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Shooting Gear: Pros and Cons of Cleaning Rods

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July 18, 2012

Shooting Gear: Pros and Cons of Cleaning Rods

By David E. Petzal

Someone asked me about cleaning rods, so here’s what I know. A good one, used properly, will keep your bore alive and healthy. A bad one, or a good one used incorrectly, will kill your bore quicker than a good dose of hydrochloric acid down the muzzle. A good cleaning rod is either steel or plastic-coated, like the Dewey rods. It should be stiff enough that it will not bend; a bent rod will scrape against the rifling and that will be that. The worst rods are brass and aluminum, as they’re soft and pick up abrasive crud, and they bend permanently out of shape. I am also down on jointed rods of any kind unless those joints fit together seamlessly.

The best jointed rods, in a walk, are those made by Belding & Mull, however B&M apparently does not make them any more. If you ever see one, grab it, assuming that someone is not using it at the time, in which case he will punch you in the snout. I do not like pull-throughs; however, D’Arcy Echols, whose opinion I respect to the nth degree, thinks the world of them, and wishes that he had invented them.

The rods I use are made by Neil Jones Custom Products in Saegertown, PA. They are spring steel—if you’re strong enough, you can bend them virtually double and they will snap right back dead straight. However, they will rust. Mr. Jones sells them as a two-rod set—one rod has a permanent jag tip and the other has a threaded tip for brushes.

Aside from those, Dewey Rods and Pro Shot rods seem to be best, and I see more Dewey rods in the hands of people who know what they’re doing than any other.

Rod guides are highly useful, and I think that Neil Jones again makes the best. I don’t use them, however, because I’m too lazy, and because I’ve been using a rod long enough that I can keep it centered in the bore without help.

What you do need, however, is a roll of paper towels. Every time you pull that rod out of the bore, wipe it down.

How much damage can you do with a rod? Plenty. I once saw a  barrel whose chamber was actually worn egg-shaped by a rod that was continually pulled upward. Needless to say, that barrel was of no further use to anyone except the scrap yard.

Comments (34)

Top Rated
All Comments
from MJC wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Great, now I've got rod envy.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Josh Giannino wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I probably should invest in some new cleaning rods then.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Many years ago I paid what I then thought was a substancial amount of money for three sizes of Dewey rods and accompanying accessories. I have never regreted the decision although more recently I have considered the trying a pull through simply because everyone seems to think they are fantastic. More than likely I will just stay with my old rods even if some detractors believe that the plastic coating also picks up potentially abrasive particles. I do take a three piece rod on pack trips for use if per chance someone sticks a case in their chamber.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I think by the time my plastic/nylon covered ball bearing rod erodes the throats, they will be long shot out. I do use a rod guide appropriate to the caliber or the tapered brass rod guide for lever guns. I wonder how many 3-piece aluminum rods Hoppe's has sold?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I've always wiped off my rods after every pass. It surprising the amount of crud that it accumulates. Thanks for letting me know that I am not obsessive compulsive.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from dracphelan wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I use the pull through rods at the range and in the field. However, at home I use Dewey rods. And, that is a great tip on wiping down the rod on every pass.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

All I have are brass and aluminum rods. I'm a victim of ignorance again. Thanks for the tip Dave. You are a better friend to my guns than I am.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

And the one thing as "useless as the U.S. Congress" - Bore Snakes! LOL!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

What is anyone's opinion on Otis?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

About 18 years ago an avid shooter and acquaintance of mine saw me at the rifle range with an Outers three-piece steel rod. He said something to the effect: "You own and shoot rifles worth thousands of dollars, yet you use a five-dollar cleaning rod." Properly "dressed down", I bought a pair of Dewey cleaning rods, and also resurrected a plastic-coated Parker-Hale rod that was missing the jag, which I replaced. I've been using all three rods very happily since that day. I still take the Outers on hunting trips as it is very handy to have in case of a stuck case, mud or rain in the barrel, or some other such malady.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 99explorer wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I once owned a one-piece wooden rod that I thought highly of. It came with a built-in jag and no slot tip. I would like to find another one like it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WI Hunter 33 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

yikes i need new rods mine are bent bad. I try to keep it centered but i might be messing up my barrel thanks for the tips.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jerry A. wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

