Just a week or so prior to the 2014 Sniper’s Hide Cup I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Steiner Optics facility in Greeley, Colorado from the product manager, Martin Noller! For starters I have to say Mr. Noller is good people, and a highly placed employee at Steiner. You can see he has a passion for shooting and has dabbled in gunsmithing himself so he has some real experience to lean on when coming up with new products.
What’s new at Steiner?
I was able to tour their facility and see how their scopes are made, from the bare tubing all the way through the production process. Why is that interesting? Mainly because Steiner just dropped a bomb at the 2014 Sniper’s Hide Cup. They are releasing a new line of scopes to include a 3-15x and 5-25x in the new T5Xi Tactical line. The new scopes were designed, and will be almost entirely manufactured and assembled in Greeley, Colorado! The Steiner folks will still be importing the top notch glass from Germany but by producing the rest of the scope parts and components here in the United States they actually are saving money on import/export taxes and fees. They plan to pass those savings on to the Tactical Rifle consumer and in the same breath jump head first into the mid range scope market by introducing a higher quality product at an extremely competitive price.
Steiner T5Xi Pricing
Mr. Noller related that the new 5-25 T5Xi will be out the door under the $2000 dollar mark, in fact they expect the new scope to retail at around $1900 dollars. While not official yet I’ve been assured they are quite confident of the estimate and if it varies, it will not be by much. That’s a big deal. Steiner is setting up to compete head to head with the segment of the Tactical Scope Market that is currently dominated by the likes of the Bushnell G2DMR/ERS/XRS and Vortex Razor. They are undercutting the competition’s prices by hundreds of dollars and introducing a superior product at the lower price point. I’ve been assured that Steiner will produce the new scopes to the same specifications and rigorous quality control standards as the current lineup. They are saving so much money by producing it here they are using the savings to attack the mid range scope market, which frankly, is where a lot of business is done. If everybody had the cash to run out and spend $3500 on a Schmidt & Bender or a Nightforce BEAST then Vortex and Bushnell wouldn’t be such a popular purchase.
The Steiner Tour
We toured the entire production facility and walked all the way through the production process. The incredible emphasis the Steiner folks place on quality control, durability, and exemplary production of their optics is impressive. Mr. Noller explained that by producing all the tubes and components in house they have absolute control over the product output. If produced overseas, a manufacturer is stuck with what arrives off the ship, if there’s a problem then delays are extraordinary as the problem is corrected, machinery is retooled, and the product is reproduced to specification. If Steiner doesn’t like the way something turns out, they can halt the process, fix the problem, and get things cranking again with minimal down time.
I was fortunate enough to get a look at some of the new turrets before the release of the scope at the Hide Cup. Like everything else the machine quality was top notch and seeing the machine that did the laser engraving of the numbers for easy reference on the windage knob was cool!
New Steiner Scope Turrets
Having the chance to check out the new scope while shooting at the 2014 Sniper’s Hide Cup I have to say the new turrets are ultra slick! The knobs are loud and have a smooth feel but the elevation numbers steal the show. There are 12 Mils per turn on the turret and as you come around to ten and move on the numbers actually slide over and continue to count to 11, 12, 13, etc. instead of starting over again at 1,2,3 forcing the shooter to keep mental track of being on the second turn. Its really cool and hard to describe but awesome to witness. They wanted to go low profile on the turrets and also managed to make the turrets somewhat modular. The inner function of the turrets is entirely sealed and enclosed in the turret so if there is a problem the turret with the issue can be removed and a new turret put back in its place!
Mr. Noller explained that Beretta owns both Steiner and Burris Optics who share the facility we visited even though the product lines are separate. Moving through the production process I got to see the ‘clean room’ where the nice ladies were assembling scopes. The room has a positive air pressure system running constantly so that when the door opens any small particles of dust, dirt, grime, whatever can’t enter the room because air is being forced out of the room continuously.
The next photo is a device they use to test the durability of the scopes they manufacture. This made me cringe a bit. At the same time it was comforting. It makes you gasp because the thought of abusing high end optics is a little unnerving for most of us. On the other hand, I feel a lot better about the durability of scopes these guys produce when you see the lengths they go to in order to test the failure rates and longevity of the scopes they are cranking out. Short video for emphasis of the horror!
Steiner has some industrial grade tumblers with different media that they use for different polishing finishes on their components. They can dump parts into whichever bin they need depending on the surface finish they need. Its pretty cool because the concept is the same as what all the reloaders are using for cleaning up brass only scaled up about a thousand times and done to much higher quality control specs.
Steiner Customer Care and Service
One of the last stops was the repair center. This was kind of neat to see. They have techs that inspect scopes that come in under warranty and then repair what’s broken, if it’s fixable, and replacements can be authorized if the component is too far gone. I saw a bent scope tube while I was here, a canted reticle, and the tests they do to check that everything is Kosher would make you shiver. To make sure that the internals hold they they bounce the scope and smack it off the ground like a hammer and then check through the scope looking at a chart/target to see if anything moved. For anyone curious, the warranty work I saw was being done on mainly Burris products and the occasional really old set of Steiner binoculars. I did not see any Steiner scopes in for service and I was told its a rare occurrence that one comes back.
To sum this all up it was a really interesting and rewarding trip to Greeley. I’m deeply impressed by the level of detail the Steiner folks take in all aspects of their work and how seriously they take producing quality optics. It’s really a source of pride for them and they want to live up to the Steiner name. They are super excited about moving production of the new scope line to the USA so they have even greater control over production and so they can manufacture them at a more attractive price point. I think when these babies hit the shelf its going to be difficult to keep them there. They are offering a lot of bang for buck in a competitive price bracket and we are all fortunate to be around to witness and enjoy the benefits of quality optics manufacturers competing with each other head to head.