Standing at the sign out front, the headquarters could be taken for a small college or public library. Instead, this unassuming facility houses a beehive of activity in a multistory structure that cuts deeply down and into the hill, making the factory much larger – and more secure – than it appears. Despite its humble appearance, the campus supports more than 650 employees.
I recently visited Leupold for a tour courtesy of Dave Domin, one of the company’s marketing and communication specialists. My visit encompassed the entire production process from beginning to end and included a review of their state-of-the-art recycling program.
Each year, Leupold uses enough raw T6061 and T7075 aluminum that, if laid end to end, it would stretch from Beaverton to Chicago. Due to a close partnership with INDEX, one of the world’s premium machine tool builders, they have the largest installation of that company’s products west of the Mississippi. All 45 machines are customized to a speciﬁc manufacturing need.
But despite the high volume, nothing at the facility goes to waste. The use of strike-forged steel and near-net-shape parts saves time and trash, but Leupold also boasts one of the best recycling programs in the West, as aluminum chip waste is systematically formed into “pucks.” These pucks, worth three times more than loose aluminum chips, are shipped back to fabricators and are in turn melted down and reformed into new bar stock to be used again.
In addition, the companywide recycling program includes coolant, paper, cardboard, wood and batteries.
The base-and-ring-manufacturing section of the factory produces 440 diﬀerent bases designed to ﬁt more than 380 unique ﬁrearms. More than a million bases are manufactured per year, representing nearly 40,000 base-and-ring combinations.
Leupold’s Custom Shop was founded in 2005, and leads the industry in custom exterior color and patterns, reticles, adjustments, engraving and more. Custom engraving is always available, with all markings on scopes made by high-speed laser. In addition, the company laser engraves more than 15,000 custom dials a year, with more than a million diﬀerent custom combos available.
The company boasts nine unique assembly lines incorporating more than 200 individual parts per scope. Continuous quality checks spaced throughout the process ensure no defect is passed along. All scopes are strenuously tested using live ﬁre before departing the factory, and are pressure tested to ensure that the ﬁnished product meets the highest industry standards.
All scope and optic assembly and testing occurs in climate-controlled “clean rooms” free from dust and other organic particles that could possibly aﬀect the performance of their product, and every employee working in this part of the facility wears a protective suit over their clothing. Anyone who has used Leupold optics knows they are dependable, durable and stand up alongside the top names in the business. I use a Leupold scope that was constructed in the 1960s, and this “outdated” instrument still ensures that one of my .308 riﬂes drives tacks at 100 yards.
With a product service team representing more than 300 years of experience, Leupold continues to repair scopes dating back to the late 1940s, and if they aren’t able to repair them, they will replace them with an equivalent current model in an average turnaround time of just seven days. Their services include reticle changes, adjustment upgrades, cleaning and inspecting, among many other things. In addition to their Beaverton plant, Leupold has international repair facilities in Canada, Australia, Sweden and Germany, and these ﬁve service nearly 40,000 products annually. Each year, team members respond to 145,000 phone calls, 48,000 emails and process 47,000 product orders.
With top-of-the-line products supported by exceptional service, it’s no mystery why Leupold scopes, binoculars, range ﬁnders, spotting scopes and other optics remain some of the most respected on the market. ASJ
We can all boast life lessons that have taught us certain principles. For me, the optics lesson happened years ago. Ed Sweet, the host of Kid Outdoors, and I would take a lot of kids bear hunting. I’d write articles about the hunts and he’d film them for his show. On one of our first hunts we saw 10 bears in two afternoons. Only once did I spot the bear before anyone else. That’s because my partners had good glass. I had an average pair of binoculars and have realized over the years that I had been missing a lot of game. I started a quest to learn more.
Unfortunately, the old saying “you get what you pay for” is never so true as it is in the optics world. When you buy a set, get the best that you can afford and you’ll never be sorry. I’ve heard a lot of people cuss bad optics, but I’ve never seen anyone regret buying good ones.
I thought I knew most of the optic companies out there and had tested products for at least half of them, but then I attended my first SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor and Trade) Show years ago. Wow, was I shocked. I bet there were 50 to 75 optic companies on display.
So, who’s the best? What makes one better than another? They all look clear and crisp in the store, don’t they? So how can you tell which one to buy, and why spend $2,000 on a pair of binoculars when you can buy a pair for $99? Why would you buy a spotting scope instead of just using your binoculars or the scope on your rifle? Well, let’s try to get our sights around these questions.
