[ Editors note: The author of this review no longer writes reviews on semi-automatic rifles because he now works for a firm competing in this segment of the firearms market. This review was written and submitted to TFB before be knew about or applied for his present job. ]
In a crowded AR-15 market, especially in a contracting market, manufacturers have to find their niche and set themselves apart. Hailing from Madera, California Houlding Precision is a AR-15 manufacturer offering unique billet AR receiver sets and complete rifles. Houlding sent TFB their HPF-15 Utility Battle Rifle, one of their most popular offerings for our review.
So, has Houlding Precision found a niche? If so, what makes the Houdling Precision HPF-15 Utility Battle Rifle special? Read below to find out.
The HPF-15 UBR arrived in the usual firearms discrete cardboard box. Thinking that I would then be exposed to further typical packaging, i was pleased to see that the Houlding rifle shipped in a hard-sided case. The case is embossed with Houlding’s logo and conveys a premium experience, even though the hard case was not itself a premium product. I appreciate the extra care taken in packaging the weapon.
Opening the case, the rifle juxtaposed itself nicely against the typical eggshell type padding. The cerakoted FDE receivers, buffer tube, and surprisingly the barrel. The furniture on the rifle was typically black, coming equipped with MagPul accessories. The stock was a ACS, the grip a rubberized MOE+, and the MBUS were the latest generation. Nice touches instead of using the CTR and hard plastic grips that typify standard-grade rifles.
Its all tied together under a single very industrial and aggressive aesthetic philosophy. To me, this looks inspired by an Abrams tank. Canted hash marks line up across the upper and rail. Weak points are reinforced with purpose and the receivers are hefty with appropriate markings for full-auto functionality. Completely unnecessary, but entirely appreciated.
I turned my attention to the receivers. Both the upper and the lower are billet receivers, machined to match at Houlding. The two fit together like a glove with no discernable wobble. Notably, there is no dust-cover on the rifle. The take-down pins popped in and out easily and the rest of the rifle rounded out a high-end offering. The UBR includes the extended-length Houlding Precision CMX handguard (at 13″), their “Irish Curse” muzzle brake, a BCM Mod 3 charging handle, and it arrived with a Geissele SSA two-stage trigger.
Shooting the Rifle
I have to get this out of the way, The HPF-15 UBR is still an AR-15 at its heart, with all of the strengths and weaknesses thereunto pertaining. It still has the “cheesegrater” buffer tube sound, direct-line recoil pulse, and puff of gas from the ejection port. If you don’t like an AR, this rifle will not convert you.
But, if you do like ARs, you will like the HPF-15 UBR. The charging cycle is incredibly smooth, helped by the reduced friction of the coated bolt and Cerakoted receiver. It locks into battery easily and the safety has a distinct click upon activation. We have waxed on about Geissele triggers enough, but suffice to say, the trigger does its 4.5 lbs job very well.
Handing the rifle is intuitive, but heavier due to the billet receivers and heavier profile barrel. The weight was further increased by a Leupold Mark AR 4-12x. The total package is not something I would want to hike or keep for TEOTWAWKIT, but for slinging lead on the range or for 3-gun, its entirely doable (although for 3-gun, I would rather have the single-stage trigger).
Accuracy was excellent, aided by optics and a trigger that allow the shooting to wring all the performance out of the . Shooting at 100 yards on sandbags and a Caldwell rest produced typical groups for an impressively accurate rifle. XM-193 shot about 2 through 2.5 inches (center to center) depending on how nicely I coached it to the target and match ammunition was consistently clover-leafed at 50, pushing to about 1″ at 100 yards. Geco .223 Remington (55 grain) shot the best group at .75″ with four on top of one another.
Recoil was typically AR, but aided by an effective muzzle brake. The HPF “Irish Curse” is a certainly interesting design aesthetically, but it sufficiently vents gasses and in combination with the hefty receivers keeps the muzzle on target under spirited trigger-pulling.
I experienced two back-to-back stove-pipes using Federal XM-193 when the rifle got dirty and ran dry. Adding lubrication returned the rifle to normal function, but combined with the lack of a dust cover, this rifle is not meant to get dirty in the mud. Its meant to shoot pills in the same hole quickly and easily.
- “Match” accurate. Tested at less than 1 MOA with high-quality ammunition.
- Aggressive aesthetics
- The billet receivers are solid, fantastic machining, and fit together impeccably.
- Double-stage trigger is great for super-accurate shooting, poor for running it 3-gun fast.
- For the price, I would like to see ambidextrous features; at least a safety.
- I’m all about muzzle brakes, but the Houlding model is very sharp. I cut some pants on it while walking cross-body muzzle down. They were nice pants…
It this point in my shooting career, I have stopped asking “what is the best AR-15” and instead asked the question: “Is it worth the money?” There are just too many good rifles out there from many talented companies to unequivocably state that something is “the best.”
So, looking through the “worth it” lens, I am seeing a good picture. The HPF-15 retails for $2,350 with street prices for rifles floating around the $2K mark. At this price level, I would expect solid fitting parts, excellent accuracy, and a few unique features. The HPF-15 UBR checks all the boxes.
My take? The HPF-15 UBR is a good buy for those looking for a high-end, accurate AR-15. in a marketplace of many “me-too” offerings, Houlding’s product is worthy of consideration and money for those looking for that “something” that speaks to them. That said, Houlding should change the name to ABAASR (Accurate, [email protected] Aesthetics, Sporting Rifle).
Features from Houlding Precision – HPF-15 Utility Battle Rifle:
- HPF-Irish Curse Muzzle Brake
- Match Grade 16″ or 18″ Mid Length 1/8 Twist Barrel
- Low Pro Gas Block
- HPF-CMX Handguard 13”
- HPF – G2Set Receiver Set
- BTE Single Stage Trigger (Note, the test sample had a Giessele two-stage trigger, not a single stage).
- Magpul MOE Plus Grip
- Houlding Super Slick RCA Bolt Carrier Group
- Magpul ACS 6-Position Stock
- Magpul MBUS Sites
- Cerakote Finish
- Weight:8 lbs, Unloaded
- Length Collapsed: 34 1/2″
- Length Extended: 38″