EOTech Factory Tour in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Back in October 2018, myself along with a group of bloggers & writers both print and online were invited to visit the EOTech factory in Ann Arbor, Michigan. EOTech is the manufacturer of holographic weapon sights, famously known for the close quarter combat sight that was mounted on the Heckler & Koch HK416 rifle that killed Bin Laden.
It was an unprecedented event that they opened their doors to the media, as that had never happened before in the history of the company since its founded in 1995. EOTech is fully owned by L3 Technologies, formerly L-3 Communications Holdings, is one of the largest defense contractors with $10 billion revenue annually.
Due to the amount of journalists invited, the event was split up into multiple sessions for 3 full days, and that means they had to do the exact same tour 3 times over.
The Dark Days
Let’s get the dancing pink elephant out of the way. Most of you may recall back in 2015 EOTech was sued by the US Government as they were accused of knowingly providing the US military with optics that failed in extreme temperatures and humid weather conditions. At the time, they were contracted supplying United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) which oversees various special operations component commands of the US Army, Navy and Air Force including Navy Seals and Delta. The lawsuit was settled on the same day for $25.6 million and EOTech initiated a massive recall to provide full refund for their commercial holographic sights, no questions asked.
To this day, there are still a lot of people that refuse to support the company.
The truth of the matter was, all optics have some degree of “thermal drift”. The term was actually never used before as the effect was simply referred to as thermal expansion. If you move between extreme hot to extreme cold environment, your point of impact would have shifted as the zero for the barrel and ammunition would shift due to the temperature change, requiring the operator verify zero at the bare minimum.
In addition, all optics have some form of thermal drift. As industry tests were done on various red dot sights from various brands and they all exhibited this behavior in various levels.
Then the headline came in late September, “USSOCOM Replaces EOTech Sights With EOTech Sights.” The contract is worth $23 million and it was a huge win for the company. In fact, this upset staunch Aimpoint supporters, as they were sure it was an easy win for Aimpoint’s battle proven red dot sights.
The announcement was made merely weeks before the tour, we all thought we would have a chance to see the new sight. Despite our excitements, EOTech claims the USSOCOM sight is the same as their commercial sights, with the exception that they are required to put through even more rigorous testing such as higher water proof rating, higher rate of shock and drop test. If I am a betting man, it’s the model EXPS3 in flat dark earth that won the solicitation. The new sight replaces the older SU-231/PEQ, otherwise known as Model 553 in the commercial variant.
Since the dark days, the company have introduced new branding along with a new logo. The electronics have improved to provide up to 350% improvements on battery life, of which even the single CR123 battery models have 1500 hours of battery life at nominal setting in room temperature. EOTech actually recommends using lithium-ion AA batteries, even though the AA battery models come with alkalines in the box, which often leak overtime making the optic inoperable.
All HWS (Holographic Weapon Sight) models now carry a 10 year warranty which provides confidence. They have strengthened their quality control testing and manufacturing processes. The known issues such as leaking gas, dimmed reticle (due to the lamination between the glasses getting separated over time) have all been resolved.
They have also introduced the green reticle HWS models. Despite what many thinks, it does not use a green laser. The story behind the green reticle is an interesting one, as it was a project untaken by an intern engineer from one of the three local universities. He/she was able to achieve this by using a mask over the green laser, changing the color to green. Green is six times more perceptible to the eye, of which you will likely have to dial down the brightness thus also increasing battery life in actual real life scenario compare to the red.
There is a brand new line of variable power scopes called the Vudu. Of the complete line, the two most interesting items are the 1-6x and 5-25x scopes. The 1-6x is a first focal plane scope that offers a CQB reticle similar to their holographic sights that have a 65 MOA outer ring for quick sight acquisition at close range. Zooming in at 6x the circle disappears and a finer reticle appears that is useable for longer distance, precision shots. The glass is very clear for a scope of this price range, in order to penetrate the market and compete with other popular, more established, proven scopes that already exists.
The 5-25x is the scope that took the longest to develop. It is an ultra-short scope that is even shorter than the Schmidt & Bender 3-20x Ultra Short. It’s actually only slightly longer than the Vudu 1-6x.
In addition, the company cleaned house and brought in new talents. Ann who is head of Marketing joined the company on January 1st this year. Frank, the Chief Financial Officer, joined the company in 2015. Umesh, Director of Operations, also joined in 2015 and was recently promoted to the position in July. I’m sure there are many others but these were the people that were there during our Q&A sessions to answer any questions.
During the presentation session, one of the PowerPoint slides showed EOTech recently invested in a company called Peak Nano. Strangely, the slide was quickly clicked away without any discussion of who they are.
According to a quote on their website by Outdoor Magazine. It is “The Most Disruptive Technology In Optics In Our Lifetime.” I’m inclined to believe it also if the technology actually works.
Simply put, the company make use of their nanolayer gradient refractive index (GRIN) lenses to reduce weight of a lens up to 80 percent lighter and 10 times thinner than traditional lens design. Moreover, the new lens provides edge-to-edge clarity and resolution that is unmatched with today’s technology which progressively increase softness as you go near the edge of the lens.
Rumor has it that EOTech have secured the exclusive rights to use the technology on any military and law enforcement contracts worldwide.
Future of EOTech
There are ongoing rumors that they might show the Vudu 1-8x First Focal Plane scope at SHOT Show 2019 in January. It has yet to be seen whether or not it will feature Peak Nano technology. Some naysayers believe the technology is not yet ready for mass market. It has yet to be seen how these concepts perform in real life, we are all eagerly waiting.