Ep. 15: Insider Tips from Jimmy Hamilton of Vortex NationIn this podcast Jimmy Hamilton from Vortex Optics and The Vortex Nation Podcast, talks about the history of Vortex Optics, what you get in the different product lines, optics selection, field maintenance, pro-tips and what to expect from Vortex in the coming months.
Travis Bader: [00:00:00] I’m Travis Bader and this is The Silvercore Podcast. Join me as I discuss matters related to hunting, fishing, and outdoor pursuits with the people in businesses that comprise the community. If you’re new to Silvercore, be sure to check at our website, www.silvercore.ca, where you can learn more about courses, services, and products that we have offer as well as how you can join the Silvercore Club, which includes 10 million in North America wide liability insurance to ensure you are properly covered during your outdoor adventures.
[00:00:41] With COVID-19 and social distancing measures, we’re taking steps to ensure we continue to bring you the best possible content given the circumstances we are learning to adapt to our new situation and this is Silvercore’s very first remote podcast.
[00:00:58] We understand that these are difficult times for everyone and we want to be able to offer a little bit of respite for the day today. While I haven’t said it out right in the past, perhaps now is a good time as any to explain that every guest I’ve ever had on the show has been told the same thing.
[00:01:13] That is, in a nutshell, keep it positive. There’s enough negativity in the world and in particular surrounding hunting and firearms that we will stay away from talking about negative politics or anything that might have the tendency to be divisive or travel down that worn dark path. Here we attract people who have a genuine passion for what they do and wish to share that passion with you.
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[00:02:23] If you have a story to tell that our audience would appreciate or know someone who does, let us know. Your interaction will help us and provide the best possible future content. Without further ado, let’s get into the podcast with guest Jimmy Hamilton from Vortex Optics and co-host of the Vortex Nation Podcast. Jimmy, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:02:46] Appreciate you having me on. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Travis Bader: [00:02:49] I have to say, this is a first for me. Up till now, I’ve had the luxury of sitting face to face with my guests and whether that means I jump in a car, hop in a plane or they come to the Silvercore Studio. I’ve made it work.
[00:03:00] If it weren’t for the current COVID situation, I’m sure I would’ve jumped in a plane and come over there to greet you face to face. But we’re in unprecedented times right now.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:03:08] That’s the truth. Yeah. That’s just the reality of things right now. Probably going to be hearing a lot more remote podcasts from people these days, but, still we can, we can still make some recordings happen.
Travis Bader: [00:03:21] So where are you right now and how are you doing?
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:03:25] So I’m actually at HQ right now. I’m doing well, just fine. Wife and myself have been, have been all right. The family otherwise has been pretty good too. So my brothers and I, and, just to give a little background on myself, I’m one of the family owners here at Vortex Optics.
[00:03:45] And am in that position with three of my brothers, there’s four of us total. All of us work here in the business, so we’re all still coming in. We’re able to, now we’re in Wisconsin and right now there’s a bit of, you know, I don’t even know how to explain it. There’s, it’s called a stay at home or a safer at home thing in place.
[00:04:06] It’s different from shelter and home it seems, it’s all a bit, it’s all a bit confusing. I think everything is so new for everybody, but most of our essential folks, kind of a skeleton crew of the essential folks who aren’t needing to be at home with family and children are here. So a lot of the folks in shipping or warranty area, customer service, area of repairs, machining, things like that, that are hands on, not really easy to do from home.
[00:04:31] We do have some folks here doing that stuff still, so things are still running at Vortex. A little bit slower than usual. Everybody else who’s able to, is working from home for the most part and utilizing all different manners of, technology, which we’ve become fairly reliant upon. But, yeah, things are still, things are still running here and they’re running bout as good as they can be.
[00:04:55] And it’s been nice that people have been willing to extend some patience in times like this. I think everybody realizes it, you know, it’s, it’s not just happening to one business or one industry. It’s happening to the, the whole world, it’s.
Travis Bader: [00:05:09] No kidding.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:05:10] Wild.
Travis Bader: [00:05:11] No kidding. So I run a training company, and demand for firearms trainings at an unprecedented high.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:05:16] Undoubtedly.
Travis Bader: [00:05:17] It’s unbelievable. You know, a really good friend of mine often says, ‘if someone’s throwing money at you, don’t duck’. And it feels like all we’re doing right now is ducking because generally, that’s good advice, but right now it’s just not socially responsible or safe to be running in person training classes in the, in the service industry.
[00:05:38] So I guess what we’ve done is we’ve been drastically changing our model. We’ve, we’re looking at online training and we’re going to be leaning on YouTube and podcasts to agree to degree in the product side. Are you guys seeing that same sort of demand at Vortex Optics? Are people panicking and saying, ‘I gotta get me some Vortex Optics’?
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:05:57] You definitely have that in times like this. I’d say it somewhat, it’s somewhat reminiscent of times we’ve had here in the US in the past with presidential elections and things like that. I don’t think it’s any secret, it’s not some kind of a taboo thing to talk about the fact that, you know, when there’s times of uncertainty, generally people will go for commodity items.
