Brunton, Inc. is a manufacturer of technical outdoor gear located in Riverton, Wyoming. Brunton is well known for innovation in the categories of recreational compasses, navigational equipment, and survey instruments.
David W. Brunton, a Canadian-born geologist and mining engineer, and William Ainsworth, a skilled watch repairman, founded Brunton in 1895. The firm is most famous for its earliest product, the Brunton Pocket Transit. Geologists, foresters, surveyors, and archaeologists use this handheld compass and clinometer. Often simply called a "Brunton", the Pocket Transit was first patented in 1894 by David Brunton, who commissioned William Ainsworth & Sons to manufacture his invention in Denver, Colorado. The company later incorporated as William Ainsworth Inc. and for many years produced the Pocket Transit along with surveying transits, theodolites, and other instruments.
By 1965, William Ainsworth Inc. was owned by a series of corporate conglomerates, and product quality varied as the company changed hands repeatedly. In 1972, a group of businessmen from Riverton, Wyoming bought the company and formed Brunton, Inc. In Riverton, Brunton began producing a new series of recreational outdoor compasses, hunting knives, and binoculars in addition to the Brunton Pocket Transit.
In 1996, the company was acquired by Silva of Sweden AB, the original Swedish-based manufacturer of the Silva brand compass. Initially, Brunton sold Silva of Sweden compasses and GPS devices imported from Sweden under the Elite Pro Elite, Nexus, and MNS labels (Johnson Outdoors retained the exclusive rights to the Silva ® brand name in North America). Brunton began sourcing some of its compass models from Asia.
In 2006, the Silva Group was acquired by the Finnish Fiskars Corporation,. Along with the rest of the Silva Group, Brunton became part of the Outdoor division of Fiskars. As of 2009, Brunton, Inc. employed about 40 people.
In December 2009, Fiskars announced the sale of Brunton Inc. to Fenix Outdoor AB, a Swedish company. As a result of Fiskars divestment of Brunton Inc., Silva of Sweden AB ceased all exports of its Swedish-made compasses and GPS devices to North America, including the Nexus, Elite, and Pro Elite lines. In turn, Brunton ceased export of its model 8020, 8040, and 9020 compasses to Silva of Sweden AB.
As of March 2012, the company employed around 68 people at its Riverton, Wyoming manufacturing facility.
As William Ainsworth Inc., production of the Pocket Transit(TM) continued; the same basic design remains in production today, in numerous versions and configurations.
In 1970, the company introduced the Brunton Cadet, a simplified evolution of the Pocket Transit incorporating a compass and clinometer, intended for use in training students in the fields of geology, forestry, mining, and surveying. The company soon began marketing the Cadet to instruct Boy Scouts in the principles of surveying.
In 1972, the newly formed Brunton, Inc. began compass and transit production in Riverton, Wyoming. Compasses included the Pocket Transit, Cadet, and an emergency compass called the Life Card, designed to float in a bowl of water. This was followed in 1981 by the Model 8040 Sportsman's Compass(TM), a map (baseplate) compass with folding cover and mirror sight. In the same year, Brunton introduced the Model 9020. This small baseplate compass was designed for hikers, outdoorsmen, and hunters.
Over the next ten years, Brunton would introduce a full range of map or baseplate compasses based on a liquid-filled vial with no-tools adjustment for magnetic declination. This new line included Models 8010, 8020, 8040, 9020, and the compact 9030 Trailbuster. Brunton baseplate compasses with a G suffix (i.e. 9020G) featured bright yellow-green acrylic baseplates. Brunton often included UTM and map scales for U.S. standard 1:24,000 and 1:62,500 USGS topographic maps. The Model 9030 Trailbuster(TM), intended to replicate the popular 1960s-era Taylor Model 2912 field compass, omitted the baseplate in order to minimize space and weight.
In 1991, the U.S. military purchased a number of Brunton Model 8010 Smoke Chaser(TM) compasses originally produced for U.S. Forest Service fire-fighting crews. Assigned an NSN stock number, the compasses were stocked in survival kits for U.S. Navy and Marine flight crews. These Model 8010 compasses used clear baseplates and were equipped with lanyards. The compasses were shipped in plain cardboard boxes with military stock number NSN 6605-00-553-8795. Brunton discontinued all 8000- and 9000- series compasses in 2011.
After being acquired by Silva, Brunton began selling Silva of Sweden compasses and GPS devices. The Nexus line included the Silva Model 15T and Model 25 Ranger compasses, rebranded as the Nexus 15TDC/TDCLE and 25TDC/TDCLE (Nexus 225) Pro Elite. The 25TDCL and 25TDCLE Pro Elite or Nexus Type 225 remains, technologically speaking, the high-water mark of the Silva Ranger compass design.
At this time, Brunton also began importing some compass models from Taiwan and mainland China, including the Model 9030 and Models 9075 and 9077 lensatic compasses. In turn, Silva of Sweden also sold some Brunton models under the Silva Voyager(TM) name.
