When ATN was founded in 1995, it had the goal to become the disruptive force in the optics industry. Now, 27 years later, few people can say it hasn’t accomplished that mission. But the company isn’t done yet. It still serves elite military and law enforcement units, but it also wants to bring thermal and night vision to the masses with affordable options.
We recently caught up with Steve Lemenov, director of marketing for ATN, to learn how the company has risen to such success and to find out where it is going next.
What Makes ATN Special?
All optics companies need to have some tech people on staff, but there aren’t many optics companies where technology is the driving force behind the brand. “We have internal designers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, optical engineers, software developers, and programmers. We have a huge team of people to make these products,” Lemenov told us.
This highly educated and talented workforce has led to some incredible innovation from the company, but none of it would be possible without the people putting boots on the ground and testing these products on a regular basis.
“We have an extensive team of pro staff, about 30 members or so. Those guys use our products exclusively, basically day and night, and they hunt year-round,” said Lemenov.
That’s a large pro staff who is always testing products to not only make sure they enjoy them but so the general public will also be able to use them. The testing and talent are there to make these products incredible, but how exactly are these optics changing the game?
Driving Change Through Tech Advances
ATN was and continues to be a game changer in many ways. It was one of the pioneers bringing smart features to electro-optics, such as becoming one of the first companies to allow onboard recording in their optics. This gave shooters and hunters that first-person perspective, recording the shooting experience directly through the scope.
“When you engage the trigger, the internal sensors and the optic trigger the recording of the buffer recording. So, 15-30 seconds before the shot, the shot, then 30-plus seconds after the shot. You get the entire perspective of the hunt in that critical moment of taking the animal,” Lemenov said.
If you are wondering if all those fancy electro-optics will fail you in the field, think again. ATN is leading the industry in this charge as well with products that can last about 18 hours of continual use on a single charge. This ensures that not only will you see the shot but everyone else will, too. Many of ATN’s other products are also counted on by military and law enforcement units all over the world, so being ready at the exact right time is of the utmost importance to the company.
It doesn’t just stop at long battery life and recording some video. ATN has set out to make sure that this can be a serious tool for education both for novice hunters and expert marksmen alike. Some of the products incorporate WiFi, so that optic can now broadcast to a nearby phone or tablet. This allows a shooting coach to see exactly what the shooter is seeing before, during, and after the shot. All of that adds up to real-time feedback, which makes it an appealing choice for any shooter.
“We all become better shooters and hunters by learning from past mistakes, and this tool provides essential feedback for new shooters and hunters, and even professionals. Everybody can learn something about themselves and how they shoot to enhance their experience, to improve themselves, and to be better shooters,” Lemenov told us.
Fostering a New Generation
With technology also comes the opportunity to foster a new generation of hunters and shooters who are tech savvy and hungry for innovation. While ATN makes products that anyone who can use a smartphone can operate, it also brings tools that not every shooter might need, such as the WiFi capability. However, it’s this new generation of gun owners that can revitalize the declining hunting numbers while promoting such advances in tech.
“I feel that electro-optics segment companies like us and others are really driving the innovation and bringing in new customers to the shooting sports because more people are interested. They're seeing all these videos, they're seeing all this content on social media, YouTube, everywhere, and say, ‘Hey, I want to do that, I'd like to try that.’ I think it's growing the industry and retaining the amount of people,” Lemenov said, “[Gen Z] wants to be able to connect and share their experiences with others, and we're giving them that avenue in that capability to do that.”
Will capturing the hunt and sharing it on social media be the thing that turns around this decline we’ve seen in hunters? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain, it’s this new generation of hunters and precision shooters who are going to demand the innovation necessary to keep pushing the boundaries.
To do so efficiently and effectively on a nighttime hunt, there is no better tool to turn to than an ATN optic. With the rise in both hog and predator hunting, which is also largely done at night, ATN has seen an increase in its consumer base and answered the call.
“Now, you have a lot more hours to hunt, and do what you love basically, and hunt those species that were elusive, that are predominantly only active at nighttime conditions,” Lemenov said.
Of course, it still serves up some of the best products in the world to militaries, both domestic and abroad. This includes shipping 9,000 optics to Ukraine for its use against the invasion from Russia. While striking back is great, it’s personal for ATN. Both Lemenov and owner Mark Vain come from Ukraine. So do many other ATN employees who work in their European offices and call Eastern Europe home.
Non-Stop Improvement and the Future
ATN is not only committed to developing new products and pushing boundaries but also continuously improving upon its current lineup. It’s one of the great things about electro-optics.
Lemenov shared a story about how pest-control hunters were using air rifles. But the recoil was so light that it actually wouldn’t trip the sensors to record the video needed. Instead of having to go back to the drawing board, the software engineers were able to develop a firmware update that fixed the issue. It just shows how the company goes out of its way to listen to and integrate customer feedback.
“The great thing about electro-optics is we can update the products with firmer updates or add other features based on feedback from customers. We could add different features or tweak features or improve on performance and capabilities by releasing firmware updates based on further testing and customer feedback,” said Lemenov.
With so much innovation coming from the company, it’s exciting to see what’s on the horizon. “There is big news coming from ATN,” Levemov assured us.
But for now, we wait, and that’s partly because of how the company has again listened to the customers and tweaked its business model. It’s no secret that Amazon has changed how people shop, especially when purchasing online. There is now this need for instant gratification. ATN has heard this and has adapted to try and meet that demand.
“We want to be able to, once we launch, to be able to actually start shipping right away to customers. We're trying our best to go away from launching at SHOT and having people wait six months for product releases,” Lemenov told us.
Whatever is on the horizon for ATN and the world of electro-optics, we’re excited.