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Thread: Single action vs double action colt revolver

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    Single action vs double action colt revolver

    I bought a bundle of old comic books at a second hand store for $10. One of them was an issue of Gunsmoke (#844, 1959). Surprisingly there was only 1 advertisement in the entire issue (on the back cover for Juicy Fruit gum). But on the inside cover there was a pictorial about “Western Pistols”, specifically the Colt revolver. One of the factoids it mentioned was that the single action version was more popular than the double action version. But it didn’t say why. Is this correct? This is pertinent to modern day open carry for those that prefer to arm themselves with a revolver over a semi-auto. I can think of some reasons why SA would be preferred over DA, but am curious as to if there are some other reasons I’ve not considered, especially going back 125+ years ago. Your thoughts are appreciated.

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    Regular Member Fallschirmjäger's Avatar
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    Could have been any number of factors, depending on how the information was collected.

    Single actions were proven; whereas double action was new and untrusted, resulting in more SA being sold than DA.
    or,
    More SA in the general population because they had been sold for years and years, outweighing the new DA by sheer numbers of pistols sold
    or,
    DA pistols may have been more expensive than SA, again resulting in greater numbers sold at any one time (instead of comparing total numbers among the population).

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    Regular Member solus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pkbites View Post
    I bought a bundle of old comic books at a second hand store for $10. One of them was an issue of Gunsmoke (#844, 1959). Surprisingly there was only 1 advertisement in the entire issue (on the back cover for Juicy Fruit gum). But on the inside cover there was a pictorial about “Western Pistols”, specifically the Colt revolver. One of the factoids it mentioned was that the single action version was more popular than the double action version. But it didn’t say why. Is this correct? This is pertinent to modern day open carry for those that prefer to arm themselves with a revolver over a semi-auto. I can think of some reasons why SA would be preferred over DA, but am curious as to if there are some other reasons I’ve not considered, especially going back 125+ years ago. Your thoughts are appreciated.
    1. it was a 'factoid' in a comic book a western one at that!

    2. while possibly a shock, the make-believe cowboy western's heroes and exhibitionists, e.g., late Bob Munden, 'fanned' and/or slipped their SA revolvers only to razzle and dazzle the moviegoers or exhibitionist's audiences with their 'fast draw' antics, but in actuality this was not the normal method the cowboy's fought their battles in real life. (repeating fanning damage the stock factory firearm w/o modifying the action)

    3. Gunsmoke was supposed to portray life in this country's 1870s time frame...while the Colt DA didn't come on the scene until 1877ish, additionally the cowboys weren't going to go to something fancy new fangled revolver like DA cuz the tried and true SA was their main stay and the Colt probably cost a year's wages.

    4. I did mention the SA revolver 'factoid' was in an almost 60-year olde western comic book?

    5. might wish to research further your find...Gunsmoke # 844 was in released in 1957 not as amazon portray's as 1959. https://comics.ha.com/itm/silver-age...Auction-120115

    (suggestion, might sell your find as it is, if in very good condition, could be worth about $150 if you find a sucker, er buyer.)
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    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fallschirmjäger View Post
    Could have been any number of factors, depending on how the information was collected.

    Single actions were proven; whereas double action was new and untrusted, resulting in more SA being sold than DA.
    or,
    More SA in the general population because they had been sold for years and years, outweighing the new DA by sheer numbers of pistols sold
    or,
    DA pistols may have been more expensive than SA, again resulting in greater numbers sold at any one time (instead of comparing total numbers among the population)
    .
    The bold is the correct answer, late 19th century funds were in short supply, and the SA Colt was common. Pretty much the reason that cap, and ball, and conversions were still the king after the 1873 was released. Back in those days a dollar difference was a lot of money.

    I am researching the original price of some Colts, the 1873 sold for $17.50 when introduced. I have had no luck finding the introduction prices of DA Colts of that time period. The first of the DA Colts also had a weak lockwork, and still loaded from a side gate while being more expensive. The Colt 1877 never really caught on.
    Last edited by WalkingWolf; 12-30-2017 at 06:25 PM.
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    Reliability, just simple reliability. I prefer the SAA over any double action revolver for the same reason I drive only manual transmission vehicles, FUN! You are more involved with the machine, for me that's why.



