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LEUPOLD VIRTUAL FACTORY TOUR

THE BEGINNING

In 1907, the West was a popular destination for Americans who wanted to make a new life for themselves, and with that yearning and sense of adventure came the need to build out new infrastructure and develop towns along the way. Fred Leupold and his close friend, Adam Volpel, saw a golden opportunity to be the only manufacturer of surveying equipment on the West Coast. They set up shop in Portland, Oregon and Leupold Volpel & Co. was born, becoming one of the premier surveying equipment manufacturers in America.

In 1914, J.C. Stevens entered the picture as Fred Leupold’s new partner. J.C. was an Edison-type figure who brought with him a host of proprietary ideas and patents. Most notable was his water measurement device, which transmitted water levels over telegraph wires. This was a revolutionary step forward in technology at the time.

Then, in 1945, Fred’s son, Marcus Leupold, set the company on a path to become the world’s foremost riflescope manufacturer. Legend has it that while hunting one day, Marcus Leupold missed a buck because his scope fogged up. He swore he could make a better scope, and that’s just what he did.

Hell! I could build a better scope than this!

Having been around precision optical instruments his whole life, he worked weekends and nights with his engineering team, and in 1947 Leupold & Stevens, Inc. introduced its first riflescope. We called it the Plainsman, and it was the first truly fog-proof scope built by Americans.

Fast forward to today - our self-reliant spirit continues to drive us to innovate and manufacture premium optics in America, guaranteeing their performance for a lifetime.

A LOOK INSIDE LEUPOLD

Our first stop on the tour is the Technical Service Department. This team is responsible for answering 120,000+ calls and 50,000+ emails annually. They’re highly skilled at troubleshooting problems and can typically get customers back up and running without having to send products in for repair. Each and every one has extensive hunting or shooting experience, so when you’re talking to someone in Tech Services, you can rest assured that they know what they’re talking about.

Next you'll find our optics lab - the heart of what makes Leupold products outperform the competition. Every Leupold optical system is designed and tested in house.

Our highly technical equipment and procedures are kept under wraps, so most people only get to see this side of the door. Our world-class team of optical engineers pride themselves in producing products that will make you wonder if we’re using science or black magic. Spoiler alert, it’s science. We’re just really good at it.

Right outside of the engineering department is a test board for contrast, color consistency, chromatic aberration, tracking, and glare. While we do test for all of these in our lab, we also test our products in real-world lighting conditions. This is extremely important because this is where you’re actually going to use them. Many optic purchases are made in a store with bright lighting, which can actually make inferior products look very bright and crisp. To test true performance you need to use the optics in low-light or glare-producing conditions outside.

THE MACHINE SHOP

Head downstairs and you’ll find our shop receiving bay, where all the raw aluminum is delivered. And we use A LOT of it. In fact, we’re the second largest consumer of aluminum on the West Coast next to Boeing. All of our aluminum is made in the USA, and, of course, we only use top aerospace-grade alloys.

With all of that aluminum, there are plenty of excess shavings to process. Our skilled team is in charge of making sure this leftover material is handled correctly. First, they take the chips from the machines and place them in a centrifuge, which spins out the cutting fluid – the fluid is then put through a filtration system and re-used in the machines. The dry chips are then placed in a different machine that compresses them into cylinders the size of a large soup can. This process saves space and makes it easier for our aluminum supplier to recycle them.

From the outside of our factory, you would never guess that our machine shop spans more than 150,000 square feet. We are continually evaluating the layout and adjusting accordingly to make sure we’re making parts as efficiently as possible.

We use a number of different CNC machines, but most of them are the Index brand, which are the very best CNC machines available today. These allow us to keep incredibly tight tolerances, while maintaining a high-volume output.

Thanks to advances in technology, raw material goes in one side, and an almost finished maintube emerges from the other.

Each machine features a full host of gauging and testing instruments so each maintube can be checked before being sent to the next process. Because we make almost everything ourselves, we can control quality and precision all of the way through the process – from the first cut to the finished product.

We don’t just make the maintubes, either. We make the internal parts, as well. Controlling the tolerances of extremely intricate components like the adjustment screws below is an important piece to the manufacturing puzzle. These move up and down when you turn your adjustment and push on the erector system inside the scope to adjust the point-of-impact. If the machining is off by even a fraction, you may not get that ¼-MOA or 1/10-MIL click.

Our state-of-the-art machines excel in manufacturing and testing small parts to ensure our quality continues to outperform the rest.

A percentage of all the parts made at Leupold go through our quality assurance department, where they’re evaluated with intense scrutiny. Our extensive quality checks ensure that our high standards are met or exceeded before continuing on with the manufacturing process.

