Virtually all binoculars sold in the U.S.A. are imported and thus it is easier to project what the market size is. The vast majority of binoculars (92.9% of all units imported to the U.S.A.) are manufactured in China. In dollar amounts imported, China accounts for 53.6% and the combined imports from Japan, Austria and Germany account for 34.2%. In past decades, the medium and high-end products mainly come from Japan, Germany and Austria. However, in the last decade, many Chinese factories have manufactured medium priced binoculars and a few are now making higher-end products and are close in quality to the Japanese and European products. Binoculars are imported duty free into the U.S.A.
Spotting scopes are harder to determine just how many units and the dollar amount is imported. This is because many importers use various HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule) codes. There is a specific code for best spotting scopes (import tariff is 6.6%) but many companies include them under the astronomical telescope or other codes. However, where they are imported from, in my opinion, is very similar to binoculars. As with binoculars, the Chinese factories are producing higher and higher quality in spotting scopes. Similar to binoculars, virtually all spotting scopes sold in the U.S.A. are imported.
Riflescopes are similar to binoculars in that they are mainly imported under one HTS code and figuring out the imported units and dollar value is relatively easy to calculate. For units imported over the last twenty years, China has dominated this category and accounted for 71.6% of imports last year. Likewise, China has been the leader for the same period for dollar value of riflescopes imported until this past year when the Philippines surpassed China (32.6%) with 34.0% of the dollar value of imports and part of the reason is that imports from the Philippines is duty free. In dollar value of imports, the combined value combined from Japan, Austria and Germany accounts for 26.1%.
However, calculating the market size is somewhat more difficult than the other categories because there are many riflescopes manufactured in the U.S.A. I estimate that 40% of all riflescopes sold in the U.S.A. were not imported although some components were. They have some level of manufacturing done in the U.S.A. Many companies assemble and test in the U.S.A., several manufacture some components and a few manufacture most of the riflescope. I am skeptical that any riflescope is 100% American made as undoubtedly some components are imported as I have seen various component parts for several brands designated for shipment to the U.S.A. in various factories in Asia.
There are a number of reasons that the manufacturing percentage of riflescopes in the U.S.A is relatively high. First, some military purchases require a certain percentage of the products value to be produced in the U.S.A. Then, some (especially higher-end) products are assembled and tested in the U.S.A. to avoid the high import duty (14.9% currently on optical riflescopes except for certain countries like South Korea and the Philippines which have no import tax) and they import the various components which alone have a low import duty rate. The latest import statistics available for the U.S.A. are for the complete 2012 year. The U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission compile the data. Detailed historical information of imports for binoculars and riflescopes are in the Appendices to this book. I will comment briefly on factories producing optical products. I have been to China 40 or more times and to Japan 20 or more times as well as to other countries visiting factories and have lost count of how many total factories I have seen in the optical and electronics industries. Contrary to what the media in the U.S.A. would have everyone believe, factories in China are quite modern and over the years, they have improved immensely the working environment, conditions, wages, etc. The productivity in Chinese factories is very high and the workers have a desire to produce high quality products. The Japanese and European factories are very nice and I am always impressed with the workers and the product quality.