Best Self Defense Knives

Best Self Defense Knives of 2018

As news of violence in our nation and around the world reaches our ears, many of us are filled with a desire for protection.

For us, our families, and our communities.

Guns are the first self-defense method many of us think of at first.

But they’re not always the best choice.

A friend of mine was confronted by a violent assailant recently, in front of his family.

He was visiting out-of-state so he did not have his concealed carry pistol with him.

He drew his knife and intimidated the mugger into fleeing.

Knives can be used for self defense.

We will go over the pros and cons of some of the best.

What & Why

Why use a knife for self defense? Why not a gun?

Or even an air gun?Seld Defense Bad Guy with Knife

Pistols are the king supreme of self defense when you’re out of the house, but they’re not always the best choice.

There are many reasons for choosing to carry a knife for self defense instead of, or perhaps alongside, a gun.

Knives are easier to find and purchase.

Fewer laws govern who can carry a knife, how, and where.

It’s easier to hide a knife or to carry multiple knives.

For that matter, knives are great everyday tools, so you’ll likely want to carry one anyway.

Knives also sometimes have the advantage over guns in short range fights.

21-Foot Rule, anyone?

However, knives do have their disadvantages.

If you’re lucky then when you brandish the knife your attacker will turn tail and run.

Otherwise, you’ve started a knife fight.

Self Defense Knife Ambulance Hospital
I’d rather ride in this than in a hearse

A common saying is that there are no winners when it comes to a knife fight: one person goes to the hospital, one person goes to the morgue.

If you decide to carry a knife with the intent of using it to defend yourself or your family then be prepared for the gruesome reality of a knife fight.

Brush up on your anatomy and consider learning martial arts.

Many modern martial arts, such as Eskrima, include bladed weapons in their training.

You want to know how to use your knife if you intend to defend yourself with it.

We’re going to help you find a great knife for self defense, but the most important factor involved is you and your training.

Features to Look for When Buying a Self-Defense Knife

Self-defense knives are often similar to EDC knives.

You do carry them every day.

But while even a one-inch blade can serve well for everyday tasks, you typically want a longer blade for self defense.

Every extra bit of length may make the difference between a successful strike or a failure.

Other than that, you also want to weigh three main considerations: concealability, ease of use, and legality.

Concealability

If you can’t hide your knife well then you may get disarmed before the confrontation even begins.Concealed Self Defense Knife Gerber Ghoststrike

Or your attacker will see the knife coming a mile away, so you lose the initiative.

Some people say you should make it obvious that you’re drawing the knife, so you intimidate the criminal.

Other people say you should hide the knife until the exact moment you strike them with it.

Either way, a concealable knife gives you that option, while an obvious knife doesn’t.

Ease of Use

Ease of use is also important, and this means that you better be able to draw the knife and get it into action quickly and easily.

A knife you intend to use to defend yourself better be easy to use.

A butterfly knife may be flashy and cool when you pull it out and flip it around to open, but that’s slow and fidgety.

You want an easy draw. Get the knife in your hand quickly. Yesterday, if possible.

Choosing between a fixed blade or a folding knife is, most of the time, personal preference.

Folding knives are easier to conceal, but fixed blade knives are easier to use.

Fixed blade knives tend to be stronger, but that rarely applies in knife fights.

Legality

Don’t forget to pay attention to your local laws, since they can apply too!

A knife that is legal in New Jersey may be illegal in New York City, and vice versa.

Self Defense Knife Tactical Tacticool Skull Blade
The skulls on this knife might get you into trouble

The fixed vs folding choice may be determined by these laws.

Another feature to look out for is a tactical or combative name or look to the knife.

You may want to avoid those.

Why?

Premeditation.

Lawyers like to use them to convince juries that you went out looking for a fight, so they’ll make your claim to self-defense less believable.

But if you have a job or are in a place which takes that off the table, get as vicious a knife as you can.

Finally, give a consideration to the comfort and utility of the blade.

