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How are rifle scope housings manufactured?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2010 at 10:13
targetworks View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
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I'm looking for information on how rifle scope housings are typically manufactured.
 
I know that there will be a lot of variation between high-end and low-end equipment, and I'd like to get some ideas across the entire range of quality that's available. I'm curious about this info because I'm a bit of an experimenter and I am interested in doing various unspeakable things by taking apart and modifying some rifle scopes, and may even try my hand at building my own. I may get some cheap ones to take apart (yes, I know that I will void any and all warranties, let the dry nitrogen escape, and all that).
 
So, here are my questions:
 
1 - are rifle scope housings typically manufactured by
 
a: machining from a solid billet of round rod aluminum (or other metal), or
 
b: starting from a "hollow rod" of aluminum, or
 
c: starting from a rough aluminum casting which is then machined to final specs, or
 
d: something else?
 
I've seen a description of NightForce scopes indicating that they are "made from a single piece of 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum", which leads me to believe that they do 'a' or 'b' above, but I'm not sure. Others (especially at the lower end) may do it differently.
 
 
2 - What are typical wall thicknesses used in 1-inch OD and 33mm OD scope tubes? Are they uniform throughout the length of the tube, or does it vary between the tube mounting area, the objective lens area, and eyepiece mounting area?
 
That same NightForce article mentions that the NightForce NXS "body is 2-3 times thicker than almost any other riflescope", but it does not mention the actual thickness of those scope tubes or that of the competition.
 
 
3 - Has anyone seen any articles on taking apart a rifle scope or DIY and making your own? I have come across some references on the optics side of things, but my main interest at the moment is in fabrication of rifle scope housings.  I don't have any metalworking machinery in my basement (yet) but hope to someday get a lathe and a milling machine, and will then try my hand at modifying them for hobby-grade CNC control.
 
So far my google searching has come up empty, but maybe I just haven't done a deep enough search. I may want to change my search parameters to focus on (sorry for the bad pun) DIY astronomical telescope making.
 
 
4 - How would you typically take apart a rifle scope to access the guts and examine the housing from the inside? Attack it from the eyepiece end, or the objective lens end, or the turret(s), or all of the above? (Or, heaven forbid, with a bandsaw or Sawzall or a plasma cutter?)
 
 
and,
 
5 - Does anybody know of any (probably imported) OEM sources for premade rifle scope housings that would sell them in onesy-twosy quantities? Yes, I am probably dreaming or hallucinating here... Big Grin 
 
 
I may try putting up a local Craigslist posting to ask for people to donate their old, unwanted scopes to me for tinkering purposes.
 
While I've lurked on the SWFA forum before, perhaps I have chosen the wrong subforum for this post, so if there's a better place to post this, please let me know...
 
TIA...
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2010 at 16:27
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Welcome to OT, targetworks!
 
To answer some of your questions...
 
#1:  All the scope manufacturers I'm aware of who disclose their manufacturing methods use either A or B and turn the scope tube on CNC lathes.  Even if they start from a solid rod, they first drill a hole through the center large enough for a boring bar to profile the i.d.  There is some milling after turning to machine such features as the flats on the sides of the turret saddle and the i.d of the W/E knob bores, any threads that can't be single point turned on the centerline of the tube, etc. 
 
#2:  I assume the "33mm tube" is a typo, as that isn't a standard tube diameter.  Regardless, the wall thickness of most scope tubes I've seen has varied between 2 - 3mm (0.079" - 0.118").  The wall thickness of the tube does usually vary from end to end, but there is no uniform standard profile from manufacturer to manufacturer.  The thickest wall is at the turret saddle.
 
#4:  I've never actually taken apart a rifle scope, to examine the inside, but I would imagine the first step is to unscrew the locking rings that hold the objective and eyepiece lenses in place.  This takes a special tool.
 
Can I ask what sort of project you are working on that you need to know this information?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2010 at 16:41
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Good luck with that.

Making a good one will be a challenge, steep learning curve, I'd guess.  Start with a degree in optical engineering.  Hell, there are many companies making scopes that shouldn't be, feel free to learn from their fine mistakes.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2010 at 17:06
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Originally posted by targetworks targetworks wrote:

5 - Does anybody know of any (probably imported) OEM sources for premade rifle scope housings that would sell them in onesy-twosy quantities? Yes, I am probably dreaming or hallucinating here... Big Grin 
 
 
No, it is highly unlikely anyone will sell you a scope tube by itself.  Your best chance of that happening would probably be through Leupold.  Most optics companies don't actually manufacture the scopes they sell, and only provide scope tubes for warranty replacement purposes.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2010 at 17:50
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Optics GrassHopper
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RifleDude, thanks for the info...
 
Yes, 33mm was intended to be 30mm - I'll have to figure out if this forum will let me go back and edit my post.
 
I have several projects in mind, but they are not "fully-formed" ideas yet. I'm interested in learning more about topics from image stabilization (both optical and electrical) to adaptive optics to night vision to binocular vision to heads-up displays. While theory is important, a good measure of "hands on" is important, too. Somewhere down the road I'll have to put together an optical workbench as well. Yes, I know that I may not (yet) be playing with a full deck of cards, but you've got to start somewhere...
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2010 at 19:25
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Originally posted by targetworks targetworks wrote:

I'll have to figure out if this forum will let me go back and edit my post.
 


The forum settings are configured to not allow post editing and posting pics until you have 50 posts.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2010 at 21:00
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I'm I reading correctly?
Someone wants to build their own scope at home?
WOW! Now there has got to be a lot of head scratching, cursing, fist pounding, & door slamming involved with this project.

Oh yeah, and something going through the dry wall.
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