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Eotech Opens its Doors for an Exclusive Peek Inside

Eotech is a name that immediately conjures an image of its iconic holographic weapon sights (HWS). In fact, the association is so ingrained in most people that Eotech rebranded its logo in 2015 because it wanted to pursue other optics (like the relatively new Vudu line) and not have people immediately associate the name with its HWS.

Recently, Eotech invited a number of writers to visit its factory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, walk the factory floor while it was operating, chat with the individuals responsible for running day-to-day operations and hit the range to put those products to use.

Eotech's History

Eotech can trace its lineage back to the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ignore the environmental aspect of the name), which invented laser holography in 1962. In the early 1970s, ERIM completed a prototype sight for helicopter gunships.

history

Drawing inspiration from Heads Up Displays (HUDs) in fighter jets, Eotech patented the technology for an HWS in 1992 and in 1995 brought the first generation to market in conjunction with Bushnell.

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The Bushnell Holosight. Winner of the Optic of the Year award at Shot Show 1996.

The first generation did not meet requirements for military application and thus were never fielded by the US Military until the second generation of sights were introduced in 2001. SOCOM selected Eotech to be fielded in 2005. Shortly thereafter, L3 Communications acquired Eotech and the rest, as they say, is history.

Factory Tour

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Author (Flamingo shirt) along with various members of the media and the President of Eotech.

Our day began in an executive conference room where we met with Ann Hanson, Mark Miller, Aaron Hampton, and Tom Hole (Eotech's President). After a short presentation about Eotech's history and some of their products, we donned our smocks, gloves, and goggles and headed into the first part of our tour.

Holographic Weapon Sight's function compared to a Red Do.

Holographic Weapon Sight's function compared to a Red Do.

Smocks to prevent electrostatic and foreign objects (such as lint) from entering the manufacturing area.

Smocks to prevent electrostatic and foreign objects (such as lint) from entering the manufacturing area.

In various parts of the factory bulletin boards, encased in glass, had images of various employees who served in the military as a reminder to the employees who they were producing optics for and that quality cannot be ignored. Tom Hole told us that in addition to employing a number of veterans, almost everyone at Eotech had a family member in the military or law enforcement or knew someone who was, which contributed to their dedication to producing an optic they could rely on in the field. 

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We learned that the technicians who man each station spend the first few days of their employment observing, followed by doing their job under supervision before acquiring the team lead's signature, which allows them to work on their own. Attention to detail is a key component of Eotech's assembly process.

The Assembly Process

The only part of the process we couldn't see the laser etching the holographs images themselves. This was due to none of us having taken any laser safety courses (gotta love OSHA and lawyers). Our tour began in a climate controlled room peering through a window into a “clean room” where a handful of people were assembling Eotech's G33 magnifiers. This particular room was segregated into its own space in order to avoid any foreign object debris from being enclosed in the housing. Once the magnifier is built, if there is a piece of debris caught inside, it is impossible to remove due to the epoxying of the glass.

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Trays of holographs ready to be installed into the housings. The holographs are only visible when a certain frequency of laser hits them.

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Writers examining the trays of holographs only to see clear windows.

As we continued, it was explained that the room was climate controlled in order to have a consistent bonding of epoxy across every batch of HWS produced. On a table next to a technician sat a rack of bodies which were having the glass installed using a UV cured epoxy. As the body continues to the next station it is cleaned and then has the optical components installed.

Another technician is then tasked with placing the body into a machine which shows where the reticle appears in relation to its zero. The information is then recorded on a sticker and placed on the body so that later on during the assembly process the other components can be installed in a manner which gives the end user a full range of adjustment for windage and elevation rather than a partial amount in one direction or the other (correct collimation of the laser beam).

One of the four assembly lines at Eotech's factory.

One of the four assembly lines at Eotech's factory.

The bodies are then placed on a rack and leave the climate controlled area for assembly into a functioning optic. Eotech has four different lines for HWS assembly. At any given point only two are running. As we walked down the line, we saw employees installing mirrors, assembling baseplates to the housing, installing the protective hoods, nitrogen purging and sealing the optics and a final assembly check. Each sight is subjected to over 40 “recoil” pulses on a machine that Eotech built to simulate recoil.

