Got my "show legs" under me, and we're over the hump now. Today was slower paced, but lots of QT with some choice manufacturers.
Sightron: Sightron has a vast array of scope choices, but for our purposes we recommend and sell the SIII long range model the most. For the money, the combination of glass quality, reticle travel, ruggedness and repeatability can not be beat. In the SIII series, three new 8-32x56 and new 10-50x60 models debuted. The 8-32 have exposed 1/4moa knobs with 70moa of travel, and finally a mildot reticle, in addition to a fine crosshair and a long range target dot (about half the size of crosshair as the previous dot reticle). The new 10-50x60 are big scopes with 1/8moa knobs, 50moa of travel, and either a target dot or fine crosshair reticle. While these types of scopes aren't my cup of tea, I know darn well there is a market out there for magnification junkies and the SIII are sure to please at a fraction of the price of competing brands.
For me, the surprising news was the arrival of a trio of tactical 30mm fixed power scopes, the 1042, 16x42, and 20x42. These have EXPOSED 1/4 moa knobs with 150moa of travel, a new mildot reticle with 1/2 mil hashes in between the dots, rear parallax adjustment (right where you'd expect the mag ring to go) that focuses down to 10 yards, great glass! These definitely seem like an offshoot of the Super Sniper series and I'm guessing that is squarely where they are aiming for market share. I do not have prices yet but these scopes have such a wide range of applications and quality fixed power scopes at a decent price aren't too common, so I'm glad these are here!
Talked to Alan Orr and met Eden at the booth, and these are great folks. I will say I viewed a prototype variable "tac" scope that I can't comment on but I assure you Sightron is listening to the needs of shooters and they will get there with styles and features you want. I did officially beg them to stick the new mildot in the fixed powers in all the SIII LR variables. A very nice and practical reticle.
Another new product for these guys is the S33 Mil electronic sighting device, with a 5moa red dot and 8 position rheostat, plus a new Auto setting which adjusts the dot intensity based on ambient conditions (there is a mini-sensor in the illumination knob) plus two NV compatible settings. Since the Millet/Bushnell zoom dot is now assembled in Mexico (and not made here anymore), the S33 is my new hip pick for a rugged mid-priced red dot sight.
Swarovski: Of course, other than their high performing LRF, there is nothing really in the House of Optik that we would be interested in selling. Of course, looking through a few hunting scopes will get you an education on what top notch glass looks like. The real news for me was a conversation with Clay Taylor, the Naturalist Markets Manager for Swav. This guy is a fellow optics junkie and was refreshing honest and real when it came to assessing the state of the industry and how products have evolved. He explained the meaning and practical significance of what manufacturers mean by "HD" or "ED" glass as well as anyone I've ever seen. He understands the dynamics of designing and marketing top shelf glass and the challenges manufacturers face when deciding what compromises they will choose when designing a new optics system. The conversation turned to spotters and the use of fluorite crystal in eliminating chromatic aberration. Kowa is still the only one to use pure fluorite in a spotting scope (or any sporting optic for that matter) in the 88mm Prominar series. This material poses many practical challenges for a field use optic , but the results, in terms of pure image quality, are second to none. Apparently, in Swavs own in-house testing, the Prominar 88mm came out tops in pure image quality! I've been saying this all along and Clay's honesty was a revelation. Obviously, Swarovski's spotters are top shelf and their 65mm models consistently rank at the top of the heap. In technical terms, with the short focal length the Kowa does make sacrifices in other areas, but for you and I the practical result is that the Prominar 88mm is the envy of the industry. Anyway, this is the first friendly conversation I had at the Swav booth in years and I appreciate it.
Aimpoint: Playing it close to the vest in a shaky economy, we haven't gone crazy adding new stuff to our bag of tools lately. However, we do lack a consistent red dot brand, and Aimpoint easily has the best brand recognition of any of them. I think we will be an authorized dealer before the show is finished. That and USO are the targeted new brands for the portfolio. The Aimpoint reps spent a great deal of time with me and Ilya and we were treated very well. Aimpoint has new "Hunter" sights with 30mm and 34mm tubes, digital illumination controls and lots of marketing hype, but it's a red dot, keep in mind. The T-1 and H-1 micro series do everything you need them to. I even learned to use the Aimpoint with both eyes open, and I'm cross-dominant. Drop me a line if there are particular models you favor, as I admit the "long range game" is my thing and I'm not too hip on the CQB stuff....
Trijicon: We had a good year with Trijicon, and they are a key cog in the Liberty Optics business model. Practical weapon sights for any carbine or battle rifle, we have been slow to get them in stock and quick to move them. The real debate is the red vs. green reticle color. I like the red; Trijicon tells me green is the best. While it is bright and easy to pick up and works well at night, I don't like the green for general field use; perhaps I am being stubborn. But make it red for me. There are no really new products at SHOT for Trijicon except they will be selling an OEM Bobro mount, very slick little QD mount that obviously meets Trijicon's standards. I've heard great things about the Bobro design but never saw one before. The ring caps screws tighten from underneath, so the rings have a seamless profile with no holes on top.
The real exciting news was the whispers of a 1-6x or 1-8x Accupoint with BDC reticles like the ACOG. I'll go out on a limb here and say if Trijicon pulls that off that will be a game changer. Probably the last scope you would ever own for many battle rifle setups. Keep your fingers crossed!!
