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open letter to SWFA about SS 5-20x 50mm

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/12/2015 at 13:07
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In this I am suggesting that you offer a variant of the SS 5-20x50mm tweaked for the high end airgun market, for long range hunting small pests and for target shooting at similar range (but not for FT which is more specialized toward higher powered scopes with much narrower depth of field used for range estimation in competition). It has most of the features many are looking for, and could own the upper end of that niche market, but the focus range is not suitable for that application.

If you offered a version of the illuminated reticle SS 5-20x50mm mil/mil FFP with the objective lens adjusted to accomodate a focus range that includes 10m-150m, with suitable markings on the focus knob, I would have already ordered at least one, and I think many others would also.

Instead I am looking at spending a little more than double that on a March 3-24x52mm mil/mil FFP which does focus down to 10m. The extra money does buy something, as the March is a nicer scope (as it should be for more than double the price), but I would rather not pay that price difference in this application if the SS 5-20x50mm also focused down to 10m. The S&B PMII 5-25x56mm mil/mil FFP is another that can focus down to 10m, but is 1/3 more than the March and tunnels below 7x (no increase in FOV below 7x, making it a 7-25x56mm with some not very useful extra travel in adjustment below 7x). My understanding is that the March tunnels somewhere below 5x, and similar comments apply. I will likely find out soon enough.

I have one of your SS 1-4x24mm and one of your HD10x42mm scopes, and consider them to be good scopes at good prices, very good value. But for the air rifle (this one is a .25 cal FX Independence) it looks like I may be buying the March. And the price difference is almost enough to buy another high end air rifle.

You are losing sales volume because of this, and not just to me.



Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/12/2015 at 17:43
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Sir, are you aware that the SS 3-15 has a close focus range of 6 meters? While it does not have the glass of the 5-20, its no slouch either. And it only costs $700...
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/13/2015 at 11:37
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While I think a super close focus version of the SS 5-20X50 would be a neat thing, SWFA would have to consider the cost of having another variation of the same basic scope or reconfiguring their existing scope vs. projected sales of the new version. While you may believe it would be a huge seller, and I can certainly understand why you'd want one, are you certain there would be 1000s of air gun enthusiasts lining up to buy it when it costs way more than most high end air rifles?

I have no doubt some people would buy it, and I have no doubt that you know plenty of people that would. I also believe you may be thinking demand would be higher than it actually is because you're a part of a niche group of airgun shooters who are willing to spend more money on their equipment than the typical airgun buyer. I suspect that you represent a small % of the total airgun market, just as benchrest shooters and their equipment needs represent a very small minority of centerfire rifle shooters. I don't know this for fact, but if I look at what's currently available in rimfire scopes, much less springer airgun compatible scopes across the board, the selection is very limited. Several manufacturers once offered high end rimfire scopes that have subsequently been discontinued. I have to believe if there was a huge market there, some of the optics companies would be supplying that need, and they aren't. That tells me the demand just isn't there in sufficient numbers to make producing these scopes worthwhile.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/13/2015 at 15:07
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I am not suggesting a major redesign, or a major increase in inventory, rather am merely suggesting that they add some scopes to their next order, an airgun variant with a different adjustment of the objective lens, and with suitable markings on the focus knob.
 
Nobody characterized anything in this as being a "huge seller".
 
They might sell a worthwhile quantity of suitably altered SS 5-20x50mm, if offered at similar pricing.  
 
I think those would be very much more popular than the $3,449.00 Schmidt und Bender 12.5-50x56mm field target airgun scopes that SWFA currently offers for sale.
 
 
You draw a good comparison in mentioning bench-rest segment, a small subset of shooters, but large enough that some like March offer some scopes specialized to that application. 
 
It seems false logic to use .22LR and springer airgun markets as predictors of the pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) airgun market. PCP is unrelated to .22LR because the airgun is not a firearm, may be lawfully used in many places where it is unlawful to use a firearm. The PCP can be much more powerful than a springer, useful at significantly longer range than a springer, on larger critters than a springer. And many PCPs are nearly as quiet as a suppressed .22LR, and can be used where suppressors are unlawful.
 
Recent prolonged shortages and increased market prices in ammo and reloading components for firearms may have also increased consumer interest in the PCP airguns. There has been no shortage of air to compress, no shortage of high quality pellets at moderate cost, and you don't need to buy anything from a local retailer with an FFL and state license, rather can buy everything over the phone or online and have it shipped to your door.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/13/2015 at 17:11
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Originally posted by billyburl2 billyburl2 wrote:

Sir, are you aware that the SS 3-15 has a close focus range of 6 meters? While it does not have the glass of the 5-20, its no slouch either. And it only costs $700...
 