In 1998, Brunton introduced its Eclipse(TM) range of liquid-filled baseplate compasses featuring low-profile vials, a magnified readout in 1-degree increments, and an unconventional, patented circle-over-circle magnetized disk in place of a traditional pointed needle, set into a shallow liquid-filled capsule. The Eclipse compasses included the Model 8096 GPS, the Model 8097, and the Model 8099 Pro. Like older Brunton outdoor compasses, the Eclipse(TM) series used no-tools adjustable declination. Designed by Brunton, but imported from China, some owners of Eclipse(TM) compasses reported issues with air bubbles forming in the compass vials as well as parallax issues when using the sighting mechanism. The shallow capsule depth also limited the compass' ability to point accurately to north in varying magnetic zones.
In 2000, Brunton introduced an electronic fluxgate compass called the Brunton Outback(TM). Imported from Taiwan, the Outback featured gimbal-mounted magnetic sensors which allowed the unit to be tilted up to 15 degrees while producing accurate readings. The Outback stored up to 10 bearings in its memory. A night navigation mode warned if the user was moving off-track with illuminated arrows. The Outback was eventually replaced by the Brunton Nomad(TM) electronic compass. After complaints about calibration and inaccurate bearings, the Nomad was discontinued in 2011.
In 2009, Brunton stopped selling most Silva of Sweden products. The Nexus and Elite lines were discontinued, as well as the Brunton 54LU (Silva Model 54). The Brunton 54LU was marketed to foresters, surveyors, geologists, and SAR teams before being discontinued. Some Silva models, including the Brunton 15TDCL and Brunton 16DLU, were later sourced from a production facility in China. In 2011, Brunton discontinued the Models 8010G, 8020, 8040G, 9020G, and 9030 compasses.
In 2012, Brunton introduced a new series of outdoor compasses called O.S.S.(TM) (Orbital Sighting System). Like the Eclipse series, the O.S.S.(TM) compasses featured a large liquid-filled capsule and circle-over-circle north indicator. To answer criticisms of the previous Eclipse design, Brunton incorporated several design changes including a deep-well 'global' vial, a serrated outer bezel, and map meridian lines imprinted in the base of the housing (to aid in map orientation). Unlike older Eclipse compasses, O.S.S.(TM) compasses were assembled in Riverton, Wyoming from components made in the United States. As of 2012, Brunton is the only major compass manufacturer with U.S.-based production facilities.
In 2014, Brunton dropped the circle-over-circle magnetized disk/needle design used in the Eclipse and O.S.S. series, and returned to a traditional needle design for the magnetic north indicator. The current TruArc(TM) baseplate compass line uses rare-earth magnets to stabilize the north indicator needle. Equipped with 'deep-well' liquid-filled capsules, all TruArc(TM) compasses were designed from the outset to work in all magnetic zones.
In 2016 Brunton introduced the Axis Pocket Transit (F-5011 and F-5012) which, for the first time, offered simultaneous measurements of both strike and dip and trend and plunge in a variety of configurations. The Axis Pocket Transit features an unconventional lid design that swings a full 360 degrees in both directions and two axes that allow precise measurement of vertical and horizontal angles on all configurations of bedding surfaces. It also breaks from traditional transit functionality in orienting north in-line with the major axis and in sighting through this hinge without the standard mirror and sight arm.
Brunton launched a new series of illuminated field survey instruments and general outdoors (baseplate-style) compasses at the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, June 18, 2017. The Omnisight LED is a lensatic (direct-sighting) surveying compass reminiscent of the previous Brunton Clinomaster, but with LED illumination. The compass is also available with a built-in clinometer as the Omnislope LED. Brunton introduced new photoluminescent dials to its TruArc(TM) line of compasses, and reintroduced the older Brunton 8010 (Smoke Chaser(TM)) compass with clear baseplate, now incorporating a new photoluminescent dial (available in degrees-only or degrees + MRAD (mils).
In 2000, Silva of Sweden AB introduced its Silva Multi-Navigator GPS device. Brunton marketed the product in North America as the Brunton MNS(TM). The MNS featured an electronic compass, barometer, and barometric altimeter in addition to GPS functionality. With a relatively high energy consumption of 210 mA (or 270 mA with illumination on), the MNS had a battery life of around 10 hours. At $399, the Brunton MNS faced intense competition competitors such as Garmin and Magellan. Products with better battery life and improved scrolling menu displays kep the MNS from gaining significant market share. Furthermore, the MNS was not WAAS capable and did not offer internal storage of waypoints, routes or tracks. In 2004, Silva and Brunton introduced a slightly lower-priced, WAAS-capable GPS receiver called the Atlas(TM). This product also failed to gain a significant share of the handheld GPS market, and the Brunton MNS and Atlas were both discontinued by Brunton in 2009.
In 1992, Brunton introduced a line of binoculars and other optical equipment aimed at the hunting and outdoor recreation market. The optics line was discontinued in 2014.