Made In the U.S.A. by Benjamin Packard

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Yesterday I was in Sportsman’s Warehouse picking up a new PhoneSkope for better
long-range pictures. For some reason, I was curious about where it was manufactured.
Was I buying a product Made In The U.S.A. or was it made in China or Hecho en
Mexico? I got to thinking about all the products I buy, and since I’ve been making some
hefty purchases for new hunting gear lately I decided to do a little research. What I
found may surprise you…or maybe you don’t care. But here are the results. I’ll let you
decide if it matters or not.

My PhoneSkope was made right here in the U.S.A. The company was started by a
father and son in Utah looking for a better way to take hunting photos and video and
Share with family. They came up with the adaptors to connect their smartphones to their
spotting scopes and now they manufacture products to fit nearly all smartphones as well
as adaptors that will connect to spotting scopes, binoculars and many other
applications.

Back when I was younger, dumber and had less money to throw at equipment I
purchased my first rifle. It was a used Ruger Mark II in .30-06 that I never could get to
shoot better than fist-sized groups at 100 yards. I never did discover the problem. I’d
been shooting since I was a kid so I knew this wasn’t optimal but thought I could make it
work, right up until I drew my first elk tag. After missing an elk completely at less than
300 yards I knew that rifle had to go. It was just a matter of time. The first good quality
rifle I bought was a Remington 700 in .308. That rifle had some good upgrades, and
though it wasn’t anything like a custom rifle it was leaps and bounds better than the
pencil barreled Ruger that had made me cuss so badly on that elk hunt. Soon I was
shooting very small groups at much longer distances and the first attempt to shoot over
500 yards was a revelation to what was possible for a barely average marksman like
myself. Remington Arms was founded over 200 years ago by Eliphalet Remington who
finished a hand-built barrel in 1816. He took that barrel to a gunsmith and turned it into
his first flintlock. Since then Remington has invented many of the firearms that have
made America what we are today. Some notable firearms include the Remington 870
shotgun and the Remington 700 bolt gun as well as many others. In all the years since
Eliphalet built his first firearm Remington has had many successes in firearms,
ammunition and many other non-firearm related endeavors and has had numerous
manufacturing plants all over the eastern United States. They currently are
headquartered in Madison, NC and have numerous plants throughout the U.S.
Most of you will be more interested in where your traditional optics are manufactured.
Over the years, and as my budget has allowed, I’ve done a series of upgrades to my
optics. My first real pair of binoculars were Nikon Prostaff 10×50’s. They worked great
compared to the no-name binos I’d been using till then and I was blown away by the

difference in the quality of the glass and field of view. I used them for close to 10 years
before they took a dump on me and fogged up while I was on a hunt. I was able to
unscrew the parts on the offending side, clean the interior of the lens, put the rubber
seal back in place and screw it all back together to use for the rest of the day but it
soured me on the binoculars and the brand and the next day I was hunting with a new
pair of Vortex Viper HD 12×50 nocks. One of the largest sellers today of hunting scopes and binoculars is Vortex Optics. They’re hugely popular today with a cult-like following and sell a massive amount of optics worldwide. The company formed in 2002 in the U.S. and though the company was new, the ownership had been involved in the optics business since the 1980s. When doing my research into where their manufacturing is done I was a little surprised. I knew they were made overseas but what I didn’t know is that, depending on the line of optics, they’re made in as many as 4 different countries. Depending on which line of optics you own, your scope or binoculars may have been manufactured in China, Japan, the Philippines or a combination of made in Japan but assembled in the U.S. However, the latter possibility is only on the Vortex Razor HD AMG scopes, which are the absolute top tier of Vortex’s optics. Vortex works hard to maintain an image of an American optics company and doesn’t come right out and say they are American made but they try to allude to that fact on their website. Under the “About You” tab you’ll find lots of cool customer service and VIP warranty information, and that’s all 100% true. I’ve even used that VIP warranty. I had a new rifle topped with a brand new Vortex Viper scope. While at the range I dropped my rifle on concrete and banged up the turret on my scope. After the fall it was shooting 3 feet low at 100 yards. I thought for sure they’d find some way to tell me I’d just voided the warranty on my $1,000 scope. I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry for a while until I got the courage to call their customer service and talked to them. They told me not to worry and they’d take care of it. They rebuilt that scope for me and a few weeks later it was back on my rifle where it sits today. In reality, and unfortunately, though Vortex is American owned and veteran operated, the products are manufactured in another country.

