Custom Grips: Talent & Craftsmanship

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As shooters, we’re fortunate to be living in a time when the most talented gunsmiths, grip makers and leather workers are plying their trades.

Anyone who has read my writings over the past many decades knows how I’m close to being obsessed with equipping my sixguns with custom stocks. The time has come to add some other names to this exclusive list.

Exquisitely fully checkered Deer Hollow walnut grips as found on the original Python and Cobra.

Deer Hollow Enterprises

The Colt Python arrived in 1955 with hand filling grips, fully checkered. Around 1960, someone at Colt decided to “improve” the Python. The grips were changed, so the top part of the grip was now thinner and uncheckered — no improvement at all! Now thanks to Olof at Deer Hollow, the original fully shaped and fully checkered grips are back. Once again the magnificent original feel is available.

In the 1920s the 2″ Police Positive .38 Special was created with fully checkered grips added to the slightly rounded grip frame. This checkering helps keep the little .38 from twisting in the hand. Later versions of both the Detective Special and alloy framed Cobra had a shorter, squared off butt frame. Olof is now offering the original fully checkered grip to fit the shorter grip frame and will soon have the original style. Also beautifully crafted, Olof offers Colt repro-grips for the 1903, 1908 and Diamondback as well as grips for such World War II pistols as the Nambu and Radom.

TK Grips of various woods expertly fitted to Ruger Grip frames.

Most of the ivory gripped single actions over the past 40+ years pictured in John’s
articles were made of pre-ban ivory by TK Grips.

TK Grips & Hobbies

My good friend Tony Kojis has been making single action grips for nearly 60 years — over 2,000 sets. The first pair of grips he made for me more than 50 years ago was a one-piece Pau Ferro exotic wood for a Colt SAA .44 Special. These grips are still in use on the special .44 Special and still look as good as they did more than half a century ago.

Tony was an Industrial Arts Teacher and later a real estate broker, with grip making a part-time endeavor. Now he’s retired and is doing grips full time. He totally understands “grip feel” and in my case now makes the grips slightly thicker and molded to accommodate my hands, which have become more and more tender feeling. He also knows the meaning of perfection when it comes to fitting wood and steel together. His Single Action Grips are fitted to Colt, Colt replicas and Ruger grip frames, which must be supplied for a perfect fit. Prices start at $175 and are dependent upon the wood being used. Elk staghorn is available and, hopefully, ivory will be made legal again.

Tony has come up with a Grip Kit for those who would like to see if they have the creative and productive patience to fashion their own grips. The kit consists of beautifully figured walnut grip blanks along with escutcheons, screws and instructions allowing you to create your own grips.

Altamont grips for Ruger single actions include walnut, rosewood, synthetic woods and antique ivory.

Altamont

This 40-year-old company offers walnut, rosewood and synthetic grips. They were the first to offer G10 grips. At one time Ruger offered beautiful, real wood, aftermarket grips with the black eagle medallions, and these were made by Altamont.

Altamont uses high-speed CNC machinery to produce their grips, so each pair is exactly the same as the machines can make them. One of the problems grip makers face is changing frame (especially single-action) tolerances. Ruger’s latest single action, the Wrangler .22, has a grip frame just slightly longer than their regular lineup. The current Flat-Top/New Vaquero grips will fit the Wrangler however the grip frame protrudes below the grip. Altamont produces Wrangler grips in both wood and synthetics that actually fit. They also offer an attractive aged ivory synthetic grip.

Altamont is one of the few companies actually offering grips made for the Colt New Service that hasn’t been produced for over 80 years. Altamont’s New Service grips fit my 100-year-old .45 Colt New Service, as if they were handmade. I can say the same thing about their Roper-style grips, which have been installed on a 70-year-old .45 S&W Model 1950 Target. Both fit perfectly and really dress up these old sixguns. I was also surprised at how relatively inexpensive these are, as well as their entire line-up of grips

Hogue finger groove grips of exotic woods for S&W sixguns.

Hogue

This is another old-line company started by Guy Hogue 50 years ago. I almost feel I grew up with Hogue Grips as I have been using them for over 40 years. Way back when Ruger and S&W decided to start producing semi-automatic pistols, I found Hogue was the place to go to find custom grips for them. This is now a second-generation company and Guy’s sons, Aaron and Patrick, have greatly expanded the company and its products to include such things as knives and overmolded rubber rifle stocks.

As time has passed my hands have become more tender and they are certainly not anywhere near as strong as they used to be, and finger groove grips really help. Hogue offers finger groove grips of rubber, really nice exotic woods and synthetic materials. The rubber finger groove grips are really a lifesaver for me when shooting heavier loads. They provide security and the rubber helps cushion felt recoil. My latest acquisition, the new Colt Python Stainless Steel .357 Magnum has now been fitted with Hogue rubber finger groove grips. These not only add to the weather beating quality of the stainless-steel finish, they make .357 Magnum loads much more comfortable to shoot. Hogue’s grips fit very securely to double action revolvers by slipping on the grip frame and then fastened to a provided stirrup on the bottom of the grip frame.

VZ G10 grips designed for 1911 frames include: Left: Double Diamond Blue Black
with the Colt logo on a stainless-steel Colt Government Model. Right: Hydra Burl
Predator Green full-sized 1911 grips pictured on a Ruger Commander

VZ Grips

VZ grips are produced by John VanSyck. They are completely American made of all-American materials. VZ offers grips made of G10, Micarta and stabilized wood. G10 is a high-pressure thermoset plastic laminate with multiple layers of woven fiberglass mesh cloth impregnated with an epoxy resin binder. Some may think this material is a brand-new discovery, however in 1956 I “bull-nosed” the hood of my 1949 Ford Club Coupe using the same material. The binding together of the fiberglass mesh with the epoxy resin results in a very strong, virtually unbreakable grip for sixgun or semi-automatic. Grips made of Micarta are also a laminate using linen, burlap, or canvas. I believe linen Micarta was originally used in the electric industry and has been available in both ivory and black Micarta. Stabilized wood is strengthened by being injected with epoxies.

VZ offers grips made of G10 for 1911s, both standard and compact models, the new Colt Cobra, the Ruger SP 101, S&W J-, K-, L- and N-Frames as well as what they call “Round-2-Square” design to convert round-butted S&W revolvers to square butt. Since the G10 grips are a laminate, recipes can create different colors.

All of these sample grips have exceptionally aggressive texturing. There is no way a 1911 can twist in the hand with the pattern found on these grips, and the smallish J-Frame factory grips are replaced by a wraparound design that almost becomes part of the hand. All of these grips are exceptionally secure for shooting but also aid gun retention. And they’re plenty eye pleasing!
Good craftsmanship never dies. If you look, you can find beautiful, and functional, grips for your favorite shooter.

For more info: DeerHollowOnline.com, [email protected], AltamontCo.com, HogueInc.com, VZGrips.com.

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