This article was first published May 21, 2019, at sportingclassicsdaily.com.
Find what matters.
I recently took Burris Optics up on their slogan and made a visit to their factory in Greeley, Colorado, to find out what matters to them.
When I learned that Burris is headquartered less than an hour’s drive from my in-laws’ house where we’d be celebrating Christmas, I sent an email asking about a tour and was tickled to receive an immediate reply. Angie Straka, the Administrative and Facilities Supervisor, said she’d be glad to show me around and we quickly settled on a date and time. Unfortunately, Ms. Straka was sick when I showed up so I was left in the very capable hands of Kevin Smith, Burris’ Purchasing Manager, and Jerry Reinhardt, the Director of Manufacturing.
Burris is a branch of the Beretta Holdings tree but it has Redfield roots. Don Burris, the company’s founder and namesake, worked as a design engineer for Denver-based Redfield Optics before striking out on his own in 1971. He passed in 1987, and Burris was bought by Beretta fifteen years later. Today the company offers hunting and tactical scopes and sights, binoculars and spotting scopes, rings and mounts. New to their lineup is the Oracle Rangefinding Bow Sight, a product poised to revolutionize the sport of archery.
I’d been on factory tours before, and there isn’t a whole lot to say about CNC machines, anyway, but it was readily apparent that Burris isn’t just screwing a couple of pieces of glass into a tube. Not that any optic company is, I suppose, but one of Burris’ riflescopes, the Eliminator, includes nearly 200 different parts. With such delicate and diverse instrumentation, it should come as no surprise that debris is the bane of Burris Optics. At one stage of the tour, I was led past a static and dust free clean room full of employees outfitted in hairnets and surgical gloves. They were assembling scopes, but they looked like they could’ve been splicing together dinosaur DNA just as easily, all in an attempt to avoid debris.
The most fascinating stop on the tour was the warranty room. Burris offers a lifetime warranty on their products and one employee proudly pointed me to their Shelf of Fame where riflescopes that’d been warped by house fires stood next to binoculars that’d been buried in mud. All had been either repaired and returned or happily replaced. The true trophy on the shelf, though, was a tactical scope that’d caught a ricochet in a shooting competition. It had a 9mm bullet buried just under its windage turret but was miraculously still in working order.
I’d caught Burris in the middle of preparing for show season and felt guilty for taking their time so we wrapped things up at the factory and I met Kevin and Jerry at a local cafe for lunch. We had to ask the waitress to come back three different times because we were too busy swapping stories to look at a menu. Like old friends around a campfire, conversation came easy. I heard the tale of Jerry’s first elk and showed him a picture of my best whitetail.
We were shaking hands in the parking lot when I was reminded of an exchange with my father on the eve of his retirement from Oklahoma’s wildlife department.
“Dad, a lot of guys, after they retire, take another job and then work for a few years doing something they always wanted to do.”
His reply made me smile.
“Son, I’ve always done what I wanted to do.”
That seems to be the way of things at Burris. Kevin and Jerry and their coworkers aren’t just employees; they’re hunters and shooters, too, and Burris Optics is finding what matters – because they’re out on the ranges and ridges looking for it.