Thanks for bringing that one to my attention, something to consider.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/13/2015 at 18:22
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Originally posted by JRT JRT wrote:

I am not suggesting a major redesign, or a major increase in inventory, rather am merely suggesting that they add some scopes to their next order, an airgun variant with a different adjustment of the objective lens, and with suitable markings on the focus knob.
 
Nobody characterized anything in this as being a "huge seller".
 
They might sell a worthwhile quantity of suitably altered SS 5-20x50mm, if offered at similar pricing.  
 
I think those would be very much more popular than the $3,449.00 Schmidt und Bender 12.5-50x56mm field target airgun scopes that SWFA currently offers for sale.
 
 
You draw a good comparison in mentioning bench-rest segment, a small subset of shooters, but large enough that some like March offer some scopes specialized to that application. 
 
It seems false logic to use .22LR and springer airgun markets as predictors of the pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) airgun market. PCP is unrelated to .22LR because the airgun is not a firearm, may be lawfully used in many places where it is unlawful to use a firearm. The PCP can be much more powerful than a springer, useful at significantly longer range than a springer, on larger critters than a springer. And many PCPs are nearly as quiet as a suppressed .22LR, and can be used where suppressors are unlawful.
 
Recent prolonged shortages and increased market prices in ammo and reloading components for firearms may have also increased consumer interest in the PCP airguns. There has been no shortage of air to compress, no shortage of high quality pellets at moderate cost, and you don't need to buy anything from a local retailer with an FFL and state license, rather can buy everything over the phone or online and have it shipped to your door.

Please don't take what I'm about to say here or in my previous post as me trying to butt heads with you, as that's not my intent at all. I'm merely attempting to explain why things aren't as simple as they may seem here. I also don't pretend to speak for SWFA in this matter. Who knows, they may very well think your suggestion is a good idea and act accordingly? I'm also not privy to their costs and "break even" sales volume metrics and therefore cannot make a call on their behalf for what is and isn't good business.

What I can tell you is that there are a lot of misconceptions in your posts. This isn't a slam against you, as these are common misconceptions people outside the manufacturing world have about manufactured goods in general. I don't know what your background is, and maybe you do have manufacturing knowledge, but what I can tell you is what may seem simple on the surface, is anything but. I'm a manufacturing engineer and have worked in various aspects of a production environment my entire career out of college, so I speak from that perspective.

First, changing the parallax focus to enable closer focusing is not a minor design revision with a "different adjustment of the objective lens" and a small change to the focus knob; it requires redesigning the optical system, which involves significant cost.

Second, production volume is directly related to cost and is perhaps the largest driver of retail price. Any time you run a small production run of anything, even if it involves only a minor change, doing so involves not only diverting production away from larger volume items that sell better, but it also reduces production efficiency. It involves changing setups, part flow routings, using different parts, interrupting line rates, increasing the possibility of error, etc., and the manufacturer's fixed overhead costs for that time are amortized over a smaller number of units. Variation always increases cost. Smaller production volume always increases cost. Always. It's not a simple matter of "adding some scopes to their next order" of a slightly different variant. 

Therefore, it's unlikely that a variation of the existing scope to satisfy a relatively small, niche market could be "offered at similar pricing." A more likely scenario would be if they ever decided to revise the scope in the future, to go ahead and provide it with closer focus capability... IF that is possible within the existing design framework. 

On March scopes... they are a boutique item, and because they are designed for a small subset of shooters, they have a price tag to reflect that fact. Yes, March scopes are well made and complex, which is part of the reason they are expensive, but low volume is the biggest driver of high price. Producing anything in low volume = high price. If you produced a special version of the SS 5-20X50 to satisfy a small market segment, it would likely drive the price up to where it negates the advantage of buying the SS 5-20 vs more expensive scopes to begin with.

