Leupold & Stevens continues its commitment to American-based manufacturing and design by expanding its Beaverton, Oregon, production capabilities. "From the founding of our company in 1907, we have been committed to quality manufacturing and American craftsmanship," says Bruce Pettet, president and CEO of Leupold & Stevens.
"We are proud to continue our commitment to our American workforce, and this latest investment reinforces our belief in U.S.-made products and worldleading American optics."
In late 2014, Leupold & Stevens expanded its manufacturing capabilities with a new Index MS40, which machines components used in Leupold riflescopes and spotting scopes. The new Index MS40 has increased small-parts production by 20,000 to 30,000 units per week.
Leupold & Stevens optics continue to sell well, both in the U.S. and abroad, which has fueled a factory expansion.
The recent installation of a new Index R200 Milling Center—a five-axis milling machine that increases Leupold & Stevens' ability to machine complex parts for products such as the D-EVO, DeltaPoint Pro, LCO (Leupold Carbine Optic), and the HAMR—further enhances the company's manufacturing capabilities.
Also just installed is an Automated Bar Feeder, which provides an additional 1,000 hours of machine time annually. The machine automatically feeds bar stock into one of the most heavily used machines on the floor.
It's a crucial function, as this is where the process begins to turn raw stock into machined main tubes, objectives, and eyepiece bells.
All of this new capacity is designed to meet the strong demand for Leupold products. As new product lines are introduced to its U.S. manufacturing plant, Leupold & Stevens will continue to examine and expand capabilities as necessary.
"When hunters and shooters see that Gold Ring, we want them to know what it represents: the American workforce, who work hard every day to produce the highest quality optics in the world," Pettet says. "As part of our commitment to them, Leupold will continue to add the state-of-the-art equipment necessary to deliver on that promise."
Leupold & Stevens produces some of the finest quality, most reliable rifle, pistol and shotgun scopes found anywhere in the world. As a fifth-generation, family-owned business, Leupold & Stevens has a rich heritage of dedication to detail, progressive new product development and unsurpassed service to their customers. As the company founder, Markus Friederich 'Fred' Leupold once said, "We solemnly promise never to let down on quality; the customer is entitled to a square deal." And, so it has been since the Leupold & Stevens inception nearly 100 years ago.
In the early years Leupold & Stevens was in the business of manufacturing and repairing surveying instruments. That all changed one day in the late 1930s when Marcus Leupold was hunting deer in the rainy Oregon Cascade Mountains. Up until that time riflescopes were poor quality and lacked reliability. On that fateful day Marcus took aim on a fine blacktail buck but his scope was fogged with interior moisture and the poor quality of the optics caused him to miss the deer. Marcus vowed to make a better riflescope, one that he could rely upon for accuracy and durability. And, as we now know, he did just that.
After building a better scope for himself, his friends and fellow hunters wanted the same for their use. Eventually the word got out and the company's destiny became set.
Even though Leupold & Stevens products have been sold internationally since the 1960s, a major change is taking place. What this means for the hunters and shooters internationally is access to not only a few select Leupold & Stevens products but the complete line of everything that Leupold produces.
The company's entire line of rifle, pistol and shotgun scopes, spotting scopes, the company's revolutionary new rangefinder the RX Digital Laser, binoculars and all of the peripheral products that go along with quality shooting sports are now available internationally.
I had the pleasure of recieving a tour of the Leupold & Stevens factory. I was extremely impressed by the Leupold facility but beyond that, I think I walked away from the tour with an appreciation for what goes into the production of quality optics.
It is a rare commodity today to find a plant with so much employee loyalty. Virtually everyone working for Leupold hunts or is involved somehow with shooting activities.
While waiting in the lobby for the other fellows to arrive the female receptionist began telling me about the bison hunt that she was on last year, just prior to her deer hunt. Later that night over dinner with the Leupold officials, two of the ladies sitting next me began discussing how much one enjoyed turkey hunting while the other favoured duck hunting. It's that way throughout the plant - virtually everyone seemed to have stories to tell of their inherent interest in shooting.
Leupold & Stevens is located within the United States' Pacific Northwest, in the state of Oregon, where it has been ever since the company's inception in 1907. The plant consists of more than 600 workers and a facility that spans 14,000 sq m (150,000 sq ft).
Leupold & Stevens has one of the best warrantees of any company I know of. Except in the case of clear abuse, if anything goes wrong with your scope or other Leupold & Stevens product, it is generally repaired free of charge. I found it quite interesting when we reached the repair department to find a sign outside indicating the current turnaround time for scope repairs. On this occasion it was a little over one day. Certainly such a quick repair time is not always possible but the company strives to always return the product to their customers as quickly as possible.
It is interesting to note that Leupold & Stevens produces more riflescopes in six weeks than Zeiss and Swarovski do in an entire year. Production is not limited to just firearm scopes; they also produce a complete line of binoculars, spotting scopes, scope bases and rings - including a couple of models of quick release mounting systems - and a wide variety of other peripheral products.
In order to stay competitive in the marketplace Leupold's research and development department is always coming out with revolutionary, new, cutting-edge products. It would be impossible for me to outline all of the new products that Leupold has brought to the marketplace in recent years but I will highlight a couple of the new ones.
Riflescopes continue to increase in size. Not all that long ago 36mm and 40mm scope tubes were the norm, then, the public was wowed by the big 50mm scopes and now a monstrous 56mm is being produced. The advantages of the larger optics are obvious. They provide better light gathering capabilities coupled with a wider field of view, but sometimes 'large' can create problems.
Leupold's answer to this comes in the form of their new low-mounted VX-L scopes. The VX-L series of scopes are produced with a moon-shaped, or crescent, portion of the lower front bell removed. This lowers the centreline of the scope placing it closer to the firearm action and barrel. Company officials are particularly proud of their advanced designs. It allows the VX-L 56mm scope to be mounted as low as a normal 40mm scope and the VX-L 50mm will sit as low as a normal 36mm scope.
