Trijicon Knock-Offs Getting “Better” (Or Worse, Depends on Perspective…)

Compared to most industries, the firearms world has been relatively free from the bane and scourge of fake products. Sure, there are a fair amount of knock-offs, but those are typically re-branded and sold for a lot less while looking similar. However, in the last year, direct copies have been trickling into the market.

Typically, these are from the airsoft market, which internationally is hungry for cheap copies of real products as their local laws keep one from owning the real thing. These “real steel” components are highly sought after in those markets. However, some unscrupulous characters have now been bringing in these products to the US (in violation of numerous trademark and various import laws).

My good friend and head Guntech at Brownells, Keith Ford, recently shared a blatant copy that he got his hands on and compared it to the original. Suffice to say, one not intimately familiar with the real optic would have a hard time recognizing that the fake was not the real thing.

Finally was able to do a side by side comparison of the counterfeit MRO vs the real MRO. Fake is pictured on the left and is serial 1608160. Differences are pretty obvious. Fake has no seam present, lettering is quite different including font and placement including the dial. Diode is missing from the rear left of the fake. Color and finish is a little off as well. Label on box is close but no cigar. It’s a little larger with different font size and no sheen on the paper like the original.

He published an album showing the two side-by-side. When applicable, the fake is always on the left. When its not, can you tell the difference?

 

Unfortunately, immoral characters are selling these as the real-deal and others are trying to rip off good companies (like Brownells!) by buying the real thing and returning the fakes.

Buyer beware on optics! Always get a receipt and always buy from an authorized dealer.





Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • Edeco

    Tridgicon… Trijicawn

    • LGonDISQUS

      Triji*yawn*? ?

      • iksnilol

        No, caw, as in “CAW CAW CAW!”.

        • Kivaari

          That’s a car with a Boston accent.

          • iksnilol

            Crows and Bostonites is like tomato tamato.

    • Wzrd

      Trijiconmen

  • Ark

    Trijicon has one of the highest brand taxes in the industry. I’m always happy to see people building the same damn thing for a fraction of the price. I just wish they’d sell honestly under their own brand.

    • Evan

      Its not the “same damn thing”, its an airsoft product often sold as a real gun™ optic. The quality on knock offs never match the original or even competitors to the original, they make use of online shopping to avoid people being able to tell the difference and price theirs only slightly cheaper than the original, making to seem like a sale.

      Atleast thats been my experience and understanding.

      • Bingo. I’ve handled a number of Chinese knock off products along with their real version. The quality difference is often substantial. Sometimes they are still fairly usable, but a lot of times they are just junk.

        Now there are some value brands that do put out good optics of a similar format. Like Primary Arms, and the Super Sniper line. But though they are quality optics, you can see the differences in the quality of glass used if you have one side by side with a high end optic.

        • valorius

          Primary arms have gotten over priced.

          You want a useable optic that will take care of you for $79, buy a Walther PS-22. Had one for 3 years, fell out of a 10 foot tree stand, never lost zero, and you can leave it on for about 3 months at medium power before it needs a battery (1 AA) change.

          • iksnilol

            They’re discontinued now 🙁

          • valorius

            Probably because they worked and they were cheap. Bummer. :-/

          • valorius

            I just checked their site, it was the PS-55 that i had, not the 22. Sorry for the confusion. They’re $75 on ebay.

            I’ll correct the original post.

          • Prices move upward due to a variety of reasons.

            I recently thought I lost my ear pro and attached waterproof iPod. I went to look at replacement prices. Prices went up at least 40% since I bought them 5-7 years ago. Thankfully someone turned it in, I didn’t feel like spending that sum of money replacing them.

          • valorius

            I think in the case of primary arms it’s because they’ve gotten some brand recognition. Whatever the case, they are a heck of a lot more money than they were a few years ago.

            Apple is an excellent example of a product specific tax though. Colt is another one.

          • Apple sells to price point, and never discounts the price points. So toward the end of the refresh cycle the product becomes a bad value, but at the beginning it actually competes well with other brands of the same specs.

            In my case the waterproofing service is what got more expensive.As the price on the Shuffle has remained constant for the same period.

