Meet Ken Clark and Matt Sidley. These men are the proprietors of a modest shop and gunsmithing operation called TPM Outfitters in the town of Carrollton, Texas and between them have two decades of experience tinkering and working on firearms. While there are many gunsmiths and custom shops in America, the men who run them typically seem to be much older guys who act like it is a privilege for you to be doing business with them, not to mention their absurd turnaround times. I have never written about a gun shop or gunsmith before, but after having utilized the services of TPM Outfitters and been given quick shop tours and a look into how they do things, I was blown away by these guy’s attention to detail and services offered. Before I get into it, let me lay out a bit of history.
Ken worked professionally in the steel industry for six years in Europe before moving back to the States where he worked for none other than Murray Urbach. For those who don’t know, Mr. Urback was to H&K guns what Carroll Shelby was to Mustangs. He was well known for his attention to detail, quality builds, and good nature. Ken began working for Urbach in 2002 for a sum total of six years, where he learned the skills necessary to start his own operation when Murray retired. Matt’s background is also interesting; Before his foray into TPM he was a stunt driver, which he still does on the side! While that doesn’t necessarily prepare you for gunsmithing, he also came from the steel industry and did work for Urbach. The one negative thing people have to say about Murray Urbach was his turnaround times, so what Matt did was found out about the backlog (which included many of his own firearms) and got to work on them. Now I have called gunsmiths to inquire about the status of a firearm before, but I have never felt compelled to say “hold it, I am coming up there to help you guys”. After working together, Matt and Ken decided to start their own operation out of Ken’s garage in 2008, but in 2009 moved to the current Carrollton site and TPM Outfitters was born.
The way I found out about TPM was very serendipitous too. When I was working on my SL8 to G36 conversion I was browsing a local message board looking for someone who could pull the barrel and do plastic welding on it. A man responded who is a local and reputable AK builder saying that he could probably do it, but after we exchanged a few emails he said I should probably take it to Ken and Matt. I had no idea that some of the country’s best H&K specialists were just short drive from my house, and this was the first time I met them. I must say that I was expecting a pair of grumpy and condescending guys and a 6 month turnaround time, but when I walked in the door I was greeted with a smile and congeniality. Matt and I talked for a while about my gun and what needed to be done, but he also was happy to show me other wares, even post-sample stuff that is only available to law enforcement and military buyers. If you have read my G36 conversion article, you can see that it turned out great and the turnaround time on their work was about a month and a half or so.
The second time I used their services, I dropped off an MR556A1 upper I bought to have cut down to 10.4″ and given the 416 treatement (which includes welding and refinishing the gas bleed-off port). Turnaround time on this: a day. Not even kidding here. I dropped of the upper, and got a call the next morning from Ken saying that my upper was done! I was blown away by this, and the upper looks perfect.
So what, America has plenty of gunsmiths and gun shops, what makes this operation unique? Well, any gun lover would walk in and have to wipe the drool off their mouth after seeing their inventory:
The funny thing is that this is only a portion of it, as it was all I could fit into a photo! TPM stocks transferable machine guns and all kinds of other NFA items, which in it of itself is very unique. They even make their own in house suppressor that has outperformed cans from many popular and big name manufacturers:
I of course also had to stage a photo op with their Beretta 93r. These guns are just too cool!
And I couldn’t resist doing the same with the SAW. Boy do I feel bad for the guy in the squad who gets chosen to lug one of these around instead of an M16 variant!
However, as I said that these guys both have experience with Murray Urbach, their bread and butter remains the 90 series. They can work on or build from scratch the entire series of roller delayed blowback guns, and of course do conversions (such as converting a 93 to a 53 and properly remarking it).
Here is an example of a G3 type rife they built from scratch. This gun features one of the old polygonally rifled barrels too, as well as the newer shell deflectors:
They also had a stack of conversions ready to go back to customers that I snapped a photo of:
Those six barreled receivers will undoubtedly result in six very satisfied customers too!
Of course you can’t call yourself an H&K builder without being able to make stellar MP5s, and TPM certainly does that:
They will even make an MP5/SD, and I had the opportunity to see one in the process of being built for a customer. The holes in the barrel are there to bleed off excess propellant gasses in order to make every round subsonic. This receiver is also going to be remarked:
They even had a real MP5/SD can laying around. This is the only authentic one I have ever seen. While they unfortunately cannot sell this to the public (the 1968 Gun Control Act ruled all foreign NFA items as not suitable for sporting purposes, and thus not transferable) it was very cool to see:
Their work goes beyond typical H&K stuff however, as they had some really cool prototypes in the works that they plan to market and sell. While not unheard of, here is an HK51 they whipped up with a ludicrously high capacity magazine. If the 7.62×51 round doesn’t do the job, the flame/muzzle flash should:
Now that has been done before, but this hasn’t:
That’s right, Matt and Ken are in the process of making an MSG90 Kurz DMR type rifle! I cannot wait to see how this turns out, but the idea itself is very cool.
Also on the docket is an integrally suppressed 300 blackout HK53 type rifle:
However when I asked them about this one, they said that they really wanted to place the suppressor farther back into the handguard, so they have made their own barrel in house with threads set farther back:
Again this is another very cool concept that I cannot wait to see come to life.
Now here is where things get real. If you are an HK guy you know that there are many gunsmiths out there that do conversions, upgrades, and modifications. I looked both the guys in the eye and asked why should a customer choose them over another builder. Their response was “let us show you”.
To remark, say, an HK94 with MP5 you have to TIG over the existing rollmarks, grind the weld down, and then remark it properly. Ken has devised a way to dissipate the heat from welding over rollmarks (to prevent any changes in the receiver’s integrity) that is a little trade secret of his. Also, to make the new rollmarks look perfect, Ken and Matt use one of these whetstones… for four or five hours:
These guys are perfectionists to a level that I have not seen before. Without naming any names, they blasted other builders for taking shortcuts such as leaving the factory cocking tube on an MP5/SD conversion. Of course this is something most enthusiasts would not notice, but Ken and Matt would so they make/modify their own cocking tubes in house:
Going this extra mile to make things right has obviously paid off too, as the duo told me that their business has been generated almost entirely by word of mouth, and in my experience this is the mark of a quality operation.
So these guys really know H&K stuff, but that is by no means all that TPM does. Matt was anxious to show me an RPK they built. This is a post sample full auto gun that is graced by some of the most beautiful furniture I have ever seen on an AK variant:
With so many post-sample guns around the shop, I asked if they do many sales to the government or law enforcement, and they said absolutely. One of their hot sellers is their integrally suppressed Ruger pistol that they said local police use to take out lights and such!
Lastly one of the coolest services they offer is incognito barrel threading. To explain this term you need to see it. This precision rifle is hiding a little secret:
Ken and Matt use the end of the barrel as the thread protector so it looks nice and flush with the gun:
And this is a service they offer for all kinds of different rifles:
So that is a quick look into TPM Outfitters and some of their wares, and I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for these guys. If you would like to learn more about TPM, visit their website at http://www.tpmoutfitters.net/ and have a look. You can contact them via their website to inquire about any of the services listed above or if you have something special you need done. I am sure they would be more than happy to try their best to help you out!