Dead Of Winter

When The Snow Flies, It’s Time To Swap The Grips

A recent weather forecast which included the word “snow”
convinced Dave it was time to dig out his Pachmayr replacement
grips and stick them on his favorite wheelguns.

When the weather forecast hinted at snow in my region by the end of the week, it didn’t take long for me to do two things: dig out a couple of revolvers and find my bag full of Pachmayr replacement grips to winterize those round guns.

Winter weather in the great Pacific Northwest foothills country has a nasty habit of surprising even the forecasters, at least some of whom apparently “ain’t from around here.” And, since I only look stupid, and have been through a lot of surprising weather, slapping on the Pachmayrs has always been my ounce of prevention, as it were.

Emergencies do not happen on a time schedule. Nobody calls ahead to warn you of the need to have hardware at any given moment, so whatever you may be packing better be right for the occasion, including the conditions. Everybody I know does some range time in the winter because nowhere is it guaranteed that the aforementioned emergency will occur in perfect weather. Out here in the hills, “perfect” weather will not be appearing for another five or six months.

One of Dave’s favorite gats is this 2 ½-inch Model 19, and he says
it is easy to swap out the checkered hardwood Herrett stocks for a
set of round-butt Pachmayrs for snow duty.

I learned years ago that swapping out the grips on my wheelguns — I prefer packing a revolver during winter months for a couple of reasons: Losing a magazine in the snow isn’t good, losing your firm grip on a handgun is even worse — is being prepared. Besides, in the winter, pulling your wood grips allows for a check inside to see whether any moisture has collected on the frame or the wood. It’s a chance for me to let the grip interior air dry, and then apply a bit of neutral shoe wax and rub it in.

If I have to shoot at something, losing a few empty cases during a reload is preferable to maybe dropping a magazine in the muck or losing it altogether.

Snow has a nasty habit of making people fall down when they’re not drunk or disabled. I’ve learned my lessons after taking a few tumbles on snow-covered ice. A fall might result in a scratched or cracked hardwood, bone or some types of polymer grips, but Pachmayr rubber replacement grips don’t have that problem.

With a couple of HKS speed loaders, the vintage S&W
is ready for anything the Northwest has to offer.

Important Difference

Whenever you swap one set of grips for another, there will be a size difference. The Pachmayr grips for my round-butt Model 19 Smith & Wesson snubbie are smaller in circumference than the Herrett’s I normally have on the gun. But I’ve fired this handgun enough to be familiar with how it reacts with either set of grips installed.

Ditto the Pachmayrs I have for my Colt Diamondback; in a typical northwest monsoon, I can wrap my paw around that sixgun and bring it to bear on a target pretty fast. They’re a bit thinner than my Herrett stocks, but the difference is negligible, and they do tend to reduce felt recoil.

Check the difference in size between the Pachmayr
panel and the Herrett walnut stock in the rear.

In cold, wet weather, when my hands may be stiff and damp, getting a grip around the Pachmayr can be reassuring.

I’ve known sheriff’s deputies back in the day who would pull their factory grips off of the issue revolvers (usually a S&W Model 19 or 27) and mount Pachmayr or Hogue grips around Oct. 1 and leave them there until the end of March. During the interim, their handguns saw a lot of rain, sleet, hail, snow and other gunk, and a set of rubber grips rinses off with warm water.

Round Guns Rule

My normal sidearm is a lightweight Colt Commander, but when I’m out and about on weekends, and as I ease into retirement, it’s more likely to find me packing a sixgun, especially on woodcutting excursions, winter hikes and routine travels. A couple of HKS speed loaders ride in a belt carrier or my winter vest pocket.

Revolvers in the winter just make sense to me, don’t ask why. Any explanation probably wouldn’t pass the smell test. As far back as I can remember in my career when the snow started falling, I’d break out my 6-inch Model 19 in .357 Magnum, slide a 12-round cartridge carrier onto my belt, and go to work. In the days I was editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, the sixgun would be in my backpack whenever the landscape turned white. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it, eh?

One can even find rubber replacement grips for big sixguns
like this N-frame Smith & Wesson. The grip material is impervious
to weather conditions.

As the years passed, I acquired and opted for the snub gun, or my Model 57 S&W in .41 Magnum. Then came a Python or the Diamondback, but always in the winter, there was a sixgun handy. I just like them, and all I need is loose ammunition to keep one running.

I know some younger folks who have zero experience with revolvers. It is sad and astonishing at the same time. They don’t know what they’re missing!

By the Numbers

A few weeks ago, I worked a story about Everytown for Gun Safety, the New York-based gun control group, declaring California to be on the top of their list for good gun laws, which translates to restrictive gun laws.

The group contended we could save 298,000 lives if every state regulated guns as strictly as California.

Here’s something the Everytown crowd didn’t mention: In 2022, the most recent year for which data is available, California also had the highest homicide body count in the nation. That year, according to a website called Statista, the Golden State gave us 2,197 murders. Following California in the Everytown report were New York (762 slayings in 2022), Illinois (881 slayings), Connecticut (136 murders), Hawaii (28 slayings), Massachusetts (148 killings), New Jersey (254 murders), and Maryland (511 homicides).

By contrast, in Montana, where gun ownership is above 66%, there were 49 slayings in 2022, and Everytown put the state at No. 47 on the list of 50. Wyoming, which has the most guns per capita according to one estimate, with 245.8 guns for every 1,000 residents, is 44th on Everytown’s list, even though the state reported only 14 murders in 2022.

States only rank high scores by having restrictive gun laws, not whether those laws are effective.


In a county included in my rural coverage area, as a state trooper, a deputy sheriff was, just as Mr. Workman’s businessman, carrying a shot load as his first round. His stated intent was that the shot load would blind and/or disorient his adversary. (Insider Online, “At Close Range,” Dec. 28)

When the very pro-law enforcement state’s attorney became aware of this, he told the deputy, in no uncertain terms, NOT to carry the shot load in his duty revolver. He said that should he shoot anyone in the face with the shot load, he most certainly would be sued for intentional maiming, and that suit would be successful.


Wm. L. Kotila

Dave replies: As I noted in that column, it’s not a strategy I would recommend for any number of reasons, including the one raised by the state’s attorney in your letter. But it was an interesting memoir from decades ago about a businessman willing to defend himself. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to respond. Stay safe.

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