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Visiting Aimpoint Optics in Sweden

by Eric R. Poole   |  August 26th, 2016 0

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The red dot was invented to support the hobby of a Swedish engineer named Gunnar Sandberg more than 40 years ago. He was the owner of GS Development, whose primary business supported the medical industry, but his personal time was spent moose hunting, where he desired a faster optic.

Gunnar discovered that if he could keep both eyes open, the red dot aiming point appeared on the target. A simple zero-magnification lens arrangement meant there was also no parallax. If the red dot was sighted in and on target, a hit was guaranteed regardless of eye position.

Magnified optics have their role, but as it turns out, a red dot is hard to beat for multiple targets, moving targets and targets positioned within 100 yards.

Aimpoint’s first red dot sight hit the European market in 1975. It was called the Aimpoint Electronic. Four years later, the second-
generation (G2) model made its way to the U.S., with some needed improvements. Although created for hunting, it was competition that put it on the map, starting when pistol champ Joe Pascarella won Camp Perry with one in 1981.

Subsequent models were improved to address battery life, mounting options and durability under recoil. The U.S. Army’s Delta unit selected Aimpoint for its new M4 carbines in time for Operation Desert Storm, and unit members assigned to guard General Norman Schwarzkopf were sometimes seen using the then-new Aimpoint 5000.

Today, Aimpoint is one of several companies owned by Per Sandberg, Gunnar’s son. If you had joined me on my trip to tour Aimpoint, you would have thought you were entering a clinical laboratory.

The southern city of Malmö, just a 5-mile drive over the Örsund Bridge from Copenhagen, Denmark, is actually the home of one of two Aimpoint factories. The other is above the Arctic Circle in a town named Gällivare.

“We’re going to teach you how to manufacture a PRO today,” said Erik Äs, engineer at Aimpoint in Malmö.

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The best-selling PRO comes standard with a pre-installed QRP2 mount. It’s dialed in for windage and elevation on a top-secret fixture at the factory. Experience gained from earlier models revealed that improper installation often meant the optic could twist in its rings, leaving adjustments off and at an angle. The PRO solves this.

I learned that while most of the components that go into an Aimpoint are manufactured in Sweden, the all-important glass is sourced from Denmark and central Europe. Nothing comes from China, and Aimpoint refuses to sell its products there for reasons I’ll detail shortly.

At Malmö, Aimpoint sights are assembled in a clean room, which requires wearing sterile, anti-electrostatic garments. Before employees sit down to work, they first attach a tethered grounding wire to a snap on a wristband to protect the circuitry.

Erik wouldn’t tell me how many red dot sights a technician could assemble during a shift, so there was no benchmark for me to beat. That was a good thing, since it took me two days to build a single PRO. Even then, my sample didn’t meet quality-control standards. (Apparently, I can’t apply an even amount of glue in a straight line.)

To be sure that my Aimpoint PRO wouldn’t wind up in a retail environment, they engraved my name on it in place of a serial number and wrote it off as a souvenir.

My work did stand up to function testing at an underground range complete with electronic scoring, however. Shooting RUAG green tip through a select-fire HK416, my best five-shot group measured 1.34 inches.

China has reverse engineered many of Aimpoint’s products, but it can’t duplicate the processes, coatings and specialized fixtures developed by hard-earned experience.

You look at something a little differently when you know how it’s made. I sat with company president Lennart Ljungfelt at his Malmö office and examined “pirated” red dots. He has several examples unwitting buyers had sent back to the factory for warranty repair.

It was obvious to me that these were counterfeits; some wore the Aimpoint brand, some even spelled incorrectly. These were all from China. My advice: Avoid alternatives that look like an Aimpoint.

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