Leica is one of the oldest and most successful names in the ecosystem of sports optical products. Although most people recognize the brand because of its world-class cameras, the company also produces a number of optical products for commercial, personal and military uses, including binoculars, microscopes, riflescopes, lenses, ophthalmic lenses. With more than 150 years of optics heritage, the Leica brand has become a symbol of pride for Germany.
Originally called Optisches Institut, Leica was founded as a small optical workshop in Wetzlar, Germany in 1849. The founder, a German mechanic called Carl Kellner was intrigued by the advent of microscopes at the time and wanted to establish a factory that would produce better devices than his competition. His hard work soon paid off when his workshop gained popularity for manufacturing microscopes of high quality in 1851. The production and sales were severely affected in the years following the sudden death of the owner in 1855.
Ernst Leitz joined the company in 1864 as an employee and assumed complete authority after the passing of Frederic Belthle, an apprentice hired by Carl Kellner. Later he added his full name into the name of the company in 1869. Following immense success in the microscope business, the company opened its first international outlet in the city of New York in 1892. Under Leitz’s governance, the small Wetzlar workshop turned into a large factory and annual production rose to 4,000 microscopes by 1890.
After establishing a loyal customer-base, Ernst Leitz – Optisches Institut – Wetzlar began producing Binocle 6×18 binoculars at its Wetzlar location in 1907, which set the foundation for Leica Sport Optics. The binoculars were later followed by high-quality spotting scopes. By the 1960s, Leica binoculars had gained so much admiration that NASA decided to send Leica Trinovid to the Moon aboard the Apollo mission in 1969.
An optical engineer by the name of Oskar Barnack joined Leica in 1911 for working on binoculars. In his leisure time and using the company’s resources, he developed the first working model of a portable camera which used 35mm photographic film. The device was termed Leitz Camera, after the chief executive, Dr. Ernst Leitz II. The camera became an instant hit among the masses and Leitz officially added it to the company’s product line. Considering the high popularity of the Leica range of cameras, the company was renamed Leica in 1986, using “Lei” from Leitz and “ca” from the camera.
The First Leica Riflescope
Leica had already been successful in the binoculars business, therefore, adding another sports optics product was the understandable choice. In 1950, Leica began experimenting on developing hunting riflescopes, which stood out from other brands thanks to the “true” internal focusing system. The company unveiled three riflescope models in the following years, but seeing the popularity of binoculars and spotting scopes, Leica decided to temporarily suspend the production of riflescopes.
After about 50 years, Leica re-entered the riflescope business by introducing two Leica ER riflescope models in 2009. Today Leica offers a brilliant range of hunting riflescopes that are designed for novices as well as professional hunters. Leica riflescopes are popular for superior build quality, and premium features, such as high colour fidelity, multi-coated optics, and improved contrast.
To cater to the high demand for Leica cameras after WWII, binoculars, and spotting scopes in North American markets, company officials started looking for a production facility in the region. In 1952, Leica established a factory in Midland, Ontario, Canada, which was meant to increase Leica’s production capacity and become a hub for quick delivery of Leica products to Canada and the US. However, the factory did not last much longer and the company decided on a factory location in Portugal. The reasons for switching the location vary from extreme climatic conditions to high production and labour overheads.
At present, Leica products are manufactured and assembled at two locations, Leica Camera AG in Wetzlar, Germany, and Famalicao, Portugal. Leica officials claim that both production facilities have the same level of manufacturing and quality control standards.
Leitz Park, Wetzlar, Germany
Leitz Park is located in the industrial area of Wetzlar, Germany, and consists of the primary manufacturing facility, the Leica Academy, Ernst Leitz Museum, and an on-site factory outlet where visitors are encouraged to make purchases of authentic Leica products and accessories. The World of Leica Experience, another major attraction, is also located at Leitz Park, where visitors can admire photos taken by professional Leica photographers, in addition to the latest innovations in the Leica world.
The Wetzlar factory produces several products, including riflescopes, digital cameras, binoculars, and spotting scopes. Unlike binoculars, where mechanics play the role in focusing, riflescopes are built with a systematic zoom capability, which requires first-class raw materials and precise dimensions for all metal and glass components. Additionally, riflescopes have to withstand gun recoil, which is why mechanics play an important role. For this purpose, the manufacturing floor is equipped with a range of computerized CNC milling machining centres, glass grinders, coating equipment, and inspection instruments. The assembly area is environment-controlled to keep dust and dirt particles from entering the optical housing of products.
