Interview: ​Major Player in Night-Vision and Thermal Game Back in Business, Better Than Ever

Armasight's Steve Lemenov talks about the company, its products, the outlook for 2024 and more.

Interview: ​Major Player in Night-Vision and Thermal Game Back in Business, Better Than Ever

If you’re familiar with Armasight from back in the day before it was acquired and eventually shut down, you might not be aware that the company is back in a big way, with more innovation in thermal and night vision than ever. We spoke with Steve Lemenov, director of marketing, to talk about the company, its products, the outlook for 2024 and more. 

Can you talk about the company’s history and its place in the industry today? 

Armasight has quite a journey, spanning over a decade, starting off as a night-vision manufacturer. Our big breakthrough came when we stepped into the realm of law enforcement and military supply, attracting significant attention along the way. The game changer, however, was under the visionary guidance of our founder, Dmitry Rocklin. When Armasight unveiled its comprehensive line of thermal products, we achieved a significant milestone by introducing the first-ever commercially available dedicated thermal weapon sight. This groundbreaking move truly propelled the brand forward and solidified our presence in the industry.

Fast forward to 2016 , when FLIR Systems entered the picture, acquiring Armasight and establishing a new division within FLIR known as Outdoor & Tactical Systems. Leveraging Armasight’s innovative product roadmap and approach, FLIR OTS brought forth a slew of successful products. Regrettably, FLIR Systems made the decision to shut down OTS in 2019.

The story took another turn in 2020 when Ecentria, the parent company of OpticsPlanet, Third Bull, USIQ and other outdoor industry players, acquired the assets and intellectual property of Armasight from FLIR Systems. Dmitry Rocklin, rejoined the revitalized Armasight as Head of Product. As a significant figure in the industy with three decades of expertise, Dmitry has been instrumental in helping bring Armasight back to glory. Today, Armasight remains committed to crafting exciting new products, proudly designed and manufactured right here in the USA. It’s all about pushing the boundaries and delivering innovation to the market.

What sets Armasight apart?

The key factor that sets us apart is our strong focus on involving end users in our product development process. We take pride in our U.S.-based design and engineering, which allows us to tap into a vast network of military, law enforcement and professional users. Their valuable input directly shapes our product designs and system operations. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that our end-users achieve the best possible experience with our products.

Take our Contractor Thermal Weapon Sight, for instance. It’s a prime example of this collaborative approach. While other thermal weapon sights on the market often feature standard button pads, we opted for oversized control turrets. This decision was driven by countless conversations where users expressed the challenges of operating other systems while maintaining focus downrange or when wearing gloves in the field. Our customers frequently discover and appreciate these deliberate design choices when they’re out hunting or operating, experiencing one of the most impressive thermal experiences they’ve encountered.

But there’s more to our story. Unlike many of our competitors, we have full control over our core thermal technology. Our proprietary thermal core, ArmaCORE™, powers our thermal systems. It boasts groundbreaking innovations in areas like power consumption, processing power and optimized software. This innovative blend ensures that each component performs at its peak, delivering the highest quality image possible.

Our dedication to excellence doesn’t stop once a product hits the market. The Contractor’s firmware has seen over 3,000 builds and 12 releases, continually bringing new features, improved imaging, and enhanced performance to our users at no extra cost. We’re committed to delivering consistent optimization, keeping our products in a class of their own.

What specific product or model have you seen the most growth in recently? 

When it comes to night vision, our BNVD system continues to shine as a top favorite. Our Gen 3 image intensifier tubes deliver exceptional performance, and when paired with our versatile optical housing, it offers a whole lot of value, catering to the needs of our military, law enforcement and fellow Americans. The clip-ons, including CO-MINI, CO-MR, and CO-LR, are creating waves in the military and LE sectors due to our unmatched blend of performance and affordability.

Switching gears to thermal, our Contractor 320 and 640 thermal weapon sights have made a significant impact in the market. The excitement surrounding our latest creation, the Sidekick Thermal Monocular, has been truly amazing, exceeding even our own expectations. Crafted with a focus on being lightweight yet powerful, the Sidekick is a game-changer for handheld and helmet-mounted uses. While the concept of helmet-mounting NVDs and thermal devices has long been a staple in military and law enforcement, it has recently gained immense popularity among consumers, becoming more mainstream than ever before. What sets our Sidekick apart is its compatibility with a PVS-14 or our MNVD, allowing for neural fusion that seamlessly blends thermal and night-vision images. This fusion gives users the best of both worlds and takes their night-time capabilities to a whole new level.

