Best Lever Action Rifles – 2020 Complete Review

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A lever-action rifle has the most unusual, but stylish loading mechanism of all weapons. These rifles are a collectible for many people and a means of pleasure for others. Lever-action rifles have a long and legendary history and are still widely used and admired. Here we will delve deeper into the world of these rifles, meanwhile reviewing the best lever-action rifles on the market today. So keep your eyes pinned.

Comparison of the Best Lever-Action Rifles

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Detachable Box Magazine.
  • Trigger Moves Along With the Lever.
  • Best Runner-up for Lever Action Rifle.
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  • High Ammo Capacity.
  • Best .22 Lever Action Rifle.
  • Compact and Lightweight Multi-purpose Rifle.
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  • Best .45 Colt Lever Action Rifle.
  • Smooth Quiet and Reliable Action .
  • Fully Adjustable Rear Sight With White Diamond Insert.
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  • Best .45-70 Lever Action Rifle on the Market.
  • Very Little Felt Recoil Considering the Caliber.
  • High Quality Construction and Reliable Operation.
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  • Best .44 Mag Lever Action Rifle.
  • Versatile Ranch-Style Rifle for Multiple Uses.
  • Incredibly Smooth and Precise Fit and Finish.
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  • Powerful .45-70 Caliber Cartridge.
  • Best Lever Action Rifle on the Market.
  • Adjustable and Quick Acquisition Hood Sight.
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  • Square Bolt and 9 Round Capacity.
  • Best Lever Action Rifle in .357 Caliber.
  • Polished and Tapered Octagonal Barrel With Ballard Rifling.
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  • Best .30-30 Lever Action Rifle.
  • XS Ghost Ring Sights for Better Acquisition.
  • One of the Most Popular Deer Hunting Rifles.
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  • Easy-to-Detach Takedown Design.
  • 3/8" Dovetail Machined into the Top of the Receiver.
  • Lightweight and Compact Design for Quick Maneuvers.
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What is a Lever-Action Rifle and How Does it Work?

A lever-action rifle uses a long lever (which also works as a trigger guard in most cases) to perform the action of loading new cartridges and ejecting new ones in the chamber. 

The lever is connected to the bolt of the rifle and loads a new round in the chamber when worked. The concept of operation is similar to bolt-action rifles, other than the positioning of the lever. The lever of these rifles can be compared to the charging handle of bolt-action and semi-auto rifles. 

Lever-action rifles use a tubular magazine which is located right below the barrel. Working the lever also pulls out a fresh round from the magazine. Some of these rifles also have box magazines. 

When Was The Lever-Action Rifle Invented?

The concept of lever-action rifles had been lurking around the firearms industry since the American Civil War. The first lever-action rifles on the market were Colt’s first and second models introduced between 1837 and 1841.

But the first popular lever-action rifle on the market was the Spencer, which was introduced in 1860. Another significantly popular rifle in the same era was the Henry rifle introduced in the same year, which is still quite popular among the shooter community. 

Many market-storming, lever-action rifles have been introduced into the market ever since. Some of the most common ones include the Henry Big Boy, Marlin 1895, and Browning BLR. 

Benefits of Investing in a Great Lever-Action Rifle

Lever-action rifles have quite a few advantages associated with them. Some of these are:

Good Sporting Rifles

Lever-action rifles are used worldwide for sports, including hunting. Lever-actions are available in a variety of calibers and have the capability to take down any game in North America. They are widely used by game wardens, forest authorities, hunters, and even some prison guards. 

Versatility

These rifles are available in a variety of calibers, which allows you to put them to different uses. Plus, lever-action rifles are quite versatile and can be used for hunting, practice, competitions, and even self-defense when the situation demands. 

Rate of Fire

These rifles have a better rate of fire compared to bolt-action rifles. Plus, you don’t have to lose the sight picture every time you load a new round in the chamber. These are not as quick as semi-auto rifles, but can still be advantageous over bolt-action.

