AV, an SSD correspondent, recently visited Hodge Defense Systems after getting ahold of one of their production carbines, the AU-Mod1 which he reviewed here on SSD in September. He wanted to see what made it ‘tick’ and we were lucky enough to get a first look inside Hodge Defense Systems. As AV tells it, the Hodge shop isn’t big but it’s got one heck of a lot of character and it’s cranking guns out, built by hand, one at a time. AV is a Veteran with service in the SOF community having recently returned from about 9 months in Afghanistan and is an avid hunter and shooter in his spare time.
I had the distinct opportunity to spend an afternoon recently at Hodge Defense Systems, Inc in San Antonio, Texas. The purpose of my visit to was to see for myself what makes the AU-Mod 1 so unique compared to other guns on the market. Having spent years dealing with Force and Unit level requirements, collaborating with industry and having carried a rifle in recent engagements, I believed I would be able to easily discern whether there was something special going on at Hodge Defense Systems or it was mere coincidence that the rifle performs as well as it does.
Although Jim Hodge wants his rifles to speak for themselves, his credibility with industry professionals is solid. While remaining behind the scenes for years, he has consulted on a number of projects with some of the top rifle manufacturers today. Also, having extensive experience working as a contractor and trainer in some less than ideal places in the world, he has built quite a few rifles over the last decade for his teammates and associates to ensure they had the tools required of their profession. When talking with him, you quickly realize this is a guy who knows the platform as well as an appreciation for its capability.
When I arrived, Hodge was involved in the assembly of a lower receiver and I was able to talk with him about his processes and vision as he completed it. One thing readily apparent is he believes that quality, consistency and dependability are what makes a professional tool. As a result, the AU-Mod 1 is not built on a traditional assembly line. Each rifle is individually assembled without being passed from station to station for different parts to be added. This individual attention allows Hodge and his small staff to ensure every single pin, spring, detent, and component is put together precisely in the proper configuration. Hodge is passionate about the details and the wounded Veterans he employees share his enthusiasm thoroughly.
Hodge and I talked quite a bit about the handling of the AU-Mod 1 and why everyone I know who has spent time with the rifle, says its handling is uniquely in a category of its own. The journey to the AU-Mod 1 was a long one. Over the past decade he has spent countless hours and personal funds researching, selecting, and testing different components in multiple configurations to find the perfect balance and lightest perceived recoil possible. From his experience, he believes those two characteristics are critical, but to achieve them he is unwilling to sacrifice quality, consistency, dependability or cost, even in the slightest. The result of this quest is a rifle that has uncanny balance, strategically selected components, rock-solid dependability, and performs like an extension of its operator.
While the AU-Mod 1 is essentially a spec’ed gun, it is exploitation of a precise configuration which enables its unique handling. And, it is the overall combination of the best-in-class parts he sources (several manufactured exclusively to his spec), via unique alliances within industry, which make the rifle a professional’s tool. With that in mind, there is a unique Hodge Defense Systems design coming soon. He has begun refining the prototype of the AU-Mod 2 by paying attention to every component of the platform and striving to make it better, while still allowing compatibility with Mil-Spec parts. The new rifle will incorporate an entirely new hand guard and subtle attention to many overlooked components to make it more functional while retaining the operating system and classic lines. Most interestingly, the AU-Mod 2 also has something coming in the way of materials that the industry has yet to see in use.
Hodge is fond of saying, “If you get it, you get it.” And that statement is proving more true everyday as the rifles make it into the hands of consumers, industry professionals, gunfighters, and national-level competitors who are saying it is indeed a remarkable package. From the outset, Hodge’s goal was to build a rifle for gunfighters and he has accomplished it well, but the Hodge Defense Systems AU-Mod 1 also provides a distinct advantage for self-defense, competitors, law enforcement, and sportsman alike.