[00:06:18] They’ll go for items that may be used to protect themselves. They really sort of focus in on those things, food, shelter, water, all that stuff, and so, we’ve had times like that, I’d say though, when it’s been related to politics, it’s more of a, you know, in fear that they might take my guns away.
[00:06:34] Sort of a scare buying, if you will. And, you know, I think some people, some people think that that company’s in the gun industry maybe get super excited about or they get a little bit scrooge mc duck getting ready to jump in their giant tower of money when those times come along. And I mean, is it cool that it more sales come along, I guess?
[00:06:54] But is it, is it really nice to rely on that sort of unpredictable and, sort of all at once? Firehose business? It’s, it’s really not. It’s actually not that ideal. A much more even and constant stream of businesses is a way more ideal way of having things. This one’s been, particularly interesting cause I feel like more so than ever, you have people that are, are sort of, you know, I guess the, the phrase that all people are using and sort of scare buying or whatever and they’re not buying so much cause they think guns are going to get taken away necessarily.
[00:07:26] But it’s more of almost this, you know, fear of impending apocalypse buying, which we haven’t necessarily seen a ton of, but you know, you have people who maybe purchased a firearm in the past, they were never in a rush to get an optic for it. Now they really want to get an optic for it, so it’s ready to go should anything happen.
[00:07:44] But a lot of times when you have any kind of a massive sort of buy up, and I know that AR15’s are out of stock everywhere and other firearms like that are out of stock everywhere. Usually the accessory side of things, is slightly delayed from that. Cause I think people try and get as many guns and, and as much ammo as they can, as quick as they can.
[00:08:04] And then once they have all that and they feel they’re at a critical mass of, I feel this is enough guns and ammo, then they start thinking about optics and the accessories that’ll go along with that. So haven’t seen a direct effect yet and also you have dealers that are unsure of whether or not they’re going to be able to stay open.
[00:08:21] So, yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s a thing in and of itself, is if you can have all the demand in the world, but if no stores can actually be open, it’s
Travis Bader: [00:08:31] Tough. It’s tough.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:08:32] That’s never happened before. So we’ll see what happens here.
Travis Bader: [00:08:34] You know, you mentioned the, the election time and the, the fear buying, that they might take the guns and being in Canada here, I’ve always thought it was a little odd, but Canadians will buy more firearms and get more training. When the US elections come up, I don’t know if they just, if that bleeds over. I remember being.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:08:55] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:08:56] At Shot Show when, a number of elections ago, and everyone was quite worried, quite panicking, and I mean, the spike in sales up here was unbelievable and it’s got nothing to do with us.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:09:08] That is, that’s really interesting. Yeah, I suppose, you know, I mean, it kind of carries over into social media and stuff like that, so you kind of see it. Even if the people aren’t in your country, it might feel like they’re a little bit closer to you when they’re, on the same platforms you are. But yeah, very interesting.
Travis Bader: [00:09:24] So you kind of already jumped into one thing and I was going to get you to just talk a little bit about yourself and kind of how’d you, how you got into your role here with the, with Vortex, but it’s a, it’s a family thing.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:09:35] Yup. Pretty much born into it so, and we don’t take that in, in, in our family, it’s not a matter of sort of, you’re forced into it or it’s not a matter of kind of, it’s just falls into your lap.
[00:09:47] Every single one of my brothers and I really actually actively pursued it, but all of us thought we were going to do something different at first. I, if people listen to our podcasts, you know, I referenced cars a lot and, it’s just something I can’t help but do, so I’ve always been really into cars, got into it from one of my older brothers, who’s now one of our engineers.
[00:10:06] And, so I always thought I was going to be a factory test driver. I thought I was going to be driving around on race tracks, driving up on road courses and you know, the Arctic or whatever, testing out all wheel drive systems, who knows what, I thought I was going to be doing that. And you know, all my brothers all thought they were going to be doing other things, but then just decided, sort of Vortex itself really started in 2002.
[00:10:32] The family’s been in the industry and doing things in the outdoor industry and all kinds of things in, in the optics industry and stuff since about 1986. But anyway, the, with the ages, age ranges of my brothers and I, it all just ended up working out that, as, as our family’s business hit major milestones.
[00:10:51] It was when a lot of us, were, and they’re all, they’re all quite a bit older than I am actually, but it was when each of us was getting out of college, or one of them was getting out of the air force and just these sort of big milestones came up and we, we looked at it and we’re like, this is pretty awesome.
[00:11:08] This is something that’s right here in front of us and it’s cool to be able to work with family. It’s cool to be able to do something where you’re in a business that you get to, be a part of and, and, in, in a way that you’re sort of dictating where things will go. It’s, it’s, you’re not working for somebody and you’re kind of working for yourself and yeah, I mean, we just all thought it was pretty cool.
[00:11:30] So jumped on, jumped on board, and we’ve all had to do pretty much everything from packing boxes and you know, repairs. I, that’s where I first cut my teeth here at work was doing binocular repairs and the repair departments, but then just kind of worked our way into the positions we’re in now.
Travis Bader: [00:11:45] And now you’re full time with the Vortex Nation Podcast. Is that, occupy the majority of your time?
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:11:51] Yeah, occupies a fair amount of my time now. So in marketing, I do a lot of stuff here. I’m, I, I’ve been around long enough and I’ve learned enough from my older engineer brothers, about the product itself.