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    What was the date on the comic?

    And OCFreedom is most accurate (IMHO) on this thread.

    Nemo

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    Moderator / Administrator Grapeshot's Avatar
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    I have virtually the same gun with black grips - a favorite for cross draw carry on left side when driving, traveling.
    Better to not open your mouth and be thought the fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

    You will not rise to the occasion; you will fall back on your level of training.” Archilochus, 650 BC

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grapeshot View Post
    I have virtually the same gun with black grips - a favorite for cross draw carry on left side when driving, traveling.
    You need to come to Lynchburg in the spring and join us for a SASS shoot.

    Nemo

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    Regular Member solus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Va_Nemo View Post
    You need to come to Lynchburg in the spring and join us for a SASS shoot.

    Nemo
    howdy neighbour, not from round here parts sew could ya be a might more specific on that ther invite as i cannt see that ther city listed on the yonder signpost here:

    http://www.sassnet.com/clubs/Clubs_l...state=Virginia

    thank ya kindly partner for the directions, might appreciated...

    (why was that man on the white horse wearing a mask...?)
    Last edited by solus; 01-06-2018 at 06:21 AM.
    "He who pays the piper calls the tunes..." (OBE as Grape called melody!!)

    Please do not get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am ~ my attitude depends on who you are and how you act.

    Remember always, do not judge someone because they sin differently than you do!

    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain

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    Moderator / Administrator Grapeshot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by solus View Post
    --snipped--

    (why was that man on the white horse wearing a mask...?)
    So that the Indiun wouldn't recognize who did what to him.
    Better to not open your mouth and be thought the fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

    You will not rise to the occasion; you will fall back on your level of training.” Archilochus, 650 BC

    Old and treacherous will beat young and skilled every time. Yata hey.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Va_Nemo View Post
    What was the date on the comic?
    1957. My previous post was a mistype.

    I haven't been into comics since the 8th grade in 1974. But I figured 20 of them would make for an interesting read on a long airline trip I was going on. I noticed that many comic books pre-1960 had these little factoid pages in them. I wonder if this was to make them appear at least a little educational gaining approval by parents for kids to read.

    Back to the topic, a double action revolver can be fired in both SA and DA. Wouldn't that have been a selling point when they first came out?

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    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pkbites View Post
    1957. My previous post was a mistype.

    I haven't been into comics since the 8th grade in 1974. But I figured 20 of them would make for an interesting read on a long airline trip I was going on. I noticed that many comic books pre-1960 had these little factoid pages in them. I wonder if this was to make them appear at least a little educational gaining approval by parents for kids to read.

    Back to the topic, a double action revolver can be fired in both SA and DA. Wouldn't that have been a selling point when they first came out?
    Not all of them, S&W made pocket revolvers that were double action only. They were affectionately called lemon squeezers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pkbites View Post
    1957. Back to the topic, a double action revolver can be fired in both SA and DA. Wouldn't that have been a selling point when they first came out?
    As with any new technology it takes a time to perfect. The first double actions were weaker and at least here in the states made in smaller calibers. Some double action revolvers are double action only.

    The biggest advantage was the development of swing out cylinders that allowed for faster reloading and the use of stronger cartridges compared to the top break ones.

    After about 1900 we saw a decline in single action production and double action increased.

    As the military and police went to double action revolvers and semi autos the single action fell out of favor.

    Production stopped until the cowboy movies and companies saw that they could make money again with them.

    Ruger with the single six and the black hawk line lead the new wave.

