Meet Cliff Ray, head of new distributor Optical Solutions, and his amazing InfiRay thermal imaging products, fresh from the production conveyor belt in China…
The gun trade is renowned for its characters, and there are plenty in it who can say they took the unconventional path to success. Which brings us neatly to Cliff Ray, an entrepreneur who’s setting out to disrupt the thermal imaging market by bringing what he clearly believes to be a superior product to the market at a very competitive price.
Gun Trade News first met Cliff at the British Shooting Show, back when sharing a room with someone was not considered criminal activity, and what we saw there of his product convinced us that what he had was something worth taking a longer look at. So some weeks later we finally caught up with Cliff on the phone and asked him how he came to be in the gun trade.
“Ah,’ Cliff laughs, “it’s a bit of a story…”
“So, I’ve been shooting since I was 16, and I love it but it’s never been my source of income before. When I left school I did a degree in Physics and Electronics, and after graduation started working for a computer company as a salesman, selling what at the time was high-end kit, video editing solutions, that sort of thing.
“After a while I decided I wanted to get a life and get away from London, so I started teaching Physics for a couple of years, while writing educational software for myself on the side.
“This was in Felixstowe, so I decided to volunteer for the local lifeboat. In 2013, we were on call during the floods and we set off on a job. Anyway, the guy who ran the local boat, was driving us along to a callout, towing the boat, when he lost control and we rolled over a few times and I broke my wrist. It was only a small break—but really painful—and I suffered with chronic regional pain syndrome.
“That put paid to me writing software for a while and I had about three years of agony in my wrist until I finally got it fixed, in the meantime I wasn’t even able to hold an air pistol.
“So when I finally got it sorted I really wanted to start shooting again. I’d missed it, and I started looking for a thermal scope. Well, I had no idea how hard or how expensive it was going to be. I arranged to see one—took a three-hour detour to visit the shop—and when I got there they didn’t have the right batteries even though they knew I was coming.”
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“And I wondered if there was an opportunity here—maybe to sell some myself as a bit of a hobby or a sideline. I worked with ATN for a while and started selling some of their stuff, but that didn’t work out, and eventually I came across InfiRay about 14 months ago.”
“At that point they had no exclusive distributor, anyone could buy them and sell them on, but I was impressed enough to become their sole UK distributor last September.”
Cliff’s enthusiasm for his products is clear. “The day before the lockdown I was at a grouse estate just above Newcastle and that single demonstration resulted in 20 sales in the next week-and-a-half. Head-to-head, the image quality absolutely blows everything else out of the window.
“I put it side by side with the leading brand in the market, and when I did that for a badger cull 120 people who saw it all agreed it was better than its rival. ‘Why is your £1,800 spotter better than my £6,500 scope?’ they wanted to know. Then I show them the scope, and the reaction is often “Why is your scope so much better than your spotter”.
So how can they be so good and so affordable? “Fundamentally, unlike everyone else, InfiRay manufacture everything from the ground up, so they’re not sub-contracted, they’re not buying in sensors, they have a giant R&D laboratory of their own and they make everything from scratch.
“Their quality control is fantastic too. I’ve had two faulty units out of over a thousand. And in one of those instances someone had dropped one and damaged a dial so I just screwed a new one back on for him.”
So does Cliff think he’ll face a challenge scaling up if demand is as high as he anticipates? “They ship around 6,000 spotters a month and that’s not their main business, and turnaround for me is very good—if you said you wanted 600 riflescopes from me today there’s not a nine-month backlog, you can have them by the end of the month.”
And Cliff thinks his scope is about to get even better: “I’m just taking delivery of the latest version of the scope and they’re better still—with 12 Micron sensors and some clever technology that means when you zoom in you just don’t get the pixelation you’re expecting.
“So with a 384 sensor you can zoom in to 3x digital magnification and still have a non-pixelated picture. Basically the quality of these products is outstanding, the ergonomics are every good, the controls are excellent (so you can change black hot /white hot zoom on just a couple of key presses) and you get a three-year warranty.”
Get in touch with Cliff by calling him on 07484 186094 or emailing email@example.com—or see him at The Northern Shooting Show.
As good as they claim?
Although none of our sister magazines have run a full review yet, senior editor and airgun expert Mat Manning has taken an InfiRay SCL35 SAIM out for an initial test spin. Here’s an excerpt of what he had to say in Airgun Shooter magazine:
“SCL35 is a fairly pricey piece of kit, although it is certainly at the more affordable end of the thermal market. The first thing to strike me when I took it out of the box was just how compact it is; it’s only about 190mm long and tips the scales at around 420g.
“The neat little optic was supplied with a Picatinny-type mount so I coupled it with my HW100 Bullpup, which is fitted with corresponding rails. The gun and optic paired to make a nice-looking combo which felt great in the shoulder.
“The Saim deserves a full review, which I will bring you in a forthcoming issue but, until then, you can rest assured that I have been very impressed with it. It offers lots of options including magnification up to 4x, various colour schemes, adjustable image quality and brightness, and a selection of reticle designs and colours.
“These choices are easy to shuffle between via the basic menu and there is also an advanced menu which allows you to make even more adjustments, including zeroing.”
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