Crimson Trace Optics – Beyond the Laser

Crimson Trace has built a solid reputation over the decades offering firearms owners rock solid, reliable laser aiming options for firearms. However, today more and more shooters are discovering their impressive full line of red dot and rifle scopes. We recently sat down with Director of Brand Management at American Outdoor Brands Inc., to learn more about these optics, and why shooters of all sorts should consider a Crimson Trace for their next rifle optic.

Q: I’ve always thought of laser sighting when I think of Crimson Trace.  Can you talk about your company’s beginnings and let us know about the growth you’ve seen in recent years?

Eric Petterson, Crimson Trace – Crimson Trace was founded in 1994 with the intention to provide the best aiming solutions possible for concealed carry and personal protection via a laser sight.  Back then, we found that a lot of firearms didn’t necessarily have the best iron sights for concealed carry, and our laser sights provided a large benefit when put into use.   We grew the Crimson Trace brand for many years and became the preeminent name in the industry for laser sighting systems.  We were then acquired by Smith & Wesson in 2016. At that point, we had many more resources attached to the company and decided to leap into a broader range of optics.  The brand had grown to the point where our name was synonymous with sighting systems, so I think that next leap made a lot of sense.

We started creating a full line of red dots and magnified optics and came out with our first series in 2017.  Those were very much oriented towards tactical/PRS shooters.  We then took another look after another major optics player that left the rifle scope market.  We saw the space that had been created and decided to take on a much larger presence.  We developed a lineup containing 58 different SKUs, covering almost everything you can think of now. At the same time, we came out with our series of red dot optics that we refer to as RADs or Rapid Aiming Devices.

Q: Can you highlight some Crimson Trace red dot options readers should consider for the AR platform?

Eric Petterson, Crimson Trace – Specific to red dots, I am particularly fond of our Crimson Trace HRO, which stands for Heavy Recoil Optic. The thing is built to take a beating, and as a bonus, it looks super cool.  It looks fantastic on top of firearms like the AR-10 or a tactical shotgun. We’ve run it on several guns known for heavy recoil, and it is an optic that functions flawlessly. It’s probably my favorite red dot in our lineup right now.

The Crimson Trace HRO mounts to any Picatinny rail, so it can instantly be mounted on top of the receiver without purchasing an extra mount. The optic has a battery that is very easy to replace, and the optic has a 50,000-hour runtime, which should last you many years of use.  The enclosed LED-based reticle is an easily adjustable 2 MOA dot with 12 brightness settings.  The optic, built from aircraft aluminum, is IPX7 waterproof and is designed to take a beating.  It has a manual on/off and an automatic shutoff with a motion sensor to wake up. 

Another red dot I like is our RAD Max, which also comes in a pro version with a mount.  The pro version includes that shake-to-wake feature, whereas the standard version is more of an entry-level version.  What I like about the optic is that it features one of the largest window sizes out there.  It’s fantastic for an AR, but also tactical shotguns or turkey guns.  Many guys also use them on the ARs mounted at 45 degrees, acting as an offset backup.

Q:  Pricing on these indicates these are not budget optics.  Can you talk about the build quality and warranty these optics carry?

Eric Petterson, Crimson Trace – Crimson Trace offers a lifetime warranty on our optics, which we’re proud of and stand behind.  Our optics are very rugged and well-built; we think you won’t have problems.  However, suppose an issue were ever to arise. In that case, our customer service group is fantastic, and they deal with many different scenarios daily, whether the damage is accidental or done purposefully. No matter the abuse, the bottom line is we will take care of our customers. We firmly believe in our brand, our reliability, and the use case for our products.  Whether it is a personal protection situation where your life can be on the line or a competition where your success could be on the line, these moments are critical.  We understand and value that; giving our customers the best is paramount.

Q:  Before you put the Crimson Trace name on these optics, can you talk about the research, development, and manufacturing done?