On your "false logic" paragraph:
I'm savvy on everything pertaining to PCPs, how they differ from springer and .22 rimfires, and the capabilities and applications for each. In addition to owning just about every classification of rifle shaped device that flings projectiles downrange, I own an AirForce Condor. And, none of that has anything whatsoever to do with the point I was attempting to make with regards to scopes for each. Despite the obvious differences in the guns, the scopes used for each are pretty similar. First, whether you're talking rimfires, springers, or PCPs, all are best served with scopes equipped with close range parallax focus. Second, the overwhelming majority of both rimfire shooters and airgun shooters of all types tend to buy cheap scopes, for whatever reason. I don't happen to subscribe to this thought process, and obviously you don't either, but lets face it, we are in the minority. Third, scope manufacturers tend to classify their close-focus scopes as "rimfire and airgun" scopes. They lump them in the same category. Plus, if they classify a given scope as "airgun compatible," they don't know whether the buyer will be using it on a springer or PCP, so they usually design them to deal with the "reverse recoil" a springer produces. The simple fact is, the conspicuous lack of "high end" or even "upper mid-tier" scopes with extremely close focus tells you that the market for such scopes isn't very large, or they would be produced. Those that were produced only a decade ago have since been discontinued. Right or wrong, the overwhelming number of both airgun and rimfire shooters mount inexpensive scopes on their rifles...and the market reflects that fact. Just like the benchrest community example, you represent a very small subset of airgun shooters. That may very well change in the near future, but right now that's the reality.

I totally get the economics, convenience, and appeal of PCPs (or any airgun for that matter), as reflected by the fact I own one. That doesn't change the fact that, for better or worse, you represent a very small segment of airgun shooters, and if there was high enough demand for the scope you want, someone would eventually supply it. The fact that nobody does would seem to answer the question of demand. I really like high end, compact midrange variable scopes in the 1.5-6X or 2-7X range with modest objective diameters on big game hunting rifles, but evidently I'm in the minority because most scopes in that class that were once available have been discontinued.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/13/2015 at 19:30
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/13/2015 at 19:54
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I don't want to hi-jack, but Ted, PM me on your thoughts on the Condor.  I'm thinking of buying the Talon with the shroud and making my own silencer, but using nylon washers instead of metal to save weight.  Great post, BTW.

To the OP, when Ted is talking about the ridiculous redesign cost, he's not joking.  I'm a physicist/lawyer, and can tell you that to change the focal length of a lens is extremely complex, and will likely change the useable parallax significantly, because of how fat and precise the grind of the glass will need to be [edit: for a focal length that short].  That limits the market considerably (recognizing most of the great bunch of Ted's points in one sentence). 

I will say this...a lot of guys on this forum shoot steel at 1000yds with a SS 10x42 - not the HD model, mind you, but the $299 model, and are happy.  I can't imagine using the 3-15x on a PCP, but as I said before, if I could afford the talon and a nice optic to go on it, it will probably be my 3-9x SS, and it will give me an excuse to put the 3-15x on my 300WM for long range elk.  I am also not trying to muss up your cheerios, but I see the SS scopes as SWFA's attempt to give regular guys like me the ability to own an affordable, reliable, clear, and rugged optic for a variety of applications.  I don't see that changing, and for me, I wouldn't want to see it change, because it's the best glass for the money I've found for long range shooting of any sort.  Welcome to the OT, by the way.  There's a bunch of knowledge that makes me look like an optics midget.


Edited by DCAMM94 - April/13/2015 at 20:21
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/13/2015 at 20:06
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/13/2015 at 23:30
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I have shot exactly 2 field target matches with PCP air rifles. Both were a lot of fun. But Ted has hit the nail square on the head, both matches were dominated with rifles in $1000-2000 range, but topped with scopes in $250 range, if even that expensive. That being said, the buddy who invited me and loaned me a rifle, often mounts either his S&B 5-25 or a March scope to HIS rifle. But he didn't buy these scopes "just" for his PCP, he also competes in a lot of different disciplines of shooting... He has chose the scopes for the flexibility of being able to switch them between those disciplines.

By the way, my buddy also has a SS 3-15. It is on his Anschutz 22 that he often practices with at 300-400 yards...
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/15/2015 at 18:23
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Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

...changing the parallax focus to enable closer focusing is not a minor design revision with a "different adjustment of the objective lens" and a small change to the focus knob; it requires redesigning the optical system, which involves significant cost.
 
You have a lot of experience in this, so I expect you are aware that the adjustment of parallax on a fixed parallax scope for near range use is not an unusual modification. Can't be sure without better working knowledge of that scope, but outward appearance of the SS 5-20x 50mm seems to indicate it might lend itself to the adjustment. 
 
On scopes that have similar appearance, the outer locking ring is removed. A suitable spanner wrench is used to suitably adjust the objective lens forward (for near range use). And the locking ring is reinstalled.  In the picture attached below (Jon Aadland's picture that I borrowed from another thread here), the locking ring is marked "SWFA SS5-20x50 HDFFP", and the spanner nut at the objective lens is visible behind that.
 