[00:12:01] So kind of act as a, I guess advisor, if you will, for all the different marketing areas, whether it’s new product releases, a lot of, you know, specs get run by me and you know, or, or pieces of copy or whatever. I’ll try and help out there where I can just from all my, the experience I’ve had and seen and watched.
[00:12:19] But we do have a, we have a pretty awesome marketing team here. A lot of people that are really good at what they do. And, and so, yeah, it’s, it’s fun being part of this group, cause it’s not just, you know, you see the social media, you see the, the stuff like the content that we put out there. Some of it’s kind of lighthearted and fun.
[00:12:34] The podcast I’m on, usually with Mark, he’s not here right now in part because of things going on with the COVID stuff. But usually I’m on with him, you know, we, we kinda kid around a lot and stuff, but. But there’s, there’s a lot of behind the scenes and, and, there’s, there’s a lot of aspects to this from product manuals to product boxes, to the website, to social media, to, you know, all that stuff.
Travis Bader: [00:12:58] Yeah. No kidding. Well, before we talk about the optics and the other accessories and gear that Vortex has, I figured I’ll just put a quick plug in for the Vortex Nation Podcast, just so our listeners know about it, because I don’t want to get too deep into a bunch of these things. You’ve already talked about a number of, of things that I would have brought up in a podcast here.
[00:13:18] And I mean, you guys talk about everything from flying with guns, to makin’ burritos. Talk about foraging, setting up your firearm, your optics, repair and maintenance. You know, the list goes on, so anyone listening to this one, if you want to go a little deeper, I’d highly encourage, check out the Vortex Nation Podcast, it has a lot of great content on there.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:13:38] Appreciate that, thank you. It is fun being an optics company, we don’t just necessarily have one core group of customers. We have, you know, everybody from birders to tactical military, law enforcement, recreational shooters, competitive shooters of all disciplines. You’ve got outdoor enthusiasts, so we try to, we try to encompass everything, but it winds up being that you get a a podcast and a lot of other content that we make that sort of all over the map, but it’s, it’s fun.
Travis Bader: [00:14:04] Yeah, no kidding. Yeah. It appeals to my ADHD nature, that’s for sure.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:14:07] Perfect. Yeah, us too.
Travis Bader: [00:14:09] We see a lot of new hunters and new firearms owners in Canada. We’ve got a federal licensing system. Anybody wanting to get a firearm has to go through training, in person training, testing. There’s a process that is in place and consequently brand new people getting into it, need guidance. They need advice and as Silvercore, as a company, we’re very selective about where we point our students to and a big thing we need.
[00:14:41] Obviously we want to make sure we’re pointing in the direction of quality. But another big part is the support. And Vortex, you know, I think I first reached out to you guys through Instagram and within a couple of hours I got contact back from some higher level people talking about just answering questions, basic questions for basic product line that you have a email, phone, a social media you guys are really on top of that game.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:15:10] We definitely try to be. Like I said, the support thing from the very start has been a really big deal for us and from the beginning, I mean, when we started out as Vortex, we were just mostly dealing dealer direct, and that’s still the primary form of business that we have.
[00:15:24] But coming from before being a brand ourselves that went dealer direct, we were a dealer of, just various different outdoor related products and then hunting and shooting related products and stuff like that. So having been in that space, we always, we had some experience and things that made us really want to have our brand someday be the brand that was the easiest to work with and the best to work with the most responsive and just follow the old classic golden rule, you know, treat others like you’d like to be treated.
[00:15:52] It’s so simple to say, but really difficult at times to actually do. And so that started out by just, you know, offering great products at great prices with great service to back it up and, you know, actually adhering to that promise. And then, you know, things, things kind of progress from there and, and it was clear after a while that it wasn’t, enough to just sort of be a really great resource just for your dealers.
[00:16:17] But then you have customers that want to come direct to the source for information or customer service and stuff like that. So, you know, we started, we’ve got a full crew of people that are on the phones all day, every single day. They’re all hunting, shooting, birding, whatever enthusiasts and so they walk the walk as well as talk the talk and you know, we’ve got them in customer care, tech support, those kinds of people on social media as well.
[00:16:43] And, we, we try to make it actually really hard almost to contact us and not hear something back.
Travis Bader: [00:16:51] Well, it makes it easy for us to be able to recommend, because a new Hunter or a new shooter goes out there and they’re looking for advice. We want to be able to do a handoff, put them in the hands of somebody who can properly take care of them and makes it easy for us to refer people over.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:17:05] Thats good to hear.
Travis Bader: [00:17:08] Now you guys have quite the product line. You’ve got varying price ranges of optics and scopes. Can you give me a little bit of an idea what the, the difference is between the different price jumps that you get there? What are people paying for as they start shelling out some more coin?
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:17:25] Yeah. So, I like to start out whenever I’m talking with somebody who’s really new to optics, I like to start out talking about primarily binoculars and spotting scopes because when he looked the rifle scope side of things, you’re really getting kind of complicated in the fact that you can have a rifle scope with the same optical system as another one, but it can have totally different features around that optical system, which make it a completely different optic, and it might.