Durable and Compact

Lever-action rifles are exceptionally durable, no matter how hard you push them. These are tried and tested rifles and have proven their metal during the American Civil War and the Westward Expansion. Additionally, some SBR lever-action rifles are quite compact. Watching rodeo riders carry them in scabbards was not an uncommon sight a century ago. 

Characteristics of Our Favorite Models

All the lever-action rifles reviewed here feature certain characteristics, which make them stand out. Eventually, these are also the qualities which should be prominently possessed by a good lever-action rifle.

Accuracy

The primary and most important feature of any rifle is its accuracy. Lever-action rifles are widely used for sporting and hunting, which inevitably requires them to be accurate for making a humane kill. 

Easy to Clean and Maintain

A good lever-action rifle must be easy to field strip and clean. It should have a design that allows you to disassemble the rifle quickly, meanwhile being easy to clean every nook and cranny without much effort. 

Aesthetics

Lever-actions are among the most classy, admirable, and collectible rifles. Having good aesthetics makes both the shooter and the beholder feel good about the rifle. Most of these rifles have an American Walnut stock, embellished with carvings and other decorations.

Customizability

This term here refers to the ease of mounting a scope over the rifle. All the rifles included in this review have their receivers tapped/drilled for accepting scope mounts. 

Review of the Best Lever-Action Rifles

Lever-action rifles are available in a variety of calibers and finding the right model for each purpose can be a tedious and confusing task. For this very reason, we’ve come up with the best rifle in different calibers and categories in this extensive list of the best lever-action rifles on the market. 

Pros

  • .308 is an all-purpose round
  • Aesthetically pleasing American walnut finish
  • Chambered for modern high pressure cartridges
  • Magazine allows you to shoot pointed spitzer rounds
  • Four position hammer with quiet half-cock hammer safety
  • Better finger protection compared to other lever-action guns

Cons

  • Prone to getting smudged with dirt
  • The action is too complex to easily field strip

What Recent Buyers Report

Most users seem to appreciate the light weight, reliability, and short/mid range accuracy of the weapon. The gun is quite popular in terms of accuracy and operation, especially in .308 caliber. Plus, most users call the gun very reliable, even under harsh weather conditions.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The first feature to like about this gun is the detachable box magazine, which allows for quick reloading. Secondly, the high-pressure chamber and box mag let you shoot high velocity rounds, which improves the range of this rifle. Another unique feature is the trigger and lever coupling, which protects the finger from snapping.

Who Will Use This Most

Since this rifle is chambered in .308, which is a good all-purpose round, the rifle will be ideal for hunters. Plus, the detachable mag also gives you a chance to use it for home defense in desperate situations. Additionally, it is also a good practice rifle and recreational shooters will love it. Due to its compatibility with spitzer rounds, you can also use it for some distant range shooting.

What Could Be Improved and Why

The magazine capacity can be extended to house more rounds. The trigger might need an upgrade if you decide to use it for a competition, but that’s not really an issue. Otherwise, the rifle is almost perfect in itself. You might have to compromise with muzzle devices since the barrel is also not threaded.

Bottom Line

The Browning BLR is a very popular and widely used lever-action hunting rifle. It has a detachable box magazine and high-pressure chamber, which allows you to shoot advanced ammunition. Plus, the four position hammer and silent safety also help with handling the rifle.

Pros

  • Very smooth and reliable action
  • Both sights are raised and adjustable
  • Large lever loop for intuitive hand placement 
  • Distinct click sound every time a round is chambered
  • Holds fifteen .22LR rounds, seventeen .22L rounds, and twenty-one .22S rounds 

Cons

  • Takes time to reload ammo into the tube
  • Ejection port might interfere with scope mount

What Recent Buyers Report

Most buyers appreciate the smooth action of this rifle, generally calling it as "smooth as silk". The fit and finish are also quite praised. However, many buyers also complain about the quality of sights. The gun is very compact for a rifle and performs flawlessly, even in rigorous shooting sessions.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The rifle has a flawless action and a high ammo capacity. It is quite accurate for a .22. The rifle is so well made that it will find a place in every firearm collection. The action and capacity combine to bring this lever-action rifle up to par with semi-auto .22s in terms of shooting speed.

