as a Special Agent in U.S. Army Intelligence. Rauch was a U.S. Secret Service Special Agent and a Philadelphia, Pa., Warrant Unit Investigator. He now operates a consulting company for defense-weapon and tactical training. Rauch & Company services include expert witness testimony on firearms use and tactics.
Rauch is also a writer and lecturer in the firearms field. He’s published in national and international publications including InterMedia’s Handguns, several Harris Publications specialty magazines, Police and Security News and Cibles (France). He is the author of a book on self-defense, Real-World Survival! What Has Worked For Me, as well as Practically Speaking, a comprehensive guide to IDPA defensive pistol shooting.
In May 2012, SIG announced a new P290 model, the P290 RS, which features:
- DAO re-strike capability;
- a reshaped beavertail frame;
- a recontoured magazine release;
- a reduced and reshaped slide release; and
- finger-grip magazine floorplates.
You can get the P290 RS in three flavors:
- The P290RS Nitron, which features a Nitron finish on the slide;
- The P290RS Laser Two-Tone, which features a natural stainless steel finish on the slide and a removable, frame-mount laser sight; and
- the P290RS Rainbow, which features a rainbow titanium coated slide and controls.
|9mm||6+1, 8+1||2.9″||5.5″||1.1″||3.9″||20 oz. with
Note: This pistol is not California- or Massachusetts-compliant.
MSRP: $758 (Nitron finish)
MSRP: $786 (two-tone finish)
MSRP: $828 (Nitron finish w/laser)
MSRP: $856 (two-tone finish w/laser)
MSRP: $613 (P290 Rainbow Titanium)
36 thoughts on “SIG Sauer P290”
All of the above may be true, but has anyone tried to disassemble this weapon? Two of tried, so far unsuccessfully. I can’t believe a pistol of this quality would make a basic chore so difficult.
Have had my 290 for about 6 weeks. Have yet to shoot it as I had to send the magazine back as I could only get 4 shells to install. Even at four, I my thumb is still trying to heal.
Additionally, I’ve had problems with the magazines which have plastic bases that move around during loading/handling.This causes problems seating in the weapon. Not well made.
My dealer did find out how to disassemble the weapon, however. Not the easiest, but manageable unlike the deceptive directions in the manual and the initial information I received from SigSauer
Guess I will have to back to the dealer and take a ” take apart” class. Too bad it’s not as easy as my Remington 1911. Bummer.
The trick is this: The disassemble point is very slightly past the release of the slide lock. Lock the slide back, keep a VERY tight grip on the slide as you do, and at the point immediately after the “click” of the release, push the pin through. As you can see, this is not what it appears to be in the manual, nor is it the description I got talking to tech support at Sig. It’s not easy, but it does work. I’ve also had a problem with the magazines. The seat, plastic and metal,tend to move out of alignment, especially during loading on a flat surface (i.e. a table). I think this whole thing is a rush to production. Not Sig’s finest hour.
Appreciate the info Jack, have a great 4th!!
My P290 is stainless & came with night sights and laser. Solid feel and a little heavy, but that heft does help with the recoil. Grip traction is great. That said, you do notice the short grip with the standard 6-rd. mag. With rapid fire, there is a tendency for the grip to twist and rise out of my hand…but that may depend on hand size. Mags a little hard to load, but it gets better with use. So far 150 rds. of Speer Lawman FMJ and American Eagle FMJ with no FTE, FTF, or hiccups of any kind. Need to mix in hollowpoints…Disassembly is tricky, but you get the hang of it after a while. Laser really helps train your grip and follow-through on this little pistol. Rapid fire and double taps take a lot of effort to keep under control. My best range is 7-10 yds, mostly 8-10 hits on a reverse B-27. Approximately 3-4″ groups at 7 yds, around 4-5″ at 10 yds – working on that. The 8-rd. mag seats properly only when pushing up on the bottom metal piece firmly, while making sure the plastic piece is at the bottom of the mag. Front pocket carry with a DeSantis Nemesis is agreeable, looks like a wallet, just a little heavier than the 238. The night sights are very good for a weapon of this size, target acquisition and alignment is very quick. So far this is looking like my new EDC, and will probably replace my PPS.