@ David Petzal- I have a Tipton graphite rod from MidwayUSA. What is your opinion on those?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I use Dewey cleaning rods and Lucas bore guides and I also wipe the rod on a towel after every pass. If using a brush I remove the brush before pulling the rod back through the bore. I also don't use the brush back and forth only pushing toward the crown.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Crap. I use low end rods all the time. Curses foiled again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I use a brass rod (actually it is bronze which is much harder than brass). I also use a bore guide and when I can I clean from the breech. So far after forty five some odd years, my bores are fine and my chambers still round and the rifles still shoot to my minute of vision. Cleaning the rod often helps as does technique.
I will admit however that I don't care much for aluminum cleaning rods.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I hate the jointed rods too. I have always thought they scrape your bore where they screw together. I don't know what brand my rod is but it is one piece and not aluminum.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Check out Bore Tech Inc.'s Bore Stix. That is a dandy rod that comes in caliber specific sizes and lengths wit ha ball bearing handle and index marks for measuring rifle twist rate. That's what I have used for several years.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Yep very good advice. Like Bernie said, why in the world would anyone use a $5 rod on a $3000.00 rifle. how many times have you seen the rods that your friends use? invariably they are mostly cheap aluminin rods with a few brass one thrown in. A little care goes a long way in maintaining firearms and they will last a life time or maybe 2 or 3 liftimes.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from duckcreekdick wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Go for a quality cleaning rod and you will not regret it. For field use, the Otis kits are probably the best of the pull-thrus, but won't help with a bore obstruction. Cabelas used to sell a high quality steel jointed rod, which I bought, but they later dropped it because everyone kept buying the cheap aluminum cleaning kits.
For a lesson in improper cleaning methods, just look at the muzzles of these tired old imported M-1 rifles, with the rifling all worn down about an inch.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

To Jerry A: I haven't used the Tipton graphite rods, but I have used other graphite rods and I found that unless you're very careful with them, they nick, and nicks are fatal. The Tiptons may be perfectly OK, however.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from elmer f. wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

maybe it is because i am relatively poor, and can not afford custom rifles, with air gauged bores, that are smoother than your favorite supermodels skin. in all the years i have been shooting and cleaning, i am not really sure it makes a hill of beans difference in standard production rifles. i was actually taught to clean from the muzzle, which is a habit that after learning was terribly incorrect, i changed. my first rifle, which i still own, is a 1977 vintage Glenfield 30A, which for the first 10-12 years, was always cleaned with an aluminum, jointed, cleaning rod, from the muzzle. it is no less accurate now, than it was when it was new. after honestly, thousands of rounds. thankfully, most of those were after i started cleaning from the breech, but with that same, jointed aluminum rod. it was not until 4 or 5 years ago, that i bought a nice Dewey rod. i know that this old lever gun was never known to be an accurate 300+ yard gun. but it still turns in just under 1.5" 100 yard groups with good ammo. if all those strokes with those horrid aluminum jointed rods were really so bad, i would be lucky to turn out 12" 50 yard groups. my Remington 700, that is my pride and joy, was cleaned by that same aluminum rod for almost 20 years, and that is still a true sub moa gun. while i do believe that the new rods are far superior than the old jointed aluminum ones, i do not think they are so terrible either. at least not on production guns.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Zermoid wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Still using a steel Hoppe's 3 piece rod.
Of course none of my guns are expensive guns either, most expensive one I own is my WW2 vintage M1 Carbine at $750 almost a year ago. None have seemed to suffer due to the rod, and I am a clean it after every outing person.
Only exception is hunting rifles in deer season, they are test fired before season and not cleaned until after.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