Unlike a gun, you can use your self-defense knife as a tool.

Best Folding Self Defense Knives

Folding knives win out in the concealability department, though it may take an extra moment to unfold them.

This is because the blade hides within the handle.

Because they have to pivot (most of the time), folding blades are technically weaker than fixed blade knives.

But you won’t be batoning wood with these blades, you’ll be defending yourself, so that’s not important.

ModelBlade LengthWeightRatingPrice
Spyderco Matriarch Sypder Edge3.55"3.5 oz4.6$$

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Benchmade Bedlam 8604"7.2 oz4.6$$$$

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Benchmade 3300 Infidel3.95"5 oz4.5$$$$

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Gerber Remix Tactical3"4.6 oz3.8$

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Spyderco P'Kal2.95"3.7 oz4.0$$$$

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Spyderco Matriarch Spyder Edge Knife – Most Effective Folding Self-Defense Knife

Self Defense Knife Folding Kris Spyderco Matriarch review

Tech Specs

  • Blade Length: 3.55″
  • Overall Length: 8.39″
  • Weight: 3.5 oz
  • Blade Material: VG-10 Stainless Steel
  • Blade Shape: Fully serrated reverse “S”
  • Handle Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon
  • Lock: Back Lock
  • Misc: Four-position pocket clip, Spyderco round hole

Overview

Have you heard of something called a kris?

It’s a dagger with a blade that curves back and forth, most often used in southern Asia.

A curved edge slices better than a straight one, and a kris doesn’t just have curves, it has waves.

The Matriarch Spyder Edge, by Spyderco, is like a modern day, folding, one-sided kris.

Many fighting knives also have practical uses.Self Defense Knife Folding Spyderco Matriarch 2

This one is solely for creating debilitating cuts.

It’s the smaller, and less expensive, version of the Spyderco Civilian.

The Civilian was developed for undercover law enforcement who might need to finish a fight quickly if discovered, and the Matriarch maintains that ability.

There’s also the Matriarch 2, which has an Emerson Opener. It looks like a stubby bottle opener.

It catches the edge of your pocket as you draw the knife so you don’t have to make a separate opening motion.

Things I Liked

The very pointed tip, wavy blade, and serrated edge–all the way! Not just part way!–highlight that this is a fighting knife.

It’ll cut deep and hard.

It’s also a breeze to open, especially once you’ve got the hang of using the Emerson Opener, and is quite light.

Things I Didn’t Like

Unlike a lot of the other knives on this list, the Matriarch is almost useless as an EDC knife.

You may be able to find some uses for it, but it won’t have much utility.

In short, this is only a weapon, not a tool. Be careful with it.

Recommendation

If my advice to be subtle when choosing a self-defense knife doesn’t apply to you, Spyderco’s Matriarch Spyder Edge is excellent at slicing and fighting.

It does its job well.

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Benchmade Bedlam 860 – Best Self Defense knife

Best Self Defense Knife Folding Benchmade Bedlam review

Tech Specs

  • Blade Length: 4″
  • Overall Length: 9.76″
  • Weight: 7.2 oz
  • Blade Material: 154CM Stainless Steel
  • Blade Shape: Scimitar, plain or serrated
  • Handle Material: G10
  • Lock: AXIS
  • Misc: Reversible pocket clip, lanyard hole

Overview

Continuing the theme of weapons turned into EDC self-defense knives, the Benchmade Bedlam 860 is much like a miniature scimitar you can keep in your pocket.

Bedlam refers the Bethlem Royal Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in London that’s been in use since the 13th century.

Nowadays we use it as a word for chaos or madness, especially when violence is involved.

Benchmade’s take on this is excellent for stopping that violent chaos.

It’s large, wicked sharp, and is available with either a plain edge with satin finish or a serrated edge with a black coated finish.

You can swap the pocket clip from left to right, but you’re stuck with tip-up carry only.Best Self Defense Knife Folding Benchmade Bedlam

There are also dual thumb studs for ambidextrous operation.

