If you hadn't heard already, we recently manufactured some ultralight precision scope rings for Zeiss, here's the story and How We Made It:
We were approached by Zeiss USA to design and manufacture a brand new series of branded rings to fit their scopes and offered in their specific optic sizes of 30mm and 36mm.
These brand new rings are being rolled out across North America as we speak and are fully branded as Zeiss products, proudly made by us at our facility in the UK.
We’ve been making scope rings for 11 years now with the same ethos - always use the best materials available, and design our product with toughness, ergonomics and practicality at the forefront.
Craig - our CEO and the designer of all of our products - is an avid hunter and shooter, and we have also developed several of our products in conjunction both ex and current special forces soldiers, so generally we know what a hunter/shooter/operator wants from their gear.
On top of that we always try to innovate, not follow the crowd.
This has led to us garnering something of a reputation in the industry amongst people who really know their sport.
Zeiss USA actually approached us directly at a gun show in the UK and, having seen our products on the stand and on their customers’ guns, asked whether we’d be able to design and produce an exclusive range for them.
Of course we said yes; Zeiss are a big name in our industry and having previously worked on white-label bipod projects for both Blaser and Sauer (check out the Blaser bipod and Sauer-pod - that was us), we felt well qualified to work with the big boys and produce the kind of ultra-high end gear they require.
Who are Zeiss USA?
Unless you live under a very big rock you already know that Zeiss USA is one of the world leaders in high quality optics solutions for the firearms industry.
They also make top end gear for the medical industry, professional photographic lenses and movie cameras, and tons more, but the stuff we care about is the shooting optics.
The Zeiss Victory scopes are the premium, brand leaders. They’re not cheap (can be upwards of $3500) but then they’re made to an extremely high spec so that’s to be expected from a premium scope.
The Zeiss Conquest series is an excellent mid range scope, coming in at around $1500, sometimes cheaper.
So Craig went to the drawing board and designed and prototyped, over and over, until he’d come up with a damn near perfect unit - light, ergonomic, streamlined - just like the scopes they're meant for.
Manufacturing started a few months ago and we’ve got 30mm Zeiss Scope Rings, and the slightly more popular 36mm Zeiss Scope Rings all designed to perfectly fit the existing range of Zeiss optics.
We generally use 7075T6 aluminium in our rings because it’s an alloy that offers a great strength profile while minimising weight and so we went with this again for the Zeiss project.
The reason we like ultralight materials is simple: when you’re hunting and trekking your rifle generally weighs enough already without a lump of steel hanging off the top of it, PLUS a heavy Harris bipod or similar digging in your shoulder.
If it doesn’t feel like much weight at the beginning, it certainly will by the time you’ve done a few k’s.
Being aware of these issues on our own hunts is what led us to develop lightweight and very ergonomic solutions, and this is clearly borne out in products like the Tactical Bipod and the Evolution Bipod.
Even the FTR Bipod which is a static bench bipod for F-Class shooting is ultra lightweight compared to the other ‘pods in its class, and all our rings are designed for weight saving while maintaining maximum strength.
Manufacturing Process (fair warning: it gets a bit technical here)
These Zeiss scope rings are designed from scratch in house by Craig, CEO and chief designer. The aesthetic is unique and differs from our own rings, but the quality and performance of the ring is identical - lightweight, ultra strong.
The rings are machined on 5 axis CNC machines from a solid billet of 7075 T6 aluminium. One billet = one set of rings. So there’s no loss of accuracy between the two rings and they match perfectly.
Billets of aluminum before machining
The advantage of this method to the shooter is greater accuracy and repeatability; tighter groupings, more kills. Obvious stuff really.
If you have to keep resetting the machine for a new operation or changing the tooling, that’s where the tolerances start to get messed up and you get small anomalies and irregularities building up between the two rings.
Once all the machining is completed the rings are then deburred in a specialised machine that submerges them in thousands of ceramic cones and shakes and shuffles them for several hours, knocking all the rough edges off.
The result is a surface that is microscopically smooth and burr-free, ready for anodising.
The logo is cut into the rings by the machine during the initial operation and then they get treated to a nice mil-spec, 30micron hard black coating to keep them weatherproof and rock-solid.
Zeiss scopes are super tough, waterproof and tested in temperatures down to -40 degrees C, so anything less than maximum toughness would have been unacceptable.
Screw It, Let's Do It
We also custom make the screws for these rings in house on a special machine so that they match the rings exactly - this is something we do across our entire range of scope rings and bipods but which, surprisingly, isn’t so common in the industry.
When you look at the cost of the machine and consider that all it does is make screws, maybe we can see why most manufacturers simply can’t afford it.
Quality is Everything
The truth is that if you’re buying rings cheap then you’re getting cheap manufacturing processes, rings stamped out en-masse and full of anomalies.
If those anomalies are pronounced enough you might damage your optic, in extreme cases, but even with small differences you’re going to have accuracy issues down range.
Tolerance stacking is a big issue for a lot of shooters and often they’re not even aware of it;
Basically all those tiny issues in a cheap set of rings stack up with all the other little tolerances across your platform; in the optic, the bipod, differences in your ammunition, etc.
When you add all those up, or ‘stack’ them, you find you’ve got a big margin of error and suddenly it makes sense why your groups are all spread out.
So don’t blame the weapon until you’ve checked all your gear - if all your accessories are made to this standard, and your optic is high quality, then your rifle has nowhere to hide…
Check out the brand new, Zeiss Scope Rings in store at Zeiss USA now, or take a look at our Tier One range of scope rings, made to the same standards and in a broader range of sizes.