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This paper investigates the key mechanisms which determine the fracture location in the dynamic tensile testing of steel sheets. For that purpose we have conducted experiments and finite element simulations. Experiments have been performed using samples with six different gauge lengths, ranging from 20 mm to 140 mm, that have been tested within a wide spectrum of loading velocities, ranging from 1 m/s to 7.5 m/s. Three are the key outcomes derived from the tests: (1) for a given gauge length and applied velocity, the repeatability in the failure location is extremely high, (2) there is a strong interplay between applied velocity, gauge length and fracture location and (3) multiple, and largely regular, localization patterns have been observed in a significant number of the experiments performed using the samples with the shorter gauge lengths. Our experimental findings are explained using the finite element simulations. On the one hand, we have shown that variations in the applied velocity and the gauge length alter the processes of reflection and interaction of waves taking place in the sample during the test, which leads to the systematic motion of the plastic localization along the gauge (as experimentally observed). On the other hand, we have detected that the emergence of multiple localization patterns requires short and equilibrated specimens with uniform stress and strain distributions along the gauge. We conclude that the experimental and numerical results presented in this paper show that, in the absence of significant material and/or geometrical defects, the location of plastic strain localization in the dynamic tensile test is deterministic. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.