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I would like to press RMB and select not only the vertices/edge/faces on the front side, but the back side as well. I'm convinced this effect must be implemented, but I've been unable to find it or google for the answer.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

You can disable Limit Selection to visible in 3D view > Header:

enter image description here

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Actually as I was writing this question, I found one method by pushing Z for wireframe mode.

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