Things I Liked

The curved blade is excellent for slicing, whether in defense or if you need to cut through rope in a rescue operation.

Benchmade’s AXIS lock is good for one-handed ambidextrous operation.

Things I Didn’t Like

The Bedlam is heavier than any other knife on this list, even though it only has a four-inch blade.

That weight doesn’t make it as comfortable to carry as the other choices available.

Recommendation

If you have the budget and can handle carrying almost half a pound of blade with you, Benchmade’s Bedlam is an excellent choice for a self-defense knife.

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Benchmade 3300 Infidel – Best Self-Defense Knife

Benchmade 3300 Infidel Review

Tech Specs

  • Blade Length: 3.95″
  • Overall Length: 8.95″
  • Weight: 5 oz
  • Blade Material: D2 Tool Steel
  • Blade Shape: Double edge spear point
  • Handle Material: 6061 T6 Aluminum
  • Lock: Double-action OTF
  • Misc: Right-handed tip-down clip, MOLLE compatible sheath

Overview

An OTF knife, the Benchmade 3300 Infidel isn’t actually a folder.

Instead, the blade comes out the front of the handle – OTF.

It’s also more technically a dagger because the edge is sharpened on either side of the blade.

This improves the number of angles you can use to attack an opponent if you have this knife.

The Infidel is an automatic knife.

Depending on your jurisdiction, it could be a switchblade, a dagger, or both.

Flick the switch forward, and the blade extends.

Pull the switch backward, and the blade retracts.

Things I Liked

The ambidextrous aluminum handle is hefty and comfortable, no matter how you hold it.

Then you press the switch and the knife ready to strike.Self Defense Knife Benchmade Out the Front 3300 Infidel Pocket Clip Bronze Titanium

Holding this knife feels like holding onto a tame spitting cobra.

It may be entirely under your control but it feels like it could attack at any moment.

The fact that the blade is made from D2 tool steel helps, as this thing will stay sharp almost forever.

Things I Didn’t Like

The deployment switch is inconsistent. If this were a gun I’d upgrade the trigger immediately.

Also, while Benchmade knives are already not cheap, the Infidel is very expensive.

For right around $400, you can get a good self-defense pistol.

Or four Hi-Points!

Lastly, when the D2 steel finally dulls, it’s going to take some serious effort to sharpen it again.

Recommendation

For when you need an expensive knife with a trigger, and the laws don’t prohibit you from owning one, the Benchmade 3300 Infidel is an excellent automatic knife.

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Gerber Remix Tactical

Gerber Remix Tactical Self Defense Knife review

Tech Specs

  • Blade Length: 3″
  • Overall Length: 7.86″
  • Weight: 4.6 oz
  • Blade Material: 7Cr17MoV Stainless Steel
  • Blade Shape: Serrated tanto
  • Handle Material: G10
  • Lock: Liner lock
  • Misc: Circular ring in handle

Overview

Gerber’s Remix Tactical is meant for fighting.

But more than that, it’s meant to stay in your hand.

There’s a circular ring between the handle and the blade, which serves as the pivot point for the blade.Self Defense Knife Gerber Remix Tactical in Pocket

You can stick your finger into that ring and it’ll take a lot of effort to disarm you of this knife.

Some versions use what Gerber calls a “thumblift” on the back of the blade to provide ambidextrous one-handed operation, instead of dual thumb studs.

Things I Liked

With your finger through the ring, ain’t nobody gonna be disarming you unless you let them. Or have lost your hand.

Things I Didn’t Like

The blade pivots around a giant ring rather than a small pivot pin, which can make finding the right amount of friction for easy opening difficult.

Also, some users have reported that if they fling the blade open too fast the liner lock will move too far and a second tool, such as a screwdriver or another knife, is necessary to unlock the blade!

Recommendation

The Gerber Remix Tactical is much cheaper than other knives on this list, but that shows in its construction and overall quality.

