The Truth Behind the One Chinese Red Dot Factory

At SHOT Show this year Ian took some time to speak with Mike Branson of Gideon Optics (formerly of Primary Arms and Swampfox). Mike’s a friend and a true optics nerd, and I figured he could help give folks an understanding of some of the fundamentals of modern firearms optics. Today the topic of conversation is that one mythical Chinese factory responsible for making all the red dots in the country. You know, the one that will just put your company name on their dot for a few extra bucks and sell it to you. But seriously, what’s the deal with the indisputable similarities between elements on so many of these things? Well, let’s let Mike explain it…


  1. Sounds a lot like the Swiss watch industry. So much of that industry — even into the higher end — is just a mix-and-match of parts from various suppliers.

    • Quite so. The better / best manufacturers are the ones who are able to successfully choose and integrate various high-quality sub-components so that the whole functions seamlessly, which is what matters in the end. Come to think of it, this would apply to the vast majority of manufacturing industries of almost every kind nowadays.

  2. A truly excellent and informative interview with Mike Branson. It was refreshing to hear some real level-headed reasoning and a balanced perspective.

  3. excellent analysis. I can confirm his statements from other industries.
    If you go to the pearl river Delta (Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Dongguan etc), you find huge electronics vendors selling every fathomable electronic part. If you have an idea for some electronic gadgets, you can get the necessary parts, some plastic factory will make you the case, and within very short time the product is ready to go. And a lot of innovative people do exactly this in China.
    On the other hand, this way of inventing by combining existing parts is not necessarily conductive for radically new “next big thing” type of inventions.

  4. I have a few high end optics but have PA’S affordable mid-range products on all the rest. There’s a lot to be said for affordability

  5. To some extent, this type of system is also establishing itself in the West.
    back in the 60ies, a gun company would make everything from barrels to triggers to wooden stocks.
    Today it is not unusual for a company to concentrate on a few parts if the rifle, and buy stocks, triggers, barrels etc. from specialized manufacturers.

    • Remember when PSA used to buy barrels from FN? They gradually brought everything in house as they expanded. I think the number of makers of raw AR lower receivers is relatively limited as well, and many big makers of complete rifles have a receiver built by someone else for them

    • Outsourcing was alive and well in the 1960s. Even in the mid 19th century, some of the major gun manufacturers were sourcing parts (both raw and finished) from other suppliers.

      • The US WW2 arms production was so tremendously successful because they had the expertise to allocate production to different factories. They could tap into their powerful automotive industry to build weapon parts. I guess this outsourcing continued after WW2.

        If you go to Oberndorf, you will find Mauser, Feinwerkbau, Rheinmetall and a bunch of other companies. They also work together closely.

      • Outsourcing was also typical in Spain during the 19th-20th century.
        In northern Spain, there were even villages and families specialized in manufacturing small parts sold to factories.

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