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How Do Russian Snipers Get American and European Sights

This is not a problem — tens of thousands of them are imported into Russia, supposedly “for installation on hunting weapons”

26 Dec 2023
How Do Russian Snipers Get American and European Sights
The fighter is Russian, the sight is Austrian. Screenshot: YouTube

“Nazism must not exist on our land, and Nazism must be destroyed,” a sniper of the Española, volunteer military unit of football hooligans, says in a video by a Belarusian propaganda TV channel. 

The fighter poses with a sniper rifle, mounted with a telescopic sight from Kahles, an Austrian company that makes products for hunting and sport shooting. Dozens of videos can be found on YouTube in which Russian fighters demonstrate sights from Western manufacturers — Leupold (USA), Nightforce — one, two, three, four (USA — Japan), Holosun (USA — China), Swarovski Optik (Austria).

According to customs data, 16B rubles (≈$180.5M) worth of rifle scopes were imported into Russia in 2022-2023. The purpose is “for installation on hunting weapons” and “not for military use.” But in fact, as seen on YouTube, at least part of it gets to the Ukrainian battlefront.

YouTube has dozens of videos of snipers showing off European and American sights (Nightforce is featured in the screenshot)
YouTube has dozens of videos of snipers showing off European and American sights (Nightforce is featured in the screenshot)

The leaders in sights’ imports are the online stores Pointer and Navigator. Pointer from St. Petersburg operates under the slogan “We have everything for successful hunting.” Since the beginning of the war, the company has imported almost 50 thousand sights of the American-Chinese manufacturer Holosun for more than 3B rubles (≈$33.8M). In total, goods for hunting and sports, many of which are also used at the front, were imported for the amount of 17B rubles (≈$191.8M).

“Hunting” goods from Pointer in 2022–2023 were bought, in particular, by arms companies. The manufacturer of Orsis rifles, Promtekhnologia, purchased products worth 55M rubles (≈$620.4K). Store named Hunt, which is owned by the makers of Bespoke Gun rifles, purchased products worth 33M rubles (≈$372.2K).

Navigator from Moscow has imported sights worth about 400M rubles (≈$4.5M), including more than 2 thousand Holosun sights, since the beginning of the war. In total, the store imported such goods worth 4.5B rubles (≈$50.8M).

Among Navigator clients is St. Petersburg-based Tekhnologiya, which has been linked to the deceased owner of Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin. It purchased optics, rangefinders, eyeglasses and other equipment worth 140M rubles (≈$1.58M).

The Moscow-based arms company, which produces Bespoke Gun rifles, purchased American Nightforce telescopic sights and other goods worth 12M rubles (≈$135.4K), and its associated hunting store Hunt — worth 19M rubles (≈$214.3K). A manufacturer of Lobaev Arms rifles, also bought goods from Navigator worth 21M rubles (≈$236.9K).

Importation of sights and other goods “for hunting,” of course, goes through parallel imports — manufacturers, most likely, do not know where their goods end up. Pointer uses intermediaries in China, and Navigator — in Turkey and Kazakhstan.

Neither Pointer nor Navigator responded to an inquiry from IStories.