How to Choose the Right Grips for Your Handgun

Getting a handle on your handgun presents numerous choices.

posted on December 13, 2021

Searching for the right pair of grips for a carry revolver or 1911 was always a pleasant adventure, one polymer-pistol aficionados may not fully grasp.

I’ve gotten pretty good about being able to swap the grips on a revolver (us pedants call them by their proper name, “stocks,” when normal people aren’t around, by the way) in a hurry.

Personalizing the part of the revolver that interfaces with the user’s hand is an easy thing to do and probably the most “customizing” the typical revolver sees. Because it’s so common, I’d usually install them right there for customers as a “while-you-wait” service if they purchased them at our shop. It was quick and easy and we had the properly sized screwdrivers right there at the counter, so why not?

I’d gotten to the point where even the trickiest Hogue Monogrip installation, which requires adding a little stirrup-looking attachment to the bottom of the grip frame and then sliding the Monogrip up and on while holding your mouth just right, only took a minute or two.

Because of this, it’s embarrassing to admit that swapping out the grips on my own Smith & Wesson Model 57 custom project revolver took more than a decade.

See, the project started out with a 6-inch, square-butt N-frame, and we replaced the barrel with a 4-inch tube. The gunsmith, Shannon Jennings, ground the grip frame to round-butt contours. He then painstakingly reserrated the grooves on the backstrap to make it look like a factory round-butt frame.

Unfortunately, the only hardwood round-butt N-frame Hogue grip we could lay our hands on at short notice was a smooth, uncheckered one in pau ferro wood. It was also a round-to-square conversion grip, thereby covering up Jenning’s work and rendering it kinda pointless.

Oh, well, it was just going to be temporary and would be replaced as soon as I got around to it.

And then I spent years dithering in aptly termed analysis paralysis.

Rubber grips were right out, for a couple reasons. Primarily because I believe a custom gun rates something spiffier than some proletarian, matte-black Goodyears for a grip. Also, I dislike the soft santoprene rubber used by Hogue and some others for use on carry guns because it tends to stick to cover garments and cause printing, and this particular Model 57 had been converted to a round-butt specifically with an eye toward making it totable.

Lasergrips from Crimson Trace were considered, because they’re pretty high tech and a cool addition to a carry-oriented gun. Unfortunately, its N-frame models are all covered in the same sort of soft rubber as the Hogue, and the round-butt ones convert the grip to a square-butt profile, to boot.

Thought was given to something more classically heirloom-style for a set of stocks. I personally enjoy the look of mother-of-pearl, but this was a matte-blue revolver intended for toting, not showboating. Plus, real abalone is fragile and probably wouldn’t survive on a .41 Mag. revolver without cracking catastrophically in short order.

Real bone, elk, Sambar stag, or even mammoth ivory would be the pretty much traditional choice for a nicely personalized Smith & Wesson revolver, but even the cheapest of these materials cost, when ordered in N-frame sizes, about what the donor gun for the project did back in the day. As cool as a set of mammoth-ivory stocks and a Tyler T-grip type grip adapter would be, I’m a writer, not an investment banker, and more’s the pity.

The classic choice, of course, is nicely figured hardwood. You know, sort of like what was already on the gun, but in proper round-butt con- figuration. Oh, and it would need to have some texture to it.

Lasergrips from Crimson Trace were considered, because they’re pretty high tech and a cool addition to a carry-oriented gun.

The smooth Hogue grip was from an era in my life when I’d been read- ing a lot of classic revolver-shooting advice, and when greats from the late Bill Jordan to the very alive Jerry Miculek advocated smooth-textured revolver stocks, I perked up and listened. They claimed the lack of texture aided them in finessing their way into a better grip if they’d gotten a less-than-perfect one on the draw.

Of course, these guys could then clamp down on smooth hardwood stocks and keep the gun from moving because they have the sort of grip strength that can crack walnuts bare-handed. I’m, um, rather a long way from having anything like that kind of grip. It turns out I need at least some texture to keep the thing from squirming in my hands under recoil.

So, probably my ideal choice would be a set of well-checkered hardwood stocks. I love Spegels, but we’re back to the whole “I’m not rich” thing, plus I’m big on instant gratification. Eagle’s Secret Service Grips would also be ideal, and would match the ones on my Performance Center PC13, which was the inspiration for this Model 57 project in the first place.

Instead, I decided to take a chance. I use the Gator Back-style panels from VZ Grips, crafted out of micarta (on the old ones) or G-10 on my custom 1911s. With more durability than wood, the G-10 could be had in at- tractively grain-like patterns.

I decided to try a set of the company’s N-frame round-butt grips in black/gray in the texture that VZ calls “320,” for its similarity to sandpaper of that grit. In grabbiness, it’s about equivalent to the newer SIG Sauer pistol grips.

I’m digging them so far and, besides, if I decide they’re not ideal, I can always change them. You know, when I get around to it.


Sheriff Jim Wilson
Sheriff Jim Wilson

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