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Tactical Scopes: Where They’re Made & Warranty

So far in this series, I’ve touched on optical performance, ergonomics, reticle options, and other advanced features. This post looks at where each scope is made, and the warranty terms for each one, including where the warranty work is performed. A side-by-side comparison of the warranty terms may shock a few people.

Where The Scopes Are Made

Many believe where the scope is made somehow reflects the quality you can expect. While there is likely some truth to this roughly speaking, you might be cautious how much weight you put into this. Just think about car manufacturers within the USA. There are some great ones and some not so great ones. The point is there is a lot of variation of quality within a single country (sometimes within a single brand). Broad generalities could be shortsighted. Rifle Scope Made In Country One minor note I’ll make here is that US Optics scopes are assembled in the USA with both domestic and foreign components. Their scopes are Buy American Act compliant, which means 51% or greater of the parts and labor are sourced from the USA. However, FTC guidelines prevent US Optics from being able to say their scopes are “Made In The USA,” because some components such as electronics and some of the glass come from foreign suppliers. However, all metal parts are turned by their own shop and local vendors in Southern California. The anodizing is done locally as well. All basic and skilled labor is performed in-house.

Warranty Terms

Warranty terms vary considerably among these manufacturers. I was impressed to see the bold stance manufacturers like Steiner and Vortex take in terms of warranty. They have multi-generational warranties that essentially say if you or your descendants (or the descendants of the guy you sell it too) ever have a problem with the scope, they’ll fix it or replace it promptly, no questions asked. Wow, that says a lot about their confidence in the product.

That was contrasted with the extremely weak 2 year warranty offered by the most expensive scope manufacturers (Hensoldt, Schmidt and Bender). Some argue that you won’t need a warranty with those scopes, but if those companies were confident a customer will never have to send a scope in for repair … why not offer a lifetime, transferable warranty? Whatever the reason, a 2 year warranty on a high-end scope is ludicrous.

Update: A friend from Leica called me after he read this post, and offered a different perspective on the short warranty from high-end optics brands. Since Leica doesn’t have a dog in this fight, he wanted to present a behind-the-scenes view of why they may take this approach. He said the idea I expressed above is a common one, but when he started working at Leica he realized the actual driver has much less to do with their confidence in the product and more to do with the margin in their price. The logic of “a $200 scope has a lifetime warranty, so a $7,000 scope should too” only holds water if the margins are the same … and they usually aren’t. He said cheaper optics typically have much higher margins, because of substantially lower direct costs. High-end optics companies often suppress margins to stay competitive. That means both volume and margin are higher for the cheaper brands. This could be a prime example of Henry Ford’s adage “Sell to the classes, eat with the masses. Sell to the masses, eat with the classes.”

So he suggested these ultra-high-end optics companies may not have the margin built-in to allow them to bear the cost of repairs, while the other guys can afford to do that. It’s not that the high-end ones won’t need repair … they will. Even the best optics may need repair. But think through this example: If you have a 60% margin on a $200 scope and have to replace a $30 lens, you’re still way ahead. But, if you have a 10% margin on a $7,000 scope, and you have to pay a highly-skilled worker to replace a $500 lens … you just lost money on that scope. But if they built the “typical repair costs” into the price, it might inflate beyond the point where we’d buy them. It’s a catch-22. So they chose to cut the warranty.

I can understand the business decision behind this, and I’m not trying to argue right or wrong as much as helping buyers be aware of what they’re paying for. So regardless of the real reason, when you buy some scopes, you’re buying the scope and prepaying for any future repairs. When you buy a scope that only comes with a 2 year warranty, you’re essentially just paying for a scope. That means the total cost of ownership on those ultra-high-end scopes could be even higher than the sticker price, because they may have to pay an unknown amount out of pocket for repairs in the future. Simply put, repairs aren’t included in the box.

None of the warranties cover loss, theft, or deliberate misuse to the product. Almost all scopes with electronics only covered those parts for 2-5 years, but they might cover the rest of the optical system for a lifetime.

Not all warranties were transferable. A nontransferable warranty means the warranty is only applicable to the original owner who purchased it from an authorized dealer. If you buy one used, there is no warranty … even if the original owner just had it for a month. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the major warranty terms. This info was very difficult to gather, but hopefully this helps fellow precision shooters understand what they’re paying for.