Bead blasting is the last step for all external parts before anodizing. This bead blast chamber uses a proprietary process to ensure tolerances stay exact, while also creating that matte/satin texture Leupold scopes are known for.

After the parts come back from anodizing, a number of them go through our laser room. Any kind of logo or marking on the products is lasered into the surface, so that they’ll never fade. The lasers are extremely accurate and precise down to microns.

When all of the parts are complete, they’re housed in our component warehouse. We produce so many parts that we have a bank of 50-foot-tall automated shelf systems to help store everything efficiently.

TOOLING

Not only do we make parts, we make a lot of the tooling needed to machine those parts. We have a full service tool room that can create custom tools from scratch if needed. Being able to create those tools in-house is key to knowing that we are producing parts that will last a lifetime.

High-performance products require high-performance tooling, and these tools are also constantly tested. We employ the same attention to detail in our tool room as we do in every other step of the manufacturing process.

Our design engineers also have access to a dedicated model shop where we can make small batches of prototype parts to test out theories and ideas. If an engineer comes up with a new design for a part or a completely new scope, that product will need a whole host of tooling to manufacture it on a large scale.

The shop has a mixture of older machines like the Hardinge lathe above, all the way up to the latest in 3D printing technology. This area is key to keeping us at the forefront of innovation and giving our engineering team the freedom to dream up new ideas.

With all of these machines, it’s extremely important that we keep them running smoothly. Our highly-skilled maintenance department provides preventative maintenance and fixes any catastrophic failures. A job this big requires an even bigger tool box. We utilize a high-tech automated storage and inventory system to keep just about everything we need on hand, so our machines stay running strong.

BASES & RINGS

For as long as we’ve been making scopes, we’ve also been making bases and rings. The connection between the optic and the firearm is sometimes overlooked, but it is critical in making the system work. Thanks to advances in technology, we can quickly turn rings from raw material into a work of art.

The blanks go in one side and a complete ring comes out of the other side. They are drilled, tapped, and ready to go. We stamp the logo on top, gently tumble them to remove sharp edges, and then blacken them to match our scopes. They’re so precisely made that tops and bottoms don’t even have to be matched together, which also means lapping rings is thing of the past.

Along with the rings, you need bases, which start off as solid bar stock. We first machine the tops and sides, then they’re flipped over on trays where the bottom is milled out to fit whatever firearm they’re designed to attach to.

ASSEMBLY

Once a work order comes down from the planning department, the material handlers get the components ready for the assembly clean room. Before parts actually go into the clean room, they are washed in our sonic cleaning station to make sure there’s absolutely no dust or debris on them before getting assembled. Since scopes are basically intricate magnifiers, any kind of debris on the inside will be very evident as soon as you look through them.

Once the parts make their way into the clean room, material handlers combine all of the parts it takes to make a certain scope and stage them on a cart. Those carts are then rolled over to an assembly line where they get built into the final product. The lines are segregated by the product type and the complexity of the build.

Scopes are assembled by hand with the custom tools we built just down the hall. As a Leupold Assembler, you have to work your way up through the assembly ranks. Workers start on the simpler product lines first and then graduate to the more complex side of the room through skills testing.

Our products are built to perform in the harshest conditions. But, of course, we can’t guarantee them for life unless we rigorously test them under these conditions. After the scopes are assembled, they go through a number of tests.

PRECISION VIDEO COLLIMATION

This allows us to make sure that the product functions correctly, tracks accurately, and has its full amount of adjustment travel.

ENVIRONMENT CHAMBERS

Our environmental testing chambers can freeze a scope down to -40 degrees and then warm it back up to around 160 degrees to ensure each design works flawlessly under extreme temperatures.

'THE PUNISHER' RECOIL SIMULATION

In order to move into production, every one of our riflescope designs must survive our ruthlessly abusive recoil testing system ( 5,000 impacts at x3 the recoil of a .308 with no impact shift ) before it's ever considered worthy of our lifetime guarantee. The Punisher has been known to spit the guts out of many competitor scope brands.

After they meet all of our testing and performance requirements, they go into the final assembly area. Here, they’re filled with gas, water tested, double-checked for functionality, and have all of the dials, caps, and indicators installed.

Then they’re packaged with all the proper foam, scope covers, and instruction manuals.

The final step is to shrink wrap the box and scan them to a cart. That’s when a product is officially in an inventory location. The carts are then sent to an off-site distribution center about 5 miles away from the main factory.

Leupold is not only the largest U.S. sport optics manufacturer, we make more scopes than any other company in the world. It takes over 600 highly skilled men and women at our Beaverton, Oregon facility to make it happen.

Whether it’s a VX-Freedom or a Mark 5HD, you can trust every Leupold scope is built here in the USA with the precision, dedication, and passion it takes to guarantee a lifetime of performance.