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Spyderco P’Kal

Self Defense Knife Folding Spyderco P'Kal review

Tech Specs

  • Blade Length: 2.95″
  • Overall Length: 7.35″
  • Weight: 3.7 oz
  • Blade Material: CPM S30V Stainless Steel
  • Blade Shape: Reverse-edge
  • Handle Material: G10
  • Lock: Ball Bearing Lock
  • Misc: Emerson Opener, four-position pocket clip, Spyderco round hole

Overview

Spyderco claims that the name P’Kal comes from the word “pikal,” spoken in the Philippines.

It means “to rip,” and that’s exactly what this knife is meant for.

Designed alongside Craig Douglas, a self-defense expert, the P’Kal’s edge is along the inside of the curve.

This gives it great power for pulling cuts.

Self Defense Knife Spyderco P'Kal Trainer
There’s even a trainer version available!

A Ball Bearing Lock keeps the knife deployed, and the wire pocket clip can be set for tip-up or tip-down, right or left-handed carry.

An Emerson Opener juts out of the back of the blade so you can open the knife while drawing it from your pocket.

It’s also removable if you don’t like it.

The handle, made from G10, is oddly shaped, but it’s a comfortably odd shape.

Things I Liked

Like the Matriarch, the P’Kal is designed for one thing–slicing in a fight.

It does this well.

However, the P’Kal has more utility than the Matriarch and better masquerades as a tool.

Things I Didn’t Like

For such an expensive knife it has a rather weak pocket clip.

It’s wire and so gets bent out of shape rather easily.

Recommendation

Designed by a self-defense instructor, and intended for martial arts use, the Spyderco P’Kal is an excellent ripper.

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Best Self Defense Fixed Blade Knives

Fixed blade knives are harder to conceal than folding blades, but are easier to use and are stronger.

There’s no fiddling about to unfold the blade, just unsheathe and go.

They may also be longer than their folding cousins, though this is not always the case.

Most fighting knives have, historically, had a fixed blade.

ModelBlade LengthWeightRatingPrice
Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife2.3125"3.2 oz4.6$

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ESEE Izula-II
2.63"3.2 oz4.9$$

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Gerber Ghoststrike3.3"3.6 oz4.3$

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MODELNAME5"5 oz4.7$

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SOG Seal Pup Elite4.85"5.4 oz4.4$

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Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife – Most Concealable Fixed Blade Self Defense Knife

Self Defense Knife Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Fixed Blade review

Tech Specs

  • Blade Length: 2.3125″
  • Overall Length: 5.625″
  • Weight: 3.2 oz
  • Blade Material: AUS-8A Stainless Steel
  • Blade Shape: Drop point, plain or serrated
  • Handle Material: Zytel
  • Misc: Sheath

Overview

Designed by John Benner, from the Tactical Defense Institute, Ka-Bar’s TDI Law Enforcement knife was designed to be a complement to a duty pistol.

The idea is that if a suspect manages to disarm you or is holding onto your gun hand, you can still draw and use this close-quarters knife.

It comes with a reversible sheath that is supposed to be attached to your belt.Self Defense Knife Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Serrated Edge

The knife has an unusual angle relative to the grip, designed to allow you maximum security while you wrestle with an assailant.

There is no pocket clip or lanyard hole.

Things I Liked

A knife intended for concealing within your waistband? Pretty cool.

It’s also easy to draw and you can position the sheath wherever on your belt helps you draw the fastest.

Things I Didn’t Like

The sheath that comes with the knife is serviceable but could be much improved.

There are aftermarket sheaths which greatly improve the functionality of the blade. Or you can take a Dremel to it.

It’s also short for a fighting knife, though Ka-Bar does sell a longer version called the TDI Law Enforcement Knife, Large.

Recommendation

Intended to give law enforcement officers a close-quarters backup to their pistol, the Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement knife can do the same thing for you.