When doing my research for a recent rifle build I ended up going with a Leupold Mark
5HD. The reasons I chose Leupold were numerous but I always went back to the
incident with the Vortex scope. I didn’t want to ruin a hunt with a repeat performance in
the field. Additionally, I was building a .300 win mag for longer range shooting and
heard from numerous sources that the torture tests Leupold put their optics through was
the proof in the pudding so to speak. With rigid and exacting standards and
requirements given by the U.S. military to meet their demands for reliability, Leupold
and Stevens, Inc (their official name) have developed what they call “the Punisher.”
The Punisher is a machine developed to simulate the g forces scopes go through when
firing large-caliber magnums. The Punisher tests Leupold scopes up to greater G forces
than most scopes could handle and at the amplitude that they’ll experience throughout
the duration of a shot versus relatively short term instantaneous shocks that most
companies use as a standard shock test. Leupold also tests their competition on the
Punisher and claim their scopes are the toughest. That being said, they don’t make

results public for the tests they’ve performed on the competition, only stating that many
have failed and they “often remove them from the test floor with a broom.” A quote from
their website says, “After World War II Leupold & Stevens began making gun scopes
after Marcus Leupold failed to hit a deer with his rifle. His scope fogged up and he is
reported to have exclaimed, ‘Hell! I could build a better scope than this!’ as the deer
bounded off.” The rest is history. Leupold is headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon and
manufactures its scopes right here in the United States. Their optics are used by our
military in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps as well as the Secret Service.
On my new rifle build, I opted to go with a McMillan stock for several reasons. From their FAQ page I found this, “Gale McMillan, founder of McMillan companies began
producing stocks in 1973 for himself for the highly demanding benchrest matches where
he competed. Fellow competitors, always in search of the next competitive edge, asked
the inventor to produce some stocks for their rifles. From these roots, the McMillan
family of companies has grown into one of the most well-known and respected brands
in the firearms industry.” I wanted an accurate rifle and the stock to compliment it.
McMillan stocks create a reliable, repeatable position and cheek weld, they’ve got great
form and function and the rugged reliability required by me for my application. The
McMillan Game Scout offers the features I was looking for that would complement my
rifle whether I was at the range or in the field. Having a bit of a history with McMillan I
already knew they were headquartered near me in Phoenix, Arizona but as far as where
the stocks were manufactured I had to look to find out. It turns out that “Yes, from start
to finish our stocks are made here entirely in Phoenix, Arizona.”

For the recent rifle build, I went with a Browning X-Bolt. Before I purchased the rifle I did lots of research into its long-range capabilities, accuracy, reliability and user reviews. I wanted a rifle that would push the limits of my own abilities and by all accounts, it fit the bill. The X-Bolt has a great history of accuracy that Browning attributes, in large part, to their barrels. With a focus on the many little things, their rifles are bound to be accurate. Though I knew from my research that the company was based primarily out of Morgan, Utah I didn’t know until my current research that they manufacture their rifles outside the U.S. I honestly can’t say how much that may have changed my mind about buying the rifle, I’m pretty emotionally and financially invested at this point, but I do know that it gives me a moment’s pause and a renewed desire to be more knowledgeable about my future purchases. It’s made me ask myself what else I don’t know about the products I use or the company selling them to me.

As I write this I wonder what other products I buy are Made In The U.S.A. and which
aren’t. To some degree, we take for granted that the products we buy, because
everyone else bought them, are top quality. And though a product’s country of origin
doesn’t necessarily determine its quality, there are other considerations for some of us.
Do we care about supporting domestic production? Are there any items that are as
good or better than their counterparts in other countries? What kind of customer service, warranty or technical support should I expect from domestically produced equipment versus those made elsewhere? Why does it matter if I buy products Made In The U.S.A.? These are all questions we should at least be asking ourselves as we buy
hunting and shooting gear and as you discover more about the products you use you’ll
be able to make the best decision about which is the right for you, right for other users
and right for this country. Happy huntin’!

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