@ David Petzal,

Caught part of your show last night. I liked your "No B.S. Accuracy" segment!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SL wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I will have to agree with what Elmer F was driving at. Sure a good rod can't hurt, but plenty of cheap rods have been used on guns with NO ill effects on accuracy. I inherited a bolt action from an uncle who cleaned it from the muzzle. The crown looks like someone put a file to it, yet the gun still shoots as good as I could hope for. Maybe for benchrest match rifles one should be so anal about tiny scratches or nicks in the bore or crown, but for hunting rifles I wouldn't lose a minutes of sleep over it. Bullets can sizzle down a bore at 3000fps, I can't imagine the few strokes I make with a cleaning rod will do any more harm.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

You guys that clean from the muzzle with jointed rods can continue as you please. When I buy a new or used rifle the first thing that I do is order my Lucas Bore Guide and my cleaning rod in appropriate caliber (I realized that I have Tipton and Dewey rods) because I am going to clean it before I shoot it. Cleaning from the muzzle is an invitation to scratch a crown that can certainly affect accuracy. It doesn't matter to me how much a gun costs its a tool and tools should be maintained properly.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BippityBoopityMate wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

its probably about time i buy my first rod, i usually shove a paper towel down the barrel..

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I respect Dave's opinion here, but I'll stick to my Aluminum cleaning rods. They be just fine for me and mine.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

So glad to find out that my instincts were right when I retired my aluminum rod. And so glad we're back talking about gun stuff. Thanks for both, DEP.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tunadave wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I use my Otis when I have to, my Bore Tech Bore Stix when I can. The Bore Tech is an expensive rod (at least for me), but it's extremely well made and the bearings in the handle are amazing. I like the Bore Tech Eliminator solvent, too, but if cleaning pistols or rifles and you're concerned about copper fouling, you've got to use a brush or jag other than brass or your patches will be blue every time. That solvent really hates copper.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rcmich wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Just thinking back about all the stuff I've bought that seemed like overkill and too expensive at the time. Can't think of a single item that I regret the cost of now. Doesn't matter if it's tools, toys, guns or fishing equipment. Buy the good stuff the first time and it will be the last time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kaiser02 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

If the bore of a $3000 firearm can be damaged by cleaning it with a cheap cleaning rod, what does that say about the quality of the firearm? To me it says it's a piece of crap. The bore of a quality firearm should be resilient and impervious to such minor threats.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kong1965 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Your sister publication, Outdoor Life, just published an article in the magazine by a military sniper, and his advice was to shoot your weapon fouled. In fact he said that in competition, military shooters usually have had 200 to 300 rounds through them before they begin a competitive shoot. I don't know about anyone else here, but if I put 20 to 30 rounds through my hunting rifle before hunting season I'm lucky. If that's their advice, why, unless I shoot hundreds of rounds a year, should I EVER clean the bore of my rifle?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kong1965 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Correction: Here is the direct quote: “Snipers prefer to shoot dirty guns. In other words, we will not clean our rifles for 200 to 300 rounds. Leave that rifle dirty for the whole season!” Talk about reading more into something than they intended. Still, my question remains, why clean my bore at all, unless I shoot hundreds of rounds a year?

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from DSMbirddog wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I've always wiped off my rods after every pass. It surprising the amount of crud that it accumulates. Thanks for letting me know that I am not obsessive compulsive.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from MJC wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Great, now I've got rod envy.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Many years ago I paid what I then thought was a substancial amount of money for three sizes of Dewey rods and accompanying accessories. I have never regreted the decision although more recently I have considered the trying a pull through simply because everyone seems to think they are fantastic. More than likely I will just stay with my old rods even if some detractors believe that the plastic coating also picks up potentially abrasive particles. I do take a three piece rod on pack trips for use if per chance someone sticks a case in their chamber.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I think by the time my plastic/nylon covered ball bearing rod erodes the throats, they will be long shot out. I do use a rod guide appropriate to the caliber or the tapered brass rod guide for lever guns. I wonder how many 3-piece aluminum rods Hoppe's has sold?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I use a brass rod (actually it is bronze which is much harder than brass). I also use a bore guide and when I can I clean from the breech. So far after forty five some odd years, my bores are fine and my chambers still round and the rifles still shoot to my minute of vision. Cleaning the rod often helps as does technique.
I will admit however that I don't care much for aluminum cleaning rods.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kaiser02 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

