US Optics. The name is an old one and as it rightfully should, it conjures up thoughts of tactical scopes being manufactured right here in the USA. For decades now, US Optics has been known as the “custom scope builder” and has been doing so from their small manufacturing facility in California, a facility that many have described as little more than a “garage”. We are here to tell you, that things have changed and US Optics is now much more than just a boutique scope builder and they are poised to make some noise in the industry.
In June of 2017, US Optics was purchased by a conglomerate of defense industry investors that were looking to add scope manufacturing capability to their portfolio in order to diversify their market reach. As everyone is aware, the 2016 elections were historical and for the firearms industry, not in a good way. Demand for firearms has plummeted and in order to survive, companies have had to be flexible and nimble to meet the market demands and changes. This brings us to US Optics and their new owners.
Upon purchasing the company, the country wide search began for a location for which to locate US Optics and their new to be built manufacturing facility. At the suggestion of a consultant, they took a look at Kalispell Montana and loved what they saw. Kalispell is a small city in north-west Montana, that for some reason, has become home to a number of firearms and accessories manufacturing companies. They can now add US Optics to the list, and this is where we went to visit their company and talk with several executives to get an idea of their current and future plans.
We are not going to say that US Optics is the new Leupold, they are not even comparable in terms of shear size, manufacturing capability, or man power. But US Optics is just as focused, and in some cases, more so because they are purely focused on one category of optics, tactical. While their scopes can most certainly be used for hunting, they are not designed or intended for anything else beyond combat. Having this very narrow focus allows them to hone in on only the things that are critical for making a useful and capable tactical scope. So while their manpower and engineering are tiny compared to Leupold, it is all focused on doing tactical scopes right, and that is where they are prepared to make their biggest impact.
When we visited their facility, it was during a community open house, but we were able to spend some time speaking one on one with their CEO and one of the primary partners in the company, a former ODA (Special Forces) commander. The discussions were very honest and forthright and we came away very impressed with the new leadership team and the direction and vision they have for the company. US Optics is no longer going to just be a boutique custom scope builder, but rather a premier top of the line tactical optics manufacturer. They are fully ISO 9100 (2015) compliant and reiterated multiple times that they MUST continue to be known as a United States optics manufacturer and one that will not compromise on quality. Some of this becomes apparent as we walked through the manufacturing area and examined their clean-room assembly location, testing area and other workstations in the construction process.
This new facility boasts top of the line technical equipment to prepare the company to move forward from their current lineup of scopes. The first new scope to be designed and built with all of these new capabilities is their new SVS 1-6x24mm. This optic is designed for the SPR or DMR style rifle that is zeroed and used for rapid mid range engagements. It is a very solid optic that we are in the process of reviewing now. The interesting approach that US Optics took with this first new scope was not to go crazy loading up the features, but rather they designed a robust scope that would hold up no matter what and included only the features that were really needed, not the ones that are currently popular. They informed us it is a matter of education advertising versus feature advertising and we really like that idea and approach. The B series line of scopes was actually already well on its way and in production before the new owners took over and those scopes will continue to be manufactured and improved. But pay attention at SHOT show in January of 2019 for new US Optics announcements and products.
We asked how US Optics plans to remain competitive moving forward and how they can avoid some of the mistakes that other premium USA based scope manufactures have made that caused their demise. They were clear with their response in that they must remain focused and non-compromising with quality. Part of that includes a step by step quality assurance (QA) program that follows a scope through the entire assembly process. Individual technicians literally put their initials on the QA card that travels with the scope from start to finish and a copy of that card ships with the scope itself. This allows them to be able to quickly track down any issues that need to be resolved if a scope has a problem during assembly.
Of course, there is a lot history involved with the US Optics brand including their old legacy scopes and custom building programs. We are insured that US Optics will continue to support the custom scope market like they always have on levels that are typically much more custom than the larger scope makers can do. We also asked about the old Unertl USMC 10x scopes and their support and again, we were excited to hear they continue to service those scopes and will periodically release special runs of them as demand builds. They are a unique part of sniping history and it is good to see the team honors and respects that.
The financial backing that US Optics now has, combined with a team of dedicated executives and especially their team of craftsmen give us great confidence in the future of the company. The new expanded resources they have by being a part of a conglomerate gives them additional support when needed as well as resources to team up with. An example of this is their recent cross promoting with ZRODelta products. They will continue to have to be flexible in order to survive, and especially thrive, but this new management team has that experience and especially the passion to see US Optics succeed. They are small, they are focused, and they are dedicated. We are excited to see what the future holds for US Optics and will be following their progress closely.
We would like to thank the team at US Optics for graciously hosting us and giving us their undivided attention during a busy event. Pat, Chad, Maggie and Tara were all professionals and were great to work with. Be watching these pages for our in depth review of some of the new US Optics scopes and future announcements.
Update: We visited the factory in 2018, unfortunately, US Optics pulled up their stakes soon after our visit and moved again. We have our reservations about picking up and moving again so soon and what that means for their products, but we will see where it leads.