Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
How a gun feels and functions in your hand is a very subjective matter. Ask two fellow shooters what gun they like to shoot the best and you’ll probably get two different answers: One loves a Commander-sized 1911, the other a CZ-75. They’ll both talk about history and reliability and accuracy and all that, but usually you’ll hear a comment about how it “just feels right.”
Sometimes we carry guns that function “great” but only feel “good.” These could feel better in hand. And by feel better I mean getting a better grip, for comfort or purchase (grip quality). If you have a gun that meets all your defensive requirements and feels good in hand, you’ve found a great gun and fit. If you have a gun that meets all your defensive requirements but could use a little help in the feel/fit department, consider these five ways of improving the grip.
1. Wrap-On Grips
Wrap-on or wraparound grips, such as those offered by Talon Grips, provide a second surface you wrap around the stocks of your gun. They’re custom-fabricated for specific gun makes and models and provide either a rubberized surface or sandpaper-like surface to improve purchase. The grips adhere via a sticky backing and, after they’re on, you warm them up with a hair dryer to more or less seal them in place.
Pro: The grip surface adds virtually no girth to the stocks of the gun and there’s no interference with any of your gun’s accessories or holsters. You can peel them off if they wear out or if you want to change to something else.
Con: This is not a permanent solution. The wrap adhesive and bonding will eventually loosen and you’ll have to do the whole process again.
2. G10 Grip Panels
For guns with removable grip panels, adding G10 panels, such as those offered by VZ Grips, in a scale-like pattern or texture can yield a significant increase in purchase. G10 is a high-pressure fiberglass laminate — in other words, a very strong composite plastic — that can be formed in myriad patterns. Adding G10 panels alone can provide a helpful increase in purchase, but you might want to also consider adding or changing your gun’s front strap and/or back strap to increase it even further.
Pro: It’s always nice to change out an actual part as opposed to merely adding a second surface to a gun. Also, unique designs abound.
Con: Some G10 patterns sport very aggressive textures and, while they increase purchase, they might actually reduce comfort.
3. Rubber Grip Sleeve
Rubber grip sleeves, such as Hogue’s Handall, require no adhesive but simply slip on a gun’s stocks. They don’t slip on easily, but the brief wrestling match you’ll endure to get them on will reward you with a sure and solid grip with a lot of purchase. Grip sleeves might include finger notches in the front strap, a higher-riding back strap, palm swells, texturing and more.
Pro: Whatever the features, the rubber alone does a great job of increasing purchase no matter the temperature, moisture or other conditions in which it is used.
Con: Sometimes clothing can hang up on the rubber, not allowing a covering garment to drape down and over the gun.
4. Skateboard Tape
Moving into a bit more of the DIY realm, some shooters have cut pieces of skateboard tape and wrapped it around their gun’s stocks to increase purchase. Generally, the sandpaper-like surface of skateboard tape (or the similar version of Talon Grips) is meant for use in competition, where a rock-solid grip is essential to fast and sure pistol manipulation. But some people use it on their carry guns too.
Pro: A sandpaper-like grip offers superior purchase.
Con: Clothing (or skin) in contact with this material gets abraded. Plus it can look horrible. And use it enough and it will eventually wear away, requiring replacement at some point.
5. Home Stippling
For those OK with physically modifying a gun’s stocks — in the case of a polymer-framed pistol, actually melting and reforming it — stippling kits are available. Basically, a glorified soldering iron with various patterned tips, a stippling kit allows you to put the ultimate customization to your gun.
Pro: It’s your design and no other gun will be like it. You’ll get outstanding purchase.
Con: You might seriously harm your gun in the process, void any warranty and increase your liability should something bad happen. And you can also easily wreck the look of your gun.
As a side note, many guns now ship with additional grip accessories, such as modular back straps, to aid with fit for larger or smaller hands. Sometimes, this is all that’s needed to improve fit/feel.
For the record, the best feeling gun out of the box for me is a CZ 2075 RAMI with the aluminum frame and rubber grip panels. No changes needed. Perfect fit. For all the other guns that have made their way in and out of my world, I’ve used all of these means of improving grip quality. And I’ve discovered they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
My favorite grip improvements are the G10 panels, especially for 1911s, and the stippling, which I’ve done to my Glock 19 more than once. Yep, 1911s and Glocks are regular carry pistols for me, despite their differences, and each can benefit from a bit of grip customization. If I’m not up for stippling a pistol grip, then I’ll opt for Talon Grips (the rubberized surface) and just plan on changing them out every so often. I do enjoy a rubber grip sleeve, but only if I’m open carrying in the backcountry. But I can see how police officers and military personnel would benefit from such an accessory given their harsher environments. I tried skateboard tape. Once. For about an hour. I’ll only use it again if I’m going to compete with my gun.
What is your best fit/feel gun out of the box? If you’ve made changes to your grips or stocks to improve purchase, what’s your preferred solution?
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.