Custom crafting and first-rate firearms

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.

It wasn’t too bulky and kept its alignment throughout the test. It mounted under my optic with a profile lower than my mount, and didn’t crowd what was already on the rails.

I put the Laserlyte pressure switch on the right side of the mag well, but I think I will experiment with Magpul’s Angled Fore Grip (AFG) before I mount one permanently. The beam on this laser is abrupt, and I would have liked to have had it on every high-risk stop I ever made. Where the dot goes, the bullet goes. I mounted the HKI upper to my Franklin Armory lower and headed to the range.

Military Ballistics Industries is an ammunition manufacturer that does not cater to civilians. This is ammunition for law enforcement and security professionals, which means its quality control standard is high and the product is not remanufactured. For me, it meant my groups touched at 50 yards and the entire test went flawlessly.

My setup put most of the weight forward of the midpoint of the carbine, mostly because of the profile of the barrel. I had some extra things mounted, like lights and optics, but they did not contribute to the balance significantly. The weight and the muzzle brake allowed me to rapid fire at 25 yards and smoothly transition from target to target.

It took me a while to mount my optic and sight in. Between the top rail of the receiver and the forend, there is an abundance of room to mount just about anything. After that, I enjoyed a day of almost no muzzle rise and practicing lateral movement.

I have subsequently put many more rounds through an HPF upper without a hitch. Considering a couple hundred of these rounds were my own reloads, I can testify that I had a pretty good time.

While we were walking through the shop I mentioned that there were several local officers talking about the HPF breaching door. Houlding told me the local sheriff’s office had a training session on breaching, and for some reason the original plan fell through. Then an officer contacted Houlding with a special request. The officer sketched out a rough drawing of what he needed in a breaching door and asked Houlding if he could make one.

“When do you need it?” Houlding asked.

“Tomorrow.”

I wouldn’t have agreed, but Todd did. He showed me the door and the HPF innovative spirit was revealed to me in a simple plan. You see, most breaching doors require something proprietary to hold the door closed. This is usually a plastic insert or a similar object that goes through the frame and part of the door. This object is broken or sheared under the correct amount of force. One usually has to order these through the manufacturer. The HKI breaching door uses 1/2-inch dowels and 2-by-6 sections. Instead of having to keep this stuff on-hand, a quick trip to the hardware store keeps an agency training all day. The frame is indestructible; the panels are the parts that break.

The HPF upper is an all-day shooter, suitable for that traffic stop gone bad. The HPF breaching door is a better mousetrap.

HPF has an interest in becoming the type of manufacturer that commands pride in ownership for something an officer would count on to get him home after his watch. I got to peek at some of the future innovations already being planned at HPF, including new calibers and something that only a custom manufacturer can do. I couldn’t be more proud to live in the Central Valley.

 

Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer who teaches at Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif.

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