    Now one has a choice of many of both types. Each has it's own usefulness.
    Last edited by Firearms Iinstuctor; 01-18-2018 at 08:23 AM.
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    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    The first double action revolvers were mostly top break. While most were pocket revolvers the famed S&W Russian in DAO was also a top break. They are still seen gracing the shelves of gun shops today, though many are the 32, and 38 short which was a heeled bullet which is not used today. They were indeed very popular among shopkeepers, and those that concealed carried at the time. Not to many SAA graced a ladies purse, but small DA S&W, Iver Johnson, Sears, and other copies of the S&W top break pocket guns were in pockets, and purses.

    The tidbit in the comic book I believe is wrong, most of the public by the time of the 20th century had more likely a DA in their pocket than a SA. I have seen many of these in gun shops, my shop has three currently original top breaks, but NO original SAO revolvers. All are clones that came about in the great tv western age. Like the internet, just because a comic book says it is so does not make it so.

    https://americanhandgunner.com/grandpas-top-breaks/

    Last edited by WalkingWolf; 01-18-2018 at 09:30 AM.
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    Thanks for posting all the information regarding the DA/SA revolvers of that time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WalkingWolf View Post
    The first double action revolvers were mostly top break. While most were pocket revolvers the famed S&W Russian in DAO was also a top break. https://americanhandgunner.com/grandpas-top-breaks/

    The framed top break chamber in 44 Russian and other calibers was a single action.

    Smith & Wesson Model 3
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Smith & Wesson No. 3 Revolver

    Smith-et-Wesson-Model-3-p1030156.jpg
    A Smith & Wesson No. 3 on display
    Designer
    Smith & Wesson

    Manufacturer
    Smith & Wesson

    Produced
    1868–1898

    Caliber
    .44 Russian, .44 S&W American, .38 S&W, .44 Henry, .44-40 Winchester

    Action
    Single-action


    Muzzle velocity
    244 metres per second (800 ft/s)[1]

    Feed system
    6-round cylinder

    Sights
    Fixed front post and rear notch

    The Smith & Wesson Model 3 was a single-action, cartridge-firing, top-break revolver produced by Smith & Wesson from circa 1870 to 1915, and was recently again offered as a reproduction by Smith & Wesson and Uberti

    From your article the double action 44 was mot produced.

    Roy Jinks says: “When the revolver was developed in 1886, plans were made to produce it in three calibers: .32 S&W, .38 S&W and .44 S&W Russian. In fact, the first advertisement stated the revolver was soon be produced in all of these calibers. After producing a prototype of the No. 3 Hammerless, as the .44 caliber model was called, all production plans were stopped and it was only produced in the other two calibers
    Last edited by Firearms Iinstuctor; 01-18-2018 at 03:39 PM.
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  17. #17
    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firearms Iinstuctor View Post
    The framed top break chamber in 44 Russian and other calibers was a single action.

    Smith & Wesson Model 3
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Smith & Wesson No. 3 Revolver

    Smith-et-Wesson-Model-3-p1030156.jpg
    A Smith & Wesson No. 3 on display
    Designer
    Smith & Wesson

    Manufacturer
    Smith & Wesson

    Produced
    1868–1898

    Caliber
    .44 Russian, .44 S&W American, .38 S&W, .44 Henry, .44-40 Winchester

    Action
    Single-action


    Muzzle velocity
    244 metres per second (800 ft/s)[1]

    Feed system
    6-round cylinder

    Sights
    Fixed front post and rear notch

    The Smith & Wesson Model 3 was a single-action, cartridge-firing, top-break revolver produced by Smith & Wesson from circa 1870 to 1915, and was recently again offered as a reproduction by Smith & Wesson and Uberti

    From your article the double action 44 was mot produced.

    Roy Jinks says: “When the revolver was developed in 1886, plans were made to produce it in three calibers: .32 S&W, .38 S&W and .44 S&W Russian. In fact, the first advertisement stated the revolver was soon be produced in all of these calibers. After producing a prototype of the No. 3 Hammerless, as the .44 caliber model was called, all production plans were stopped and it was only produced in the other two calibers
    The 44 top break revolvers were made in both SAO, and DA models, some Spanish models were SAO. Sorry, but most of the pocket pistols carried at the turn of the century were double action.

