I believe I have the best job in the world. I get to meet really interesting people, shoot all the new products and write about my experiences. This October, I visited the folks at Leupold in Beaverton, Ore. My visit included a factory tour and a little range time with the latest products.
Leupold: What is right about America
The company who employs over 600 people in the Beaverton area is fifth generation, family owned. Leupold & Stevens is a 103-year-old American success story. My last factory tour was during its 100th anniversary, and I commented at the time that it was appropriate Leupold supplies products for the United States Armed Forces, including its partnership with Knight's Armaments, Remington Arms and Barrett Firearms -- three other companies that emulate what is right with America.
Leupold is unique in many ways. First, it don't just build scopes; it designs and builds the tool packages for the machining process. Leupold also uses proprietary lubes and adhesives in its products. Second, the work is done at the factory, not farmed out somewhere else. Perhaps the part that surprises sporting optics experts most is the fact that Redfield scopes are made on the same factory floor, using the same lathes and tooling. This makes Redfield riflescopes the greatest bargain in the industry, because they are sold at an entry-level price point with the same high manufacturing standards. Third, the company makes its scope bases on the same property, including the Mark 4 bases of 8028 steel. Last, Leupold seriously abuses its (and its competitors') products, using some of the highest standards in the industry. Most scope manufacturers use a drop test or the equivalent to measure durability. Leupold shoots the cartridge intended for the scope/rifle combination, and uses the algorithm from the recoil and duplicates the energy in its impact room.
Collecting tactical feedback
During the tour Leupold introduced its new dedicated Tactical Optics Division. Although the company has always made excellent tactical scopes and optics, the new division will allocate engineering resources toward the end user. Along with its sporting line, there are plenty of resident resources, owing to the excellent hunting conditions and knowledgeable hunters on staff. Getting quantifiable feedback from tactical end-users is a little more elusive. Leupold's approach with tactical optics will include getting the engineering team to the end-users in order to produce "battlefield upgrades." This means that engineers will travel a lot and translate the language of American heroes into products that make their jobs easier.
I got to see one of these battlefield upgrades firsthand. First, Leupold has partnered with Horus on quite a few products. Horus has several reticle styles that have adjustment grids on their bottom half. To a hunter, this reticle style may be confusing. But to a precision shooter, it allows for snap engagement adjustments based on the input from the spotter, passive ranging and fast follow-up shots.
The Horus reticle is the quickest way to adjust for wind value without turning the turrets. It is really handy past 100 yards when the shooter is in place with a full value wind (perpendicular to the barrel) and has to take a shot at the 3 (or 9) o'clock, which will reduce the effect to half value. Rather than turn the turrets, the shooter uses the grid.
The other upgrade was a "Why didn't I think of that?" for me. The new Leupold Mark 4 ER/T scope has 1/10 mil adjustments. This means that the language between the precision shooter and spotter is the same, reducing the lag time in calculation.
Why didn't I think of that?
Not a common scope
The new MARK 8 ER/T (Extreme Range/Tactical) that I took for a spin is a 6.5-20x50. It also comes in 8.5-20x50. There are two reticle choices: a Horus H-27 or H-58. The Mark 8 ER/T 6.5-20x50 has a 34mm main tube. Yes, 34mm. This is a scope designed for extreme ranges; a 34mm main tube gives it extended elevation. It also has auto locking turrets. I got to run rounds downrange with the Mark 8 ER/T mounted on a Remington Modular Sniper Rifle, which comes in .338 Lapua Mag, 300 Win Mag or 7.62 NATO.