Re: Kowa rifle scopes
Kowa probably got out of making rifle scopes for the same reason that LOMO and Zeiss got out of making amateur astronomy equipment. They refused to lower the quality to where the amateur community would see a low enough price that they would buy in quantity. LOMO and Zeiss turned mainly to professional users in government/industry/science/medical because they are large scale manufacturers that cannot be supported by a few well-heeled amateurs that are actually willing and able to pay for high end optics.
Everything from Kowa I ever priced was rather expensive. Since they do not manufacture outside of Japan, they will never be as big in general amateur sales like Nikon and the other better known Japanes based companies. Look for Kowa to be better represented among professional users of optics.
And yes, optics manufacturing is like car batteries and skis. I know that ski companies build for their competitors. For instance, Fischer can build a cross country ski for Atomic even after Fischer has quit offering that model. When I shopped for backcountry skis, Atomic and Fischer seemed to be the same ski in some models except for graphics and base crown pattern. There is only one company in the world that makes the laminated wooden cores that go in wood core skis. No matter what brand of wood core ski you buy, the wood core came from that one company. Out of dozens of Nordic ski manufacturers of X-C skis that once existed, I know of only three that have survived. No matter what brand of high end sport boot you buy, it probably has a Vibram sole on it. If it doesn't say Vibram, then you bought second best sole at the most. So almost every high end boot that is made is part Italian.
In optics, you will find that even fewer companies make the glass than those who make the optical instrument. The glass and lens coating technology is at the forefront of technology. Hanging the glass into position in an optical instrument body is the easier part of the building problem. Kodak gave up on high quality cameras long ago to concentrate on film and chemistry, where the real technology and money was concentrated. They then got cheap cameras into everybody's hands to use the high quality film and chemistry that really brought in the money on a steady basis. Users of really good cameras were and are in the minority. Film and chemistry always made more difference than brand of camera when I was a navy photographer. We used Kodak film by far the most, except when Polaroid instant was necessary to the task. My Photo Chief was involved in the Navy test of various 35mm camera systems, and they found almost indiscernable results across all good brands of lenses. Film differences are instantly obvious.