A Recipe for Greatness

by Matt Dubber

With new optics companies popping up every day, it is difficult to know which brands to trust. It used to be a little easier to “rate” a riflescope; not too long ago, scopes made in China could automatically be thrown in the “junk” category, with Taiwanese, Philippine, Japanese and German-made products being the steps up the quality ladder. You could tell more-or-less what you’re getting with a quick crank of the turrets and a quick look through the glass - But it’s a little more complicated now.

For one, China is catching up quickly. Some Chinese-made optics, to the surprise of many, are now producing scopes that track as well as their German counterparts. Glass is getting better across the board - it takes more than a quick glance to separate the average from the excellent - and manufacturers have cottoned on to the fact that the feel & sound of a turret click could be an indication of quality, and simply upgraded the click mechanism WITHOUT actually improving the design or quality of the internal assembly!

The result is that many unknowing, inexperienced shooters are being duped into purchasing a sub-par product for an unnecessary price, or even worse - being fooled into thinking that the $300 scope is “just as good” as the $1300 scope based on good external design, decent glass and extensive marketing. I can tell you for a fact - There are many optics companies out there that are full of excellent businessmen but void of experienced shooters. As an industry with high profit margins, there are many companies in it solely for the bucks (not the tasty, antlered type), and it’s easy to be taken for a ride.

With that being said, here’s what to look for in an optics company before making the purchase:

Passionate, experienced shooters need to be at the helm

Who is in the driving seat? The answer to this question will tell you a lot. If there is pride taken in the product, and the main objective is to produce quality equipment, then you will likely receive a solid scope. If you arrive at a trade show and find salesmen who sound like they’re reading from a script? Be warned!

Element Optics took the high road from the start. When we took our first steps, the investor told the design team that we had FULL control over all aspects of the design, and complete freedom to find manufacturers that we had confidence in. When we had our first meetings with the manufacturers, we arrived as shooters wanting to create the best possible product, not as businessmen wanting to make money. Our first model was the Nexus, and I don’t think we even asked what any of the costs would be until the design was entirely finished! The cost did come as a bit of a shock, but at least you know that your money is going towards the highest quality components made in one of the world’s best factories! And as a side note - You’ll be happy to know that you’re paying significantly less than other products of the same standard made in the same factory. We can’t mention any names, but if you compare the Nexus next to some of the world’s best scopes at double the price, you’ll realise they are made and tested in the exact same facilities by the same people.

Our team has extensive experience in both the hunting field & the competition arena

It’s also important to note that the core group of designers (Myself, Ted Bier & Shane Kellar) are competitive shooters & hunters with our reputations on the line. We have to use these products day in and day out from here on, and if we’ve cut corners, we’re going to suffer just as much as any of our customers. So even when working on the Helix and Titan models, we made sure that we put every single cent of our budget towards ensuring that there are no weak spots: The Turret & Erector tube assemblies, the parts responsible for zero-shifts and tracking accuracy, are traditional weak spots in Chinese-made scopes, and many manufacturers choose to conveniently “save costs” here knowing full well that the end user may never notice a slight tracking tolerance issue or zero shift. We’re not like that. We’ve not only beefed up the turret assembly by replacing brass parts with precision-machined stainless steel, but we’ve also introduced our own tolerances and quality control tests that have to be passed before the product can leave the factory. When you open your box, you’ll find a hand-signed inspection card that can give you peace of mind.

Consulting Experienced Marksmen

You need more than just an engineering degree to design a good riflescope. In fact, the most experienced riflescope manufacturers on earth may not be very good at designing riflescopes that people need! It’s important to remember that the majority of riflescopes are manufactured in Asia or Europe - Densely populated parts of the world with very strict gun laws. Many riflescope companies will take completed designs from factory engineers and simply re-brand them, and the result is that there is a disconnect between the designer and the end user.

Matt Dubber with Eric
from IraqVeteran8888

Ted Bier discusses a custom rifle
with Val Simmons from Saber Tactical

We believe that our riflescopes should be designed by shooters, for shooters. Our core design team just happens to have decades of experience between us, and before we approached a single manufacturing facility we knew exactly what we wanted - Even down to fine details such as reticle designs, tracking tolerances and custom turrets. We’ve made sure to design a product that people want by involving other experienced shooters to give their input from day one. We’ve had valuable contributions from PRS shooters, benchrest shooters, long-range shooters, recreational hunters and plinkers. We’ve had input from 6 different continents, to be exact! And it makes us proud to have that tick of approval from all corners of the globe.

A Company should Know its Customers

We are in the privileged position to have known our market intimately before they even became our market. Ted Bier and myself have engaged with hundreds of millions of shooters through YouTube and social media over the space of a decade. We read comments on a daily basis, and communicate face-to-face with other shooters at trade shows and competitions all over the world, every year. Shane Kellar has been working in a gun shop for most of his life, connecting with customers on a daily basis and having the experience of spearheading an optics company before. And let’s not forget that we have BEEN customers since the day we bought our first rifles! You can say what you want about us, but “Element Optics don’t know what the market wants” is not one of those things!