[00:17:50] Cost more or cost less, it might make it for ones for competition, and one’s for hunting. One’s for long range shooting, one we would never suggest using on a long range gun. I mean, all kinds of things and we’re talking about the same optical system inside. And that’s, that’s where I think people get thrown off a lot in rifle scopes.
[00:18:07] But when it comes down to like binoculars and spotting scopes, which in and of themselves, they’re observation optics, they have optical systems like rifle scopes do, but you strip off a lot of the features that may make them, you know, applications specific or may change the price a lot and, and when you boil it down into just optics and you talk about, you know, your good, better, best, that’s what we try to have for just about everybody on the planet is a good, better, best option.
[00:18:31] And when you talk about just the optics themselves, you know, and you look at your more entry level optics in our line, we start out at our generally Crossfire line is about where we’ll start out. Usually if you see that name, it’s something that’s more at our entry line. I wouldn’t consider it an over all, or in the grand scheme of things, the entire optics industry, I wouldn’t consider it necessarily an entry level optic.
[00:18:57] A lot of those rifles scope still, for example, in the US cost over a hundred dollars and they’re, they’re plenty good for darn near anything out there. But that’s, that’s where we feel comfortable sort of starting our line out. As you move up and you get into other names of ours, you know, like Diamondback and Viper and stuff like that.
[00:19:14] And again, just speaking in terms of the optics, a lot of what you start to get is, I mean, better optical quality and seeing is huge for every single sport, whether it’s hunting or just recreational competitive professional mil. LE shooting, the ability to see as clearly as possible at pretty much any point in time in the day, any lighting condition, all that stuff is extraordinarily important.
[00:19:45] And when you sort of move up the tiers, you just improve your ability to see the targets are going to look more resolute, clearer, sharper, better image, clarity, cut, colour, fidelity. You’re going to have better low light performance, so when you’re at those critical times of the day, right at the beginning of the day, right towards the end of the day, as the sun is rising or setting, I mean, everything that you see through that optic is going to look better.
[00:20:10] And, and, and ideally as close to how it looks with the naked eye. And that’s, that’s not easy to do. You know, you, you look at any given optic and the lenses, for example, that we see on the outside are two. There’s an eye piece and there’s an objective lens, objective lens being the one that’s furthest from your face when you’re holding it up to your eye.
[00:20:31] But, there’s so many other lenses and binoculars. There’s a whole prism system in there. Same with spotting scopes and you have, you know, in rifle scopes, there’s an erector unit in there with all kinds of lenses that are moving, they have to be perfectly aligned to one another. There’s different lens curvatures that you can do.
[00:20:47] Some are more expensive to produce than others, but they can produce better images. There’s all smattering of different coatings that you can actually coat the lenses with to improve the light transmission. And we’re talking about, you know. Light that comes in an infinitely many, wavelengths. I mean, all of this stuff is really, is really complex.
[00:21:08] And as you move up the tiers you’re just getting better engineering, better optical design, better mechanical design and, and, and better assembly procedures and stuff like that that can make that optical system perform better and, deliver you the best image possible. So that that’s what you get through the different tiers.
[00:21:28] You know? And then like I said, when you get into rifle scopes, it can be a little different cause you can see a rifle scope that costs more than another rifle scope. But if you look at it, the one that actually costs less may have a better optical system, but it doesn’t have as many features. And the features are what make the other one costs more, even though its optical quality isn’t quite as good.
[00:21:49] And, that gets really kind of in the weeds. That’s the stuff, that’s why we employ so many people here that are on the phones and emails and all that stuff all the time answering these kinds of questions because we get these questions every single day. We try to make videos about them. You know, you look at our YouTube channel, our Instagram page, we try to, we try to boil it down for people as much as we can, but.
[00:22:12] But inevitably, I mean, you know, we live and breathe this stuff every day and, and so, and, and even, I don’t understand all of it sometimes. I have to have my engineering brothers come over and explain, explain stuff to me all the time and I’ve been around it my entire life. That’s, yeah, that’s kind of generally how it goes.
[00:22:27] I’m sure there’s more we can get into the weeds and I love getting into the weeds on stuff. Don’t get me wrong, but yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:22:34] We’ll point them over to your podcast. Really get into the weeds there.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:22:37] Sure thing.
Travis Bader: [00:22:38] So let’s say you’re coming up for a hunt in the rugged, cold Canadian wild. What optic would you be bringing on your firearm?
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:22:47] So, that’s a good question. I, I’m not intimately familiar with, the rugged, cold Canadian wild, I’ll be honest with you. That said, if I were to choose for hunting, a scope that I would feel comfortable throwing on 99% of the guns out there for, in 99% of the locations that I’ve ever heard of, that I, I would just feel confident.
[00:23:15] I wouldn’t ever feel like I was going into something under scoped or, you know, with inadequate gear, I would land myself right in the middle of our line, kind of middle, middle, slightly verging on the upper part of our line. In the Viper series, and I would go for what’s called our Viper HS, which the HS just stands for hunting and shooting.
[00:23:34] And to get into kind of what I was talking a little bit about with, how you can have one optical system, but different features about it can make it for totally different purposes and different prices and stuff. The Viper series like that, HS comes from a series of of optics where you have the HS, you have the HST, the HSLR, and then there was the Gen 1 PST’s we call them.