Who Will Use This Most

Anybody who wants to shoot a .22 and doesn’t need a bipod can use this rifle. The rifle can be used for hunting vermin and other small game. Plus, it is a compact and fun weapon and is ideal for plinking, target practice, and recreational shooting.

What Could Be Improved and Why

As already mentioned, you have to adjust or even change the sights right away for a better pair, especially if you prefer iron sights and have vision issues. The reloading mechanism requires you to unscrew the tube and fill it manually, which also consumes time.

Bottom Line

The Henry Lever-Action .22 is a versatile rifle intended for various uses. The rifle can be used for hunting, recreational shooting, and even defense under critical situations. The price of the rifle is unbelievable for many, considering the flawless performance.

Pros

  • High capacity of 10+1 rounds
  • High quality and useful sights
  • Octagon barrel is incredibly accurate
  • Classic styling of the “Old West” rifles
  • Drilled and tapped for accepting scope mounts
  • Heavy .45 Colt caliber for taking down big game

Cons

  • Weighs more than other similar rifles
  • Slow and deliberate compared to other lever-actions
  • Heavy and costly caliber, not for small vermin or too much plinking

What Recent Buyers Report

The rifle has a classy finish of the “Old West” rifle and is a great weapon for hunting. The rifle displays flawless operation under any conditions. The gun shoots nicely and has little recoil. Plus, most users find the gun to be very accurate.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The rifle is chambered in .45 Colt cartridge which is a powerful round. It has an aesthetically pleasing finish and a lot of history associated with it. The rifle mitigates recoil properly and runs flawlessly. Plus. the uniform and smooth operation also help the shooter.

Who Will Use This Most

With recent straight-wall cartridge hunting laws, the gun is more likely to be used by hunters living in such states. Plus, the 11-round capacity makes the weapon good for self-defense and competitions. Plus, it is also a great bush rifle to be used on hunting trips.

What Could Be Improved and Why

The rifle is quite well-built and has limited room for improvement. However, adding a good rifle scope will add to your effective range and accuracy. The finish will require some care and maintenance along the way.

Bottom Line

The Henry Big Boy .45 Colt is a beast. It can be used to chew on the biggest game found in North America. Plus, the high-capacity tubular magazine also makes it an effective self-defense weapon. It is a great rifle for hog and deer hunting.

Best 45-70 Lever-Action: 
Henry Repeating Arms H010

Pros

  • Internal bar transfer safety
  • Crisp and clean trigger pull
  • High power caliber to knock down large game
  • Receiver drilled and tapped for Weaver 63B mount
  • Thick rubber pad absorbs recoil and provides comfort

Cons

  • Takes time to reload
  • Little front heavy because of the barrel

What Recent Buyers Report

Most users seem very pleased by the finish and look of this rifle. In terms of accuracy, the rifle can shoot 4-5-inch groups at 100 yards using the best grade ammo. The action is smooth and reliable and the recoil is considerably low for such a powerful caliber.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The rifle is exceptionally reliable and will probably never jam if properly maintained. The gun looks quite pretty and shoots the rounds quite quickly. Another important feature is the impeccable safety mechanism which is almost flawless and lets you handle the rifle securely.

Who Will Use This Most

The rifle is a treat for big game hunters. Due to its reliability, quick cycling, and caliber, the rifle will be best used for hunting hogs and grizzlies. Other than that, the rifle is good for recreational shooting and will be great to introduce amateurs to the recoil of .45-70 rounds because of the low recoil.

What Could Be Improved and Why

Consider adding a sling to the rifle because of its somewhat heavy weight. Carrying the rifle all day through the woods and brush can be difficult without one. An extra one or two rounds can be pushed inside the tube mag, however not recommended.

Bottom Line

The Henry .45-70 is a beautiful and reliable rifle, with an exceptional safety mechanism which prevents it from firing except when pulling the trigger. The only drawback is the expensive ammunition, which can be overcome if you reload.

