Handguns: Modular Polymer Grip Frames

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posted on August 8, 2016
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Once upon a time, when the world was fresh and new and all handguns were revolvers, you could tailor your sidearm to the size and shape of your own hand pretty easily and cheaply. You could get grips (or, more properly, “stocks”) that were smooth or textured, big or small, with or without finger grooves, and made from all manner of materials.

Sometimes this resulted in odd mismatches of guns to shooters. For instance, lots of people would buy Pachmayr’s Bill Jordan reproduction grips because of Jordan’s reputation as a legendary lawman and exhibition shooter (plus they look cool). Not many of those people would stop to realize Bill Jordan was well over 6 feet tall and had humongous paws that wouldn’t have looked out of place exchanging high-fives on an NBA court.

On the other extreme, however, was the ability to perfectly tailor one’s handgun to one’s own hand size and shape. Custom shops existed that would fit one-off grips just for you. Some advertised in gun magazines and just asked for a traced outline of your hand to be sent in. If you were of a handy bent, you could always try making the perfect grips yourself. How hard could shaping some wood be? And if you messed up, it’s not like you’d hurt the gun; you could just pitch the mangled grips and start fresh for the cost of the raw materials.

This whole grip-modularity thing held pretty true through the first waves of semi-auto pistols, too, since everything from the Colt 1911 to the double-stack, alloy-frame “wondernines” of the ’80s had interchangeable grip panels. It wasn’t until the rise of the polymer-frame guns, typified by Glocks, that this really changed.

Those who owned these new polymer guns found the ability to modify the grip to fit their hand somewhat limited, with most modifications involving homemade or store-bought slip-on rubber sleeves or adhesive-backed textured tape.

Soon, companies like Robar began offering custom frame modifications to Glocks and similar guns. Grip recontouring, grip reduction, texturing, removing finger grooves or adding them; all these services were eventually available. Intrepid home tinkerers subsequently began performing their own modifications, exchanging tips on stippling and grip reduction via Internet fora.

The problem, of course, was unlike just bolting a couple slabs of wood to your Smith & Wesson revolver frame, altering a Glock is actually working on the serialized part of the firearm. If you boogered up the frame, you’d boogered up the gun itself. You were going to be sending it back to Glock with a sheepish note explaining how your pistol’s frame accidentally and all by itself mysteriously fell over onto a soldering iron 1,348 times and how much would they charge for a replacement?

Sure, some people may be comfortable rolling their own, but I’m a chicken. I’ve seen bad stippling jobs, like this FNS-9 I used to have. I bought it because I felt sorry for it. The previous owner had apparently started stippling one night and never stopped. I guess he was just never happy with the borders and so he’d stipple a little further out, hoping to get a nicer, neater border, and this went on until the gun was stippled from the tip of the grip tang to the edge of the dust cover.

That’s why, up till now, any stippling, texturing, re-contouring, or whatever work of that nature I needed done, the gun was going to be getting shipped off to a professional, like Boresight Solutions or Robar.

Anyway, all this reminiscing is a build-up to just how neat I think the new innovation of using a removable, serial-numbered chassis in newer pistols like SIG Sauer’s P250 and P320 series is. I’m sitting here holding a SIG frame to which I might need to make some modifications, and all the trepidation is gone.

If I mess the thing up, it’s not like I’ve hurt the serialized part; there will be no need for FedExing stuff overnight to the factory and sheepish admissions of my ham-handed, ten-thumbed, shadetree gunsmithing skills. This is more like the old revolver grip days; SIG sells the replacement grip modules for less than 50 bucks. If I mess up, I can just order a fresh one off the Internet, chuck the ruined one, and nobody need ever know how badly my attempt at shortening and stippling went. It can be our little secret!

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