[00:23:56] All the same optics in them, so you’re going to expect all the same image, clarity and quality, you know, low light performance, all that stuff. But they had different turrets and some different reticles and features inside that made like the HS, I would never try and take to a long range competition ever.
[00:24:15] It has capped turrets that aren’t really that easy to get to for a lot of dialling, cause I’m expecting to probably have to dial a lot. It doesn’t have nearly as much adjustment as the HST or the PST, which both have exposed elevation and windage deterrents with a lot more travel inside the scope, um, which I’m expecting them to a need for the longer range shots.
[00:24:34] I mean those scopes, it’s funny how they’re in the same family, but, but, there’s ones that I wouldn’t even consider for certain applications. So the HS is probably the one I would choose. And in that HS line, you have the option of a 2.5 – 10 or 4 – 16 as far as magnification goes and so.
[00:24:55] It’s a 2.5 to 10 x 44 and the 4 to 16 is it 4 – 16 x 50 and that last number there is the objective size. So both those objective sizes are perfectly appropriate for their given magnification ranges. I wouldn’t call the 4 to 16 x 50 brighter than the 2.5 to 10 x 44 just because it has a bigger objective bell.
[00:25:16] It also is using a bigger objective bell to power more magnification. So really it kind of evens, evens things out. But, you know, I’d probably go with either one of those. I’m not gonna say that, you know, one is definitively better than the other, if I were to find myself in more thick timber, which, like I said, I’m not super familiar with, anyone’s exact spot.
[00:25:39] But if I were to find myself in thicker timber where the shots may only go out to say 300, 400 yards, maybe than the 2.5 – 10, I’d probably go with, just because I take advantage of the bigger field of view, the lower magnifications easier to find things with, cause you can just zoom out.
[00:25:56] You don’t have to be looking up in that spot. But if I were looking at more expansive scenery had a potential for a slightly longer shot or just, you know, I was looking for something that was a little bit of a smaller critter in a big wide open landscape, the 4 – 16, I’d feel perfectly fine with two.
[00:26:13] And if I got stuck in either situation with the other optic, I wouldn’t feel bad about it either. If I were over the 4 – 16 and thick timber, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll be okay.
Travis Bader: [00:26:22] Yeah. Dial it down. Yup. So here’s a question that I’ve been asked before and I’ve heard varying answers on it. Your cold weather hunt, cold outside, warm in your tent, who are warm in your trailer. What do you do with your, your firearm and your optic? Some people say, ‘Hey, we, we leave it in the truck’ and, that way it’s the same temperature. Some people say, ‘Hey, let’s throw it inside a case and it’ll heat and cool slowly’.
[00:26:50] We don’t have that condensation. Some people just hang it up and get it heated up real quick by the, the stove in the wall tent. Is, is there concern about seals expanding and contracting? Is there a concern about moisture? What would you recommend?
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:27:06] There shouldn’t be any concern about any issue with seals or things like that. Having issues with the expansion and contraction of, you know, temperature change. You know, and if there, if there were I, that would be cause for actually concern. But the one thing we do see happen, for people. Definitely quite often, especially as we get to the point in the year when things really cool down a lot is fogging on the exterior lens surfaces.
[00:27:32] And that’s something, you know, you can fog proof the internals of a scope by using O-ring seals, nitrogen or argon gas purging. We can’t fog proof the world. It’s, it’s not that easy. You can use some fog proofing lens cleaning solutions. We actually have one that we sell, which is a Vortex Fog Free Lens Kit, and it works pretty well.
[00:27:54] But you know, mother nature and physics can kind of overpower a lot of the stuff that we have for it. So using some, using some, some tricks to the trade like you brought up, generally just having your rifle and scope acclimated to the temperature that you’re going to be hunting in most of the time while you’re out there is a good idea.
[00:28:11] Going from hot to cold isn’t as much of an issue is going from cold to hot. So we call that the cold beer can effect, and everybody knows when you’re at a tailgate or whatever, you grab a cold beer out of the cooler and it immediately starts to sweat. And that is basically what happens to your ice cold scope when it goes from cold to hot.
[00:28:33] And a lot of people will think about, you know, they think, ‘Oh, well, I’m out in the wilderness, I’m not gonna walk into a cabin or something like that, so I shouldn’t have to worry about this’. But they forget that our bodies are heaters and so when you pull the rifle scope up to your face, let’s say you pull it up too close to your face, or you’re really breathing heavy, um.
[00:28:55] You know, you could easily fog up that eyepiece lens if you just pull it up too close to your face or, or breathe on it on accident. Sometimes even the way you’re holding your rifle and you’re just breathing out of your mouth or your nose, it can go right down on an eyepiece if you kind of have it shoulder at like a low ready position, if you will.
[00:29:11] I’ve seen that happen. It happens to me all the time too, I’m just, I’m not even paying attention. I’m holding the rifle and next thing I know, I looked down, the eyepiece is fogged up and there’s not much you can do about that at that point. It’s actually really difficult to get it, unfogged, if you will. You can, you know, try and bring out a lens cloth, but then you’re getting your warm fingers all over it and then that’s not helping.