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/15/2015 at 18:31
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I cannot edit the post below, so am posting this correction. 
 
I incorrectly referred to that as a "spanner nut", falsely implying that it has internal threads, whereas it is a ring with external threads made to be adjusted with a spanner wrench.
Originally posted by JRT JRT wrote:

Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

...changing the parallax focus to enable closer focusing is not a minor design revision with a "different adjustment of the objective lens" and a small change to the focus knob; it requires redesigning the optical system, which involves significant cost.
 
You have a lot of experience in this, so I expect you are aware that the adjustment of parallax on a fixed parallax scope for near range use is not an unusual modification. Can't be sure without better working knowledge of that scope, but outward appearance of the SS 5-20x 50mm seems to indicate it might lend itself to the adjustment. 
 
On scopes that have similar appearance, the outer locking ring is removed. A suitable spanner wrench is used to suitably adjust the objective lens forward (for near range use). And the locking ring is reinstalled.  In the picture attached below (Jon Aadland's picture that I borrowed from another thread here), the locking ring is marked "SWFA SS5-20x50 HDFFP", and the spanner nut at the objective lens is visible behind that.
 
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/16/2015 at 09:35
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Yes, I'm aware that you can change parallax-free distance by removing the objective lock ring and rotating the objective lens carrier. Turning it counterclockwise moves the lens out and shortens the parallax-free distance. That works great for mid-range power non A/O scopes like a 3-9X, and it's something you can easily do yourself on most scopes with an external lock ring. Parallax is much less critical with a lower powered scope and you can adjust for very close focus without adversely affecting its usefulness at further distances too much. However, it's not so straightforward on a high magnification, large objective, side focus scope. High magnification and large objective diameter both make depth of field much shallower. This is the reason for parallax adjustment to begin with. The problem here is once you adjust the parallax free distance close enough for air gun use, you will then more than likely make it unable to focus at all at long range. This is why I say that in order to make the scope usable both from very close to very far will require an optical system redesign. SWFA isn't likely keen to the idea of making a version of a scope intended for LR shooting that is incapable of covering its intended purpose. You may be fine with sacrificing its ability to focus at infinity, but most people wouldn't be.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/16/2015 at 10:30
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Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

The problem here is once you adjust the parallax free distance close enough for air gun use, you will then more than likely make it unable to focus at all at long range. This is why I say that in order to make the scope usable both from very close to very far will require an optical system redesign. SWFA isn't likely keen to the idea of making a version of a scope intended for LR shooting that is incapable of covering its intended purpose. You may be fine with sacrificing its ability to focus at infinity, but most people wouldn't be.
 
It does not need to reach out to long range.
 
The whole point of this (see excerpt below) was to ask SWFA to offer a slightly altered variant of a scope that SWFA already offers for sale, optimized for use on a modern PCP airgun rather than on a high powered long range firearm.
 
As for "most people"... consider that most people don't do much shooting at all, much less shoot rifles at long range. All scopes are niche products. The high end airgun market is just another niche. What I am seeing is significant growth in the high end of that airgun market, and the availability of good suitable scopes is lagging.
 
Originally posted by JRT JRT wrote:

In this I am suggesting that you offer a variant of the SS 5-20x50mm tweaked for the high end airgun market...
If you offered a version of the illuminated reticle SS 5-20x50mm mil/mil FFP with the objective lens adjusted to accommodate a focus range that includes 10m-150m, with suitable markings on the focus knob, I would have already ordered at least one, and I think many others would also.
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/16/2015 at 12:30
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Good luck.

See my earlier comments about the small market you represent and the limited benefit to supplying it from a business standpoint, and that's probably your answer. But I'm not SWFA.

Why not just buy the scope and rotate the lens carrier ring yourself since you said you will be using it entirely for close range anyway? It's easy to do, and as long as you don't unscrew it so far you lose the nitrogen purge or scratch the lens while rotating the carrier, you won't hurt the scope.

Or, call SWFA and ask for Chris. Tell him what you want and take it from there. He'll be the only one who can speak to the possibility of making that happen or if the scope is capable of such close focus.

If it were feasible to build high magnification scopes with extreme close focus AND infinity focus in the same package just as easily as 50 yds - infinity, then all scopes would have extreme close focus capability, because there would be no disadvantage to doing it.