Hard to beat. Very accurate and never fails to fire. Disassembly easy using orange thingy that accompanies it as a slide block. Add the 8 round magazine and it is like holding a good 1911. Worth every penny. Went through Kel-Tecs and Ruger LCP and they are no match for this weapon
I’ve had my P290 for two weeks now and I’ve put about 150 rounds through it. The weight, and balance of that weight, is remarkable. Handling is nimble and sure. The pistol has a generally solid feel. I’ve been a shooter/collector now for almost 40 years and this is by far my favorite small gun. I really don’t understand all the discussion of difficulty with breaking down the gun – it’s really quite simple. Bravo to Sig Sauer!
I’ve had my P290 for 5 months now. Over 800 rds through it. Taken a while to get used to the trigger pull. Was consistantly pulling shots the right. With practice I am getting 3″ groups at 7 yards. Acceptable in my mind, for close quarter defense, which is why I carry it. I’ve heard people say this gone is too heavy to carry in the front pocket. I work 10 hour shifts with it in my front pocket everyday.
I’ve got one and like it. That said, here are my complaints. I’m using it as a pocket pistol, currently without a pocket holster. Although I’ve got one on the way. I can feel the mag release button rubbing the heck out of my leg. The worst part about the mag release (granted its not holstered at the moment) is it has quite often been activated. I’ll put the gun out and notice the mag is not seated. It doesn’t seem to be the best design and I’m praying the holster will take care of the problem. I also have the laser on mine and it now has a dead battery because its on/off switch does the same thing as the mag release button. It seem that Sig atlease tried to shield the botton on the laser but just not good enough.
Finally got to take the new 290 to the range yesterday. Supposed to be 2012 build but was actually 12/11. I thought it was going to have the new updated double strike lower pull trigger but it does not. Called Sig CS and they said call back in 4-6 weeks about an upgrade, no idea what this will cost. Anyway…
Took about 6 rounds to get the laser sighted in from a bench rest at 7 yards, no problems there. At 7 yards using Lawman 115 gr it’s possible to keep 2-3 inch groups using the laser or the sights. No problem there.
Moved back to 15 yards, had trouble keeping in the 7 ring of a 25 yd slow fire target. I attribute this to the long and somewhat hitchy, trigger pull. Trigger pull did get smoother with use, about 50 rounds. Once Sig updates the trigger I’m sure we will like the 290 as much as we like our 250’s. No FTF’s FTE’s or any other issues altho the mag insertion does demand a positive slap. Much better to shoot recoil wise than the Ruger LCP, that puppy was nasty!
I have had the P290 for a week now and so far have been extremely pleased with it overall. It is a lot easier to carry than my other sig and I too have been through several “small” guns, but have been displeased. It is a little hard to breakdown, but once you do it a couple of times it;s not so bad. I give Sig a thumbs up again for quality, ergonomics, and reliability.
I just bought the P290 and have only put 50 rds through it. I can concur about the difficulty of breaking it down. Luckily my wife was interested in giving me a hand. The magazine release also seems to be touchy (not terrible) as noted by some other reviewers. I have to say that I did enjoy shooting it. I did not have any problems with the cheap range rounds that I bought for this purpose. I will probably put a couple of hundred rounds through it before I try the hydra shoks or DPX’s in it for target practice. I really was impressed with ease of handling and it’s shooting ability. I believe that I made a great choice. I will recommend it highly to my friends and family.
Bought a black Nitron with the laser. EXTREMEMLY accurate! Completely comfortable to shoot with 124, 135 and 147 grain bullets. Only 1 FTF in 150 rounds. Probably my fault. FOR RIGHT HANDED PERSONS: Find the lines on the dust cover WHERE THE SLIDE IS AT THE TAKEDOWN POINT on the LEFT SIDE. Point the pistol to your right, withdraw the slide with your left hand using your stomach as a stop on the grip. When you reach the line on THIS SIDE with the front of the slide WHERE THE TAKEDOWN NOTCH IS, push out the slide stop/takedown pin with an appropriateley sized tool. I, too, was VERY disgruntled with the un-ease of field stripping UNTIL I FIGURED IT OUT! Works for me!
