I discovered Houlding Precision Firearms Inc. (updated, previously known as Houlding and Kaufman Ironworks) quite accidentally. I was at a handgun training seminar where vendors were displaying their goods. One vendor had an upper that caught my eye because of its consistent finish and eye catching logo. I asked the vendor where the product was made. He told me Madera, Calif., which is approximately an hour away from my local range. This eventually led me to testing an HPF AR-15 upper and Laserlyte’s new Kryptonyte Carbine Green Laser using Military Ballistic Industries 55 grain FMBT bullets.
HKI Inc. is named after Todd Houlding and Tom Kaufman. I spent the day with Houlding, who explained to me that he came from several generations of farmers. They settled in the Madera area prior to the turn-of-the-century. That’s 20th century, not 21st. They farmed the area and repaired farming equipment.
Since I live in the Central Valley I am quite familiar with farm equipment repair. The best welders and machinists where I live are the kids that grew up on farms manufacturing and repairing their own equipment. Houlding’s family made a living from it, which is why HKI Inc. is pretty comfortable around its HAAS CNC machining equipment. This equipment allows them 100-percent repeatable fixturing and machining accuracy to 0.005 inches.
I was able to look at several uppers and complete carbines; the finish and machining is consistent with what some manufacturers charge for “custom” or “select grade” components.
I enjoy several luxuries as a gun writer. First, I got to see an upper cut from a blank in front of me. Second, I received a candid tour of the manufacturing floor. Third, the upper I tested was one that I randomly picked from inventory.
HKI has its advantages as a small company. Foremost, it’s personal. Only a few hands touch the parts and inspections, and test firing is done one at a time in a deliberate process. Second, HKI is willing to experiment. I got to see the product of its experimentation: A fishnet camouflage finish.
Houlding told me that a nearby shop profiles the pre-rifled barrels, while HPF applies the coating to the parts prior to fitting. Thus, all of the processes to make most of an HPF rifle are either at his shop, or at the nearby barrel maker.
When we talked about plans for expansion, Todd shared a little bit about his philosophy. “Don’t overreach”, he told me. HPF has a solid reputation for reliability, which comes from being overly cautious. He has had some LE reserve time of his own and wants the tools that come from his shop to have the same care as if he carried them himself.
I asked Todd where he test fired his guns and he answered my question by taking me there himself. It’s in fact a nearby ranch with plenty of acreage for shooting. I rarely let a chance to shoot pass, and we ran a few rounds down some HPF gas block piston carbines.
Family history is also part of the persona. The company logo is actually the nose art from the B-17 in which Todd’s grandfather was a crew member.
My upper is in matte black with an 18-inch mid weight chrome lined barrel in a flattop configuration. HPF tops this one off with a Troy Industries Medieval muzzle brake. The barrel is free floated in a Troy Industries MRF M4 Carbine Battlerail (Troy MRF-C7) — one of the highest quality forends in the industry today. What is under the hood looks like Mil-Spec parts, except the oversized charging handle latch.
I tested the Laserlyte Kryptonyte laser because I heard it projected its green dot at 100 yards in bright sunlight. It uses a CR123-type battery and has a remote pressure momentary switch. I was quite satisfied with our ability to track the green dot at carbine ranges. From 25 to 50 yards, I was able to lay the green dot on a textured surface and accurately place my bullet. In moderate sunlight or on an overcast day, the green laser prevailed. Indoors or at night, its advantage was quite evident.