The 1911s long and storied history includes countless design iterations, not only with internal and external functionality but also with basic elements of design. And the 1911s stocks, which include its grip panels, are no exception. The grip panels can be easily changed, and they are often the parts that 1911 owners change first in order to add either a bit of extra functionality, personal flair or both.
Over time, we have seen numerous materials used for 1911 grip panels, each with pros and cons and each able to tell a story or improve a shooter’s ability to use the gun. Here are my top five materials used in 1911 grips.
Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:
- Top Five Night Sights for Handguns
- And Top Five .38 Special Self-Defense Rounds
- Top Five New Old Guns
- Top Five AR-15 Accessories
- Top Five Autoloading Pocket Pistols
While wood grip panels were an option for early 1911s, they continue to be offered today. In fact, you can find 1911 grip panels made from rosewood, walnut, cocobolo and more. Wood 1911 grip panels can be manufactured in a variety of styles, from a smooth and highly polished finish to a scalloped or scale design such as the one you see here.
While some might be tempted to think wood grip panels are intended for looks only, they do have a functional element to them. Generally, they provide good grip quality when working in harmony with the 1911s natural pointability and whatever material comprises its frame. In other words, while grip panel material is important, it is better to consider the features of any material in light of the rest of the gun.
The scaled wood grip panels pictured here provide excellent purchase on their own, but they are helped by the grooved mainspring housing on this particular 1911. Wood grip panels can get chipped or discolored over time. For some, that is the inherent beauty of a well-used tool. For others, it is a nuisance.
Like wood, plastic grip panels were also an option for early 1911s and still continue to be offered today. Plastic manufacturing technology has been around a long time. It has improved over time, and the advances have made this material very cost-efficient. So, this might be the value option for 1911 grip panels.
Plastic can, of course, be manufactured in seemingly endless designs, and it is not difficult to find grip panels with aggressive checkering or texturing meant to help increase purchase. Plastic grip panels are generally very durable and can handle just about any fluid they come in contact with. But depending on use, they can get chipped or broken. Since they are so inexpensive, replacing them will not break the bank.
The checkering you see on this grip panel works in conjunction with front strap checkering to give the shooter a very solid hold on this gun.
Rubber grip panels are a favorite of mine regardless of which gun they’re on. But I really enjoy rubber grip panels on a 1911, especially when they are connected to rubber finger grooves.
Many of you will recognize the gun in the picture as a Colt Defender with a Hogue grip. Note the pebbled texture of the grip panels and the large finger grooves in the frontstrap. Once you wrap your hand around a gun equipped with this kind of grip, you will be amazed at the hold you have on it. It is rock solid. Even without the finger grooves, rubber grip panels provide a significant increase in purchase.
Best of all, even grip panels with a significant amount of rubber exposed do not harm a gun’s concealability. Despite the grippy texture of rubber, cover garments will still drape over the gun’s stocks. Rubber grip panels provide excellent purchase no matter the temperature or conditions.
Aluminum grip panels are strong and lightweight and really provide you with an opportunity to aesthetically express who you are and what you believe. I am not a skull-and-crossbones type of person, but I surely like the look of these red aluminum grip panels. And because aluminum grip panels can be manufactured with a full range of color options and high-resolution graphics, the design possibilities are endless.
Of all the grip materials here, aluminum is the smoothest and therefore the easiest to conceal under any cover garments. I have never had any problem with any aluminum grip panels. But there is a concern to be registered here. It is how the grips would perform if either they or my hands were wet or if I were shooting using gloves. It seems like there would be more potential for slippage.
G10 is a fiberglass laminate. It is basically an engineered substance that, due to its light weight and high strength and durability, is usually manufactured into firearm grips, knife handles and other tool handles that see abusive environments. The substance can be manufactured in many different colors and textures. It provides some artistic and aesthetic capabilities as well.
Many firearms and related tools offer grips or handles in G10, and for me, it’s a toss-up between G10 and rubber as to which is the best material for 1911 grip panels. The beautiful blue grip panels you see here have an aggressive texture which helps you handle the recoil of this 10mm gun. Note the thumb indentation on the grip panel which helps a shooter find the magazine release.
Other grip panel materials include ivory, pearl and bone. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Some are purely functional, and some are mostly aesthetic. What are your preferred 1911 grip panels and why?
About the Author: Mark Kakkuri is 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.
Discover how you can join more than 200,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.