I am making an additional comment. I am still very excited about my P290 BUT I have had three (3) FTF’s in about 300 rounds. I contacted Sig and they now have the weapon. I am skeptical of a gun that fails to fire. I have had a gun for almost 41 years. I was a street cop and a Detective in NYC. I have never had to fire my gun in the line of duty but if I ever need it I want it to WORK. I have spoken to some other retired law enforcement and they assure me that Sig wil make it right. I am posting this to see if anyone else like John in Katy TX has had any fail to fires with he P290.
Now have 250+ rounds through it; 150 today! A change in ammunition seems to have cured EVERYTHING (Remingtom/UMC 115 gr. FMC)! NO failures-to-feed and NO light primer strikes! But, I’m going to follow Josh @ SIG’s suggestion and NOT carry it until I’ve got 300+ rounds down range. My local range (indoor, 1/4 mile from the house) rents lanes by the hour and my thumb was worn out from loading the magazines.
Now, have 400+ rounds down range and it shoots like it’s supposed to! Seems to like Hornady Critical Defense ammunition very well. Now, my only complaints are 1) the Owner’s Manual SHOULD specify the “break-in” period and 2) the factory should have proof-read that same Owner’s Manual (book says magazine release is reversible; quarter of a page of COPY PAPER tells you that’s B.S.!).
Great little firearm. Watched 1 YouTube video and did a field strip in just a few minutes. Easily figured out how to do a detail strip of the firing pin (be careful, very small retaining spring). For those who can’t figure out the firing pin removal – slide facing bottom up, use a plastic punch to press down on the small circular metal piece towards the rear of the slide. At the same time use another plastic punch to push the firing pin in, pull up on that plastic punch and the rear cover over the firing pin will slide up. Be careful not to yank up. If you do, the firing pin and pin spring will shoot out the back of the slide. Pull the rear slide cover off (noting which way it comes out, remove the firing pin and pin spring. Gently release the circular metal piece and gently lift it out. Note this is we’re the very small spring is so be careful. Use the firing pin to pull the small spring out. Clean all parts and reverse to assemble. Note that nothing has to be pressed on very hard to disassemble the firing pin. A light touch is best, lots of light, and take your time to figure I out. Don’t force anything. The firearm is easy to disassemble once you understand how well it’s built. I’m not even an avid firearms owner. In fact I work on computers for a living. This isn’t difficult. Just think it through.
Since comments were made about having trouble getting the slide off the P290 for a field strip, and Youtube video’s already exist on how to do that, I went ahead and made a video on how to remove the firing pin for cleaning. The video can be found here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETeYYTauwxY
Thanks Todd! Good video.
I love my P290. Shoots great and is easy to carry. I found my gun at a store locally for $475.00 complete with laser and holster. Wish I had purchased two.
I love this little pistol. I have had mine for over a year. I have never had any failures. I just have the problem of the mag coming un seated like another man mentioned. When I called Sig to have them fix it they told me it would cost me 100 dollars. I was and am so mad I almost blew a gasket! Sig should handle this with an apology and not a 100 dollar bill on my end. I am so nad at sig that i may never buy another one. However, I do LOVE this little 9mm and have to give it a high rating. Still an awesome gun that eats any ammo!
Did a lot of research and this is the gun I purchased it is the RS Model. Paid a good price of $499.00. I was surprised to find it at this cost but it is the reason I purchased it. Shots great !! I like it very much, sights and laser are on target. BUT it is not what I expected in disassembly It is almost impossible !!!!! VERY disappointed. I would have expected more from Sig.If I would have known this before my purchase I may have considered another choice.
