See, company founder Blaine "Rock" Tompkins is a fighter pilot. With multiple combat deployments in the U.S. Navy and Air Force under his belt, Tompkins became involved with the F-35 Lightning project in 2009. The F-35, one of the most advanced aircraft ever made, allows for a plane-pilot interface facilitated through the use of a highly sensitive $500,000 electronic helmet. Immediately, Tompkins noticed an issue.
Commonly issued helmet bags weren't enough to protect the high-value technology used inside these helmets. And pilots couldn't fit protective hard cases in the cockpit. So, Tompkins developed an inflatable soft case that protected these valuable helmets, and Air Armor Tech was born.
The Air Armor Tech Extreme 16 scope cover operates on the same principle as a car airbag. It uses an internal air bladder made from high-strength material that, once inflated, provides a durable, energy-absorbing cushion of air that protects optics from dings, damage and loss of zero during transport. The bladder is inflated through the use of a port found inside of a zippered pocket on the side of the cover.
To use the cover, simply envelop a mounted optic with the Extreme 16 and then use the two buckles to wrap the cover around the stock of the rifle, securing it in place. Once the straps are secured, inflate the cover to ensure the optic is well-protected from the elements.
Since the cover is secured around the forearm and small of the stock, shooters can make use of the carry handle on the top of the cover to tote their rifle from place to place. In addition, the cover features a secondary pouch for the storage of small accessories. Finished using the Extreme 16? Once deflated, the entire cover rolls up for compact storage in any pack.
The Air Armor Tech Extreme 16 also has several other built-in benefits besides optics protection. Simply remove the inflated cover, and shooters have a ready-made, malleable and adjustable shooting rest that allows them to shoot on any ground anywhere. Also, for those on the water, the scope cover can float with up to 21 pounds of equipment attached, saving rifles and optics from a potential watery grave.
One thing to be aware of with this system is that, with the cover attached, all rifles become a single-shot affair. The cover allows for use while mounted, even including flip-up covers on either end of the product that allows shooters to see through their glass. However, the inflated cover prevents shooters from accessing the bolt of a rifle. Feasibly, some rifles on the market, like break-action single-shot hunting guns, do allow for multiple shots while the cover is mounted, but without a cutout for an ejection port or any way to manipulate a bolt-action or semi-auto rifle, most shooters are limited to one shot.
Also, bear in mind that this is a highly specialized piece of gear intended to preserve and protect valuable, high-end optics. The $249 price tag may initially seem a bit steep, but if it spares a $3,500 scope, that's a cheap investment. If your shooting endeavors take you out into the wild, where dings and scratches can occur, the Extreme 16 scope cover may prove quite useful.
In addition to its Extreme 16, Air Armor Tech also offers its technology in shorter-length Tactical 12 scope covers and full-size gun cases.