ScopeYearsTransferrable
Bushnell Elite Tactical DMR 3.5-21×50LifetimeYes
Bushnell Elite Tactical XRS 4.5-30×50LifetimeYes
Hensoldt ZF 3.5-26×562yrNo
Kahles K 6-24×562yr electronics, lifetime otherYes
Leupold Mark 6 3-18×442yr electronics, lifetime otherYes
Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25×562yr electronics, lifetime otherYes
March Tactical 3-24×42 FFP5yrNo
Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 3yr electronics, lifetime otherYes
Nightforce BEAST 5-25×563yr electronics, lifetime otherYes
Nightforce NXS 5.5-22×503yr electronics, lifetime otherYes
Schmidt and Bender PMII 3-27×562yrYes
Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×562yrYes
Steiner Military 5-25×56LifetimeYes
US Optics ER25 5-25×582yr electronics, lifetime otherNo
Valdada IOR 3.5-18×502yr electronics, lifetime otherNo
Valdada IOR RECON Tactical 4-28×502yr electronics, lifetime otherNo
Vortex Razor HD 5-20×50LifetimeYes
Zeiss Victory FL Diavari 6-24×565yr electronics, lifetime otherYes

Note: The warranty details here are complete and accurate according to the info I had in August 2014, but is only intended for informational purposes. Please contact manufacturers directly for specific details. The Steiner and Vortex warranties really did stick out among the rest as I read through all of them (thrilling reading). They definitely seemed customer-focused rather than liability-focused. We need more companies like this. Here are short excerpts from their warranties to show you what I mean:

Vortex VIP WarrantyOur VIP warranty is about you, not us. It’s about taking care of you after the sale. We will repair or replace your Vortex product in the event it becomes damaged or defective – at no charge to you. If we cannot repair your product, we will replace it. You see, it doesn’t matter how it happened, whose fault it was, or where you purchased it. No warranty card to fill out. No receipt needed. If you ever have a problem, no matter the cause, we promise to take care of you. (Note: The VIP warranty does not cover loss, theft, or deliberate damage to the product.)

Steiner Heritage WarrantyWe are committed to building optics that never need service. However, should one become damaged or defective, for any reason other than theft or deliberate misuse, we will repair or replace it at no charge – no questions asked. That’s our promise to not only you, but to all those who will own your Steiner optic after you. No warranty card needed. No receipt required. Fully transferable – from generation to generation.

Where Is Warranty Work Performed?

One reader suggested I check where the warranty work is actually performed for each of the scopes. Seemed like a great question, so I asked every company. The results are below. Just as a note, most of the people I talked to were in the USA. If you live outside the USA, you’re warranty work might be handled somewhere else.

ScopeWhere is warranty work performed?
Bushnell Elite Tactical DMR 3.5-21×50USA
Bushnell Elite Tactical XRS 4.5-30×50
Hensoldt ZF 3.5-26×56Germany
Kahles K 6-24×56Austria
Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44Primarily USA, with repair stations in Canada and Australia
Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25×56
March Tactical 3-24×42 FFPJapan
Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 USA
Nightforce BEAST 5-25×56
Nightforce NXS 5.5-22×50
Schmidt and Bender PMII 3-27×56USA
Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56
Steiner Military 5-25×56USA
US Optics ER25 5-25×58USA
Valdada IOR 3.5-18×50Minor repairs in USA, major repairs in Romania
Valdada IOR RECON Tactical 4-28×50
Vortex Razor HD 5-20×50USA
Zeiss Victory FL Diavari 6-24×56Germany

One additional note here, Vortex said it’s very rare for them to have a customer’s scope for more than 2-3 days, which they say is the fastest turnaround in the industry.

