UPDATE: Swaro/Kahles Warranty - RF is Back and Initial Impressions/Review

nobody

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Sep 15, 2020
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WARNING: Long Winded Post!

I'm posting this thread not to bash or attack anybody, but I do think it's important to educate people when situations arise. Everybody knows how Vortex handles warranty claims, and they're often referred to as the "gold standard" with warranty work. Typically they'll pay shipping both ways and they have great turn around. We read/hear all the time about how people were treated like kings when needing their old discontinued spotter to be fixed, or how they tell the guy to go to the nearest big box store and swap the gun counter guys straight across for a new one. But it doesn't seem there are as many stories out there about some of the other companies and their warranties. Some will argue that it's because the big boys have a better built product, but whatever the reason, sometimes "chit" happens, and sometimes you need to use a company's warranty. My hope in sharing this ongoing experience is to shed some light, good or bad, on how SONA (Swarovski Optik North America) handles warranty claims, since we just don't hear as much about them first hand.

Full disclosure, I work for Sportsman's Warehouse part time. I can get some products for a pretty steep discount, some for free through redemption programs. This warranty claim is for such a product, a Kahles RF-M 7x25 2200 yard rangefinder. They're not super common in the US, but a couple of other guys at the store use them and really like them and have been very impressed with them. So, I decided to give them a shot. Below is a timeline and descriptions of what occured.

4/6/2021: I placed a "prostaff" order with Swarovski for the rangefinder. I used some of the points I had garnered through working at Sportsman's are selling/learning about/talking about their products for several months, so I didn't pay a dime out of pocket. I placed my order and patiently waited for shipping confirmation.

4/7/2021: Shipping confirmation received, unfortunately it was through Fedex. Locally, Fedex is a JOKE, so I was just praying it eventually would show up.

4/14/2021: Delivery confirmation, rangefinder shows up to the store where I work. I get off at my 7-5 and go and pick up the Kahles. First impressions were that it was built extremely well. It filled my hand well and the rubber armor offered great traction. Came with a really nice magnetic close case and a lanyard. That's where my positive experience ended. After "reading" the instructions (no words, only poorly drawn pictures) on how to change it to angle modified yardage and turning the brightness all the way up, I started to play with it. I was originally using it inside, and my first thought was that the display seemed a bit dim, but I didn't think anything of it. The response time was FAST, even compared to my Sig Kilo, so that made me excited. I then took it outside and ranged a building that was about 400 yards away. This was at about 5:30 in the afternoon, so it was starting to get darker outside. Not totally dark, but not mid-day by any means. The brightness was all the way up, and I couldn't see the display AT ALL. If I ranged the building and then hurried and pointed the display at a dark tree I could BARELY make out the numbers. It was odd to me, I decided to call Swaro the next day and see if they could help me troubleshoot.

4/15/2021: Call SONA and end up on the phone with a customer service rep. I told him what was going on, and asked him if there were different modes that I was missing, like night mode vs. day mode or something weird. He told me no, that I just needed to turn the brightness all the way up. He walked me through it over the phone, and sure enough, I had the brightness all the way up, it was just so flippin dim it didn't matter. He then said he was going to ask a service tech and asked if he could put me on hold. I sat on hold for about 5 minutes, then he comes back on and tells me he has everything figured out and he knows what's going on. I got excited, thinking I would be able to use my new toy right away. He then proceeds to tell me that the Kahles rangefinder is primarily designed for hunters, who usually only hunt when it's almost dark, so it's not designed to work in full daylight. He said if I wanted to use it during the day, I had to use either my hat or my hand to shade the display from the direct sunlight. I was dumbfounded. This is a +/-$700 rangefinder, and the premier optics authority in the world is telling me I can't use it in the middle of the day. I told him that sounded weird, and asked if he was being serious. He told me he was dead serious, and that hunters really don't need a rangefinder during the day since they don't kill animals during the day really.

I got a bit hot, and pressed him a bit. I told him that what he was telling me sounded like a bandaid fix and not a permanent, long term solution. I told him immediately that I was a hunter, and that I've killed the vast majority of animals during the middle of the day, and essentially told him his analysis was dead wrong. He then basically told me that he didn't know what to tell me, that their optical engineers know what they're doing, and that they were the top of the market for a reason and that he wasn't going to question what their company builds. I finally got mad and told him that the Vortex and Sig rangefinders I had worked just fine in the middle of the day, and that I expected more from the "premier optics authority," since they're so quick to point out how much better they are than everyone else on the market. He responded with "well, our stuff should be better than Sig and Vortex." I told him I agreed that it should be, but it isn't.

He sat in silence for a few seconds and then says "well do I need to fix it then? If you think it's broken, I guess I can pay to ship it back to us and I'll fix it." I told him that I either want it fixed or I would just return it and they could reimburse my "points" and I would use them to save for some EL's or something. He said he didn't wanna do that, so he would overnight them to Rhode Island so he could have them worked on. He immediately emailed me a shipping label and told me to get it sent in.