Trade Shows & Competitions provide a great opportunity for us to connect with shooters from all over the world on a personal level

Considering the Requirements of Different Disciplines

We know full well that it’s not possible to make everyone happy. The world of shooting is incredibly diverse, with sporting disciplines varying greatly and cultural & geographical differences dictating how people hunt. For example, a hunter in Hungary might require a lightweight sporting optic with low-profile turrets, low magnification, a simple reticle and an MRAD configuration. A hunter in the mountains of Wyoming USA, on the other hand, will probably want a more complex reticle (likely in MOA), a higher magnification and tactical-style turrets that can be cranked easily for that long-range shot at a trophy sheep. And then of course you get the AR guys who need something entirely different.

Different disciplines require different equipment. We aim to offer something for Hunters & Competitors alike, continually upgrading & growing our line of products.

As a new company, we don’t want to launch a complete line of models from the get go. We have a long-term plan up our sleeve including red dots, low mag scopes, target scopes, binoculars, spotting scopes & rangefinders, but we’ve decided to launch with what we believe is the most important “family” of optics: Hunting/Tactical. We’ve followed closely the success of “all-round” scopes such as the Nightforce ATACR & SHV, Vortex PST & RAZOR and other “tactical” riflescopes that have made their way to the top of PRS / NRL competitions, Benchrest, Field Target and Hunting circles. We’ve decided to put our three starting models, the HELIX, TITAN and NEXUS into the same category by offering the features that we feel are most needed on the modern precision rifle optic:

  • Reliable, easy-to-use tactical turrets with precision machined parts & zero-stop feature.
  • Parallax from 10yds to Infinity to cater to ALL shooters & disciplines, from Airgun to .50 BMG.
  • High-quality glass with necessary coatings for use in adverse light conditions.
  • Intuitive reticles in MOA and MRAD with various options to cater for different disciplines.
  • Magnification varying from 3x to 30x to cater for typical hunting, plinking & competition needs.
  • Strong build with one-piece, 30 or 34mm aircraft-grade aluminium tube and internals built to withstand jarring recoil & impact forces without failing.

With these requirements being the foundation of our HELIX, TITAN & NEXUS lines, we feel we’ve successfully covered the majority of most shooters’ needs without compromising on anything, and can now look at expanding our range to offer more discipline-specific models in the future (i.e. 1-8x scope for AR-15 shooters or a fixed 35x scope with fine target reticle for Benchrest).

Clear Communication between Designers and Engineers

One of the biggest issue facing the optics market today is that there is a huge disconnect between “head offices” in the West and manufacturing facilities in the East. Many of the optics companies that pop up today have little or no experience in the shooting world and rely too heavily on the manufacturers, forgetting that the factory staff may not have real-life shooting experience either! We realise that the relationship between the design team (who MUST be shooters themselves) and the Engineers needs to be strong in order for the product to reflect what the end user needs, both inside and out.

I believe that one of the reasons that German & Austrian optics have such a good reputation is that there is no disconnect! Everyone involved in the process have access to some form of hunting on their doorsteps. Take Swarovski and Kahles, for example, who have a facility on the foothills of the Alps. Prototypes can be tested simply by walking outside. At ELEMENT we aim to keep that same connection present through personal inspection of the entire engineering, manufacturing, assembly and testing phases of production by our core team members, all of whom have extensive experience in all facets of the shooting world.

Implementing & Enforcing Strict Quality Control

We can’t even begin to tell you the frustration we’ve experienced in the past as shooters having to deal with sub-par quality. Oh, the stories we could tel… On one occasion back in 2016, one of our  team members realised that his scope (we won’t mentioned the brand, but it’s one of the biggest optics companies on earth, based in Europe) had the wrong reticle fitted in it. Somehow, the manufacturer had put a 3-18x reticle into a 6.5-20x scope body! How that product got through final inspection I don’t know, but when we approached this company at a trade show to report the problem they laughed us off and said “the factory must have made a mistake”. The pattern we’ve seen is that many companies will place a poorly-assembled product in good packaging to make you feel confident that it’s going to work. Warranties are included to make you feel that the manufacturer has faith in their product, but in reality the mark-up on the product is so ridiculously high that they could replace 25% of their products and still make a profit! They know full well that the majority of shooters out there don’t have the testing equipment that they have - a massive percentage of faulty products likely pass through undetected by the shooter, who may never notice the slight zero shift or the tracking error.

We never want you to experience these difficulties, and we’ve made it our #1 priority to ensure that our quality control procedures are some of the best in the world. All products go through a testing set of QC inspections during and after assembly to ensure that the following are up to standard:

I believe that one of the reasons that German & Austrian optics have such a good reputation is that there is no disconnect! Everyone involved in the process have access to some form of hunting on their doorsteps. Take Swarovski and Kahles, for example, who have a facility on the foothills of the Alps. Prototypes can be tested simply by walking outside. At ELEMENT we aim to keep that same connection present through personal inspection of the entire engineering, manufacturing, assembly and testing phases of production by our core team members, all of whom have extensive experience in all facets of the shooting world.

