Times are getting tough. Budgets are short, paychecks are smaller and law enforcement work loads are bigger. If you’re like me, you invest your own money and time into your training and equipment. Most years I put myself through at least one school on my own dime. If my agency does not have the money to issue me what I feel I need in order to do my job or do it better, I buy it myself. In these tough times it’s getting harder and harder to afford these things or to travel for the training I need.
This past summer I needed a barrel made for one of my rifles. I could have bought it from one of several reputable manufacturers, but I was on a tighter budget than usual. I contacted Mike Badella, who is an owner of B&M Gunworks out of Madera, Calif. I asked Mike if he could make the barrel I needed. At the time I didn’t know it, but B&M Gunworks already had been making AR-15/M4 barrels for several large companies, and has been doing custom and mass production barrels for several years. Mike said they could make me just about anything I wanted, chrome lined or Melonite finished. The shop has come a long way from when he first started to do work for me more than 10 years ago. The best part is that B&M could build a custom barrel to my specifications at a lower price than ordering a comparable product off the shelf.
That first conversation with Mike sparked an idea: What else is in my backyard? I started by contacting some guys in the business and asked them who else is in our area. The list began to grow and was diverse in both products and services. I ended up having to limit it to only companies in Madera County. If I expanded the list to include neighboring counties, the list would have become too big and the point of this article would have been lost.
I stopped by B&M Gunworks to work out the details of my barrel. While there, I was given a full tour of the shop. They had just finished applying a Cerakote camouflage finish on a customer’s Barrett M99 and matching M98B long range rifles. Both guns looked beautiful with matching finishes. B&M left areas of the controls for the scopes black so that they were easily seen to make adjustments. The detail of the camouflage finish was impressive. The bolt, bipod, scope covers and muzzle brakes were painted in a pattern that blended with each component.
When I was asked to pick out a barrel, a large industrial drawer was opened to show stacks of barrel blanks to chose from, both standard and stainless steel. Once I chose my barrel and Mike had all the details of what I wanted, he took my barrel over to the lathe and started working. In no time he had my barrel profiled exactly the way I wanted.
He then installed the undrilled front sight base and ensured that everything was square and correct. Once the work on the barrel was completed, it was packaged up with several other barrels and sent off to have a Melonite finish applied inside and out.
The next place I visited after B&M was Houlding Precision Firearms (HPF). Houlding Precision was once known as Houlding & Kaufman Ironworks. Todd Houlding and his wife are now the sole owners and are producing some outstanding CNC machined billet AR-15 type rifles. Talking with Todd I learned they are now offering even more versions of their fine line of rifles, including barrel twist rates they had never offered before, and new versions of their upper and lower receivers. HPF has continued to upgrade its products and manufacturing abilities. By combining the capabilities of B&M Gunworks and HPF, I can have an AR-15 type rifle in just about any configuration I want, and in nearly any color or camouflage I may need, by simply driving 20 minutes from my home.
Continuing on my search I found Rohme Desbien. Rohme is the owner of Desbiens Gun Leather (DGL). I made an appointment and stopped by Rohme’s one-man-shop for a tour.