How to Stipple The Grip
On Your Polymer Pistol

13

Greg tested out his pattern and method on one of the spare backstraps before getting to work on the actual pistol frame.

Texturing or stippling polymer pistol frames or grips is not new. It’s a great DIY project with very little expense. You can be as creative with texturing as you want. Best of all, you can custom-tailor the texture to your grip and shooting style.

Most polymer guns come with factory-molded textures that are okay but a bit lacking in real “grippyness,” if that’s a word. I like an aggressive grip. To get what I wanted, I started with my stock S&W MP Pro. The gun comes with three sizes of back strap inserts. I chose the one that fit me the best. Next, I wanted to add some texture to the front of the trigger guard for a two-handed grip. I also felt the front strap was a bit slick for my hands.

Tools Required

The best way to add texture is to melt the existing material in small sections, which displaces the polymer to create ridges. This is best done with a heated metal probe or point. A wood-burning tool is the most effective way to do this. You can also use a soldering gun.

I choose the wood burning tool, readily available at most hobby or craft shops. The electric tool comes with a handle and a few brass points. Electricity heats the brass tip hot enough to burn wood or, in our case, melt plastic. It can get very hot and burn skin if mishandled.

The brass tips that come with it are usually chisel-shaped. For my preferred grip texture, I like dots similar to golf ball dimples. On my wood burner, the tips are threaded like a number eight screw with 32 threads per inch. To make a tip the size and shape I wanted, I went to my local hardware store and bought some brass screws. Brass is a great conductor of heat and very easy to sand or file. I reshaped the slotted head end of the screw to the shape I thought would work best. You can go wild in making shapes and patterns. I think the five brass screws cost a dollar or less.

Wood-burning tools usually come with multiple accessory tips. You can also make your own out of brass screw

The Process

To start the texturing process, I took a few precautions. First, melting plastic can give off fumes. For any airborne substance in my shop, I put on a respirator. I also added a small fan to keep the smoke moving away from my face. I could have done this outside, too, I guess. Testing in a small area is a good thing. I tested on one of the spare back straps just to get a feel for how the heat would move the plastic and how the pattern would look.

Once I felt confident, I started on the actual pistol, starting with a border around the area to be done, then filling in the border with random texture. The brass is good at not sticking to the plastic, and the hot tip makes fast work of each impression. The only issue is time. My pattern is dots, and things tend to get a little monotonous after maybe 20 minutes or a half hour. Be sure to turn off the wood burner if you walk away, placing the hot tip on something non-flammable while it cools.

The tips don’t stick to the plastic, so creating scooped patterns like this is easy.

Pattern Change

The trigger guard turned out so well I decided to texture the grip area. For this, I wanted bigger dots. Fashioning a new large tip took two minutes on a bench grinder and buffing wheel. This time I followed the S&W grip outline and just made it more aggressive. The frame and the removable back strap are slightly different in hardness of the plastic, so you need to put a little more pressure on the tool while doing the frame. It’s a little bit of trial and error, but simple in the end. If you make a little mistake, you can actually go over it again when it is cool.

Next, I wanted to try some other textures. The craft store offered an accessory kit of tips that can be used in duck decoy-making to burn details in the wood. The test piece was used to sample other textures. I also made a few of my own with a checkering file on top of the brass screws I bought. You can make diamonds, triangle and fish scales in the soft brass.

Once finished, I decided to Cerakote the frame to knock down the glossy look of the entire pistol. I chose a basic black and applied it with a hobby airbrush. Cerakote offers an air-dry version — Cerakote-C. This ensured I would not damage my frame in the baking oven.

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