    In 1880 S&W added a double-action top-break chambered in .38 S&W center-fire, and a year later, its first .44 cal. (.44 S&W Russian and .44-40 Win.) double-action model. The .38s were virtually identical to the .32-cal. DA revolvers and followed the same design changes and improvements over the years. The .44-cal. double-action S&Ws looked like oversized .38s, right down to the reverse-curve trigger guards. With six, instead of five chambers, the big six-shooters were offered with barrel lengths of 4, 5, 6 and 6 1/2 inches. Like the .38s, the .44s had checkered, hard-rubber grips and were offered with either blued or nickel-plated finishes.

    https://www.americanrifleman.org/art...-the-old-west/
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    I guess we need to decide what famous 44 Russian pistol your are talking about if it is the model 3 the "Schofield" model were single action.

    Again read your own article the preeminent S@W historian Roy Jinks saids the double action was never produced in 44 caliber.

    Roy Jinks says: “When the revolver was developed in 1886, plans were made to produce it in three calibers: .32 S&W, .38 S&W and .44 S&W Russian. In fact, the first advertisement stated the revolver was soon be produced in all of these calibers. After producing a prototype of the No. 3 Hammerless, as the .44 caliber model was called, all production plans were stopped and it was only produced in the other two calibers

    Feel free to find a large frame 44 no. 3 hammerless. besides the one prototype I believe that is in the S@W museum.

    As the preeminent Roy Jinks said it was never produce by S@W even thou they advertised it.
    Last edited by Firearms Iinstuctor; 01-18-2018 at 07:05 PM.
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  19. #19
    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firearms Iinstuctor View Post
    I guess we need to decide what famous 44 Russian pistol your are talking about if it is the model 3 the "Schofield" model were single action.

    Again read your own article S@W historian Roy Jinks saids the double action was never produced in 44 caliber.

    Roy Jinks says: “When the revolver was developed in 1886, plans were made to produce it in three calibers: .32 S&W, .38 S&W and .44 S&W Russian. In fact, the first advertisement stated the revolver was soon be produced in all of these calibers. After producing a prototype of the No. 3 Hammerless, as the .44 caliber model was called, all production plans were stopped and it was only produced in the other two calibers
    The 44 Russian was a famed cartridge, that both DA, and SA were manufactured for the round. You contention was the gun did not exist, which was pure wrong. DA revolvers even existed in percussion models. Nice try of diverting from the facts to cover for your wrong data.

    I did not say famous 44 Russian pistol, I said famed 44 Russian was also a DA, which it was. The double action 44 are called by the same name, as they were chambered for the same round. Just as many single actions are often called 45 Colt does not make them SAA, the term has been also used for the 1911 but reversed Colt 45. Now too many companies make 1911's so the term is not used that much anymore. Then there are the Spanish clones/models that many called them by the same terminology.

    A double action top break WAS made in 44 Russian, against your claims they were not. Tough break.

    Just to give you some more heartburn here is a DAO custom top break in the famed 44 Russian. Before you throw a tantrum, I never said anything about hammerless, though the Spanish model I saw a gun decades ago was a hammerless in 44 Russian. Also what sucks even more is that a hammerless actually has a hammer, they were not striker fired.

    Last edited by WalkingWolf; 01-18-2018 at 07:11 PM.
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  20. #20
    Moderator / Administrator Grapeshot's Avatar
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    Double action, top break, .44 Russian.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_%26_Wesson_Model_3
    Better to not open your mouth and be thought the fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

    You will not rise to the occasion; you will fall back on your level of training.” Archilochus, 650 BC

    Old and treacherous will beat young and skilled every time. Yata hey.

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    Moderator / Administrator Grapeshot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WalkingWolf View Post
    --snipped--

    Shorter barrel than most we think.

    Like the cylinder lock mechanism.
    Better to not open your mouth and be thought the fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

    You will not rise to the occasion; you will fall back on your level of training.” Archilochus, 650 BC

    Old and treacherous will beat young and skilled every time. Yata hey.

