As a very young man, many of my fantasies seemed almost unattainable at the time. Getting a driver's license was a pretty sure thing, but many years in the future. Losing my virginity was another one a long time coming. Getting my own dog took a while. Going to Africa on safari was just a pipe dream, as was walking on the pyramids of Egypt and racing cars and motorcycles and many other experiences.
Before I was interested in money or motorcycles or girls, there were guns. I've never not known guns and shooting, even since birth, it seems. I remember reading about the new 100 yard range in the Leupold facility in the late 1960s in a gun rag when I was still in grammar school. Add another unattainable fantasy.
40-something years later I've had dogs and racing machines, walked on the pyramids, been on a couple African safaris, managed to keep my driver's license, and have even been with a girl or two. I'm now thrilled to say that I can cross the Leupold tunnel off my list. I just returned from a Leupold factory tour in Beaverton, Oregon. Saw the whole shebang. I feel sated and spent.
As a former UAW maintenance mechanic, I immediately appreciated the stark cleanliness about the manufacturing facility at Leupold. Every tool is sparkling clean. No debris on the floor or the machines. I've always heard that Leupold is one place that once you get hired you don't want to leave. The average tenure in the manufacturing plant is almost 20 years. This is a place where good work and attitude are truly appreciated. We saw from start to finish where the raw material comes in and is slowly turned into scope and ring and base parts, and even tools, because a large part of the plant is dedicated to making tools for the machines. Many of the measuring tables are suspended by air for vibration control. The roads nearby can actually cause false readings on measuring machines due to vibration. Air tables do not vibrate. Leupold uses 250 tons of steel and over 4,000 tons of aluminum annually. The extruded aluminum may reach up to 400 miles if laid end to end.
There are vending machine type contraptions where each machine operator inserts their personal identification and out falls a cutting tool or part. Everything is computer controlled. They know by whom and where each tool is used and how long it will last before it needs sharpening or replacement. Quality control is checked at every station. All metal scraps and even cutting fluids are recycled. These folks are shooters and take their jobs very seriously. QC is second to none. There are no almosts or nearlys.
The recoil machines are infamous. They are called "The Punishers" for good reason. Fans of other scope manufacturers would be aghast at the remnants of their favorite brands that need to be swept up under these machines. It doesn't take long.
The Mark IV rings and bases are particularly hard 8028 steel, and the cutting tools can only make about 100 pieces before they need to be replaced. Leupold also recommends against lapping rings, but I'll still do mine anyway.
One of our hosts, who has been with Leupold for over 30 years stated that out of all that time, he's only known of two non-Leupold folks (both famous gun writers) that have shot in the tunnel. Now I am one, also. The state of the art facility is second to none. I'll need to expand my basement a bit to fit in a 100 yard range. A customer's scope was mounted and I was told to sight it in. We were using a Remington 700-based custom gun with a big fat tube and thumbhole stock on steady bags. The scope was being tested because the customer said it wasn't holding zero. After boresighting, the first shot was on the paper, and the first adjustment I made was for about four inches right and about five inches down. Center punched the X. I went on to shoot some groups, all well under an inch, with the best group under a half. The customer got that target for proof that his VX-3L 3.5-10×50 scope was fine. My partners in crime Annie and Scott also got to shoot. We shot a military sniper contract overrun made by Winchester. They were .300 Winchester loads with 220 grain match bullets. The box was marked MK 248 Mod 1. They were a bit stiff, but the gun was heavy enough for them to be quite comfortable.
Truly a great trip, and my thanks to all involved in this most satisfying adventure!