        • jcitizen

          At one time I had an excellent SWFA scope mounted on a .50 BMG Safety Harbor upper with Badger mounts, and did very well for quite some time. I liked the rig but ended up trading to a friend who is still shooting it quite a lot, and swears by the quality. One of these days, I swear I’ll get another.

    • imtoomuch

      Bingo! I can’t up-vote this enough. Knock-offs exist when the real products are overpriced. The optics prices are out of control. There is so much mark-up that people would be astounded if they only knew the real cost to make these things.

      • Texas-Roll-Over

        Since you’re an optical engineer working in or a person having worked in the optics industry, why don’t you tell us how much it costs to manufacture said optics?

        Please do tell…..

        • imtoomuch

          Woah there Mr. Sassy Pants. Why all the attitude? I obviously can’t divulge that information being an insider. Nice try though.

          • Toxie

            Or you’re full of crap. Two sides of the coin there. Although, the margins on MOST manufactured things would probably astound people, but then that’s how business works.

          • imtoomuch

            Another Sassy Pants. Believe what you want. The margins would astound you. And yes, the margins on most products would astound the common person.

          • FulMetlJakit

            Amen, in my industry our company’s retail standard is +65% of warehouse cost, or x2+2, BEFORE mass/preffered buyer (discount) cost.
            Greedy and counter-productive if they ever would ask me…

          • Nick

            Having worked in a retail store that sold knives/tactical gear/optics/etc we had anywhere from 35-55% margins with the lower end mostly being items with MAP prices so they were sold at that to stay competitive. Ammo has almost no markup if you want to stay competitive but most of our optics were in the 40% ballpark to stay near MAP. I know we could get Trijicon through a distributor and it usually ended up being around 20% to stay competive, so that’s 20% on top of whatever the distributor marked it up on top of whatever Trijicon marked it up. I would think a safe guess would be that most optics cost around a quarter or less of what the end user pays for them at normal retail prices.

        • valorius

          The markup on trijicons and Aimpoints is ENORMOUS. It’s at tactical tax because of fan boys. (like you, perhaps?)

          • Harry’s Holsters

            If an ACOG cost $350 there would still be knock offs. People always want the same look for cheaper.

          • valorius

            I can’t disagree with you there.

          • billyoblivion

            No, it’s because their primary market (LEO and DoD) isn’t as price sensitive as the civilian market.

    • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

      Quality glass costs money. It isnt the same darn thing. And no matter how “overpriced” you think they are, they still have a brand name and using it without authorization is unacceptable. Period. Thats just how quality goes. Its called diminishing returns. You can get 80% of the quality for 30% of the price, but that last 20% costs a lot.

      Now I dont think glass of Trijicon quality is necessary for my needs so I dont buy it, but I sure as heck am not buying one of their knock offs.

      • valorius

        My Leupold 3x9x40mm with illuminated reticle-quality by any standard- cost less than half the price of many 1×4 compact “tactical” AR scopes from manufacturers of comparable quality, including Leupolds own 1×4 “tactical AR” offering.

        It is a tactical tax you’re paying, because of fan boys who insist that you just HAVE to spend that kind of money. You’re your own worst enemies.

        • Blaine

          I’m not an optical engineer but I think there may be some more complicated optical components in low-power variable optics. I could be wrong. That being said, it’s almost impossible to beat the price, weight and functionality of a Leupold 3×9 IMO.

          • cwp

            From what I understand, a variable with a true 1x is substantially more difficult and complicated to engineer than those without.

          • valorius

            Perhaps they’re more complicated, but does that justify more than double the price? Many of these 1×4’s are well in excess of $1000. That’s just flat out insane.

        • LGonDISQUS

          Heh, never thought about that. 3×9s have much more breadth of price and value than 1×4 ( up to1×8 ).

          • valorius

            Set to 3 power a 3x9x40 is perfectly useable even at close range CQB distances by simply focusing on the target, the illuminated reticle superimposes itself on the target like a reflex sight. On 9 power, it has the ability to reach out and touch someone.

