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History of Kahles

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Chris Farris View Drop Down

Joined: October/01/2003
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    Posted: June/02/2004 at 15:17

KAHLES invented the riflescope as we know it today. In fact, they produced their first riflescope in 1898. But that’s only the beginning of a story steep in ongoing history of innovation and quality standards that has been pushing this industry to new levels for over 100 years. Some of the KAHLES benchmarks in history, innovation and quality standards have been:


• The world’s oldest riflescope manufacturer (1898)

• First riflescope with adjustable ballistic drop

compensation (patent 1904)

• First waterproof riflescope using O-Rings (1960)

• First multi-coated riflescope in series production(1972)

• Industry leading features including compactness, edge

resolution and wide field-of-view

• Digital illuminating glass etched reticles

• Adjustable Multiple Zero ballistic turrets

Each generation of the KAHLES family made their contribution to the KAHLES Company, the best in it’s time. This commitment to absolute quality and the constant search for inventive, yet at the same time user friendly solutions, has made KAHLES a leading optical manufacturer for more than a century. Today this dedication represents the company’s commitment to reliability, outstanding image quality and clean ergonomic design. KAHLES products are the best of their time and continue to set standards that others strive for.





Kahles - A Synonym for Rifle Scopes
Since it is a fact that aiming over back and front sight produces a sharp image either of the target or of the aiming device but not of both, the first experiments directed to give hunters optical aiming aids go back to the early 17th century (target and aiming aid at the same level). Magnifying glasses and primitive predecessors of telescopic sights were attached to the weapons and even a kind of magnifying diopter was created. But all those attempts remained without success until around 1880, when August Fiedler (Stronsdorf), forestry commissioner of Prince Reuss, managed to build the first telescopic sight that really did work. Thereupon a number of constructions followed, among them some famous ones made by Kahles, an Austrian company located in Vienna.

One of these very early rifle scopes was sold under the fine- sounding name of "Telorar". It was manufactured by hand at the "Optical Manufactury" of a certain Karl Robert Kahles in 1898, and therefore we are completely justified in saying that Kahles is the world's oldest manufacturer of rifle scopes. It did not take long before the device became very well known among hunters everywhere and gained very best reputation.

After the sudden death of the founder of the company (in 1908 at the age of only 42) his widow Anna Maria, who was very popular with the employees, directed the company, which was then beginning to flourish, until her sons Karl and Ernst were old enough to take an active part in the business. They took on different areas of responsibility: Karl propelled the production of rifle scopes and made a great number of improvements. At the time Kahles also started to produce prismatic binoculars for use in hunting and sports. Ernst Kahles, on the other hand, directed the sales department in the sixth district of Vienna. He established the necessary business connections and also cared for the contacts to the authorities in charge.

In 1914 World War I stopped the peaceful advancement of the soundly evolved family business for a while and the "Optical Manufactury Karl Kahles" supplied sniper scopes and gun sights to the Royal and Imperial Army & Navy.

In the period between the World Wars, characterized by inflation and depression, the production of binoculars and rifle scopes for non-military purposes was resumed. Around 1930 Kahles brought out a very delicate but efficient scope. It was called "Mignon" and is still used by many hunters today.

Another dreadful war forced Kahles to manufacture optical devices for military use again. In the last days of the war, on February 19, 1945, the factory was completely destroyed in a bomb attack by the Allies and Karl Kahles met death.

Once again the company was reconstructed by a woman, Karl Kahles's widow Elasabeth, who was actively supported by her son Friedrich Kahles.

The legendary Helia 4
Taking into account the demand of those times the company started to produce lenses, but after a while they went back to concentrating on rifle scopes and brought out the well-known Helia 4, which had developed from the military line H 4x60.

Friedrich Kahles, who was highly talented in the field of technology and owned a number of patents, developed the lines of "Helia" and "Helia Super", which became known all over the world. The fact that these devices have stood up to the greatest strains when used under extreme conditions not only in Black Africa or at the Rain Forrests of South America but also in Alaska or the Northern provinces of Canada speak for their quality (after all as much as 65% of the production are exported to countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). What is less known, however, is the fact that Friedrich Kahles has invented the variable rifle scope.

The ZF 69 (a successor type of ZF 58) was developed especially for the Steyr SSG 69. It complied with military specifications that are known to be very strict in Austria as well as anywhere.

Kahles in the Swarovski Group
Since there was no heir in the family to take over the company, Kahles was sold to Swarovski in 1974. When Friedreich Kahles died in 1977, Kahles became a branch of Swarovski Optiks. Since May 1989 Kahles Limited (GesmbH) has been an independent company within the Swarovski group.

But how can a rather small manufacturer be so successful? Quality has always been the basic principle at Kahles. Therefore all parts have been and are still manufactured at their own workshop. Nowadays many companies can no longer do that because of high costs. It is very common today to have parts produced in cheap-labor countries in order to lower costs. But not so at Kahles, where they want to prevent any endangerment of quality. Therefore they manufacture all parts which are crucial to the quality of the product themselves and

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