During the assembly, each sight is individually tracked in a computer database. Using this system, Eotech is able to tell the lot of parts which were used in the assembly of any particular sight. If at any point there is a deviation from the norm in acceptable standards, the line shuts down to diagnose the issue and find the source of the problem. If any individual component does not meet the control specifications, it is either scrapped out or reworked prior to moving down the line. At the end of each line sits a repair technician, who is qualified to perform every job on the assembly line. 


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Once assembled, the optics are placed into an oven and baked to ensure that any “settling” of materials happens within the factory and not in the field.

Racks of finished optics ready for packaging.

Racks of finished optics ready for packaging.

Quality Controls

Eotech's quality controls built into the assembly process are quite impressive. In addition to the procedures mentioned above, Eotech performs testing on batches of sights randomly selected from runs destined for the consumer market and on each sight which is produced pursuant to a DoD contract. The tests performed include a submersion test along with heating and cooling cycles that cover a wide range of temperatures to test for thermal drift.

Interestingly, Eotech not only has quality control measures built into the assembly process through those who do it but has a different quality assurance department which inspects the optics as well. The quality assurance department is not accountable to the factory supervisor, adding another layer of quality control to the production.

DoD vs. Consumer Models

A number of people, especially in the clone community, just have to have the DoD version of a product if they can find one for sale. Eotech advised us that the only difference between the DoD version and the consumer version is that each DoD item is tested to a wider range of temperatures, higher pressures and deeper depths of submersion.

The other interesting fact to arise from this conversation was that the DoD models are tied to the specifications in the contract. That means if Eotech makes a revision to the model, unless the Government gives its approval, it cannot simply just update the sight, unlike its consumer line. For what its worth, a number of consumer line optics are on guns overseas.

Range Session

After the factory tour concluded, saddled up in our rental van and headed for the range to demo both the HWSs and Vudus. Eotech provided a variety of guns mounted with different optics including Q's famed Honey Badger and The Fix.

Author looking through an Eotech 5-25x50mm Vudu attached to Q's The Fix.

Author looking through an Eotech 5-25x50mm Vudu attached to Q's The Fix.

Having played around with the 5-25x50mm Vudu on my personal gun, I can say that I'm a big fan of the glass, as it is crystal clear. It was explained that the 5-25x50mm Vudu was one that Eotech had been developing since the idea of the Vudu line was born. Also available to demo was the 8-32x50mm. Aaron explained that it would be a great optic to use for shooting prairie dogs. With a simple reticle, it is clear why this would be a good option. This optic was Eotech's first jump into the Second Focal Plane market.

Author with L3's Light Weight Thermal Sight in front of an Eotech Vudu.

Author with L3's Light Weight Thermal Sight in front of an Eotech Vudu.

The HWS were familiar to me from working in a gun shop along with having owned or shot guns equipped with various models. However, the new green reticle HWS was exciting to get my hands on. The green popped from the background with ease and was very quick for my eyes to pick up.

Government Contracts

Eotech's executives were excited to point out that Eotech was recently awarded SOCOM's CCO contract after having to submit sights for testing and competition with other manufacturers. Given the past issue and lawsuit concerning thermal drift, Eotech seemed to indicate that the award of this contract could alleviate any fears that their product was somehow inferior to others on the market.

Products for 2018

XPS-2-GRN

New for this year from Eotech is the green reticle in the HWS along with the 5-25x50mm variable power scope from the Vudu line.

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5-25x50mm Vudu

For more information about Eotech's products, head over to http://www.eotechinc.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Adam Kraut is a firearms law attorney practicing in southeastern PA and across the country federally. He hosts The Legal Brief, a show dedicated to crushing the various myths and misinformation around various areas of the gun world and The Gun Collective Podcast. He was also the general manager of a gun store in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Instagram: @theadamkraut
Twitter: @theadamkraut
Facebook: www.facebook.com/theadamkraut
URL: www.adamkraut.com


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