U.S-based design and engineering allows Armasight to work closely with military and law enforcement professionals to create products that truly work for the end-user.
U.S-based design and engineering allows Armasight to work closely with military and law enforcement professionals to create products that truly work for the end-user.

What are some features and specs that consumers should look for when buying thermal and night-vision? 

That’s an excellent question, and it’s surprising how little people really know about the core technology behind night-vision and thermal devices. With the vast amount of information online, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of conflicting details. This can complicate the process of purchasing night-vision or thermal equipment, making it more confusing than it should be.

What’s truly important to keep in mind is that technology is evolving rapidly, but at the end of the day, users should focus on the practicality and how a product can serve their immediate needs. If a product helps you achieve your goals and leaves you satisfied with the results, then it’s certainly a worthwhile investment.

We’re excited about an initiative we’re launching soon: Night Vision University and Thermal University. Our aim is to offer a comprehensive knowledge base that simplifies the basics and serves as a stepping-stone for further education. We hope individuals can use this resource to gain a solid foundation before exploring more from various sources, like experienced night-vision and thermal users, local dealers, and other hands-on experts. In the meantime, if you’re seeking clarity on your options, we’re more than happy to assist you over the phone or via email. Even if Armasight’s offerings don’t align perfectly with your needs, we’re here to guide you toward other options worth exploring.

Feel free to reach out to us anytime. You can easily find our contact details on our website.

There’s a huge price spectrum across thermal and night-vision optics. What accounts for such vast differences in price and quality? 

When we consider the components and where they originate, along with the labor required to assemble the systems, certain factors come into play. Products sourced from China often tend to be more cost-effective. Chinese companies are taking the lead in designing thermal cores and systems, offering these solutions to those interested in rebranding them. This dynamic has led to the availability of similar products under various brand names in the U.S., essentially offering the same underlying technology. U.S.-based companies purchase from Chinese manufacturers, banking on their brand reputation, distribution capabilities and, in some instances, customer support to appeal to the U.S. market.

From a consumer perspective, it’s important to recognize that there are always trade-offs, and for some casual end-users, these trade-offs may be acceptable.

Products intended for professional use and crafted within the USA typically prioritize the needs of American end-users. This focus on design translates to enhanced performance and a stronger support network throughout the product’s lifespan. Of course, it’s worth noting that this level of quality comes with a cost — labor and components are pricier in the U.S. compared to East Asia. This ultimately leads to higher expenses across areas such as engineering, design, assembly, quality assurance and customer support, on top of the components themselves. In various industries, there’s an inherent premium associated with investing in a product designed and manufactured in the USA. Professionals often find this trade-off worthwhile because they demand superior performance and reliability from their equipment.

Do you have any predictions on what we can expect out of the shooting industry in general in the next year? The next five years?

It’s fascinating to see how the number of new gun owners keeps growing each year in the USA, and this growth trend bodes well for the industry. That being said, the nature of our business can be quite cyclical, with many factors beyond our direct control playing a role. We’ll experience peaks and valleys, but the overall trajectory remains one of progress.

Supply chains have certainly faced their share of challenges in recent years, and various factors have contributed to heightened demand, creating a complex situation. In 2023, we’re witnessing a shift back to a more balanced market, which is quite reassuring. Looking ahead to 2024, it’s a bit of a mixed bag due to the election cycles and the potential for global military tensions. However, the majority of indicators are leaning towards a more “normal” year, which offers some optimism.

Where does Armasight see potential for growth? How about non-growth? Is there part of the industry that’s shrinking? 

Night vision has truly evolved, and it’s interesting to note that besides digital night vision, it’s a sector that has deep roots, primarily influenced by the military domain. On a different note, the thermal technology scene has been nothing short of sizzling over the past few years, rapidly captivating a growing consumer market. This trend is expected to persist and be a driving force within our industry. Anticipate witnessing ongoing innovation at the system level, accompanied by notable enhancements in imaging capabilities, a result of both hardware and software advancements.