Schmidt & Bender: I've always held these scopes in high regard, but the news today will make you (and me) question my sanity. I looked closely at three scopes: The 3-12x50 SDSS, the 1-8x24 PM ShortDot (new), and the new 5-25x56 PMII/LP/MTC/Lt.
The 5-25 has a new "sand" ceramic coating, new 14mils per turn lockable turret (there is a collar around the turret that lifts up to free the turret, and snaps down to lock), with 26mils total travel, MTC knobs, 10 meter focus (whatever the hell for), an MTC click at the "zero" setting on the windage knob, and a Horus (did I say that again?) reticle with illumination. This is a dandy scope but for less $$ the Premier 5-25 will work just as well.
The biggest shock was the $3500 3-12x50 SDSS with Gen 2 XL and MTC knobs. I was all set to buy this from another dealer for $3200 for my personal stick until I actually examined the darn thing. It just feels different than the other S&B scopes. Very light and tinny. I noticed some ghosting and a less then eye-popping image when looking through the darn thing. My gut screamed that this scope was not worth the money. I have no idea what the heck is going on but this scope is not like other, traditional PMIIs IMHO.
The biggest turd was the 1-8x24 ShortDot. Note to manufacturers: IF your scope on the table in the biggest trade show of its type in the world is indeed a true prototype then PLEASE mark the darn thing as such. I was very critical of this scope on the show floor and someone chimed in "it's just a prototype" (not the S&B booth personnel, mind you). This scope was just really weak. The distortion was noticeable in the NW quadrant of the field of view, the illumination had major issues with "smearing" or "ghosting" and was poorly done, and overall the scope did not justify its high price tag. In fact, none of the "1-8" scopes on the table throughout the show by any manufacturer were impressive at all; is technology not capable of getting such a sight done right?
The good news is that S&B announced a new US service center in Newington New Hampshire. This is a good thing, and puts it on par with Premier and ahead of Hensoldt in this game.
Kowa Optimed: Kowa has been our flagship spotter for the last two years now, and although there is nothing new for 2010, the product lineup is excellent. There is an ongoing rebate program for the Genesis binoculars. And, like Carl Zeiss, Kowa is the 2nd manufacturer we handle to announce no new price increases for 2010. This is a conscious decision and one that Kowa mgmt needs to be lauded for. Josh Lazenby is Kowa's on the ground product manager and he is one savvy operator. His mojo has guided him to slash inventory on slow-moving products and keep the better movers, which has kept operations for Kowa on track in difficult times.
We want to sell more Kowa than ever in 2010. I will tell you that my observations of the 82SV has resulted it in moving up in our rankings and it still is probably the best non-ED spotter on the market today.
Leica: Leica had new (to us) riflescopes on display, two hunting models, a 2.5-10x42 and a 3.5-14x42 with side focus. While the turrets are nothing to write home about, the optical system is very impressive indeed. No tunnel vision, a bright, clear and very contrasty (is that a word?) image, "Hensoldt-like" non-critical eye relief. A very nice platform to launch from and if Leica will grow a pair and tune in to the tactical market these scopes hold a lot of promise. Of course, I have zero data on reliability, but the scopes are damm impressive in the showroom.
Kahles: Back from the dead, it looks like Gamo Outdoor USA is the new importer/distributor of Kahles scopes. The scopes on the stand were the exact same scopes I saw three years ago. Excellent optics, but still a time warp.
Burris: I though I had an amazing story when Burris was not listed in the SHOT program or visible on the floor. Turns out they are sharing a booth with Steiner, and are both owned by Beretta. I've shied away from Burris for sometime but its time I take a closer look at these, which I hope to tomorrow. I haven't checked them out in awhile.
Shepherd Enterprises: OK, I've been keen on these for quite sometime, but our customers have never really demanded them. I spent some time there and Sally and Glen Shepherd were noticeably absent from the booth. But Dan Shepherd was there and the fill-in crew was very pleasant. Bottom line: they have the same products since I first started doing business almost 7 years ago. I pick on Nightforce for being slow to change, but these guys are sitting firmly on their haunches. Talk about complacency....
Doug at CameraLand: Doug frequents many forums I post on, but he does so many more than I do. I was once critical of him and resentful of the competition on the shooting forums, but I've grown up. We met today for the first time for about 45 minutes (he's a busy man who seems to thrive on little sleep). I did my best to speak little and listen much. The guy is a master businessman, with loads of experience and lots of great advice. He gave me much food for thought. Suffice to say I've turned over a new leaf and I've grown to greatly respect him.
What is exciting for me is we have completely different takes on the Minox riflescopes. He says it will be a "huge" seller. I say the scope is total crap, and has no place in a serious rifleman's battery. His customer base is much bigger than mine, so I could be wrong.
But I shouldn't be.
Time will tell, and I can't wait for the results!
Thanks for your time Doug. And for your sake, Go Jets!
Tomorrow, I'll be wrapping up, and I'll try to have some fun. Necessary visits are Barrett, Meopta, Burris, and Kruger Optical. Optional visits are any darn gun and knife booth I can get my hands on.
See you tomorrow (actually, later today!)