Before I go on, a few caveat's. I was perfectly willing to pay to ship to their facilities. I acknowledge that all companies can have a "lemon" squeak through from time to time. What bothered me and made me mad was the lack of willingness to even acknowledge that maybe they had put out a single faulty unit. Also, I felt like I was just getting told a BS solution in an effort to get off his phone so he could help someone else instead. No personal touch, no "I'm sorry, that sucks," no nothing. It wasn't until I told him that my Vortex and Sig rangefinders worked better that he finally backpedaled and offered up their warranty services. Now, back to the saga...

4/16/2021: Wife drops the rangefinder off at a Fedex pickup location.

4/20/2021: Rangefinder arrives in Rhode Island (verified using Fedex tracking), received automated "we got your stuff" email from SONA.

4/21/2021: Local Swaro rep confirms with SONA that they have received the rangefinder and that rather than fixing it, they've shipped it back to Austria to be torn down and analyzed before they determine how to continue.

5/4/2021: Left a voicemail and a callback number with SONA to get an update on shipping to Austria, since I wasn't even directly notified that that's what they were going to do. No response or call back yet.

Again, my goal is to share a first hand experience with a company whose warranty typically isn't used a commonly as other brands. I fully expect the situation to be properly remedied, but it didn't start off as smoothly as Vortex or Leupold have in the past for me. As soon as I have more feedback, my plan is to continually provide updates to this thread.

Thanks for following along everyone, have a great day!

EDIT: I should add that my brother decided to get the same rangefinder as a "graduation present" to himself. If mine comes back functioning the same way as his, it'll definitely become my #1 rangefinder and easily unseat my others. Easy to use, fast response time, no glare from the display, easily ranged on sagebrush to about 1200 yards. Very impressive and great glass!
 
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Dexter Grayson

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To me it sounds like you need to get your panties out of a wad!

I would be pretty satisfied with the customer service so far. Seems like they’re more than willing to work with you on getting the problem figured out.
 

JohnB

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Aug 28, 2019
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Besides the goofy not working in mid day that sounds about as reasonable as can be.
 
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nobody

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Yes, both of you are correct in that they are taking great care of me. The weird part of the whole situation was the initial conversation, the "goofy" response as @JohnB stated. Other than that, it's been very painless.

Again, please keep in mind that this is SHEERLY a place for me to report on a warranty that, historically, people don't use that often! It's a single data point that people can pay attention to or ignore completely.

UPDATE #1: Just got a call back from a Swarovski/SONA employee. They were able to confirm that the rangefinder is in Austria and being evaluated currently. So right on schedule relative to the 6-8 week lead time originally quoted.
 
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JohnB

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Good to hear. I wish I could get that sort of response from Verizon.
 
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nobody

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I added this to my original post, but one more point to add:

I should add that my brother decided to get the same rangefinder as a "graduation present" to himself. If mine comes back functioning the same way as his, it'll definitely become my #1 rangefinder and easily unseat my others. Easy to use, fast response time, no glare from the display, easily ranged on sagebrush to about 1200 yards. Very impressive and great glass!
 

Spiral Horn

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Oct 19, 2019
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It’s not all that uncommon for SONA to send something back to Austria or Zeiss/Leica back to Germany for repair. But the good news is every time I’ve experienced something like that, the product came back correct. Austrian/German repair and QA is usually first rate.

Had an old Zeiss Dialyt 10x40 B/GA T* with a center hinge that simply wore out. They sent it back to Germany and about 8 weeks later I got it back fully functional with a replaced ocular lens, new eyecups and completely cleaned up. Also included a note of apology for taking so long. Even though it was long past any warranty expiration, there was no charge.
 
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nobody

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It’s not all that uncommon for SONA to send something back to Austria or Zeiss/Leica back to Germany for repair. But the good news is every time I’ve experienced something like that, the product came back correct. Austrian/German repair and QA is usually first rate.

Had an old Zeiss Dialyt 10x40 B/GA T* with a center hinge that simply wore out. They sent it back to Germany and about 8 weeks later I got it back fully functional with a replaced ocular lens, new eyecups and completely cleaned up. Also included a note of apology for taking so long. Even though it was long past any warranty expiration, there was no charge.
Yes, I'm positive it'll turn out just fine. They've been overall pretty great to work with since the initial rocky start, this is just in an effort to share with people the process, since it doesn't seem that most people ever even have a warranty claim with the "Alpha" companies. Thanks for following!
 
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nobody

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UPDATE TO SAGA:

Just received a shipping confirmation from SONA that the rangefinder left Rhode Island today and will be to Utah in one week on a Fedex truck. They originally quoted 6-8 weeks, and when it comes back next Wednesday, it will have been 10, so just outside their quoted time slot.

I will update everyone next week when it comes in and I can use it and mess with it some. Carry on!
 

fatrascal

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Spring Creek, Nevada
I've had nothing but great service through Swarovski warranty. Until recently. I called and in years past a lady with an annoying voice handled the warranty issues and service was superb. But recently I ordered new eye cups for the objective lenses on a pair of EL Ranges and what came was eye cups for the ocular lenses. So I called them back and the guy I dealt with said no problem and he would send the right lense covers but the next day I got an email asking for my serial number, date of purchase, origin of purchase etc. So I sent that information with pictures of receipt, picture of serial number on bino and info I was asked for. I never got a response. So I called them again and got a different guy and I explained everything. I got a huge apology verbally and in an email and they sent what I needed in two days.
I think they currently have a bad egg working in the warranty department and ill be glad when he is gone. Fatrascal.
 

