Grip and Grin

Andean Alder wood grips from Esmeralda Grips. photo from defensivecarry.com.

I think there’s been a huge misunderstanding about the whole “pink gun” controversy. Certainly, plenty of Neanderthals have mistakenly assumed pink guns equate to guns for women. Even manufacturers and retailers have mistakenly made this type of generalization. I have a different point of view. I am all in favor of pink guns. I’m also in favor of yellow, tan, olive drab, and purple guns. Charcoal-gray also interests me. To me, the whole color issue is about personalizing a possession that’s important to us.

Many people buy distinctive cell phone cases, and we’ve all heard those embarrassing custom ring tones at inopportune times. So I think the pink gun thing gained momentum because some women like pink. Then again, some women don’t like pink. My daughter happens to be a woman, and she prefers black guns. Looking around nearly any golf course or country club cocktail party, you can tell a lot of guys like pink, too. Colored guns aren’t all about men and women; they’re about personal preference.

Here lies the real point. People have different tastes. Recently, I’ve really been digging polymer guns with desert tan or flat dark-earth frames. They look particularly spiffy with a black slide. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to customize your gun’s color scheme as it is to find an iPhone case to suit your tastes. But if your pistol or revolver has removable grips, the odds are that someone out there is making some pretty darn unique custom replacement grips. Here are some examples that caught my attention.

In “Pirates of the Caribbean,” pirate Barbossa said, “the [pirate] code is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules.” It’s the same for grips from Wicked. As each set is custom-made, the pictures on the website are more like guidelines.

I met Ed Strange, the driving force behind Wicked Grips, at the annual Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show a couple of years back. He’s the kind of guy you can’t miss. Covered with ink, you can tell from 30 yards away that he’s serious about his creative work. He’s also one of those guys you can talk to for hours because he’s totally passionate about what he creates.

Wicked Grips started about 12 years ago, and in Ed’s words, they started a company “in order to make the sort of grips we wanted to buy.” It’s not only the designs that are unique; so is each set of grips that leave the factory. Wicked doesn’t mass-produce anything. Each set of grips ordered is treated as a custom project.

If you dig Sig and have a P226, you might spring for these Macassar Ebony checkered grips with inlays of Cocobolo. And when the Wicked Grips folks say “inlay,” they mean it. Every set will look a tad different as they’re custom built.

Wicked Grips also make designs targeted at women, but they approach that market with a little more fashion sensitivity. According to Strange, “Yes, we have a women's line, but we don’t call it a women’s line. We instead took a look at modern fashion and make grips based on those art choices you would see in a fashion magazine.”

Wicked’s Black Lace grips for the Beretta 92 are one of their hot sellers. This is what combining fashion and grip design is all about.

Model 1911s are a dime a dozen, but have you seen 1911s with Damascus steel grips? These are made from highly patterned carbon steels, machine cut, and hand finished. Each set is relieved in the rear to lighten the weight.

If you do happen to like pink, you can go all out and stock your Beretta 92 or M9 with a Wicked’s Pink Cheetah pattern. Go big or go home, right?

Prices vary depending on what you select, but you can get a beautiful set of grips from Wicked for around $100.

The folks at Rio Grande Custom have figured out how to deeply embed custom graphics into their polymer grips. The graphics go two mils deep into the material in order to resist scrapes and scratches. You can choose from hundreds of stock designs, or customize existing design by adding text or perhaps initials. If you’re getting a gun for a special someone to mark a big occasion, why not personalize it? If you don’t see anything you like, you can even send your own graphics or photo image to Rio Grande and they’ll create grips using your design. That service will only set you back $112.95.

Somehow the real flame pattern on this 1911 set just seems appropriate.
Why outfit your single-action revolver with some zebra grips? Why not? You can pick up this set and most other standard Rio Grande designs for $64.95.

You might only think of Hogue as the company that makes those super-comfortable rubberized replacement grips, or perhaps the sleeves that fit over existing grips to improve comfort and recoil control. But Hogue also has a thriving custom grip business and offers products in a variety of materials, including exotic woods, rubber, and composites.

If you’re going to carry a snubnose revolver, you might as well make it different from the five or ten million others out there. Hogue has a variety of compact and full-length grips for the Smith & Wesson J-Frame, including this sporty-looking G10 - G-Mascus Blue Lava set. These retail for $59.95.

Hogue offers a variety of scrimshaw designs, like this set of eagles for the Colt Single-Action revolver. You can also find colored scrimshaw patterns if you want an even brighter look. Most of the scrimshaw designs retail for $69.95.

These are only a few of the companies out there that make distinctive grips. Just because your gun might save your life one day doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy personalizing it. In fact, it seems a very good reason to do just that.