One might think that this design would affect the view through the scope but it does not. The sight-picture through the lens of the scope remains perfectly circular, with crisp, edge-to-edge sharpness across the entire visual field. To name a few of the many advantages of the VX-L scopes, the 'Light Optimization Profile' provides better, brighter viewing in lowlight conditions; the low mounting gives your rifle better balance and a quicker aiming potential; and a scope mounted low to the rifle is better protected from potential damage in the field. All VX-L scopes are also filled with a new proprietary Argon/Krypton gas blend for waterproofing.
Once the tube housings are completed they go to finishing. This might include glass bead blasting to produce a matt e finish, to the blackening tanks if they are to have a gloss, to an anodising process, or left as they are for a natural, silver coloration.
Another incredible new addition that I believe will have staggering consequences for Leupold's competitors is the new RX Rangefinders. The RX was first introduced to the public back at the February 2006 SHOT Show held in Las Vegas, Nevada, and already the demand has surpassed production. No fear though - the company will soon be catching up with the demand.
Until now, all rangefinders were essentially the same. Sure, some had a little clearer optics and maybe a few more features built-in than others, but the RX is in a league by itself. What separates this new approach from all others is one major thing - its ability to produce the 'True Ballistic Range'. All other rangefinders provide the user a 'straight line of sight distance' figure by measuring straight from the user to the perceived target.
Leupold's new RX, on the other hand, incorporates an inclinometer for measuring up and down hill shots, coupled with the ballistics of your firearm calibre to give the equivalent horizontal range and even the hold-over/hold-under point, or an MOA adjustment for rifle shooters. When shooting at steep angles the actual trajectory drop is not based on the distance the bullet travels, it is based on the vertical distance, or the elevation differences, between where the shooter is located as compared to that of the target.
In many cases, if you judge your shooting trajectory drop based on the line of sight it could result in shooting over your target. In addition, all four RX scries models are packed with multiple, customisable functions, including multiple environmental modes to overcome virtually all conditions.
One of the fascinating parts of scope manufacturing is the installation of the reticles. In the early days Leupold & Stevens actually used black widow spider web for their reticles. In order to produce enough web Leupold & Stevens bred and raised their own black widow colonies. Things changed, however, when the spiders began to escape and in time the fear that someone would accidentally get bitten by the poisonous buggers caused the company to look elsewhere for their reticle material. Today, the spider web has been replaced by steel wire and in some cases glass fibre.
The very popular duplex reticle characteristically is heavier along the outer edges and finer near the centre. To produce this type of cross-hair, very fine, round steel wire is used.
Scope bases may seem like a mundane part of the Leupold & Stevens production but it is truly amazing how much machining perfection goes into making them. The cost that a consumer pays for a scope base, as well as a set of scope rings, constitutes a real bargain.
The outer edge of the reticle is flattened in order to produce the heavier appearance and the centre is left round. For the more exotic reticle configurations, like the illuminated circle dot, glass fibre must be used.
In the past, more of the Leupold scope tubes and parts were machined from solid bar. Previously, aluminum manufacturing standards along with supply options dictated that solid bar was the best choice to manufacture a high quality, accurate product.
This produced a great deal of very expensive aluminium waste product with no substantial benefit. In many cases today the parts are machined from aluminium tubing that is supplied specifically to their precise specifications. But even then, Leupold & Stevens remains the largest Alcoa aluminium user in the US Pacific Northwest and recycle more aluminium than most of their competitors use in the production of their scopes.
Each and every scope that Leupold produces must undergo multiple levels of testing and evaluation. In many cases, the testing conducted inside the factory far exceeds anything that you, as a user, would ever do to your scope. For example, throughout the assembly process the workstations are equipped with a hard rubber pad mounted directly in front of the worker. Throughout the process the scope is stuck in a very forceful manner against the pad in order to dislodge any contamination that may have gotten inside the scope. This could be in the form of dust particles, pieces of the scope seals or other foreign matter.
If any show up anywhere in the assembly process the scope is sent back through the system to be cleaned and corrected.
In addition, each and every rifle scope that leaves the Leupold & Stevens plant is checked to make sure that the seals are intact and that there is no possibility of a gas leak. In order to do this, every scope is submerged in a 'pressure-cooker bath' of water in order to simulate a condition of 100 per cent humidity at an elevation of 12,000 ft. If any bubbles are spotted trickling to the surface, it denotes a leak and the scope is rejected. Moisture control is paramount to retaining crisp, clear optics.
Every scope must pass this test or it doesn't get out the door. Another unique form of testing takes place in the area jokingly referred to as 'Dave's S&M Chamber of Horrors'. Dave Archerd's primary job at Leupold & Stevens is to break and abuse things in order to evaluate the product's ability to withstand abusive handling. In one case, the scopes are mounted in a one-of-kind Leupold-designed machine. There have also been demonstrations of mounting them to jack-hammers taking a thrashing with excessive vibration and jarring, then being re-mounted to the rifle "and passing an accuracy test".
The purpose of the test equipment is to subject the scopes to relentless jarring and pounding so harsh that it said to exceed that of the recoil from an ultra-feather weight .375 H&H Magnum. Both Leupold & Stevens and their competitor scopes are tested in this manner. In some cases the company's competitor scopes are reduced to nothing more than a scope tube with a bunch of loose rattling parts inside.
It's a complicated, highly technical and time-consuming process for Leupold & Stevens to maintain their high degree of product quality. After seeing everything that goes into the making of the Leupold & Stevens scopes I summed up my feelings simply by telling the company officials, "You're not charging enough for your scopes."