Pros

  • 10+1 round tubular magazine
  • Aesthetically pleasing smooth finish
  • Distinctively accurate octagonal barrel
  • Brass receiver, buttplate, and barrel band
  • Fully-adjustable, semi-buckhorn rear sight

Cons

  • No pre-installed sling swivel studs
  • Heavy at eight pounds and eleven ounces

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers appreciate the look of the rifle, especially due to the brass components. The rifle runs smooth without any jams and is quite powerful to take down even large-sized game. It is quite accurate at short/medium ranges and is more like a collectible item.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The rifle is a classic and is amongst the most loved and admired lever-action rifles on the market. The heavy weight of the rifle compensates for the recoil which allows you to shoot accurately. Additionally, the appearance of the rifle is also an inevitably attractive factor.

Who Will Use This Most

The rifle is more likely to be used by hunters. Additionally, you can take it out on a range for some plinking and practice. The 11-round capacity of this rifle also makes it eligible to be used as a home defense or truck gun.

What Could Be Improved and Why

The rifle does not have sling swivels, which means you’ll have to get them installed separately. Installing them is quite necessary because it is a heavy rifle and you cannot carry it all day without the support of a sling.

Bottom Line

The Henry Bigboy .44 Magnum is a very popular rifle on the market. It has an appealing design and finish. Plus, the rifle is quite accurate for use at short to medium ranges. It can be used to hunt down big game of all sizes.

Pros

  • Adjustable and folding sight
  • Solid top tapped for scope mount
  • Deep-cut ballard-type rifling (6 grooves)
  • High power caliber to hunt every game
  • One of the most popular lever-actions of all time

Cons

  • Low ammo capacity (4+1 rounds)

What Recent Buyers Report  

The Marlin 1895 is a widely used and trusted lever-action rifle. Most users appreciate its reliability, power, and accuracy. Yes, the 1895 is quite accurate for a lever-action. The gun feels quite stable and has been meticulously designed with precise cuts and finish.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Marlin 1895 has been in the market for more than a century. The weapon fires a heavy cartridge and is exceptionally stable. Plus, the recoil of the weapon is quite low, taking into consideration the size of the rounds it shoots. It is an exceptionally tough lever gun.

Who Will Use This Most

The gun is a harpoon on land. The .45-70 cartridge can bring down even the largest and most notorious grizzlies in seconds. The rifle is ideal for hunters who go looking for small to large-sized game (not small vermin, though). It can also be used as a truck gun, however the ammo capacity is still something to be taken into consideration.

What Could Be Improved and Why

Although this rifle shoots a powerful cartridge, you still have to consider its ammo capacity The rifle can hold only five rounds at once, so using it for a gun fight is not a very good option, especially if your opponent has a semi-auto AR. The muzzle is also not threaded and you must take note of it.

Bottom Line

The Marlin 1895 is a legendary selection from the oldest breed of lever-action rifles. The rifle is quite tough and decently accurate. Plus, the heavy caliber is the ideal round for hunting. It also comes in other variants, so you have ample choice.

Best 357 Lever-Action: 
Marlin 1894CB .357 Magnum 20"

Pros

  • Excellent fit and finish
  • Ambidextrous offset hammer spur
  • Side loading gate for easy refilling
  • American walnut straight grip stock
  • Squared finger lever for better grip
  • Ramp front sight with brass bead and wide-scan hood

Cons

  • Loading gate is a bit stiff
  • Some guns might have wood-to-metal finish issues

What Recent Buyers Report

Most users appreciate the finish of the rifle and the smooth lever-action. The rifle has a myriad of different features which make it complete. The rifle functions flawlessly even after putting thousands of rounds through it. Another more talked about feature is its apt pricing.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The rifle is feature packed in all aspects, whether it be the hammer spur, squared lever, ballard rifling, or the high-quality construction. The gun is chambered in a revolver caliber and is very ergonomic to hold. Additionally, the rifle is very easy to disassemble and clean compared to Henry and Browning lever-actions.

Who Will Use This Most

The .357 magnum is a revolver cartridge, but using it in a rifle greatly improves it effectiveness. Marlin 1894s have long been used for hunting and gunfights, and different loads (grains) of ammunition make it useful for different purposes. Anyway, this rifle is still great for hunting vermin (small deer sometimes), plinking, and defense.