[00:29:31] I mean, any manner of things. We see people’s binoculars get fogged up all the time when they have them out glassing, and so they’re looking through their bino’s for a long time then they decide it’s time to move, or they want to just set them down for a minute and they sit them down. They put them inside their jacket which then traps all that heat between your body and the jacket right there with the binoculars, and then they fog up instantly.
[00:29:53] You know, stuff like that. It’s, it’s little, little things where you’re not thinking about things going from cold to hot, that will fog things up and like I said, once it, once it fogs up, and especially if, if it’s really cold, which I know it gets cold up there in Canada, if it’s really cold and you fog something up, and then all of a sudden it sort of flash freezes and then it goes from fog to frost.
[00:30:18] Good luck. You’re going to be dealing with, you’re, you’re, you’re going to be dealing with that, the rest of the hunt.
Travis Bader: [00:30:25] So, out in the field, you want to care for your optics. Let’s sat you do get a flash freeze. You took some isopropyl alcohol, that will take care of the frost, what’s that gonna do to the coatings is that, does Vortex.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:30:37] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:30:38] Have things that are recommendations for field care of the optics?
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:30:42] Little isopropyl alcohol or any other really lens cleaner or cleaner that’s made specifically for lenses isn’t going to harm the coatings at all. That’s what a lot of our guys use. Definitely the biggest thing that I would say that’s going to harm your coatings is just, basically grinding debris into the lenses.
[00:31:02] So much like if you were going to wash your car, let’s say you had a, here I go with my car references, but if you’re going to wash a nice car, you know you’ve got a nice classic with a good paint job. If it had dirt on it, the last thing you’re going to want to do is take a rag and just rub that dirt into the nice paint job.
[00:31:20] You want to get rid of all the grit and sand and dirt and debris that would scratch up those coatings, before you get in there with a lens cleaning cloth or a lens pen or a shirt. And, you know, try not to use the shirt, but we, I get it, I’ve done it.
Travis Bader: [00:31:36] It happens.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:31:38] It does. So, you know, not like everybody has compressed air on them when they’re out walking around. Try not to use, I guess, like, if you go to blow on it, which I’ve done many times, and you’re in the cold, then you get that fog problem. But you know, not many people have compressed air on them when they’re out in the field. Plus then you run into the issue of if it’s already cold, you probably won’t have the problem.
[00:32:00] But if it’s warm out and you accidentally get the can upside down and you spray a compressed air can upside down, you’ll immediately sort of flash freeze the lens. And we’ve seen lenses crack when people do it bad enough. So, yeah, I mean, really just using a nice brush, like most lens pens. I know our lens pen that we have comes with a, a nice, fine, soft bristle, bristle brush on one end of it.
[00:32:26] And, that’s, that’s good for getting the bulk majority of dirt and debris off the lenses before you get in there with a solution. Otherwise, I know some of the guys down in the repair area when they have something that’s just really nasty. This is probably something when you’re more, more along the lines that when you’re back in the truck, if you got the stuff for back at home, but they’ll just let, they’ll let like a white vinegar.
[00:32:53] Solution of, you know, part white vinegar, part water. Will kind of let it sit on the lens for a little bit, not a super extended time. If you let it sit there long enough, I don’t know, the whole binoculars might be gone, but, but if you do it for just a, for just a bit of time, it’ll kind of get any of that stuff that’s cemented on there.
[00:33:10] It’ll just make it come up a little bit easier. And then you can, you can use a nice light brush afterwards and stuff should start coming away easier. But yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:33:20] You mentioned something about the whole binoculars being gone and that brought to mind. So I’ve heard stories of people’s houses burning down and they’re just a crispy little optic that gets shipped back to Vortex and they give themselves a brand new optic or they drove over with their truck, are these stories or is this is this how Vortex operates?
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:33:39] Oh, that’s real, I’m sure there’s some of that right now in the warranty department. It, it happens more than you would think. I guess the world’s a crazy place, right. So anything can happen of, we’ve seen, yeah, bears chew on binoculars. We’ve seen spotting scopes that got put on a tripod that had the wind blowed over, gets sent off cliffs.
[00:34:00] Stuff’s come back to us in plastic bags, some stuffs come back to us burnt to a crisp. We actually just had a guy, in special operations, who is going to send us back a Razor 1-6 that he was using the low power variable optic that got hit by an RPG and he actually survived and kept, is still fighting right now.
[00:34:22] And, anyway, the, he was working with a sort of dealer / distributor for those guys. It was kind of a personal purchase that he, he made for himself, for his, for his duty weapon. And anyway, via a third party, they sent him a new optic cause they knew we would warranty the one that got hit by this RPG.
[00:34:41] That one’s coming in now and, we already got them a new one on the way. We’re going to get that one in cause we want to get some photos of it, it’s not everyday you see an RPG hit a rifle scope.
Travis Bader: [00:34:49] No kidding.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:34:52] But you know, we’ve had some cases like that. I mean, some scopes have been shot in some scopes, whether it’s a, an accidental thing or in the line of duty, oftentimes when it’s some crazy story of, you know, it got messed up in some, practically act of God or whatever, and somebody survived a big traumatic event, we’ll actually send them back the optic that’s all busted up.