Edited by RifleDude - April/16/2015 at 12:35
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Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

If it were feasible to build high magnification scopes with extreme close focus AND infinity focus in the same package just as easily as 50 yds - infinity, then all scopes would have extreme close focus capability, because there would be no disadvantage to doing it.
 
Schmidt und Bender PMII 5-25x56mm can focus 10m to infinity, likewise the March scopes.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/16/2015 at 14:31
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 JRT, your missing the whole point.  The 2 scope brands you mention aren't even in the same zip code price wise as the SS.  To get what you want your going to pay a premium. The SS line is a great scope for the price point an features it has.  To change those features and keep primary functions is going to cost money, money that frankly I can't see the ROI for.  It really is just that simple. 
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Originally posted by Steelbenz Steelbenz wrote:

 JRT, your missing the whole point.  The 2 scope brands you mention aren't even in the same zip code price wise as the SS.  To get what you want your going to pay a premium. The SS line is a great scope for the price point an features it has.  To change those features and keep primary functions is going to cost money, money that frankly I can't see the ROI for.  It really is just that simple. 
I am not looking to physically change any the form or fit of any hardware other than the markings on the focus knob, and maybe also the markings on the objective locking ring. It really is that simple.
 
The key change would be a different adjustment to the objective lens carrier (which is threaded and adjustable) to shift usable range from long range use (35m to infinity) to intermediate range use (10m to 150m inclusive). 
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Have you considered the fixed power scopes 16x and 20x
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You need to leave what works alone. If you have a better product build it and make your fortune. You want to much change. Accept that what you want will not happen unless you get up and do it. If you firmly believe that they will come. You need make it happen. Don't ask someone else to fulfill your fantasy.
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Even re-marking a side focus knob for a small batch size alone is a logistics hassle that drives up the cost. You're wanting a niche item, outside the design intent of the product, that SWFA won't be able to sell very many of due to inability to focus at infinity, and you want them to sell this exclusive item at the same price. You believe the demand is there in sufficient numbers that supplying this exclusive item will be profitable for SWFA to do.

None of us share your optimism that this is feasible. We could be wrong, but for certain, none of us are in a position to make it happen or say one way or the other whether the scope's design will allow what you want in current form. SWFA is very unlikely to commit to a new product here in this thread. You need to call them and talk with Chris, as he is the only person who can make it happen, IF it's possible.

Serious competitive shooters are known to take matters into their own hands to get what they want. Benchrest shooters have been modifying the Leupold competition scopes for a long time, most notably by gluing the erector assy so it can't move and going with external adjustments on the mounts. Then there's the "Tucker" modification for locking the erector. Why don't you adjust the objective lens carrier yourself, since it's so easy to do and you're certain the scope will accommodate closer focus?

Or, you could just buy the 3-15.
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JRT, Ted and I are not trying to be dismissive or say your idea is crap. What I know is retooling a production is expensive. (I'm on my 5th major retooling) That cost must be passed on to the consumers, the more consumers the less increase in cost at point of sale. Man hours per unit plays a great deal in the cost of a product. If I where you, I would see how many you could sell, make the changes on one, verify your premise works. Then buy that many scopes make the changes yourself and sell them. But get Chris to buy off on changing HIS product.
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Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

Or, you could just buy the 3-15.
 
 
I took a gamble on it and ordered one of those yesterday, but that is not the scope that is the subject of this discussion.
 
If SWFA ever offers the scope that is the subject of this discussion, I'll order at least one.
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/16/2015 at 19:00
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Originally posted by Steelbenz Steelbenz wrote:

JRT, Ted and I are not trying to be dismissive or say your idea is crap. What I know is retooling a production is expensive. (I'm on my 5th major retooling) That cost must be passed on to the consumers, the more consumers the less increase in cost at point of sale. Man hours per unit plays a great deal in the cost of a product. If I where you, I would see how many you could sell, make the changes on one, verify your premise works. Then buy that many scopes make the changes yourself and sell them. But get Chris to buy off on changing HIS product.
 
I suspect that Chris occasionally spends some time looking through some of these discussions. He may be interested in the subject matter, but regardless that, SWFA is a retail merchant, and they must be looking to increase sales volume.
 
As for me paying retail or near retail for scopes and modifying those scopes for resale, no thanks, I don't like the business model. Regardless that, I already have irons in other fires, and no time for that.  I'm lucky if I find time to play with the few toys I have.  SWFA is already in the business.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/16/2015 at 19:26
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Optics Master Extraordinaire
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Correct, but again ROI and the cost per unit is the driving factors.
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