Crimson Trace LPVO on an AR-15
Crimson Trace Hardline LPVO

Eric Petterson, Crimson Trace – Crimson Trace has an extensive internal development staff, including design engineers who not only do the bare-bones design but are also users of all our products. Everyone from former law enforcement professionals, former competitive shooters, and national college champion level shooters who work on these products.  They spec them out, do the basic design, and then we have a sourcing group that goes out and works with factories and manufacturers to understand who is producing the best product out there and who has the greatest capabilities regarding quality and reliability protocols. 

With the selection process, Crimson Trace engineers know these products and how they are supposed to function – they select the factories we work with.  In the optics world, many optics manufacturers are off-shore, whether that is just the glass or complete assembly.  We look at what fits the need for the product, which could be domestic in some cases as well.  We work with partners who provide the same types of products throughout the industry.  In reality, only a few factories worldwide do excellent optics work, so we work with them.  Returning to our warranty and customer service, we believe in our products and stand behind them no matter the scenario; we will work hard to take care of the customer.

Q:  Let’s dive into the Crimson Trace LPVOs. 

Eric Petterson, Crimson Trace – We have a series of six Crimson Trace LPVOs.  They are 1-6, 1-8, and 1-10, with MIL and MOA options for each.  They are 34mm tubes, and we undertook these to round out the portfolio of scopes we came out with when we released the Brushline and Hardline series.  This was identified as a need after that initial rollout.  For an extremely reasonable price, these optics offer so many great features.  You get fully coated lenses on a full-feature LPVO with fantastic glass, fully illuminated reticles, full adjustments, capped turrets, an included throw lever, and lens caps.  They are all-around incredible scopes for a great price.

Q: There’s a lot of competition at this price point. Can you talk about why someone should consider Crimson Trace versus other options?

Eric Petterson, Crimson Trace – I’d go back to the price point and the feature set.  For the price, Crimson Trace competes with any number of companies out there who are all doing a great job.  It’s undoubtedly a busy market, but what you’re getting with Crimson Trace is some incredible glass combined with a rugged construction.  I love these optics and use them on the ARs I own and operate. They are fantastic in low-light situations, have excellent clarity and light transmission, and have an illuminated reticle.  It’s fully featured for the price point.  You also get a tremendous field-of-view and eye box, especially in the 1-8 and 1-10s. The 34-mm tubes are solidly built with heavy construction without feeling heavy.  They’re well-built, and you can tell once you pick them up.

Regarding reticles, we feature a TR-1 MOA and TR-1 Mil reticle.  These were co-designed by a Crimson Trace engineer here who was a former competitive shooter.  A lot of time was spent dialing in the design.  I know there are many options regarding reticles, and everyone has aspects of a reticle that they like or dislike, so we worked with several people both within the company and outside who are in that competitive space.

Q:  If you had to steer someone in a direction on which offerings to look at, what would you say?

Eric Petterson, Crimson Trace – For defensive purposes, the Crimson Trace 1-6 Hardline is excellent.  I have an MOA preference, but we also have the MIL offering.  The 1-6 is a bit more inexpensive, but I think the 6x is more than enough for most scenarios, especially if you are doing your due diligence, getting out to the range, training, and practicing with it.  All that said, the 1-10 is my personal favorite. I am a hunter at heart, and I like the ability to cross over into hunting applications with an LPVO.  You can use it for anything from home defense to the range or hunting applications. The 10x allows you to dial in if you are varmint shooting, predator hunting, or whatever you might be doing in the field.

Regardless of what optic you choose, I’d ask your readers to remember the legacy that Crimson Trace established with our laser sights, their reliability, our long-term dedication to the market, and our passion for quality that can be depended on regardless of the situation. That long tradition of excellence does carry over to our optics line.  They are definitely not as well-known right now, but we are here and want to get the word out to the optics world.  All the same principles we take with our laser sights apply to our optics.  We hope that as someone researches the different options on the market, they will take the time to examine us, our offerings, our reputation, and our customer service and consider making their next optic purchase a Crimson Trace.


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