Trijicon offers a range of optics including single power and magnified aiming solutions. The Trijicon MRO-C includes an AR riser and anti-glare front cover. (Photo: Trijicon)
Trijicon is one of the most well respected companies in the optics industry. The company’s Christian values have been the foundation of how the company operates, treats customers and support the military and LEO communities.
The company has an interesting past. The company was founded in 1981 by Glyn Bidon as the first company to offer products with tritium. It developed its first red dot optic in 1981, began the development of its magnified and ACOG sights, released tritium iron sights in 1989 and by 1990 had secured the U.S. Marine contract with the company’s ACOGs optic line.
Today, Trijicon is regarded as one of the top tier optics manufacturers in the market. Tactical Retailer had an opportunity to talk with Chuck Wahr, VP Sales and Marketing with Trijicon.
TR — When did Trijicon really start to hit the consumer market hard?
Wahr — Early on, we created the tritium-illuminated red dot Armson OEG and later named the new company Trijicon. Our first model was similar to the original single-point used in 1970 Son Tay raid in Vietnam, but with more robust features and a variety of mounting systems for popular rifles and shotguns.
Over time, the ACOG was born, which is our foundational product line. Trijicon has always been primarily focused on the military market with law enforcement and commercial markets trailing significantly behind the military. For us, the LEO and commercial market sales were a result of the pull through of the 1990 Marine contract for ACOGs. Customers started asking how to get ACOGS in the consumer markets and we pushed a limited amount into dealers. By 2005 we had very large military contracts which put us on the map from a consumer perspective and the requests started pouring in after ACOGs were being carried widely by the Marine Corps.
TR — Were there any other markets that were surprising for Trijicon?
Wahr — Our hearts and passion are with those who serve, but our founder and original founding team also had a passion for safari hunting and our unmatched durability, precision and technology in our magnified optics were a perfect fit for safari hunters. These customers spend a significant amount of money and time planning and organizing for a hunt, the travel and the hunt itself. These can easily be $50,000 to $100,000 hunting adventures. No safari hunter wants to take the chance, that when and if that perfect moment comes to take the shot, that there might be an equipment failure, clarity or low-light sighting problem, especially while facing down dangerous game. We are happy to see that Trijicon has become the optic choice for safari and big game hunters around the world.
TR — What are Trijicon’s major product categories from a sales perspective?
Wahr — The ACOG is always the biggest category. The ACOGs have a huge following and we just sold our 1 millionth 4x ACOG. Our single point aiming solutions including reflex sights, SRS, RMO and RMR, are the next largest sales category. Our tritium-powered iron sights are third with our ACCUpoint magnified optics really starting to grab some market share in the consumer market.
From a consumer perspective, the AccuPoint and AccuPower optics should really be matching the red dot optic sales. These optics are manufactured in one of the highest tier optics companies in the world and deliver an amazing value to the customer with exceptional glass quality. We are working on doing a better job with promoting the magnified optics into the North American hunting markets and gamer 3-gun competition shooting markets. These are phenomenal optics based on traditional power scope design with our design and fiber optics and tritium vials. We pride ourselves that these optics are superior low-light optics, are always on and you never have to turn it off or worry about battery life. They are convenient and very simple with perfect illumination in any light. The fast shooting and precise triangle post is very well known in the safari hunting markets, but we need to get more of these in the hands of the North American hunting market.
TR — Are all Trijicon optics made in the USA?
Wahr — We do not source anything from China, but like every other high tier optics company, we do source from around the world. With the exception of the AccuPoint line, all the products are made and assembled here in the U.S. By doing all the assembly in the U.S., we can more tightly control the quality of all the military and LEO product lines.
TR — Where does Trijicon position itself in the market?
Wahr — Early on, we made a decision that we would not sacrifice quality just to hit a price point. As a result, we remain in the top 15 percent of the price points with a limited number of very high tier optics manufacturers. This strategy has kept us focused on quality and out of the price wars.
TR — How can dealers work with Trijicon?
Wahr — We have two sales channels — military and commercial. We sell direct, through distribution, select showcase dealers and internet retailers. Our Showcase Dealers are really where customers can touch and understand the product the best. Our stocking Showcase Dealers have a larger buy-in and yearly commitment, but receive extra support from Trijicon and preferential shipping. We have been so focused on our military sales over the years that we know building our commercial dealer program is an area we could do better. Our stocking dealers are doing very well with a mix of ACOGs, MRO, RMR and some combination of AccuPoint and AccuPower optics.
We have had some issues with retailers not following our MAP pricing guidelines in the past. As a result, we have suspended ACOG MAP pricing to flush out old inventories and implement new control policies. Currently, everything else is strict MAP pricing. We do not want to be the police guys, and the ACOG sales market was so complex from a distribution perspective we decided to get out of the way and let the market dictate retail street price until we can put better controls on availability and dealer qualifications.
TR — What are the goals for Trijicon in 2018 and 2019?
Wahr — We really need to make a strong push into the retail markets. We have a healthy thriving business with a brand that people know. It is fun that customers already know the brand and aspire to own our products. We are winning in the tactical space even with our higher tier products and prices. We have not historically been in a lot of big box stores and we have been focused on smaller shops. Usually our price point really pushes us out of the big retailers who are not selling a lot of $800+ optics.
The RMR has really offered a lot of market growth especially in the LEO. MRO has really grown in the tactical side, but it has also been a great market for the hunting, plinking and sport shooting markets. We have been looking into offering a lower price point solution for the border agents and LEO professional where they can personally afford the optic or that will fit into budgetary requirements. Our new thermal optics line is a good example of the type of product we are hoping to offer to these professionals at a price that is affordable.
We continue to invest in the technology. Our thermal optics line was designed for the military with very rugged durability requirements to pass all the same requirements as our ACOG. We have the four best thermal optics and price points in the market, great menuing, paired with great resolution. Thermal is essential for the tactical market, and for hog hunting we are doing wonderful. The hog hunters are more than willing to spend a few thousand dollars on thermal optics. The electro-optics market is very exciting and likely will be an area which will help define new offering to really take advantage of the other markets which we have not been in.
TR — Where is the optics market heading?
Wahr — In the U.S. optics market, 2016 was a record year, 2017 was very close. For 2018, we see that the overall economy is improving, and we see people have more money for discretionary purchases. We believe that this year many customers will start to upgrade the less expensive optics they purchased during the firearm sales boom and replace them with higher quality optics.
The low- and mid-tier markets are going to get even more challenging now that we have a lot of new players. Trijicon and others that play at the high price point, we tend to stay out of the price wars. Like many manufacturers, we are following the trend of getting away from just launching new items at SHOT Show and just launch based on availability. We will have a 1-8x coming, a new RMR Type 2 and at NRA we will also have some new products as well.