Grip Hack Part 1: Modifying Crappy A2 Pistol Grips

A couple tools, an old grip and about 15 minutes…

If you’ve ever started down the road of building AR-patterned rifles, you end up with boxes of parts. A cast-off part that seems to just keep piling up is the A2 grip that comes with most lower-parts kits. It is one of the first things to go on most rifles. I feel like it is a placeholder on rifles, kind of like the piece-of-junk plastic sights that come on Glock pistols.

What if we could take that horrible piece of plastic and make a decent grip out of it though? Honestly, it isn’t hard and doesn’t take long. For this little project we need some sort of saw capable of cutting plastic, a file or rasp, some sandpaper and, if you want to take it to the next level, a wood burner.

Let’s look at the A2 grip as it stands. Whether you like the angle or not, we can’t change it, and it really isn’t that bad. But that finger nub? That thing is terrible in my experience and I have no idea who it actually fits. Probably some giant of a man somewhere, but it is totally misplaced for my hands. Too low for just my middle finger to sit above it (especially when getting a high firm grip) and too high to fit my middle and ring finger. Perfect for nothing.

Step one is to cut that off flush with the front of the grip. After we do this, we can use our rasp or file to round out the side of what was previously the finger nub, so that the front of the grip is uniform. We can save sanding it down till later.

Next up is the length. Grip the rifle and see where your hand sits. Unless you have gorilla hands, you probably have a good inch plus sticking out from the bottom of your hand. Use a sharpie, calibrated eye, or just wing it and cut the bottom of the grip off. You can cut it off at the angle of your hand when you grip it, or square to the rifle, dealer’s choice.

The ergonomics are greatly improved with a few easy modifications.

Now, we have a much more ergonomic, not to mention lighter, grip than we started with. Here we get into finishing it. How aggressive do you want this grip? Do you find yourself shooting bare handed from a bench? In which case it may make more sense to go through and smooth everything out.

Or do you run your rifle fast and hard, maybe wearing gloves? In this case you don’t need to be as concerned about how smooth the grip is. In fact, you can move in the other direction with a wood burner. By using the tip, you can melt and deform the plastic of the grip. Creating a more aggressive texture if you so desire. *If you’re new to this, experiment on a P-Mag first.*

As a final touch, using a file and then sandpaper, you can smooth out where the grip interfaces with your lower receiver. Creating nice clean lines that are aesthetically pleasing, but more importantly, don’t create hot spots when handling your weapon over prolonged periods of time.

Bam! We just created a custom grip, saved 15-plus bucks on an aftermarket grip and kept an otherwise useless piece of plastic from the landfill. Not bad for about 20 minutes of work on a weekend.

Depending on your preference, a wood burner can easily be used to add texturing to the grip.

In Part 2, I’ll discuss taking this grip to the next level with respect to customization.

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About the author: Ivan Loomis has spent a lot of time outdoors, backpacking and camping as well as extensive international travel. Eventually, he landed in the Marine Corps in the late 90’s. After a hiatus from the service to race the Baja 1000 a couple times, he reenlisted with the Air Force. Departing that he wound up in a large metropolitan Police Department for a spell before landing in the Security Contracting world.One constant through these experiences was gear and weapons. Having spent time in a lot of environments and with the opportunity to field a lot of equipment, he’s grown fond of well-made gear.He now shares those experiences, adventures, and knowledge through contributing articles and videos to various publications, including his own site:

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • FattyMcNeal May 12, 2019, 10:19 pm

    It’s been 6 months, is part 2 still coming? What other hacks for the A2 grip does the author have up his sleeve?

  • Fred November 16, 2018, 8:55 pm

    I am a gunsmith and I would never hack up an A-2 this badly. the finger groove at the top yes, stippling the front, yes, stippling the back yes, but never shortening the grip. I swore and oath never to do anything unsafe or to remove a safety.. this falls under the heading of doing something unsafe by shortening the pistol grip. the other mods do not seem unsafe, but shortening the grip? WTF!

  • sigmundsauer November 16, 2018, 1:02 pm

    I understand if this mod works for you, and it definitely has merit. However, the standard A2 grip is in fact quite useful. Perhaps not for you. There are circumstances where that finger notch has great utility.

  • Kevin McCarthy November 16, 2018, 12:04 pm

    My favorite grip hack – Replace the A2 with the model that accepts 1911 grips!! Now you instantly have thousands to choose from – or – you can surf to and have some custom 1911 grips made.

  • AJ November 16, 2018, 11:47 am

    Always been a big fan of self-made mods. As long as they are safe, legal, and functional of course….

  • justjim November 16, 2018, 11:13 am

    Well, Mr. Slim (That was meant as a respectful address and not snark) were I to spend $40 I would just go and get a Magpul M.O.E. Save $15 and use that for one of their fancy inserts that allows you to stow a bolt and firing pin.
    Unless you have some other tupperware to stipple, a one time purchase of a kit for use on one kit doesn’t make much sense.

  • Stephen Graham November 16, 2018, 10:13 am

    I like it!

  • Tamara Scott November 16, 2018, 9:41 am

    I layered a few coats of rubber sealant (As Seen On TV!) onto an A2 and an aftermarket grip I bought that didn’t go on an AR, but was used on a Ruger Charger. It greatly improves grip purchase and texture, reminiscent of a Magpul MOE.

    • William L Roan November 16, 2018, 11:46 am

      Even works under woooter!

  • singleshotcajun November 16, 2018, 7:26 am

    Looks like it was shortened for Marco Rubio’s pleasure 😉

  • kyle November 16, 2018, 6:19 am

    This is seriously worth writing an article? It doesn’t even address the real problem with A2 pistol grips which is the fact that they are too small. And here they are making them smaller. Nice.

    • William L Roan November 16, 2018, 11:45 am

      My thoughts exactly! The author must have very dainty hands, because I’m just 5’10” and an a2 grip feels like gripping a pencil to me, and there is little to no real estate past my pinky. The sub-hilt protrusion is the ONLY saving grace for an a2, allowing me to index off of it and get a repeatable grip, but he does away with that. I dig the stipling(a soldering iron would be a better tool for it I think) but that’s it. And the advice to use a 15 dollar p-mag on which to practise? Are you smoking bath salts? A2 grips cab be found for a couple of dollars or FREE – if you know just about anyone who has built or modified an AR, they’ll be glad just to get rid of them.

  • Slim November 16, 2018, 5:22 am

    Don’t use a wood burner! Use a stippling kit that is pretty much a wood burner except it’s meant to do the job of stippling which is what your doing when you add a grip surface to any grip. You can buy different tips that screw in and out with just your fingers that makes different patterns/shapes with each bit. You can go to places like Brownell’s for this equipment. I bought a basic set for around $40 and came with a few tips and then bought a few more tips separately from ODT for $5-$15 per tip. It does a professional job.

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