SomeJackassOnAForum

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I've had nothing but great service through Swarovski warranty. Until recently. I called and in years past a lady with an annoying voice handled the warranty issues and service was superb. But recently I ordered new eye cups for the objective lenses on a pair of EL Ranges and what came was eye cups for the ocular lenses. So I called them back and the guy I dealt with said no problem and he would send the right lense covers but the next day I got an email asking for my serial number, date of purchase, origin of purchase etc. So I sent that information with pictures of receipt, picture of serial number on bino and info I was asked for. I never got a response. So I called them again and got a different guy and I explained everything. I got a huge apology verbally and in an email and they sent what I needed in two days.
I think they currently have a bad egg working in the warranty department and ill be glad when he is gone. Fatrascal.


I'd ask for objective lens covers next time. If you're asking for "eye cups for the objective lenses", that doesn't exist, so they sent you an eyecup...
 

fatrascal

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Yes you are correct and we actually had that point brought up in the conversation. After he corrected me, as I was truley wrong calling them eye cups, I told him covers for the objective lenses, and he kinda acted confused, so I told him covers for the big end of the binocular. All of that did not bother me but the second time I called him and he wanted all of my info which he already has on the computer bothers me. I've got a few warranty cards with them and I'm definitely in their computer system so I was aggravated that he wanted all of the info and then he never replied. But every other experience has been top notch. Fatrascal.
 
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nobody

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UPDATE AND FINAL IMPRESSIONS: Rangefinder came back in yesterday and I went and got it during the middle of the day. A coworker and I spent some time messing with the settings and got the angle compensation set up and changed the ranging readout meters to 'Murica units.

We then spent some time outside playing around with it to see if it was going to work. In looking through the labels and paperwork included in the shipping box, there was a work ticket stating that the rangefinder had been tested, found to be faulty, and a replacement was issued. The paperwork included the old serial number as well as the new serial number for the new unit. So they did not fix the old one, they replaced it. This is totally fine by me, but I know some guys have some strong opinions one way or another.

We were able to range one handed without trying all the way to 1,856 yards on a hillside next to the building where we work. We didn't have to steady on the hood of a truck or anything, just hold it up, press the button, and get the range. Read time was INCREDIBLY fast, and unlike other units that require you to push the button once to wake it up and once to range it, Kahles designed this RF to work with only one button push. It'll take some re-training of my brain to get the muscle memory down for this, but so far, I like it.

The rangefinder came with a really nice horizontal carry belt sheath that is held close with a magnetic closure. It seems really well made, and the material reminds me of a cotton duck type material. It should hold up well to harsh brush and rough terrain, but not so sure about the level of waterproofing. The liner is some type of ripstop-esque fabric, so maybe that layer will provide some waterproof protection. I personally prefer a vertical carry sheath (it's just what I used when I first had a rangefinder so it's what I'm trained to use), but this one is nice enough to make me reconsider my opinions.

The rangefinder feels similar to any other rangefinder of this size and price point on the market. Good heft from the magnesium chassis, good grip provided by the texturing on the housing, and the 7 power is easy to hold still on target. It's nothing revolutionary as far as ergonomics are concerned, but it's neutral enough that literally anybody should be able to use it and be comfortable. No weird palm swells or protrusions that would make it favor one hand or position over another.

I've included some photos below showing the construction as well as a view through the rangefinder in front of my house at about 9:30 PM last night. If anyone has any questions, feel free to let me know!

As far as my warranty experience with Swaro goes, I'm overall pretty happy. I think I would give them a B+ on their handling of the warranty claim, only because of the weird experience I had right at the beginning. Now I know many of you will be quick to jump on me and say "But that's just one guy, you can't judge your warranty experience from one guy. You could just as easily get somebody else and they may take care of you!" While this is true, the reverse is also true. You have just as good of a chance of dealing with the guy I dealt with and having things go wonky. If I ever have another warranty claim and have to call to talk to SONA, I will ask to speak to someone else if that guy answers. Because honestly, everyone else there has been so great to deal with that I may as well just avoid him.

To sum up, I WOULD recommend anybody looking for a rangefinder should highly consider the Kahles RF-M 7x25. Pretty much every field review on youtube is in some foreign language, so you won't be able to glean much information from them, but anybody in the Central Utah region can feel free to HMU and I'll be happy to let you try it out! I'll just say, it's what will be in my bino harness this fall, without question! The Sig will be staying home! I will continue to update anybody interested in this unit and am considering doing a long-term review write-up after the season this year if anybody is interested! Thanks everyone!
 

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Dioni A

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Super fair assessment. I have been very happy with how Swarovski has treated me when I've sent things in. Their tune up is almost always more than just a cleaning. Any time I've been charged I have also gotten parts replaced for free along with it. I also think lead times are hugely dependent on which product line is being sent in. Mines always been within a few weeks. Glad to hear it worked out alright.
 
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