Over 1,800 highly skilled people are employed at various positions at Leitz Park. The workforce is highly trained to perform efficiently at their respective workstations. Assemblers wear specialized lab coats, gloves, and appropriate hair coverings to prevent any dirt from damaging glass parts. Quality control procedures are carried out by skilled examiners as wells as inspection instruments for effective recognition of problems. Non-conforming parts or products are sent back to respective areas for problem rectification. The high level of commitment to superior quality is the reason why Leica is among the top camera and sport optics brands in the world.
Famalicao, Porto, Portugal
After closing down the factory in Midland, Ontario, Leica set up a workshop in Vila Nova de Famalicão near the municipality Porto, Portugal in 1973. The small factory was intended to manufacture microscopes, but seeing its potential, Leica management shifted the manufacturing and assembly of R3 cameras to the new factory in 1976. The site saw several small renovations over the years until 2014 when the company carried out a significant expansion to mark 40 years since the establishment of the factory.
Presently, the new factory employs a workforce of 720 and is spread over 52,000 sq. meters, of which 13,600 sq. meters is dedicated to manufacturing. The annual production capacity is estimated at 15,000 riflescopes, 40,000 binoculars, and about 20,000 cameras. Like the factory in Germany, this factory also features state-of-the-art equipment for manufacturing and quality control of all products. The Famalicao factory also houses a Logistics and Industrial Engineering department that identifies conflicts and provides systematic solutions for supply chain problems.
Presently, Leica produces riflescopes in both Germany and Portugal. We have categorized all Leica riflescopes based on where they were produced.
Made in Germany
The following Leica riflescopes are manufactured at the well-known Wetzlar production facility. They are branded with “Made in Germany” to let prospective customers know they are getting the best of German engineering.
Magnus is Leica’s premium line of riflescopes that are designed for the most challenging situations. Originally unveiled in 2011, the Magnus line is equipped with a number of high-end features, such as 6x zoom, high-performance mechanics, auto on/off illuminated reticle, up to 91% light transmittance, excellent contrast ratio, high-fidelity colours, parallax-free on the distance of 100m, Nitrogen waterproofing, and resilient, uni-body construction. The word “Magnus” which is Latin for “wide” was strategically used to emphasize the ultra-wide field of view of the series. Furthermore, all outer surfaces of lenses are coated with Leica’s signature AquaDura coating, which protects exposed glass surfaces from dirt, water droplets, and accidental scratches.
A robust design and high-end optics allow the Magnus to be used anywhere, from driven hunts to low-light pursuits and long-range shots. Knobs are designed in a way to ensure easier operation even with gloves. Reticle illumination comes with 60 levels and the riflescope is fitted with a position sensor to automatically switch off the illumination when pointing upwards, downwards, or placed upside-down. Moreover, the zeroing of the scope can be carried out by simply pressing the turret and turning.
Magnus riflescope is available in four optical configurations:
- 1.8–12x50i and
All models can be ordered with Zeiss ZM/VM rails.
The PRS is a relatively newer product from Leica and is equipped with several premium features, such as a 90 mm eye relief, large exit pupil, above 90% light transmittance, AquaDura coating, Nitrogen waterproofing, high-performance mechanics, parallax adjustment from 20m to infinity, sharp contrast levels, and a compact, ergonomic design with 34 mm main tube. Designed primarily for long-range shooting, the PRS is packed with a 6x optical zoom and an incredible 30x magnification. Therefore, if long-distance shooting is what you looking for, PRS is the first Leica riflescope in MIL/MIL class.
The PRS riflescope is only available in a brilliant 5-30×56 configuration. Three reticle options are available: L-4a, L-Ballistic, and L-PRB – all in First Focal Plane.
Made in Portugal
The following Leica riflescopes are produced exclusively in the Famalicao factory. Consequently, these products feature the “Made in Portugal” branding to stand out from German-made riflescopes.
The Fortis 6 is a masterpiece in the 6x zoom class of premium riflescopes. Whether it is stalking or a driven hunt, the Fortis 6 is designed to outperform its competition with a range of world-class features, starting with a long 90 mm eye relief, parallax-free at 100m, large exit pupil, an unparalleled field of view (44m at 1x), high-performance mechanics, protective AquaDura coating, and a second focal plane for the reticle. Another interesting feature is the auto on/off reticle illumination, which uses a sensor to switch on and off illumination to save power.