If the bore of a $3000 firearm can be damaged by cleaning it with a cheap cleaning rod, what does that say about the quality of the firearm? To me it says it's a piece of crap. The bore of a quality firearm should be resilient and impervious to such minor threats.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Josh Giannino wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I probably should invest in some new cleaning rods then.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dracphelan wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I use the pull through rods at the range and in the field. However, at home I use Dewey rods. And, that is a great tip on wiping down the rod on every pass.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

All I have are brass and aluminum rods. I'm a victim of ignorance again. Thanks for the tip Dave. You are a better friend to my guns than I am.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

And the one thing as "useless as the U.S. Congress" - Bore Snakes! LOL!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

What is anyone's opinion on Otis?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

About 18 years ago an avid shooter and acquaintance of mine saw me at the rifle range with an Outers three-piece steel rod. He said something to the effect: "You own and shoot rifles worth thousands of dollars, yet you use a five-dollar cleaning rod." Properly "dressed down", I bought a pair of Dewey cleaning rods, and also resurrected a plastic-coated Parker-Hale rod that was missing the jag, which I replaced. I've been using all three rods very happily since that day. I still take the Outers on hunting trips as it is very handy to have in case of a stuck case, mud or rain in the barrel, or some other such malady.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 99explorer wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I once owned a one-piece wooden rod that I thought highly of. It came with a built-in jag and no slot tip. I would like to find another one like it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WI Hunter 33 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

yikes i need new rods mine are bent bad. I try to keep it centered but i might be messing up my barrel thanks for the tips.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jerry A. wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

@ David Petzal- I have a Tipton graphite rod from MidwayUSA. What is your opinion on those?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I use Dewey cleaning rods and Lucas bore guides and I also wipe the rod on a towel after every pass. If using a brush I remove the brush before pulling the rod back through the bore. I also don't use the brush back and forth only pushing toward the crown.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Crap. I use low end rods all the time. Curses foiled again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I hate the jointed rods too. I have always thought they scrape your bore where they screw together. I don't know what brand my rod is but it is one piece and not aluminum.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Check out Bore Tech Inc.'s Bore Stix. That is a dandy rod that comes in caliber specific sizes and lengths wit ha ball bearing handle and index marks for measuring rifle twist rate. That's what I have used for several years.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Yep very good advice. Like Bernie said, why in the world would anyone use a $5 rod on a $3000.00 rifle. how many times have you seen the rods that your friends use? invariably they are mostly cheap aluminin rods with a few brass one thrown in. A little care goes a long way in maintaining firearms and they will last a life time or maybe 2 or 3 liftimes.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from duckcreekdick wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Go for a quality cleaning rod and you will not regret it. For field use, the Otis kits are probably the best of the pull-thrus, but won't help with a bore obstruction. Cabelas used to sell a high quality steel jointed rod, which I bought, but they later dropped it because everyone kept buying the cheap aluminum cleaning kits.
For a lesson in improper cleaning methods, just look at the muzzles of these tired old imported M-1 rifles, with the rifling all worn down about an inch.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

To Jerry A: I haven't used the Tipton graphite rods, but I have used other graphite rods and I found that unless you're very careful with them, they nick, and nicks are fatal. The Tiptons may be perfectly OK, however.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from elmer f. wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

