In this blog – why Kahles will conquer Africa. A public holiday in Slovenia was the ideal opportunity for Ales Spendal and I to travel to Vienna to meet with Peter Aichberger (head of global sales) at the Kahles headquarters and factory. In the entrance was this pictorial display of a rifle found in the mountains 30 years after it was lost. The Kahles rifle scope on this gun still functions and is on display, testimony to the robustness of Kahles optics.
Kahles and Swarovski are in the same stable with regard to ownership, but they work independently from each other. The Kahles premises is a “GREEN BUILDING”, the entire premises’ temperature and humidity is kept constant without the use of fossil fuel and it shows.
The constant and static climate control in the process is critical to ensuring uniformity of metal forces considering that key components are produced to within 1 micron of tolerances. Scope tubes are produced from a solid bar of aluminium whereas most competitors would start with hollow tubes. In the picture below Peter is holding one such solid bar.
Before processing the solid tubes of aluminium are placed in an oven under a specific (and secret) heating and cooling cycle in order to eliminate forces, stresses and tensions within the metal. Proprietary information is protected throughout the facility by having only 2 people, different people in each area, entrusted with the data and set-ups. For example, Peter did not know the recipes for this particular process.
Kahles tubes are transformed from a solid bar of aluminium to a completed tube in a 2 stage process. This is significant because fewer stages means less inherent risk of product defects. Fewer transitions, greater consistentcy.
A key observation was how human reliant the assembly process is. Austrians lead in automation, hence processes that remain reliant on people are not because of costs or technology, but simply necessary. The high work ethic of Austrians, given their part in assembly, is fundamentally why I will never buy a scope produced anywhere else in the world. I apologize for those who I may offend, but let’s not have our emotions moved quicker than our intelligence.
The assembly area is clean, the work flow well organized within cells and each work station is supported with the highest level of technology and sophistication to support the individuals in their work. The work cells are “hooded” by a flow box that suctions any dust particles away from the work surface. In the picture below are the slippers that we had to put over our shoes, it literally felt like we were skiing around a floor surface that you could eat off.
Ever had a concern about the waterproof capability of a Kahles scope? See the test below. Trapped air would be immediately visible, similar to placing a bicycle tube in a tub of water to locate the leak. Air is vacuumed out of the scope and the scope is filled with Nitrogen prior sealing. Computerized tracking provides measurements throughout the process.
Final inspection is carried out on 100% of the optics. This inspection includes validation of parallax which is simulated for different distances and the validation of reticle movement. The reticle movement parts are perfectly machined parts containing zero plastic. In Peter’s words “one click is one click is one cm at 100m“. In the picture below are 2 persons responsible for final inspection. My ugly face is serving a purpose, obstructing the target viewing area which is proprietary information.
We were showed the repair area, I estimated less than 50 scopes returned from global markets and only 2 persons working in the area. A statement of Kahles quality and workmanship. The importance of quality and reliability is the mechanism on the one hand and the lens optical clarity on the other. Some manufacturers succeed in one of these areas, a few in both; Kahles succeed not only in both but in bringing them together in a best in class optic.
Another observation is Kahles great leadership; Peter is clear on design drivers. Kahles is focused on features that matter to hunters and sport shooters such as robustness of build quality and optical clarity. Kahles selected green as the light spectrum of choice in their lens development because green is the dominant color in nature, and this truly means the first 5 minutes of daylight and the last 5 minutes of daylight belong to Kahles.
Peter is a keen and responsible hunter and this gave me the opportunity to understand some of the thinking behind Kahles designs such as why Kahles do not make a hunting scope with parallax adjustment. Peter was quick to add that parallax adjustment for shooters using high magnification scopes was in the development process special; Kahles developed an innovative and unique parallax adjustment (patented) which is integrated in the elevation turret making this critical long distance feature ergonomic for shooters. This parallax adjustment is integrated in the complete range of long distance “K-series” Kahles optics. Buy the worlds most sought after long distance scope, the K624i. Every scope produced is sold.
Another important and critical reason why Kahles will become the driving force in South Africa is because The Powder Keg commitment to provide customers with the best products and after sales service. I personally carried 2 very old Kahles scopes of South Africans to Kahles for repairs. What I learnt is that Kahles only repair scopes with a serial number from 340 000 onward. The one scope just scraped in.
I learnt from the scope with “hair” on the reticle that it is a phenomenon of previous generation scopes where particles from the inside of the tube would dislodge after years of use and be attracted to the reticle in a magnet type way. New reticle technology and anodized scope tubes have eliminated this problem. A “hairy” reticle can be cleaned by Kahles, but after further years of use the same phenomena could start to show.
Why I prefer Kahles Helia 3 scopes (1″) for hunting. Show me a higher quality 1″ scope with illuminated reticle – none. It is fallacy that you have greater light transmission in wider tube diameters. My prime requirement for scope fitment is a scope mounted as low as possible. A 1″ tube scope can be mounted lower than any of the wider diameter tubes. A hunting scope must be light and elegant to fit the gun (picture above). It is imaginary to think that a 30mm tube is stronger, all tubes are processed in the same manner.
An advantage of wider diameter scopes is the increased reticle movement capability. The main reason that you might run out of clicks on a 1″ hunting scope is poor mounts or poor mount fitment. The mount is the weak point between the gun and the scope, the reason why Europeans fit only quality mounts and the reason why Europeans upgrade their 1″ scope using existing mounts.
Below was our parting view of Kahles on 8th February 2017.