            The only thing it lacks is the word “tactical” in the model number, and the tactical tax in the price.

          • LGonDISQUS

            Brother in law got his first AR like six months before me, because I was doing the “build it from bargain parts, no matter gow long it took” route. Iloled when he got a 3×9 because it looked huge compare to the sleek 1×4’s from ’12-’13.

            He was in during Thanksgiving, and I really liked it, which surprised me, but didn’t after learning a good bit in those 3 years.

          • valorius

            Even a fixed 4x power scope can be useful at close range- We had compact 4x32mm carry handle scopes on some of our Scout platoon and all of our SDM M16A1’s, and they were very good all around performers. The Soviets used fixed 4x optics for some of their AK47s as well– some of them were made by Zeiss even. It’s simply a matter of focusing on your target with both eyes open instead of the reticle, and it’s quite fast and plenty good enough for gubmint work.

          • Gary Kirk
          • Stephen Paraski

            I will take the Non-Standard response for $400 Alex.

        • a pedantic —-

          It’s 3 TO 9 BY 40, or 3-9×40. The first number is the magnification (3x to 9x in this case) and the second number is the objective lens diameter in mm. Writing 3x9x40 specifies a 3x lens viewing an image from a 9x lens with a 40mm diameter. Thus, you’ve got an image magnified 27 times with a horrendously small field of view due to the 40mm objective. This is as bag as “30 round clip magazines.” (Same with the 1-4x and earlier 1.1-4x scopes.)

    • Joey JoJo Jr.

      Much of what you refer to as “brand tax” is dictated by the high cost of manufacturing something in the United States. Minimum wages, social security, high corporate taxes, and government-mandated healthcare participation, and the cost of complying with a dizzying variety of government regulations is all passed on to the consumer. Whether or not you think those things are good or not is irrelevant to this discussion- but those costs are a large factor in why something made by Trijicon costs more than something made by a place like “The People’s Army Navy Smash the Running Dog Lackeys Bicycle, Kalashnikov, and Optics Plant No. 17”

      • valorius

        Hopefully our current president can greatly improve on the current manufacturing situation in this country. There is no doubt there is an enormous tactical tax on Trijicon products though.

  • LGonDISQUS

    I’ll admit – any of my “non-essential to life, safety, or freedom” firearms have overseas scopes or optics on them.

    I’m not in a position where I want to focus more than $100 on a scope for a 10/22 or Henry Golden Boy when I threw down beaucoups of dollars for a used Elcan Spectre DR (WHICH I HATE) for my AR, and RMR (which I cam’t use due to ocular issues stated in other posts [astigmatism]).

    Grad school was a year ago. I’m not quite rolling in the dough… yet.

    Was I in the market for the legit products when looking for budget optics and scopes? Nope.

    Did the real brands lose a customer or money?

    No, because (Example: my “noveske” handguard) I wasn’t wanting the name or the warranty, I just wanted a freefloating 12″ handguard that was light and under $50 shipped.

    Am I aware this does hurt the originating companies? Yes, but not at the rate in which some may think, because they weren’t going to receive my dollars in the first place.

    BUIS and functionally necessary parts – I’ll spend full money on any day, every day.

    Buttstocks, handguards, grips, scope rings (sometimes), and accessories… I’ll try the CN copies quite often ♡ Who doesn’t love a $2.99 OTISU BOORU SNEEKU DESU, free shipping? ?

    • MrBrassporkchop

      Optics are really weird, this is the same story in any hobby that uses optics like astronomy and photography. People pay an insane amount of money chasing that last 5%. And it’s mostly for bragging rights.

      A big reason is they don’t get to benefit from the same economy of scale. You can’t really mass produce a single high quality lens because each optical product uses several lenses in a system producing specific characteristics. So each lens needs to be kind of specfic. Add to that the market is actually kinda small. Adds up to high prices.

      Next add to it these silly expectations we’ve adopted for our optics. They NEED to be able to be left on now to be taken seriously. They NEED to be able to survive an explosion. Doesn’t matter if you piggybacked an micro red dot on top and have back up sights, if it broke I may as well be dead. CAN these things be made? Yes. But expect to pay insane prices.