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    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grapeshot View Post
    Double action, top break, .44 Russian.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_%26_Wesson_Model_3
    I don't think the DA version was a model three, but I could be wrong on that. I avoided calling it number 3. I have seen several bobbed large frame top breaks growing up, one was carried by a railroad agent, his son used it to commit suicide.

    To further complicate the TV myth of the SA as the most popular handgun of the turn of the century in 1882 the US Army adopted the Colt M1882 a double action revolver in 38 long colt.

    There was enough demand that many companies that specialized in single action revolvers began marketing DA revolvers at the turn of the century including Merwin Hulbert. This gun was made pre 1892.

    Last edited by WalkingWolf; 01-18-2018 at 07:39 PM.
    It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow too fond of it.
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    The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth.
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  23. #23
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    Here is the first DA 44 S@W.

    They were not the famous N0.3 Russian/ Schofield or the hammerless new safety model that Jinks was referring too in the first article mentioned.

    Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action First Model

    by Garry James - Tuesday, April 23, 2013


    Smith & Wesson .44 Double Action First Model

    Smith & Wesson’s .44 Double Action First Model revolver seems to be one of that company’s more neglected designs. It tends to be overlooked as it came between the vaunted No. 3 SA and various Hand Ejector Models. The primary chambering was .44 Russian, of which 53,590 were made between 1881 and 1913. Some 15,340 “Frontier” models were also produced, as was a .38-40 Win. Those guns were numbered in individual ranges and are basically considered separate models. All frames were made prior to 1899. Some rare chamberings, such as .38 S&W, .38 Colt and .38-44 Gallery, may be encountered, but they are extremely rare. The First Models continued to be listed in catalogs for a number of years after their production ceased to clear out old stock.

    Following the lines of smaller and slightly earlier S&W .32 and .38 top-breaks, the First Model DA incorporated an excellent self-cocking mechanism that was as good as many British and Continental designs. It was also head and shoulders above Colt’s more popular Model 1877 “Lightning” and Model 1878 “Frontier” models, a happenstance that must have been more than frustrating to the folks at Smith.

    Smith & Wesson’s First Model DA incorporated the company’s familiar curved grip frame, flanked by either hard rubber or checkered walnut stock panels. The revolver was available in blue and nickel-plated finishes, and barrels were 4, 5, 6, 6½ and 8 inches (rare) in length, with 5 inches being the most common.

    First Model DA .44s employed the usual S&W top-break ejection system. The revolver could be fired double- or single-action, though it had no safety position, and the hammer did not rebound after the trigger was released, resulting in a potentially dangerous setup if the gun were dropped.

    Standard sights on the First Model DA .44 were similar to those on the No. 3, a rounded, fixed-blade front and miniscule notch rear, milled out of the fore-part of the frame latch. Some guns were fitted with target sights.
    Last edited by Firearms Iinstuctor; 01-18-2018 at 09:28 PM.
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  24. #24
    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    Again I never said the number 3, YOU DID. The number 3 was not the only gun that 44 was chambered in. You got caught in another one of your misstatements and now throwing another on of your tantrums.
    It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow too fond of it.
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    The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth.
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    What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate.
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    Your right you never said the no. 3

    You said

    While most were pocket revolvers the famed S&W Russian in DAO was also a top break.

    The No. 3 Russian model/Schofield was/is the most well know and the most produced and the one that is copied today by a couple of companies. and when does a search it is the one most commonly associated the 44 Russian cartridge.

    The no. 3 sales just alone to Russia were around double what was the total production of the No. 1 double action, let alone all the other counties and civilian sales the No. 3 was sold to.

    The No.1 was AKA the Frontier but was never known as the Russian model the No. 3 was.

    I guess we can disagree what S@W's revolver chambered in 44 S@W Russian was or is the most famous.

    And we can parse words over what framed S@W Russian in DAO means when talking about revolvers or did you really mean the famed .44 S@W Russian cartridge.

    But it is winter and this helps the time go buy.
    Last edited by Firearms Iinstuctor; 01-19-2018 at 04:30 PM.
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