What Could Be Improved and Why

The rifle doesn’t have a competition level trigger, so you might consider upgrading it, especially if you are trigger-sensitive. You may also consider installing a new pair of sights since the original ones are somewhat thin. The loading window will also take some time to break in.

Bottom Line

The Marlin 1894 CB is the best .357 lever-action rifle on the market because of its reliability and versatility. The rifle can be used for hunting small game and even self-defense. The ballard rifling gives desirable results even with slugs and cheap ammunition.

Pros

  • Best caliber for hunting deer
  • Aesthetically pleasing design
  • Allows for fast follow-up shots
  • Accurate and easily available cartridge
  • Drilled and tapped blued steel receiver
  • Very easy to carry due to size and weight

Cons

  • Low capacity of only 5 rounds
  • Limited power, cannot be used against big game

What Recent Buyers Report

Most buyers appreciate the look and feel of this gun, and the history associated with it. The rifle is said to be very slim and easy to handle, especially in thick woods and bush, which is eventually where this rifle will end up. The price of the rifle has also been appreciated by many recent buyers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The .30-30 is the most popular deer hunting round and the Henry rifle has been around the market for a long time. It is a reliable, durable, and tested rifle with exceptional accuracy. The receiver is pre-tapped for adding the scope, which does help with hunting. Plus, the XS Ghost sights also add to the overall value.

Who Will Use This Most

The rifle will be mostly used for a purpose it has been serving for decades - hunting deer. Due to its size, design, and weight, the rifle is ideal to be taken through harsh woodlands. The rifle can also be used for practice, plinking, and even as a scout rifle in some cases.

What Could Be Improved and Why

The first thing you must consider when using this rifle is the range. The rifle is deadly accurate within a range of 150 yards (more with a scope).  So you should definitely consider adding a scope. The tube has a low capacity of five rounds and takes time to reload, so you should make every shot count.

Bottom Line

The Henry .30-30 is the best lever-action rifle in its caliber. The primary and best uses of this rifle are hunting deer and recreational shooting. Overall, it is a must-have rifle in your collection, especially if you are a hunter.

Best Modern Lever-Action Rifle: 
Chiappa LA322 Kodiak Cub Take-Down .22 LR

Pros

  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Compact and easy to store
  • Black soft-touch stock coating
  • Smooth and pleasing aesthetics
  • High ammo capacity of 15 rounds
  • Corrosion-resistant and attractive chrome matte finish

Cons

  • Lacks a good safety mechanism

What Recent Buyers Report

Most users appreciate the light weight and compact size of this rifle. It has a good, bulky barrel and a smooth finish. The rifle requires several shots to break-in, however most people love its take-down capability and aesthetics.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Finding a take-down lever-action rifle is very difficult. This rifle has taken the concept of lever-action to a whole new level. It allows you to store the rifle in a compact space and quickly buckle it up to be used as an effective weapon with good firepower at close-range.

Who Will Use This Most

The rifle shoots .22LR rounds, so it is mostly for plinkers, target shooters, and vermin hunters. The rifle is the fun replacement for any .22LR rifle you possess. It can be used for hunting, plus the takedown capability also makes it a good camping or truck gun.

What Could Be Improved and Why?

You cannot complain about anything from a .22LR rifle, since it would be used for plinking and fun shooting for most of its life. However, this rifle still lacks sling attachment points, which can be a considerable drawback. But you won’t mind drilling them because the stock is not expensive and is crafted of American walnut.

Bottom Line

The Chiappa LA322 is a fun-to-shoot .22LR rifle that you can add to your collection. It can be carried with ease and is an amazing rifle to be taken on outdoor trips.

