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Preview – How to Stipple a Gun

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Photos by Nathan Murr & Rob Curtis

A Rough Guide to DIY Stippling

There a few things that you really, really don’t want to drop.

A few that come to mind include babies, live grenades, urns, beakers of acid, Fabergé eggs, and loaded handguns. Ever since the birth of handguns, their creators have sought different means to improve a shooter’s grip on a gun through surface textures. From the hand-cut checkering of old flintlocks to the finger grooves of the latest German-made über-blaster, points of traction have been a must. Speak with any firearms instructor, and they’ll tell you shooting a pistol starts with a good, secure grip. The shooter shouldn’t need to adopt a white-knuckled death grip on their pistol to keep it under control. Not only is that bad form, it’s also completely exhausting.

There’s also environmental influences that can leave the grippiest gun feeling as slick as goose snot. Imagine — you’re pushed to the muddy ground by a mugger before you can even start your draw. Or, you’re a cop who’s spent the day standing in the icy rain grabbing a slick-slabbed service weapon with a wet, numb hand. Maybe you’re a competition shooter with sweaty palms on a hot August day. Or the worst of all, you’re trying to fight for your life with hands covered in blood.

What’s the solution to a slick sidearm? Firearms manufacturers and accessory companies have offered overmolded rubber grips, textured tape, and molded finger groves paired with light texturing. But, these and most other solutions are half measures that do little to improve traction, particularly on polymer framed pistols. Luckily, there’s an inexpensive way to get the perfect grip — and with a little testicular fortitude, you can do it yourself.

Stippling isn’t anything new, but in the roughly 35 years since polymer-framed handguns have been in wide scale production, you’d think Glock, Smith & Wesson, HK, and others would have the factory grip texture down solid. But, that’s never going to happen. What one shooter loves, another will hate. And keep in mind, far too many shooters base their purchase on what feels good in their hand. So, don’t expect substantial factory texture changes anytime soon.

stipplegun stipplegrip

Stippling your favorite gun is easy if you possess patience, and doing it yourself allows you to indulge your own preferences. While stippling costs little in way of tools, it will cost you heavily in time and attention. If you can’t sit still for more than five minutes and complete a detailed, repetitive task in a slow and focused way, you’re probably going to screw your gun up, or possibly destroy it.

This is the part of the article where you pause for a moment and do some soul searching, because no one knows you like you know yourself.

Let’s be honest here, if you think your first stipple job is going to turn out looking like a high-end custom Glock, or one of the many cool-guy blasters flooding Instagram, you’re kidding yourself. Quality comes with experience, which only comes with time. That’s why the big boys charge a premium, and local amateurs are willing to spend three-plus hours with your frame for $100 and offer a two-day turn around. The novices are using your gun to gain skill and experience, and make a little money in the process. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but how about getting your own soldering iron and doing it yourself?

Stippling is a growing hobby in Gun Culture 2.0, with many younger shooters mastering the craft and pushing the envelope of style. You can join their ranks by putting in some practice and building your skill level. That doesn’t mean you need a dozen 9mms sitting in the safe ready to feel the burn; quite the opposite. You likely already own what you need to get started.

First you need to gather your tools; if you don’t already have them, you can find them locally (and cheaply). One stop at a nearby big box store will net you a soldering iron (or alternatively a wood burning kit), sandpaper, tape, razor knife, and optional Dremel tool.

Many opt for a wood burning kit over a soldering iron because they usually include an assortment of burning tips. Small tips create pin-sized holes, requiring more passes over a small area to achieve a uniform appearance. Larger tips leave larger holes burned into the polymer, resulting in faster stippling progress on the same sized area. The larger tips also create a more aggressive gripping surface, which you may or may not want on your gun. Aggressive textures will wear your cover garments out faster and may not be comfortable for everyday carry against your skin. Try doing a circle pattern, a box pattern, and lines back and forth. Find a system that works for you, and avoid the temptation to just randomly stab away.


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