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Other Post in this Series

This is just one of a whole series of posts related to this high-end tactical scope field test. Here are links to the others:

  1. Field Test Overview & Rifle Scope Line-Up Overview of how I came up with the tests, what scopes were included, and where each scope came from.
  2. Optical Performance Results
    • Summary & Part 1: Provides summary and overall score for optical performance. Explain optical clarity was measured (i.e. image quality), and provides detailed results for those tests.
    • Part 2: Covers detailed results for measured field of view, max magnification, and zoom ratio.
  3. Ergonomics & Experience Behind the Scope
    • Part 1: Side-by-side comparisons on topics like weight, size, eye relief, and how easy turrets are to use and read
    • Part 2 & Part 3: Goes through each scope highlighting the unique features, provides a demo video from the shooter’s perspective, and includes a photo gallery with shots from every angle.
    • Summary: Provides overall scores related to ergonomics and explains what those are based on.
  4. Advanced Features
    • Reticles: See every tactical reticle offered on each scope.
    • Misc Features: Covers features like illumination, focal plane, zero stop, locking turrets, MTC, mil-spec anodozing, one-piece tubes
    • Warranty & Where They’re Made: Shows where each scope is made, and covers the details of the warranty terms and where the work is performed.
    • Summary: Overall scores related to advanced features and how those were calculated.
  5. Mechanical Performance
    • Part 1: Shows how precisely calibrated the clicks are on each scope.
    • Part 2: Reticle cant, measured elevation travel for each scope, and other mechanical tests
    • Summary: Overall scores related to mechanical performance.
  6. Summary & Overall Scores: Provides summary and overall score for entire field test.

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. His engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and ability to present technical and complex information in a unbiased and straight-forward fashion has quickly caught the attention of the industry. For more info on Cal, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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13 comments

  1. Warranties are difficult to compare when consumer law differs markedly from country to country. By law, for example, Japanese firms can only offer a maximum of 5 years Warranty however if your unit fails due to manufacture most Japanese based companies will repair beyond that period. The figures to present on should be number of returns due to mechanical faults – companies will rarely release this data and so anecdotal evidence becomes the influencer when it comes to choice.

    • You’re right, warranties are difficult to compare. At least one company said they’re actually much more accommodating to customers than their warranty might appear. My response: Well, change your warranty to align with what you’re actually doing. Ultimately, the warranty terms are the only legally-binding document in the customer’s favor. I actually hate contracts, and prefer to do business with a handshake and integrity (the Texas way). But a business mentor of mine once told me “A good agreement is better than a bad disagreement.” What he was saying is it’s better to go through the awkwardness of agreeing in writing upfront than risking a big fight later when you find out that you really weren’t on the same page, and they’re not holding up their end of the deal.

      Bushnell, Nightforce, and Vortex all have scopes made in Japan, which they offer lifetime warranties on. You can definitely have warranties that vary by country. Swarovski does it. For Swarovski rifle scopes, they have one warranty policy where they offer “a worldwide warranty of 10 years” … and a separate warranty policy where they offer “a lifetime warranty … for products purchased by US residents”. I’m sure setting this structure up adds complexity and obviously liability, but there is a way to do it. So I’m hesitant to believe March is helpless in offering their customers more than a 5 year warranty.

      And I’m with you … I’d love to see the data on the actual failures each scope company has to process through their warranty department. But the only people with that info are the individual manufacturers, and even if they’d share it … it’d be naive to think it was 100% accurate. Ultimately, the only thing we can probably compare with any objectivity are the warranty terms.

  2. This guy not have a clue what he is talking about US OPTICS warranties are transferable I know I am the 2nd owner of my US OPTICS scope and they are replacing it for tracking issues

    • Wow Kenny, that’s a little harsh. While it may be true that they’re fixing your scope, the US Optics warranty is clearly not transferable. You only have to read the first sentence to figure that out: “U.S. Optics warrants that if you—as the original customer—purchase one of our products, and we determine that it is defective in material and/or workmanship during your lifetime, we will repair or replace it at our election for free or refund your money—no hassle!” You can see that in the screenshot of the warranty that came in the box below (I highlighted it to help you out), and you can also find that on their website.

      US Optics Warranty

      I suggest you double-check your facts before you call someone out like that next time.

  3. It’s work mentioning Bushnell’s “Bulletproof” warranty for many of their better products such as the Elite line of scopes and such.
    From their website…

    ” Our promise to you on the purchase of our performance optics.
    We believe that you, the consumer, should make the final call on product performance. That’s why we offer our exclusive Bulletproof 100% Money Back Guarantee (the best in the business) on selected Bushnell products.*

    If, for any reason, you’re not completely satisfied with your Bushnell product, return it-no questions asked for a full refund of the purchase price.