[00:35:14] On many occasions if they ask for it, just because for posterity’s sake, that’s pretty neat. Obviously we, we hope and we kind of trust them that they won’t just sort of, offloads that somewhere and somebody else sends it in and then they get a free update in a way becomes like the brotherhood of the traveling broken rifle scope.
[00:35:29] But, you know, there’s, there’s the occasion like that, that guy who got it shot by the RPG. He’s going to get that scope back when we’re done with it, so.
Travis Bader: [00:35:38] Well, you guys have rangefinders, spotting scopes, tripods, binoculars, apparel-ing gear. What’s, what’s your bread and butter? What are most people looking for when they come to Vortex?
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:35:51] Oh, man. Bread and butter for us, it’s definitely, it definitely started out and we still, we still pay a lot of attention to it is binoculars, because when we really got into this, we were still kind of primarily in the, I’d say more outdoor birdwatching some hunting kind of industry and binoculars are a key component to those things.
[00:36:14] And so when we started out, binoculars were a key focus for us. We hadn’t even gotten into rifle scopes yet and, we’ve always really liked binoculars, And even when rifle scopes came around scene for Vortex was around 2006, 2007, and have quickly now become the main thing that we sell. Binoculars still, I mean, they’re there we hold them close to our heart.
[00:36:38] We really pay a lot of attention to it. The binoculars that we have in our lineup I’d say we have probably one of the deepest lineups of binoculars in the industry. And you know, from entry-level, all the way to really high end, ultra high end stuff. And so yeah, we always, we always make sure we’re on the up and up.
[00:36:56] We have, you know, some names that have stuck around for a long time. Diamondback, Viper, Razor, with the, with the bino’s. But I mean, now though, rifle scopes are the biggest thing, that we sell, by far. And part of that’s probably because most people, you can have a gun safe with 10 guns in it.
[00:37:17] And I know a few people here that are optics nerds that have a safe with 10 binoculars in it, but that’s far less common. So yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:37:26] Yeah. So you guys, I mean, you keep coming out with new products. You got some new Razor HD products for 2020.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:37:36] Yeah, yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:37:37] So how do you guys keep innovating,
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:37:42] Man, it’s a, it’s a tornado down there in product development all the time. Now, I don’t mean to make it seem like they’re just a bunch of chickens run around with their heads cut off. It’s actually, you know, very organized tornado, if you will. But, we’ve made, we’ve made a pretty big investment in the product development area, you know, we, we.
[00:38:05] Man, we pride ourselves on a lot of things. We try to deliver a lot of things for our customers. And, and I mean, it goes back to that thing from the very beginning and it sounds so cliche, there’s nothing exciting about making good products and selling them at good prices, you know, and making people feel like they got more than what they paid for.
[00:38:20] And then backing up with good service. That’s nothing new that’s been around price since the dawn of time, since some cave man decided to, you know, sell some guy a fancy rock. But, but that’s just what we do. And it’s just the fact that we just stick to that promise. And so we’ve had kind of the good service, the VIP warranty has been a thing for a long time.
[00:38:39] We’ve been, we’ve been always driving to give people the best deal that we can and always trying to give people interesting products. And I think, I think back to the, when we came out with the Viper PST, that was, that was a really big product for us because that was a, that was a scope or an idea that hadn’t really been done yet.
[00:38:59] It was a tactical optic that could be used for a long range precision. There was also a 1 – 4 low power variable in that lineup. Had all the features of the really high end stuff that was going for two grand, three grand, whatever. But it was an optic you could get for less than a grand. That’s, that’s all over the place now.
[00:39:17] So we’re not the only ones who make that anymore. But you know, doing that, it was kind of a, a big thing for us when we thought, you know, this is really cool. How can we keep doing this and keep, you know, um, bolstering that side of our business that’s just making really awesome products for people. And so it was a big investment in the product development team.
[00:39:35] So we’ve got a pretty, I’d say, substantial team down there. I haven’t, I haven’t walked around, any other of our competitors, product development teams, so I don’t want to say that they have, you know, lame ones or anything, but, but I do know that, you know, for us, it’s a substantial team down there.
[00:39:51] Mechanical engineers, optical engineers, electrical engineers. Any, any number of things and, and they have, I mean, they’re, they’re tireless. They don’t stop. They just, really keep cranking on stuff. And then we work, they actually work closely with us too in marketing as well. So, you know, we have a close, finger on the pulse of what the customers want and are asking for all the time.
[00:40:18] When you message in on Instagram or Facebook or you call us and you say, you really want something, you wish we had something that we don’t have, we are listening. And those get taken directly to heart and a lot of that feedback gets pushed right over to the product development team, and then they do their best to try and create things that cater to the needs of the majority of our customers.
[00:40:40] And so, yeah, I guess that’s not, I wish I had like a secret sauce to tell, you know, ‘Oh, well we do this and that makes us really innovative’. But, one thing that, one thing that does help though I will say is, I like all those guys down in product development, like I was talking about, 1. they all hang out together, 2. they all hang out with everybody in sales, marketing.