maybe it is because i am relatively poor, and can not afford custom rifles, with air gauged bores, that are smoother than your favorite supermodels skin. in all the years i have been shooting and cleaning, i am not really sure it makes a hill of beans difference in standard production rifles. i was actually taught to clean from the muzzle, which is a habit that after learning was terribly incorrect, i changed. my first rifle, which i still own, is a 1977 vintage Glenfield 30A, which for the first 10-12 years, was always cleaned with an aluminum, jointed, cleaning rod, from the muzzle. it is no less accurate now, than it was when it was new. after honestly, thousands of rounds. thankfully, most of those were after i started cleaning from the breech, but with that same, jointed aluminum rod. it was not until 4 or 5 years ago, that i bought a nice Dewey rod. i know that this old lever gun was never known to be an accurate 300+ yard gun. but it still turns in just under 1.5" 100 yard groups with good ammo. if all those strokes with those horrid aluminum jointed rods were really so bad, i would be lucky to turn out 12" 50 yard groups. my Remington 700, that is my pride and joy, was cleaned by that same aluminum rod for almost 20 years, and that is still a true sub moa gun. while i do believe that the new rods are far superior than the old jointed aluminum ones, i do not think they are so terrible either. at least not on production guns.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Zermoid wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Still using a steel Hoppe's 3 piece rod.
Of course none of my guns are expensive guns either, most expensive one I own is my WW2 vintage M1 Carbine at $750 almost a year ago. None have seemed to suffer due to the rod, and I am a clean it after every outing person.
Only exception is hunting rifles in deer season, they are test fired before season and not cleaned until after.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

@ David Petzal,

Caught part of your show last night. I liked your "No B.S. Accuracy" segment!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SL wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I will have to agree with what Elmer F was driving at. Sure a good rod can't hurt, but plenty of cheap rods have been used on guns with NO ill effects on accuracy. I inherited a bolt action from an uncle who cleaned it from the muzzle. The crown looks like someone put a file to it, yet the gun still shoots as good as I could hope for. Maybe for benchrest match rifles one should be so anal about tiny scratches or nicks in the bore or crown, but for hunting rifles I wouldn't lose a minutes of sleep over it. Bullets can sizzle down a bore at 3000fps, I can't imagine the few strokes I make with a cleaning rod will do any more harm.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

You guys that clean from the muzzle with jointed rods can continue as you please. When I buy a new or used rifle the first thing that I do is order my Lucas Bore Guide and my cleaning rod in appropriate caliber (I realized that I have Tipton and Dewey rods) because I am going to clean it before I shoot it. Cleaning from the muzzle is an invitation to scratch a crown that can certainly affect accuracy. It doesn't matter to me how much a gun costs its a tool and tools should be maintained properly.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BippityBoopityMate wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

its probably about time i buy my first rod, i usually shove a paper towel down the barrel..

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I respect Dave's opinion here, but I'll stick to my Aluminum cleaning rods. They be just fine for me and mine.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

So glad to find out that my instincts were right when I retired my aluminum rod. And so glad we're back talking about gun stuff. Thanks for both, DEP.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tunadave wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I use my Otis when I have to, my Bore Tech Bore Stix when I can. The Bore Tech is an expensive rod (at least for me), but it's extremely well made and the bearings in the handle are amazing. I like the Bore Tech Eliminator solvent, too, but if cleaning pistols or rifles and you're concerned about copper fouling, you've got to use a brush or jag other than brass or your patches will be blue every time. That solvent really hates copper.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rcmich wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Just thinking back about all the stuff I've bought that seemed like overkill and too expensive at the time. Can't think of a single item that I regret the cost of now. Doesn't matter if it's tools, toys, guns or fishing equipment. Buy the good stuff the first time and it will be the last time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kong1965 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Your sister publication, Outdoor Life, just published an article in the magazine by a military sniper, and his advice was to shoot your weapon fouled. In fact he said that in competition, military shooters usually have had 200 to 300 rounds through them before they begin a competitive shoot. I don't know about anyone else here, but if I put 20 to 30 rounds through my hunting rifle before hunting season I'm lucky. If that's their advice, why, unless I shoot hundreds of rounds a year, should I EVER clean the bore of my rifle?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kong1965 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Correction: Here is the direct quote: “Snipers prefer to shoot dirty guns. In other words, we will not clean our rifles for 200 to 300 rounds. Leave that rifle dirty for the whole season!” Talk about reading more into something than they intended. Still, my question remains, why clean my bore at all, unless I shoot hundreds of rounds a year?

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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