    We promise that the performance will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced. But the best testimony will be your own. Try them today with absolutely no risk.”

    Bushnell’s Bulletproof warranty is valid for 12 months from the time of purchase.

    • Thanks for mentioning that. That is a ridiculously generous warranty. Looking through some of the warranty guidelines, I did see a few caveats worth mentioning:

      1. Must return in original packaging
      2. All accessories from original box must be present
      3. Must have the original sales receipt

      These aren’t too imposing, but just a few hoops you might have to jump through to get the benefit. Bushnell obviously can’t just let you ship in a scope in any condition, and send you cash in return. So if you aren’t a guy that hangs on to stuff like that, it could be an issue. For more info, visit http://www.bushnell.com/bulletproof/.

  4. I had a Bushnell Yardage Pro 1000 that went bad TWICE. The first time Bushnell “fixed” it and it worked for one year.

    The second time, because they no longer made that rangefinder they gave me an ARC 1 Mile 10X binoculars for $300 off the street price. Not bad. Those binoculars range VERY well, have “close enough for hunting” programmable ballistics software and good up/down angle ranging.

    • Thanks for sharing, Eric. Bushnell seems like a company that stands behind their products. That’s awesome they gave you that credit even after it had been over a year.

      I did a Rangefinding Binoculars Field Test not long ago, and the Bushnell Fusion 1 Mile 10x binos were one of the models I tested. I thought they performed really well, especially considering the price. No other rangefinding binos came close to the value those provide. It sounds like you ended up with a good product.

      Thanks,
      Cal

    • I had a bushnell yardage pro 800 that I bought on sale at academy sports. it had a 2 year warranty, not the newer bullet proof warranty. it tore up within the first year, I sent it in, and they could not repair. being that they no longer made that model, they offered me a discount on the next model up, which was a very small discount, that wasn’t worth my time…….Ive heard their customer service has gotten better, but a few years ago, it wasn’t worth a toot….at least on their low end stuff

      • Wow, Daniel. Sorry to hear about the poor experience. I have a few Bushnell products, but I haven’t ever dealt with Bushnell customer service (fortunately). So I appreciate you sharing your first-hand experience with the rest of us.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  5. I had occasion to use Vortex Customer Support. I bought a used Viper PST FFP on eBay. It had tracking issues and would not hold zero when I first tried it. I had hoped to use the scope for an elk hunt within a few days. I called them and explained the situation. You would think I was talking to my brother… they were so understanding and helpful and supportive with logistics. The said they would jump on it immediately upon arrival and get it handled within the hour. To make matters worse, I advised that I would be hitting the road for the 2,000 mile trip to western Montana. They said no problem, they would ship to a post office or location on my route if I checked in with them on progress.

    I overnighted it to them and the next day they called to advise they just received it, replaced it and were ready to overnight ship it if I could give them a destination. They said the scope rings were way overtightened and it destroyed the scope so they were sending me a new model. As I passed through South Dakota, I picked it up and got to Montana in time for a couple of range testing days out to 1000 yards. It was good to go for a fine hunt. I just couldn’t believe those guys. They were so supportive and helpful, I’ve just never seen anything like it on ANY product. They will do well with service like that.

    By the way, with a similar situation, I contacted NightForce to validate their coverage for the same situation… they were slow to answer the phone, were very hurried and quickly advised that it would not be their problem if ring torque exceeded their recommended x inch/pounds at installation (how they could determine that is unknown). I would have to pay shipping both ways and $600 up front to have the scope repaired… could be more depending on the situation. There is a difference in what appears to be similar warranties. Leupold has been responsive for me to but I’ve never seen anything like Vortex.

    • Michael, thanks for sharing. That’s not the first time I’ve heard a story like that about Vortex. They seem really serious about customer service. I think that’s one of the reasons they’re quickly becoming the largest optics company in the world. They may earn that title within the next year, and surpass names like Bushnell and Leupold. That’s pretty amazing, considering that Vortex is still a relatively new company. I like to believe that if you treat your customers right, you’ll succeed in business. This could be a great success story for that.

      Thanks,
      Cal