I teach a lot of glassing for big-game seminars, have been sponsored by a lot of optic companies over the years and I still don’t claim to know it all, but here are some of the things I have learned.
On an 8×42, the 8 signifies the power or magnification. The second number, 42, is the objective size. You preferably want your objective size to be four times the power. If it is less than four times, it won’t let in enough light for low-light conditions like dawn or dusk. The problem is, the higher the objective, the heavier the weight. Therein lies our dilemma.
If you’re a sedentary hunter, buy a 10×50, but if you’re hiking all day, buy a 10×42. I used to recommend 8×42. My thinking was that when you’re huffing and puffing up a mountain and throw up anything larger than an 8x, you wouldn’t be stable enough to focus. Years ago, however, I realized how much game I was missing, so I now carry a 10x.
Basically, there are three main options: compact, semicompact and full size. You need to determine your application. Where I live, we often scramble up and down mountains all day; this is why I carry a semicompact version. A full-sized binocular would be too heavy, and I know that I would never carry them. On the other hand, if you live in Texas and hunt out of a blind, then by all means get the larger set.
Now the tough choice: What brand should you buy? There are several good choices on the market. I’m sponsored by Leica and they have top-notch optics. Leupold and Bushnell also offer models that meet different budgets, and both offer decent warranties as well.
Years ago, everyone used leather straps to carry their binoculars. After a hard day of scrambling up and down it would feel like my neck had been dislocated by all the bouncing around. This is when I discovered Butler Creek elastic straps. They fit like a bra – not that I’ve ever worn a bra – and hold the binoculars against my chest. A lot of people make straps that are similar, but back in the day Butler Creek owned the market.
Now let’s cover spotting scopes. Why buy a spotting scope? Why not just use your binoculars? Because you’ll miss a ton of game. What size should you buy? Because of weight, I choose to carry a 35x, which is sufficient for me here in Idaho. If you’re sheep hunting in Alaska, you may want a 60x. You will need to determine where and how you hunt before making your decision.
When I glass, I do what is known as “zoning” – no, not fall asleep. I’ll climb to the top of a high ridge and set up. I start viewing towards one end of the mountain and glass across horizontally, then drop down 50 yards and go back. I will do this until I get to the visual bottom. Try to avoid randomly looking around. Have a system or you’ll miss game and never even know it.
Animals feed in and out of cover, so wait a few minutes and repeat glassing. If you glass an area long enough, you’ll grow accustomed to odd-shaped rocks and stumps, and notice when something new appears that wasn’t there before. As the sun moves, shadows may cause things to look different throughout the day too.
One good thing about using a spotting scope is if you see something, you can back away from the optic and let your partner look through. How many times have you seen an elk across a mountain and it’s taken five minutes for your buddy to see it too? Problem solved!
Which is best? A straight or a 45-degree angled optic? Over the years I’ve started favoring an angled neck. To me it’s a little more user friendly and causes less muscle stress throughout the day.
At the end of a hard day of glassing your eyes are going to be strained. You’ll go to bed feeling like you’re seasick or worse, hallucinating. I know everyone is on a budget, but as an old buddy used to say, “On this purchase, don’t leave any change in your pocket.”
Let’s move onto scopes. For fast shots you’ll want a 3x to 9x. They use smaller powers so they can pick up game fast. For hunting out West, you’ll want more magnification for the longer shots you’ll take.
I love the idea of a scope cover because the last time I hunted deer in Nebraska during a blizzard, I found a deer, threw up my rifle, looked through the scope and it was full of snow. Needless to say, I missed. I’ve tested numerous scope covers over the years and every single one has managed to get hung up on a limb and disappeared. This also goes for the covers on my binoculars. Maybe it is just me.
Some people will tell you to spend more on the scope than you do your rifle. This is somewhat true, I feel. I have a stainless-steel Remington 700 .338 Winchester Magnum. The scope is a Leupold VXIII 4.5x to 14x, so it’s half again as expensive as the rifle. This must mean that I somewhat agree with this concept.
It goes without saying, baby them! I don’t strap my rifle on my four-wheeler and go bouncing around. I baby my scope and consequently it stays on tight. It is also not a good idea to leave optics in the blistering sun either.
To properly clean them, Hamilton Boykin at Leica told me to hold them upside down, blow off any loose dust and then pour water on the lens to rinse off. Then with a soft, wet lens rag, wipe them clean in swooping motions. Don’t wipe in a circular motion or you will grind in sand particulates. Spitting on the lenses and wiping them off with your dusty shirt tail doesn’t cut it either.
Try a good optic once and you’ll never go back. ASJ