[00:41:03] We’re all good friends, kind of all around the entire company here. They have leagues after work that they’ll do a fairly frequently, not lately with COVID, but prior to this they have had leagues where they’re all shooting precision .22’s.
[00:41:17] They’re all doing PRS stuff. They’re all trying to get into what, you know, three gun. They’re all trying to do new things and test our products in ways that all of them get hands on experience with what the customer, the end customer is actually getting and using, and I mean, just using the product themselves helps us innovate and improve things.
[00:41:36] I can’t tell you how many products have come out where like the, the new Razor LHT, um, that scope. So that’s a really great, awesome, lightweight hunting rifle scope. It’s really the top of our line. It’s a phenomenal optic and it uses a new rev stop zero system. And, basically that’s like an integrated zero stop.
[00:41:55] And, you know, one of our guys, er, I should say a few of our guys, none of our guys were saying that it’s difficult to get a really good, true zero stop with a mechanical stop on zero. Or in the case of this one, it actually allows you five clicks beyond your zero, like our L-Tec Zero Stop System and the Razors.
[00:42:15] But it’s really difficult to get that in a lightweight optic and you know, make it reasonably affordable and stuff like that. And so, we went through all these design phases and it just ended up being something that got drawn up literally on a napkin because I was standing there as it got drawn up on a napkin, I saw the light bulb come on and the dude was scrambling around for anything he could write on and write with.
[00:42:37] And, I mean this year, this zero stop system got developed and now we’re talking about something, and if you haven’t seen it, I mean, it’s truly brilliant. It’s, it’s, so simple and easy to make, easy to use, easy to set. It adds virtually no cost at all to the scope. But it gives you an invaluable feature for so many people.
[00:42:59] And, it allowed us to kind of have room in the budget for the scope to still keep the scope at a reasonable cost and we added locking turrets to that or locking elevation, turret. I mean, stuff like that was able to happen because of this innovation and it’s just because some guy was thinking to himself.
[00:43:13] That scope means a zero stop, but we need to do it lightweight and you know, effectively for the money. And so, I mean it was, it was really cool, that kind of stuff, that kind of stuff is able to happen when you have people working down there that are actually interested in the product and its application, so.
Travis Bader: [00:43:26] That’s fantastic. Is there anything that I should be asking about before we wrap things up? Anything that you want to get out there.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:43:34] Oh, man, I guess, speaking of product releases and, you know, I think in a couple of our different promotional materials we’ve thrown out there, um. We’ve said this, but it’s been a pattern in the past sorta to do big product launches for all the product that you come out with in a given year, right at the beginning of the year.
[00:43:54] So let’s say, you know, we were going to come out with, I’m truly speaking hypothetically, here I am pulling a number out of my butt, but you know, let’s say we’re going to come out with 10 new products this year. We would’ve announced all 10 of them at the beginning of the year, and then over the course of the year, they would actually start shipping out, but people would kind of already know that they existed.
[00:44:12] Prior to them actually shipping out. Well, kind of doing a new strategy here and, you know, there’s a number of reasons we’re doing it, but you know, this year we came out with the Razor HD Gen 3, 1 – 10 rifle scope, really awesome scope, a low power variable that can actually do, I mean, pretty much everything under the sun.
[00:44:31] You know, you’ve got the Razor LHT as at the time of this recording, which is, you know, early on 2020, that just came out. But you know, I think at first some people were thrown off cause they were thinking, ‘Oh, Vortex slowed down, you know, only one new product this year, only two new products this year’.
[00:44:46] Well actually, there’s a ton of new products that are going to continue to come out. They’re just going to come out over the course of the year. So, definitely, definitely don’t want to fall asleep on our social platforms or anything like that. If you’re interested in really anything or you feel that there’s a product that we don’t have yet, 1. we want to hear about it.
[00:45:02] We love hearing feedback, but 2. also don’t assume it’s not in the works or that just because we didn’t announce something in January that it might not come out still mid year or something along those lines. So yeah, I’d say just always keeping, keeping an ear to the ground over here. We, we love pushing the boundaries and coming out with new stuff all the time.
[00:45:22] And if you ever want to, you know, message in or whatever, and chat with us, we love doing that too. Can’t tell you how many times we’ve had folks call in while they’re at the range. We walk them through their entire zero in process or troubleshooting while they’re there. You know.
Travis Bader: [00:45:38] Wow.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:43:39] I’m sure our, some of our phone conversations, we actually do get the metrics. Sometimes you’ll see people that are on like 2.5 hour phone calls, and that’s just, that’s just the way of life around here. But, you know, messages via email, social media and all that stuff is the same, same deal. We, we are definitely here for you.
[00:45:56] So don’t feel, don’t feel bashful or, or don’t feel, you know, like, like I know sometimes I deal with certain things I just think to myself, I dread having to contact the company cause I think to myself, ‘I’m going to get thrown to this ringer here’.
Travis Bader: [00:46:08] That’s right.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:46:09] But yeah, we definitely, we definitely don’t want it to be like that. So hit us up anytime.
Travis Bader: [00:46:13] That’s exciting. Well, Jimmy, thank you very much for being on the podcast and really appreciate you making the time.
Jimmy Hamilton: [00:46:18] And it’s absolutely my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
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