While we’ve seen the emergence of fusion and multi-spectral systems in the market, it’s worth noting that their current implementations might not be hitting the mark just yet and have room for improvement. However, this is often the trajectory with cutting-edge products — as technology advances, we can look forward to significant enhancements. With new offerings on the horizon, operators and hunters can expect capabilities that would have seemed unimaginable just five years ago. The future holds promising potential for the field.

What can we expect out of Armasight in the first half of 2024? What products have you most excited for the future? 

We’re really excited about what’s on the horizon! In the upcoming months, we’ll be unveiling a range of new thermal products that we’ve been hard at work on. Among them are the Sidekick Thermal Monocular, the Collector Mini Thermal Weapon Sight, and the Jockey Thermal Clip-on. Additionally, we’ve got a few other innovative products in the pipeline, which are currently in the advanced stages of prototyping. While we’d love to spill the beans, we’re all about delivering beyond expectations, not building hype — so we’re keeping these under wraps for now.

At Armasight, our philosophy is grounded in integrity. We firmly believe in launching products only when they’ve reached their peak performance and quality. And the journey doesn’t end there. Once a product hits the market, we’re dedicated to consistently enhancing it to ensure our customers get the best experience possible. It’s a commitment we take seriously.

What sort of product testing do you do?

When it comes to Armasight products, we take a thorough approach to ensure they stand up to the challenge. Right from the get-go, our products, along with their core components, undergo extensive environmental and field testing. This is all part and parcel of our development process, and we leave no stone unturned to enhance each product until it hits the mark of our uncompromising standards.

But that’s not all — we’re meticulous about quality at every step. Each and every unit we craft goes through a meticulous round of quality assurance testing. It’s like a final nod of approval before we wrap it up and send it out to our valued customers. Rest assured, we’re dedicated to delivering excellence in every single package.

How does Armasight support its dealers? 

Here at Armasight, we view dealers as more than just customers — they’re our partners in success. Unlike some of our competitors who focus on direct-to-consumer sales, we’ve taken a different route. We’re proud to connect people with local dealers right in their communities or online, where they can find our products.

We’re all about collaboration and support. We make sure our brick-and-mortar dealers are well-equipped with everything they need, from eye-catching product display stands to our brand banners. And it doesn’t stop there — our sales reps pay regular visits to provide insights about our brand and the technology that drives it.

When it comes to the digital realm, we’ve got our ecommerce partners covered, too. We offer a treasure trove of resources, including comprehensive product information, stunning photography, engaging videos, and all the brand assets they could wish for. These resources can be put to great use on their websites, across social media platforms, and in advertising endeavors. We’re all about making it easier for everyone to experience Armasight quality.

Do you have any advice for retailers about selling thermal and night-vision optics and Armasight products specifically? 

For dealers interested in selling thermal and night-vision products, having a good grasp of the technology’s basics is key. You don’t need to be an all-knowing expert (we’re just a call away for those intricate technical queries), but a general understanding of how the technology functions and the benefits it offers customers goes a long way. Partnering with companies that prioritize top-notch customer service and stand by their dealers when challenges crop up is invaluable.

Speaking of Armasight, our focus is squarely on the user. We bring to the table products that have proven their worth in terms of utility, durability and user-friendliness. Our rigorous testing procedures ensure each product adheres to the highest quality standards. When dealers work with us, they can expect nothing less than a product that meets the customer’s needs. And in those moments when support or inquiries about the product arise, our team of product experts are always at the ready. It’s all about providing that peace of mind and ensuring dealers have the support they need.

What’s your personal favorite Armasight product, and why? 

Oh, that’s a tough one! It’s a bit like picking a favorite child, you know? The truth is, what we use the most tends to shift depending on our day-to-day activities. To be honest, we’ve all had the chance to get hands-on with nearly every Armasight product over the past year. 

Is there anything you’d like retailers to know about Armasight and its products? 

At the heart of our identity and mission lies a deep commitment to designing products with users in mind and driving continuous system innovation. It’s all about equipping the end-user with the right tools to get the job done effectively. While we do play a significant role in serving law enforcement and military sectors, we’re equally attuned to the needs of the commercial space. Our focus is on creating systems that truly bring value to your customers, ultimately translating into increased sales and strengthened loyalty on your end. When we collaborate to address your customers’ challenges, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.


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