      I’d like to see ww2 and Vietnam era optics put to the same tests we expect for our safe queens. They wrote history yet I’m pretty sure they’d crap out far more than people expect.

      • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

        I consider a Primary Arms or low end Vortex to be sufficient for my personal defense needs at the moment. Ive got better things to spend a grand on than an optic for a rifle I will have an even smaller chance of needing than my EDC pistol.

        • MrBrassporkchop

          Not knocking the people that do want the expensive stuff. I’m more irked at the “unless it’s zxy or cost more than $ then it’s crap” mentality. Primary arms is great in that they were able to get enough of a following to show that it’s not the end of the world if you only spent mortal money.

          • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

            I agree. If I had tons of money you bet Id have a $2000 optic on all 150 of my firearms, but I dont and somehow I havent been murdered yet.

          • I really hate the “I haven’t bought an XXX, and I haven’t been murdered yet” argument. It is the same argument people who are against concealed carry use.

          • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

            I equally hate the title for youtube videos and articles and such that says “Doing (or not doing) XXXXXX will get you killed.”

            But I take your point. I use that phrase in most cases as a response to that attitude, but sometimes I am not too clear about that I guess.

          • Thomas Acquinas

            There is a certain lack of clear thinking here.

          • Russ Kell

            Far-sigma deviation. Don’t answer your door, there’s a friendly man in a robe waiting to take you on a trip. 😉

      • During the WW2 and Vietnam era optics were only used in specialist roles where the lose of the glass would still leave the person usable as an rifleman.

        Now optics are only virtually every rifle. And if the optics routinely failed it would be a much greater loss in combat utility.

      • iksnilol

        And thusly weren’t issued at the same level

        Nowadays “everyone” has a relatively durable optic that won’t fog up. Back in the day very few had a crappy optic that’d fog up.

      • jcitizen

        I just make sure I have flip up iron sights, so that if the cheapee optic goes bad, I got a backup.

    • FulMetlJakit

      Agreed. Vortex or Burris prismatic FTW.

  • Jim Slade

    China will start giving a crap about real and intellectual property rights when Americans stop buying the fake crap when it comes off the boat.

  • Sunshine_Shooter

    To all the “Name brands are overpriced!!!1!” comments, I have this to say: There is a difference between ‘competing product’ and ‘knock-off’. I love when companies make similar products and try to take over market share, that’s a free market, and it benefits us all. Knock-offs are when people try to *steal your money*. Come on people, you’re better than this.

    • Thomas Russell

      to those that whine about name brand prices, here is my tale. purchased a “used” TA-33 trijicon, when I received it, it would not adjust so contacted trijicon and sent the serial number via e-mail and got a RMA in return sent it in, and a few weeks later I had a freshly refurbed ACOG . with the “legit” brands you are also paying for care after purchase, as with trijicons warranty following the product

  • Komrad

    I feel like I’ve seen fakes with that same 1608160 serial number before

    • The fakes rarely change their serial numbers, that takes a laser engraver that will automatically increment. Which costs money.

  • GhostTrain81

    LOL instead of references to Bible verses on the serial (yes, I know this was an old incident and they probably don’t do it anymore), the knockoff version will have references to The Analects of Confucius, The Taoist Canon, The Art of War, and The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

    (Google Trijicon Bible Verse controversy if lost :D).

    • Gary Kirk

      Still do it on their civilian sale models afaik, but don’t put it on the military’s units anymore..

    • They still do it on their non-goverment products. On the MRO it is PSA 18:28. Which according to Google is “For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.”

    • FulMetlJakit

      Personally I would appreciate a Sun Zsu quote on my optic…

  • sb

    so….are they any good? (just asking)

  • Harry’s Holsters

    Back in high school my buddy’s dad bought 10-20 of fake ACOGs and Aimpoint micros to put on his ARs. The Aimpoint clones looked fake and were complete crap. Dot turned off on first shot of a 223 and fell off the gun by round 5. On a semi auto 22 it lost it’s ability to hold a zero in 5 rounds. We got better groups just holding still and pulling the trigger than actually aiming. Dot disappeared within 15 rounds and the mount shook off the gun by 25 rounds.