Fortis 6 comes in a lightweight and compact 30 mm main tube, which is made using high-quality raw materials to prevent damage to internal optics from accidental falls. Additionally, Nitrogen fog and waterproofing come standard in all Leica riflescopes.
Fortis is available in 1-6x24i, 2-12x50i, and 2.5-15x56i optical configurations. A rail option is available for all models, while the BDC turret option is only available for 2-12x50i, and 2.5-15x56i models.
The 6x optical zoom has become a gold standard in most of Leica’s hunting riflescopes. The Amplus 6 is another entry into the world of premium Leica devices with a design to perform during driven hunts as well as low-light hunting. The riflescope is equipped with an excellent field of view and an exceptionally large exit pupil for its class, making it the perfect choice for both beginners and experienced hunters.
The Amplus 6 comes in lightweight and shockproof Aluminum housing, which enables hunters to focus on the game without getting tired. Additional features include Nitrogen waterproofing, AquaDura multi-coating, high-performance mechanics, parallax-free from 20 m to infinity, and a second focal plane for illuminated reticle.
The Amplus 6 comes in 1-6x24i, 2.5-15x50i, and 2.5-15x56i configurations with L-4a reticle. A BDC turret option is also available (except for the 1-6x24i model). These are the most affordable rifle scopes produced by Leica.
After nearly 50 years, Leica re-joined the riflescope business with the unveiling of ER riflescope in 2009. The original riflescope was re-designed in 2013 to incorporate premium features, such as 4x optical zoom, 91% light transmittance rate, amazing contrast ratio, a long 10cm eye relief, auto on/off reticle illumination, a second focal plane for the reticle, adjustable parallax from 50m to infinity, and multi-coated lenses. ER comes in a compact, one-piece construction with shock-proofing and Nitrogen waterproofing. Equipped with high-performance mechanics, this riflescope can withstand the most powerful recoils without any problem.
ER is only available in an unilluminated 6.5-25×56 configuration and comes standard with BDC turrets with zero stop function. ER comes with multiple reticle options, L-4a, L-Ballistic, and Magnum Ballistic.
Tempus ASPH Red Dot Sight
Although different than a riflescope, the Tempus red dot sight is a wonderful attachment to hunting rifles for speedy shots on any running game, whether during driven hunts or steady pursuits. The sight comes is equipped with an aspheric lens, which ensures brilliant light transmittance and a crisp and well-lit image of the red dot. Additionally, the lens provides high-quality imaging with wonderful contrast and vivid colours, so even without magnification, you do not miss any details of the wildlife during challenging situations.
The red spot can be changed between 12 intensity levels and features an automatic switch-off feature to save battery. The sight is milled from a single piece of Aluminum metal, which keeps the weight to a bare minimum as well as protects the glass surface.
Tempus red-dot sight is available in two red spot sizes, 2.0 and 3.5. A protection cover prevents damage to the housing or internals in case of an accidental fall.
While most European and North American manufacturers have partly and fully relocated and outsourced manufacturing operations to countries with comparatively lower production and labour costs to maximize profit margins, Leica has striven to keep the production of all products, particularly sports optics, in Europe.
Although outsourcing does help in increasing profits, it may affect the quality and performance of most devices, specifically riflescopes, which require specialized production methods. While countries like China, Myanmar, and Philipines have upped their technological capability, it still cannot be compared with the European standard of raw materials and manufacturing procedures. Additionally, most customers associate quality with European products, which is why companies like Leica, Zeiss, Kahles and Swarovski make most of their riflescopes in Europe.
Leica riflescopes are produced in both German and Portugal factories. Leica claims that products made in either location carry the same standard of quality and performance. In our experience, we have found this claim to be valid. Regardless of their origin, products from Leica are made to withstand the most challenging of situations, thanks to the materials and manufacturing methods employed. Therefore, if you are looking for a durable riflescope that could survive extreme conditions and last forever, Leica is the way to go.
is an experienced author from the field of sports optics. He writes articles and reviews about binoculars, spotting scopes, rifle scopes, long range shooting and other topics for magazines like Lovec and Optics-Info.com blog. Currently, he is a member of Optics Trade team.