All models also undergo rigorous torture testing before serial production, including recoil testing of 1000x 1000Gs (to simulate heavy recoiling rifles), weather testing (immersing scope in water for extended periods), climate testing (checking operation in extreme heat or cold) and impact testing to check for POI shifts when the scope is dropped / struck with an object.

 To give you extra assurance that these checks are being implemented, we’ve included an inspection tag with every scope, which will be signed after final inspection and attached to the scope. You can now have peace of mind that your ELEMENT scope should perform flawlessly when you head out after that trophy buck!

The Collimator Doesn’t Lie

A Collimator is an optical device which bends light rays parallel so that a clear image of a reticle can be seen through a scope, simulating a scale at 100 yards/meters. Collimators are an integral part of the testing procedure for each scope, being used for most of the tests… and are the litmus test for true quality. They don’t lie!

Shane Kellar tests a NEXUS on the
collimator for tracking precision

An APR-1D MRAD reticle through the
collimator, with an MOA scale in the background

Say what you want about your product - The collimator will tell whether it really measures up or not. Following in the footsteps of some of the world’s most trusted optics manufacturers, we will be publishing tracking tests for all models, showing how they perform in real-world situations. For a tracking test on a collimator, we will show how an MOA scope can be dialled 30 MOA, matched against the collimator reticle to note actual results, and then dialled back to zero. The same can be done on a MRAD model. We will also be publishing plenty of ScopeCam footage - Videos filmed through the scope - so you can see what we see when hunting, and observe the clarity of our glass for yourself. We will also be ensuring that our major distribution hubs have access to collimators in-house, so that testing can be done quickly in the event of a warranty claim, and the product can be quickly replaced if faulty.

Having a Competent, Service-Orientated Dealer Network

We understand that dealers are an extremely important link between us and the end user, and therefore take our dealer network very seriously. We aim to maintain strong relationships with all our dealers, ensuring that they are well informed & supported at all times and are able to give you the service you need. We also aim to ensure that all new dealers are scrutinised before being welcomed on board, to reduce the risk of issues down the road. If you experience problems or believe you are being treated unfairly by a dealer, please let us know!

Being Well Represented in Different Disciplines

It is important for us to have experts using our products in different locations and disciplines around the world. We believe  that collective experience & constructive feedback from professionals around the world will keep us growing stronger and moving forward as our product line continues to improve. This will be done by ensuring that we sponsor key events around the world, have representatives on the floor speaking to customers, and support a select group of Pro Staff which in turn can give us the feedback & criticism we need to cater to their various disciplines. We feel that we’ve already done this to an extent, bringing in hunters & competition shooters from all over the world and asking what they want to see in our product line, but know also that there is always room for improvement!

Allocating a Healthy R&D Budget

Who remembers when Kodak were Kings of the film world? Nobody thought they would ever be pushed off their pedestal, but they were - Kodak is gone forever. They didn’t keep up with technology, and were put to death by the Digital age. What about their biggest competitor, Fujifilm? Well, at the turn of the century they saw the digital age coming and shifted resources to their R&D department. They are now flourishing with high-end mirrorless digital cameras on the market, and a bigger turnover than Nikon! There’s a lesson to be learned here.

We never want to be left behind. There is ALWAYS room for improvement. We want to sure that we are always moving forward, whether is is rolling development on existing products, or the introduction of an entirely new line. We are privileged enough to have investors on board that understand the importance of Research & Development, and have been investing in new technology since day one. Keep an eye out for some exciting new innovations over the next few months!

Matt Dubber prepares for a long shot by assessing weather conditions
All of our products are tested in real-world conditions

Extensive Testing in Different Environments

We never want our R&D to be confined to an office. Real-world use is the true litmus test, and we are privileged to have a strong network of pro staff around the world who have tested our products in a variety of conditions and supplied valuable feedback.

Varminting in Utah: Thayne & Val Simmons (Saber Tactical) and Roelf Vorster (Air Hunters) take aim at Ground Squirrels in the soya fields

Our riflescopes have been testing in the icy conditions of the Rocky Mountains, the mud of Northern Europe and the dust & heat of South Africa. Furthermore, we realise that hunting styles vary greatly based on terrain and species. We want to ensure that we have models & reticles suitable for typical European Deer Stalking, African Plains Game Hunting and Long-Range Hunting. Airgun hunting also poses a different challenge entirely, and we’ve ensured we can cater to those demands too. Make sure that you tag us in your hunting photos on social media so that we can see what our products are being used for in your neck of the woods!

Two-Way Social Media Engagement

Social Media is key for any company nowadays, being a strong marketing tool and sharing information in a way that magazines no longer can - But we feel it can be more than just a one-way tool. We aim to engage with our customers daily through our social media platforms, as this provides us with valuable feedback and helps us to make improvements to our products & service. There’s nothing worse than speaking to a brick wall - We value your opinions and want to keep the door wide open!

We hope that this article inspires confidence in the ELEMENT OPTICS team and brand! We’ve worked incredibly hard to get to this point, and are excited to see our products in your hands! To stay up to date with new developments and follow our adventures around the globe, follow us on social media or sign up to our newsletter!