The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Polymer Stippling D.I.Y.

Polymer has quickly become the standard material from which firearms and their accessories are made, and for good reason. Polymer is lightweight, impervious to corrosion, durable and can take almost any shape. The stippling of polymer handguns is gaining popularity these days. This modification provides a more positive grip over the slick feel of factory-stock surfaces.Polymer Stippling D.I.Y. photo

The stippling effect is similar to that of traditional checkering on semiautomatic 1911 handguns. If you’re shooting in soggy, wet weather or sweating it out in the heat, an aggressive stipple job may help you keep a firm grip on your potentially life-saving hardware.

Custom stipple jobs can be expensive when the gun is sent out to a specialist. With the right know-how, though, you can learn how to stipple grip guns yourself on the cheap. This guide lays out the basics of stippling polymer.

How to stipple a gun

  1. Before you begin, make sure you understand that there’s no going back after you start. You will be actually melting the polymer on your gun, so it’s a good idea to practice on some scrap polymer before you go to work on your own weapon.  Rail panels are great pieces to practice on.
  2. Ensure that you perform the stippling procedure in a well ventilated area. Melting polymer gives off fumes you won’t want to breathe. Also ensure that the gun is unloaded, no magazine is inserted, and there is no round in the chamber. Grip the gun and figure out which areas you want to stipple, then field strip the gun to remove the slide.
  3. You will be working with only the frame from this point on. Use the marker to trace the areas you intend to stipple. On this Smith & Wesson M&P 9, we went with an area around the entire grip as well as part of the area under the trigger guard and the pads forward of the slide release to act as reference points. In this example, the ink is black and the gun is black, but you can still see the outline under the light.
  4. With the soldering iron already heated up, run the tip over the marker outlines you just drew. This will give you the borders in which to stipple.  Take extra care to make these lines deliberately. The slower you go over the lines, the deeper the outline will be. How deep you want this outline is a judgment call you have to make.
  5. After you are satisfied with the outline, begin stippling. The art of stippling is to press the tip of the soldering iron just deep enough to melt the surface and then move on to the next spot and repeat… and repeat and repeat. Keep stippling until you have the entire surface covered. What you are accomplishing by doing this is “mushrooming” the area around the point of penetration. It is this mushroomed polymer that will give you the extra grip you seek. The deeper you burn into the polymer, the more grip you’re going to have. But be careful not to go deep enough to burn through to the other side.
  6. When all of the surfaces are covered, try out your new, more grippy grip. You can fine-tune areas that are too aggressively stippled by reducing the sharp edges with a file or sandpaper.
  7. If you still see marker residue, you can take if off with some rubbing alcohol and a clean, soft cloth.  And then, congratulations. You just gave your handgun a drastically more aggressive gripping surface while saving hundreds of dollars by stippling it yourself. Now that you’re a stippling pro, try your skills on other surfaces. The same premise can be used on all sorts of polymer parts such as rail panels and rifle grips.

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