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ESEE Izula-II

Self Defense Knife ESEE Izula II 2 Fixed Blade review

Tech Specs

  • Blade Length: 2.63″
  • Overall Length: 6.75″
  • Weight: 3.2 oz
  • Blade Material: 1095 Carbon Steel
  • Blade Shape: Drop Point
  • Handle Material: Micarta
  • Misc: Lanyard hole, sheath

Overview

Named after the bullet ant in Peru, the Izula-II (or Izula 2) by ESEE is a lightweight carbon steel knife.

It’s intended for survival or combat situations.

The handle, made from Micarta, doesn’t have much ergonomic shaping. It’s still comfortable to use, though.

There’s a large lanyard hole and the knife comes with a sheath, which itself has a reversible belt clip.Self Defense Knife ESEE Izula II 2 Fixed Blade with Sheath Survival Kit

You can also get the Izula-II with an optional survival kit, which includes paracord, a whistle, and a fire starting rod.

Things I Liked

This knife has few frills.

Instead, it focuses on being a sturdy way of holding onto a sharp blade.

It fulfills this very well.

Especially for people with large hands, who will find that the handle accommodates their big mitts.

Things I Didn’t Like

Carbon steel is great for edges, but not great for corrosion resistance. Watch out for rust, especially if you sweat on the blade.

Which is likely if you carry it frequently.

Also, the sheath rides high, so you’ll need to modify or replace it if you want more concealment.

Recommendation

ESEE’s Izula-II, much like the bullet ant it is named after, is a no-nonsense edged weapon.

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Gerber Ghoststrike – Best Budget Self-Defense Knife

Self Defense Knife Fixed Blade Gerber Ghoststrike review

Tech Specs

  • Blade Length: 3.3″
  • Overall Length: 6.9″
  • Weight: 3.6 oz
  • Blade Material: 420HC Carbon Steel or BDZ-1 Stainless Steel
  • Blade Shape: Clip point
  • Handle Material: Rubber
  • Misc: Modular sheath

Overview

With a skeletonized handle and black ceramic coating, Gerber’s Ghoststrike hides like a ghost.

But unlike a spooky poltergeist, it’ll do more than rattle drawers and knock over pots.

Instead, you can hide this knife anywhere then strike when you need to.

The sheath can clip onto your belt, or it can attach to the included neoprene wrap to hide on your ankle.

Also, unlike some knives on this list, you can rotate the sheath for horizontal carry.

Or, if you don’t want the ankle wrap, you can forgo that option.Self Defense Knife Fixed Blade Gerber Ghost Strike Belt Sheath

The handle is the same steel as the blade, just covered with rubber for added grip.

There’s even a small lanyard hole.

If you prefer stainless steel over high carbon steel then you can get the Ghoststrike in BDZ-1 steel, though you’ll lose the black ceramic coating.

By the way, the given weight is both knife and sheath. Without the sheath, the Ghoststrike weighs 1.8 oz!

Things I Liked

The sheath is surprisingly nice and provides a lot of options for concealing this knife.

Skeletonization also makes the Ghoststrike very light. You’re likely to forget you’re carrying this knife.

Especially when worn on the ankle, as the ankle wrap is surprisingly comfortable.

Things I Didn’t Like

The rubber coating is, well, it enhances your grip but is likely to wear off sooner rather than later.

But it’s not easily removable so you can’t replace the rubber with a better option.

Recommendation

Gerber’s Ghoststrike is a nice lightweight knife, more concealable than some folding blades, that comes with a great sheath.

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Cold Steel Steel Tiger

Self Defense Knife Cold Steel Tiger Claw Fixed Blade review

Tech Specs

  • Blade Length: 5″
  • Overall Length: 9.75″
  • Weight: 5 oz
  • Blade Material: AUS-8A Stainless Steel
  • Blade Shape: Claw curve
  • Handle Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon
  • Misc: Sheath

Overview

The Steel Tiger by Cold Steel resembles a tiger’s claw.

