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. 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 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.
|Bushnell Elite Tactical DMR 3.5-21×50||Lifetime|
|Bushnell Elite Tactical XRS 4.5-30×50||Lifetime|
|Hensoldt ZF 3.5-26×56||2yr|
|Kahles K 6-24×56||2yr electronics, lifetime other|
|Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44||2yr electronics, lifetime other|
|Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25×56||2yr electronics, lifetime other|
|March Tactical 3-24×42 FFP||5yr|
|Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56||3yr electronics, lifetime other|
|Nightforce BEAST 5-25×56||3yr electronics, lifetime other|
|Nightforce NXS 5.5-22×50||3yr electronics, lifetime other|
|Schmidt and Bender PMII 3-27×56||2yr|
|Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56||2yr|
|Steiner Military 5-25×56||Lifetime|
|US Optics ER25 5-25×58||2yr electronics, lifetime other|
|Valdada IOR 3.5-18×50||2yr electronics, lifetime other|
|Valdada IOR RECON Tactical 4-28×50||2yr electronics, lifetime other|
|Vortex Razor HD 5-20×50||Lifetime|
|Zeiss Victory FL Diavari 6-24×56||5yr electronics, lifetime other|
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 Warranty: Our 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 Warranty: We 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.
|Scope||Where is warranty work performed?|
|Bushnell Elite Tactical DMR 3.5-21×50||USA|
|Bushnell Elite Tactical XRS 4.5-30×50|
|Hensoldt ZF 3.5-26×56||Germany|
|Kahles K 6-24×56||Austria|
|Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44||Primarily USA, with repair stations in Canada and Australia|
|Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25×56|
|March Tactical 3-24×42 FFP||Japan|
|Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56||USA|
|Nightforce BEAST 5-25×56|
|Nightforce NXS 5.5-22×50|
|Schmidt and Bender PMII 3-27×56||USA|
|Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56|
|Steiner Military 5-25×56||USA|
|US Optics ER25 5-25×58||USA|
|Valdada IOR 3.5-18×50||Minor repairs in USA, major repairs in Romania|
|Valdada IOR RECON Tactical 4-28×50|
|Vortex Razor HD 5-20×50||USA|
|Zeiss Victory FL Diavari 6-24×56||Germany|
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.
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:
- 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.
- Optical Performance Results
- 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.
- 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.
- Mechanical Performance
- Summary & Overall Scores: Provides summary and overall score for entire field test.