    The Trijicons you could guess were fake but only up close. They were enough to pass to an unsuspecting customer at a gun show. They had no magnification and held up better on the guns. They could go 50 rounds on a gun before the zero became non existent. He gave then to us to play with and we destroyed them. He probably spend $50 and optic and could’ve had 1 or 2 quality optics for that. This was pre primary arms and holosun being considered viable even as plinkers.

  • MindMelder

    Thanks China. Another reverse engineered knock off product

    • Stephen Paraski

      Thank the buyers.

  • Tom

    Fakes are getting harder and harder to spot, you can bet a few months from now the fakes will have fixed these more obvious issues and they will be even harder to spot. The reverse engineering and CNC ability etc. of counterfeit goods now days is scary and almost impossible for anyone but a product expert to tell apart. Even the one in this article I bet would fool most people, because they are not Trijicon experts and they don’t have a real one to compare it to.

    • LGonDISQUS

      Time to go to the pawn shop *cough* (kidding)

  • Mike Lashewitz

    I have a gun show Saturday I will be looking. Thank you!

    • Gary Kirk

      One of the biggies to look for is what they referred to as “the seam”.. Which is actually the trim cut from the forged platter that makes the body. It’ll run around the length of the optic as most all trijicon are made with a forged housing.. Looks kind of like the line on some AR receivers.

      You can see it in the 7th pic down, the one under the two cases side by side..

      • Mike Lashewitz

        I did not see any today perhaps tomorrow.

  • Fox Hunter

    Well of course the firearms industry are free from fakes, you are talking about trying to fake real utility, most products that are faked or knock-offed, sell on the basis of the brand name, people are just basically paying only for the brand, so fakes and knockoffs are easy, and you would usually get better value for money with the fakes. not so with firearms. and when you said immoral characters, the people that come to mind are the demonrats, gun grabbers, socialists, abortion fanatics and the rainbow mafia freaks.

    • Stephen Paraski

      Like IO. INC. AKs?

  • Kivaari

    I hope buying name brand optics pays off. Buy them from local dealers that use real wholesalers and you should get the real thing. Have customs inspectors intercepted any of these shipments? Or have they traced them back to the original importer criminal enterprise?

    • Stephen Paraski

      Just about anything can be bought, by anyone from mainland China now. During 2nd Gulf War I had to get a Import/Export License to send “Cleaning Fluid” to FOB Warrior in Kirkuk Iraq to Contractor buddy. Used it to buy chinesimn products from gong lo hui (professional pipe trade and machine tool products) and quality was very poor then. I let License lapse but can now buy as a ordinary consumer and just about any Patent covered product is available for dirt cheap on interweb from China. It is the old axiom of ” if it is to good to be true it is a lie”. You really do get what you pay for. This was one of Trump’s platforms he ran on, the elimination of China Patent Infringements. Most US and EU Companies spend a lot in R&D and constant product improvement, gong lo does not, and this ripping off goes back to 70s with cast iron pipe fittings that were so porous as to allow seepage “weep” at even low pressures at less than 1 psi. Our (the US Consumer) desire for cheap, plastic crap from walmart has fueled our debt and decline. China has no standards, other than cheapness and speed to market.

  • Who knowingly sells fake knockoff products to people they know have guns?

  • valorius

    Nothing Trijicon makes is affordable.

  • Suppressed

    So can anyone tell me where I can get one besides Alibaba? I want to put it on a beater rifle and see how it holds up.

  • Tom Tom

    Sometimes I buy Cocoa Crunchies instead of Cocoa Pebbles. (shame)

  • Tim Stolinski

    You lost me at “Sure, some blame falls on the buyer” when you are looking at an optic and the only things that are noticeably different is the font and font size, some very minor parts and without a side by side comparison that does not fall on the buyer! If I’m at a gun show and see an ACOG for 200.00 I would not take that as a real ACOG, but if it were 900.00-1000.00 it would most likely not trigger my “that has to be fake” scenes!