I’m 71 years old and this is my first sub compact. I like the feel, especially with the 8 shot mag inserted. The recoil isn’t that bad and I got the laser sighted fairly fast. Most of my shooting is in the 30 to 50 foot range as I wanted this weapon for a self defense gun only. I haven’t had the guts to tear the gun down yet because of the horror stories, but will have to try soon anyway. For the most part, I am extremely pleased with the 290. It is a very easy conceal weapon.
RS = Re-strike, why would you need to re-strike? Is this a Sig pattern of flawed product? I have a P232 that required re-strikes quite often through the first 500 rounds. Last week it needed two re-strikes in 50 rounds. Just purchased a P290 brand new; First two rounds needed re-strike!? Out of 90 rounds, there were 10+ that needed re-strike; using three brands of ammo and it wasn’t brand specific. The 6 round magazine will not chamber the first round if and when you are capable of loading 6 into the magazine without using a magazine loading device or experiencing thumb burn!? If you lock back the slide, you can chamber the first round, but you cannot pack 6 + 1 and rack the slide again. The 8 round magazine works just fine and will allow 8 + 1. This is by far, the worst firearm I have ever purchased, 2nd to the P232.
Got mine today, have not shot it. Take down was breeze after I watched a video on You tube useing a table top and a ink pen. Took me about 15 sec.
Only problem was a stripped screw on the battery lid.
After buying and selling a few small pocket guns I have finally found the one for me. The 290RS isn’t the smallest or the lightest but it is by far the best performing of any I’ve tried. I have a buddy that has had one for a while and loves it. I was glad I waited until the RS came out although I haven’t needed it. The recoil is extremely manageable for a small 9mm and I have not had one FTF or FTE even when shooting it quickly one-handed. I also found that I could reacquire the target very quickly with this gun.
The long trigger pull takes a little getting used to but after the first magazine or two it wasn’t an issue at all. The gun just feels and sounds like a solid piece from the first time you pick it up. Although the sandpaper grips on the side are good for grip I was afraid they might damage my nice pants. I ordered some textured rubber grips from Tractiongrips.com and can’t wait to get them on when they arrive next week.
This is my first Sig but based on my iniial impression it probably won’t be my last. Nice gun at a good price that performs great and is easy to conceal. That’s a combo that’s tough to beat in my book.
Buy this gun…you won’t regret it!
does anyone else notice how lose the slide is on frame,,my slide rattles,,is this normal or what. i love this gun, but worry about that slide,,please let me know, then i will shoot.
I purchased this gun approx. a month ago. I have put 500 rounds through and have had no miscues. The gun is surprisingly accurate and easy to conceal. While I still like my p228 M11A1 much better, this little gun is a terrific addition for those warm days that makes CCW that much harder to carry. I don’t think a laser is necessary or practical at the distance you will need to use this gun, especially given the amazing nite sights that come stock.
Note to self: Don’t buy a Sig P290.
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My P290Rs has been perfect to this point. Disassembly is not difficult if you take your time.Practice doing it a few times and it gets easier. Gun is accurate and disappears in an IWB holster. Never used the restrike feature yet.
Very Pleased with the performance of this weapon. Will agree that one should be versed in DA revolver shooting. at close defensive shooting everything I tried grouped very well, except Barnes tac-x though. best round was Speer GD 124+p and PDX1 124+p. Just use a smooth trigger roll and you will group well. Carry this as my BUG every day.
Sweet shooter. A 10 for what it is. Take down is easy. Follow the instructions. First mag of Hornady critical defense rounds at 12 yards were 4 inch. Not used to this 9 lb double action trigger, but the hammer cocks and you can pause, squeeze the last 2 lbs, and shot accurately. 4X better than a Glock 26 in accuracy and handling. Highly recommend.
Great gun If the people who have a difficult time field stripping take notice Sig has a little plastic device that came with my P290 that holds open the slide to field strip. It fits in the chamber and it also gives you the small plastic tool that pushes out the pin to remove the slide. Very easy read the instruction that come with it. If your pistol didn’t come with these tools call sig .Parts are plastic and should;t cost too much. BUT they do the job and make this a simple operation
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