It’s large and curved, a modern interpretation of the Indonesian karambit.

Originally agricultural tools, karambits were claw-like blades used by warriors as a last resort.

This does not make them poor fighting knives; those warriors knew they could rely on their karambit after all weapons were lost.

The sharp edge is along the inside of the curve, which increases the cutting potential.Self Defense Knife Cold Steel Tiger Sheath

There’s also a large hole at the end of the handle.

Put your index or pinky finger in there and an attacker cannot easily disarm you.

The curvature of the blade is also said to make the knife more intuitive to use when fighting.

Things I Liked

The knife is comfortable to use and the blade is surprisingly useful.

It also looks vicious, like some metal animal’s claw.

Things I Didn’t Like

The first thing you should do with the sheath is to impale it on the blade.

It’s so awful that there’s no other real use for it.

In fact, the sheath is so bad, it’s more likely to lose the knife at the wrong moment than keep it securely on you!

As for the knife itself, it’s the longest one on our list, but because of the curve, it doesn’t have quite as much usable length as the specs would make it sound.

Recommendation

Much like the claw of a tiger, Cold Steel’s Steel Tiger can rip into whatever you need to cut, so long as the sheath doesn’t break and leave the knife behind.

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SOG Seal Pup Elite – Best Fixed Blade Self-Defense Knife

Self Defense Knife Fixed Blade SOG Seal Pup Elite Plain Edge review

Tech Specs

  • Blade Length: 4.85″
  • Overall Length: 9.5″
  • Weight: 5.4 oz
  • Blade Material: AUS-8 Stainless Steel
  • Blade Shape: Clip Point, plain or serrated
  • Handle Material: Glass-Reinforced Nylon
  • Misc: Nylon or Kydex sheath, lanyard hole

Overview

SOG makes knives for the professional fighters, and the Seal Pup Elite comes from that pedigree.

You can get the knife with a multitude of finishes and with your choice of a plain or partially serrated edge.

This is the one largest knives on the list. With a blade length of almost five inches and an overall length of almost ten inches, you can reach out far with this blade.Self Defense Knife SOG Seal Pup Elite Sheath

The sheath is MOLLE compatible and is high quality.

The AUS-8 steel has supposedly undergone a unique cryogenic heat treatment process which supposedly further strengthens the steel.

Things I Liked

It’s big, comfortable, and sharp. It’ll handle almost anything you throw at it.

The Seal Pup Elite is also lighter than many knives of its size.

The texturing on the handle makes this knife easy to grip if it gets wet.

In fact, this is also a diving knife. After all, it’s based on knives used by the Navy SEALs.

The durability is through the roof on this knife.

Things I Didn’t Like

As far as concealability goes, the length of this knife drags it down.

You’ll likely have a hard time hiding this knife.

Recommendation

Based on knives used by the Navy Seals, SOG’s Seal Pup Elite will help you survive any conflict.

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Conclusion

Any of these knives will serve you well as a self-defense knife.

But which one would work best?

If budget is no object, and the laws do not prohibit you from doing so, then carry the Benchmade 3300 Infidel.

It packs a lot of punch into a tiny yet durable space and deploys as quick as a gunshot.

On the other side, if budget is your biggest concern, I recommend the Gerber Ghoststrike.Self Defense Knife Fixed Blade SOG Seal Pup Elite Partially Serrated Edge

It’s inexpensive, concealable, lightweight, and has a great sheath.

My favorite of the fixed blade knives for self-defense is the SOG Seal Pup Elite.

Though long and awkward to carry, if you know you are going to be getting into a fight, this is the knife for you.

When it comes to folding knives, however, I prefer Benchmade’s Bedlam.

The others are good as well, especially the Spyderco P’Kal, but the Bedlam just has the size advantage necessary to win a fight.

No matter which knife you choose there are some things you need to remember.

Training is more important than which blade you use, and always stay on the right side of the law.

Which of these self-defense knives is YOUR favorite?

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