In Lottery Balls Or The Papal Limo, White Offers Security

September 29, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

When police agencies worldwide want to test the accuracy of a firearm, they turn to a company nestled in the rural hills of northern Harford County.

It's one of the few companies in the world that tests ammunition, guns and armor used by military and police agencies.

It is also the company that weighs all of Maryland's lottery balls to ensure they weigh exactly the same.

The company is H. P. White Laboratory Inc. in Street.

Although White has a worldwide reputation, it has just 29 employees at its testing site in Street and six employees at an engineering lab in Riverside.

"There's not a business like this in the whole world, to my knowledge," said Donald R. Dunn, president of the company. "We get involved in so many weird things."

Despite the serious nature of the many kinds of tests White performs, Dunn said the company is regarded as a fun place to work.

"Everybody likes what they do," the 56-year-old Northeast resident said. "It's different every day. It's not a drudgery for most people."

The company started as a forensics laboratory for law-enforcement agencies but today specializes in testing weapons for manufacturers of military and sporting goods.

White does about $2 million in business annually, Dunn said, and usually averages about $200,000 in annual profits.

"We have a reputation that dwarfs our physical facility," Dunn said at the company's 25,000-square-foot building in Street.

Known around the world in police circles -- from Scotland Yard tothe South African game preserves to the Hong Kong Police Department -- the firm's reputation has been built on its high-quality testing of firearms, explosives and armor, Dunn said.

That reputation has led to White's involvement in some high-profile incidents, Dunn said.

For example, the firm was hired by CBS News in the 1960s to evaluate the Warren Commission report on the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. CBS was preparing a series on the report's findings.

White also was hired by defense attorneys for Claudine Longet, the estranged wife of entertainer Andy Williams who was accused of shooting a lover.

Longet claimed the gun misfired in the shooting.Dunn said his company's report showed that it was possible that the gun malfunctioned.

White also has been hired for such clients as Oliver North, Pope John Paul II and Middle Eastern sheiks.

For North, the company tested the vests made by his body armor company, Guardian Technologies Inc., Dunn said.

For the pope, White tested the bullet-resistant glass of his "bubble" limousine, Dunn said.

The company also has tested the strength of armor used in limousines for sheiks. In one case, a manufacturer brought a limousine and the sheik'sstaff to the White testing lab. White employees fired rounds of bullets into the vehicle to test how it would stand up to an attack, Dunnsaid.

The company is the exclusive testing laboratory for the U.S. Department of State and the National Institute of Justice.

Building materials used in the state department's embassies are tested by White to withstand bullets and bombs, Dunn said.

To get accurate information, White employees use federal specifications to build replicas of some areas of embassy buildings to test for protection againstattack. The replicas are constructed at the company's 250-acre site,and employees set off explosions and fire weapons at the structure.

Also on site is a photography laboratory containing hi-speed motion picture cameras and two 100-foot indoor ranges equipped with X-ray equipment.

White assists the Institute of Justice in deciding which new weapons and bullet-resistant materials should be approved for use by U.S. law enforcement agencies, Dunn said.

The firm also tests the safety and performance of hunting and personal defense weapons at the request of gun manufactures, such Beretta Corp., Colt Industries Inc., Remington Arms Co. and Smith and Wesson Inc.

White also tests hundreds of state lottery balls each year.

Dunn joined the company in 1971 after researching and developing weapons and counter-insurgency devices for 10 years with the Navy and the CIA.

Two of Dunn's sons, Eric and Craig, now work as engineers at White.

The company was founded in Cleveland in 1936 by Henry Packard White, an heirto the Packard Motors and Singer companies. White moved the company to Harford County in 1952 after he served at Aberdeen Proving Ground during World War II.

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