Pros

  • 6+1 round capacity
  • Aesthetically pleasing finish
  • Comfortable pistol grip stock
  • Extremely reliable and accurate rifle
  • Comes with a 3-9x32 scope and mount
  • Good lever loop design for better handling
  • Easy to strip and many aftermarket parts available

Cons

  • The finish requires some extra attention and care

What Recent Buyers Report

The most popular feature of the Marlin 336 is its decent pricing, reliability, and availability of aftermarket parts. The action of the rifle is smooth and free from any jams. It quickly accepts an optic scope and is comfortable to hold and load. Some buyers do point out some performance issues in recent models and favor the older Marlin 336W model.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The rifle is slimmer and quicker to shoot compared to other rifles in this list. Plus, the addition of a scope in the package offers the best value for money. Additionally, the easy availability of aftermarket parts is also a benefit for the buyer.

Who Will Use This Most

The Marlin 336 is probably the most used and admired deer rifle on the market today. The rifle is a boon for hunters, who can use it for both hunting and defense. It can also be used as an effective scout rifle, not to mention its possible uses in competition and fun shooting.

What Could Be Improved and Why

The Marlin 336w is not a competition rifle right out of the box, so you may want to upgrade the trigger, if you plan to put it to a more precise use. Elderly people with weak eyes may also want to replace the factory iron sights with a new illuminated pair for backup.

Bottom Line

This rifle is ideal for hunting whitetail deer, hogs, moose, and other game of similar size. It is comparatively compact and can also be used as a truck rifle. The probability of customization and addition of aftermarket parts also make it a desirable weapon.

How to Clean a Lever-Action Rifle

Cleaning a lever-action rifle is pretty simple. The tools you’ll need for disassembling the rifle are a flathead screwdriver, cleaning kit (with brass jags and patches), and cleaning solvent. You may also consider having a bore snake for better cleaning. 

  1. Check the rifle is void of any ammunition and turn on the safety. 
  2. Work the lever halfway, unless the bolt protrudes and the rear notch on the bolt rests on the hammer. 
  3. Now, use a good quality flathead screwdriver to pull out the locking screw at the part of the lever meeting the base of the receiver. 
  4. Pull the lever out, followed by the bolt. Make sure to keep track of the lever screw and the ejector pin, which will eventually fall out when the bolt is removed. 
  5. Clean all these parts with a cleaning solvent. Use a cleaning rod with jag and patches to clean the bore. Make sure to brush the bolt and remove any fouling. Lube any moving parts of the rifle afterwards. 
  6. Clean the rifle on the outside. If your rifle has a wooden stock, consider cleaning and oiling it with the right solvent. 
  7. Once all the parts have been cleaned and wiped dry, install the ejector pin first. Then, cock the hammer halfway with your thumb and push the bolt halfway inside the receiver (a full push will cause it to lock). Now, put the lever in place and screw it back together. 
  8. Once you’re done, wipe your rifle with a dry cloth for final touches. 

Best Uses for a Lever-Action Rifle

Lever-actions are the old legendary grandads of today's semi-automatic rifles. Some people might see them as obsolete technology, but let’s admit that they’ve gotten men through far worse than today’s tactical and technological wars. 

Lever-action rifles have been successfully used for decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They have a great role in the making of the U.S.A. 

These rifles are mostly used for hunting, these days. Those with large calibers like .45-70 are used for stopping grizzlies, those with mediocre calibers like .30-30 are used for stopping deer, and the ones with light calibers like .22 are used just for fun. 

These are great hunting rifles and can also cover your back better than bolt-actions when a ferocious four-legged or two-legged animal comes charging toward you in the woods. 

A lever-action rifle has a better rate of fire compared to a bolt-action rifle, which also makes it a more suitable rifle for self-defense. Many people use these rifles as truck guns. 

Either way, lever-actions are good hunting, practice, and self-defense weapons, unless you have to shoot prone or through a cramped space. 

Conclusion

Lever-action rifles have been on the market for more than 150 years now. They have participated in revolutions and wars, and are widely used as hunting rifles today. These rifles are available in different calibers, each of which is ideal for a specific purpose and situation.

About Josh Lewis

Josh Lewis the managing editor at Gun Mann and when he isn't writing about guns he is more than likely tinkering with them. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors. As a lifelong gun owner he knows his stuff!

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