Advancements In Optics

New Technologies Boost Performance For Every Type Of Customer

By Carolee Anita Boyles

Image Courtesty of Howard Communications

The technology of today’s advanced optics improves almost daily. Optics must be clean, crisp and bright to gain even a toehold in this competitive market, as savvy consumers demand optimum performance from their scopes and binoculars. The breadth of new products available is causing us to rethink what we term “optics,” as new products provide new ways of seeing the performance in firearms.

Mike Hollinger, a buyer and manager at Fin Feather Fur Outfitters in Ashland, Ohio, said the biggest trend he’s seen in optics the past few years is an increase in apps and computer technology.

“This is especially true of Leupold,” he shared. “You can sight-in your hunting rifle at 50 yards, and Leupold can cut you a dial that has indicator marks for different yardages. It used to be people would buy a standard scope with a standard crosshair in it, and you’d sight it in for 100 yards; then if you had to shoot 300 yards, you were guessing. Now, with apps you can have on your phone in concert with Leupold doing these custom dials, longer range hunting and shooting has become easier because of this technology.”

Hollinger said these custom dials are surprisingly inexpensive, and take only a short time to arrive, since the facility is producing them here in the U.S.

In general, Hollinger relayed, the manufacturing of optics is improving, which also means a reduction in price. The same Leupold scope sold for $239 a few years ago may sell for $199 today. It’s not a huge reduction in cost, but $40 is substantial to the average customer on a budget.

“It’s also a better scope than it was 15 years ago, because it’s manufactured better,” he noted. “In addition, there are so many different sizes and powers at every price point that they can do the best for customers. There’s a scope for a guy who’s deer hunting, one who’s shooting a 3-Gun competition and one who’s shooting elk at 500 to 600 yards. There are scopes for guys who want to pay $200, and scopes for guys like me who’ll pay $3,500.”

Other riflescope manufacturers who provide similar technologies include Vortex, NightForce and Sightron.
Red dot optics continue to be popular, Hollinger said.

“Those are more for close-range shooting,” he relayed. “A lot of people are using them on rifles or pistols they’re shooting under 200 yards. They’re more for target shooting and recreational shooting than hunting because there’s no magnification on a red dot. They’re big on MSR-style rifles and competition pistols. Guys even put red dots on little .22 pistols for target shooting.”

According to Hollinger, customers are purchasing Leupold, EOTech, AimPoint, Vortex and Trijicon red dot scopes.
In binoculars, trends are similar, Hollinger contends.

“The big sellers are Leupold, Nikon and Vortex,” he said. “The upper-end binoculars will be Swarovski. They’re very expensive, but the guy who goes out west to hunt a lot will buy a better Leupold or a Swarovski. The more money he spends on optics, the less light it takes for them to be bright.”

The big changes in binoculars, Hollinger suggested, is they’re smaller and lighter and less expensive than they have been in the past.

ZEISS Conquest V6

Hawke Frontier ED X

VORTEX Venom Red Dot 3 MOA Dot

High-Tech Tide

The overall push to high-tech optics is being driven by the same thing driving technology elsewhere, Hollinger believes (e.g., we’ve all become accustomed to having computers in our pockets).

“I have an app on my phone with different caliber and gun combinations,” he said. “I’m shooting a .308 with a Leupold Mark 6 on it, and I can type in 500 yards and it can tell me what to dial on my scope to hit my target. The information is with me all the time on my phone, it’s easy to use and I can access it anywhere and any time.”

Hollinger expects the trend toward high tech to continue.

“We’re seeing the tactical side of shooting moving into the hunting side of shooting. Today a hunter can buy a bigger scope with adjustable turrets and now he can shoot farther than he ever has before. Instead of going home empty-handed, he comes home with the animal of his dreams. It’s pretty simple; if I can do it, anyone can do it,” he remarked.

This trend toward technology-based apps for optics takes many forms, some of them not immediately obvious. For instance, ShotKam has introduced a gun camera for rifles. Richard Smith, the company’s director of the rail mount division, said the camera is a training aid for instructors and shooters.

“The camera digitally records your shot,” he informed. “It has its own internal Wi-Fi system that connects to an app on your phone. After you take a shot, the app shows where you aimed and where it landed. You can go through it second by second in super slow motion and see exactly what you were doing. It’ll improve shooting with less ammo, and you can diagnose the errors you’re making.”

EOTech Vudu 5-25x50mm

Mike Hollinger of Fin Feather Fur Outfitters (Ashland, Ohio) has seen an exponential
rise in smartphone apps to complement the technological advancements in today’s optics.
Hunting riflescope sales are booming in his area.

Customer-Driven Sales

At Delray Shooting Center in Delray Beach, Fla., optics are geared to the tactical and self-defense markets. Manager Chuck Papp said the biggest sellers there are low-magnification red dot scopes. Most of the ones they sell are Aimpoint.

“We also sell some hunting scopes, because we have a number of customers who go out of state hunting,” he shared. “A variety of 3-9 and 4-12 scopes are stocked here for them, which move well. We sell the Leupold VX-2 the most, as well as the Nikon Buckmaster and the Vortex Crossfire.”

Papp maintains sales have held steady over the past several years.

“There haven’t been any really big changes for us. The change in politics has affected the sale of guns, but not of optics,” he added.

When a customer comes in looking for new optics the first question Papp usually asks is, “How much do you want to spend?” It helps him direct the customer to the right manufacturer and price point for his need.

“We don’t want to give him sticker shock by pulling out a $1,000 scope when he wants to spend half that,” he informed. “It’s important to find out what he wants before we take anything out of the case. Our optics sales are customer driven.”
Marketing in this new normal also has remained about the same as it’s always been, Papp noted.

“The store’s been here 27 years and there still are people who don’t know we’re here,” he said. “Most of our marketing is just word-of-mouth. We have a Facebook page and an Instagram account.”

Over the next year or so, Papp doesn’t expect to see much change in what his customers purchase in the way of optics.
“We don’t see fear in the market any more,” he observed. “Everything has pretty much leveled out.”

Bushnell Targets Hunters With Branding, New Products

By Jade Moldae

Last month, Bushnell introduced three entirely new optics lines to target the hunting segment. Available in three price points — Forge (premium), Nitro (midrange) and Prime (entry-level) — these new lines include feature-rich riflescopes, spotting scopes, binoculars and rangefinders.

According to Jacob Edson, Vista Outdoor communications and PR manager, the company opted for multiple price points to appeal to a wide variety of customers.

“A lot of our consumer data has shown customers want to have three clear lines so they know what’s good, better, best,” he said. “At the top of the line (Forge), customers are going to get zero-stop turrets, first focal planes, a throw lever for quick adjustments, Ultra Wide Band Coating, 30mm tube and more.”

Each price point features EXO Barrier protective lens coating technology, waterproof construction and the Bushnell Ironclad Warranty. Color options were added to the Forge (Terrain Earth) and Nitro (Gunmetal Gray) series to further differentiate between the lines.

In tandem with this launch, Bushnell significantly upgraded its website to engage with enthusiasts.

“We’re focused on a greater user experience with enhanced storytelling and a more interactive webpage. Our social media presence has been beefed up to get the word out, which is a big part of this launch,” he added.

Additionally, Edson shared Bushnell will be outfitting dealers with new assets — including scope trays to stand out under glass.
“The retail environment pieces will be new and improved,” he said. “These new optics are upgraded across the board, and customers will immediately be able to see the difference and identify their selection by feature sets.”


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