Handguns: Get a Good Grip
By changing a handgun’s grips, you can fit the gun to your hand and to the gun’s purpose. A competition handgun might need a larger, specialized grip, whereas a carry gun needs a grip that won’t rub you raw but that is still easy for you to grab.

If a handgun doesn’t fit your hand, changing its grip may make a difference. Not only could a new grip improve fit, it could also improve its comfort, function, and accuracy. While installation of some custom parts can be complicated and costly, changing grips doesn’t require special skills and is relatively inexpensive. Changing the grips is often a good move for women, because our hands tend to be smaller.

Just because this modification is simple doesn’t mean the decision-making process is easy. Selecting the best grip requires some knowledge, insight, and evaluation of the available options. You need to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of each option and then balancing these with your personal priorities. Because so many grip options exist, it’s smart to prioritize needs, with improved fit the most important, followed by comfort and grasp. Aesthetics comes last.

Here are the steps to follow when you’re looking for a replacement grip. At the bottom is a chart that lists grip types, manufacturers, and considerations for each.

Priority 1: Improved Fit

A properly fitted firearm plays an important role in a shooter’s speed and accuracy. When you pick up a handgun it should ideally feel like a natural extension of your arm and hand. When you pull the trigger you shouldn’t have to reach for or pull the trigger in any way that feels uncomfortable. You might have to get used to a long trigger pull in a striker-fired pistol, for example, but it shouldn’t feel awkward. To make this possible, many major manufacturers have modified their semiautomatic firearms’ lines to offer interchangeable grips; also some have back straps that can be changed to improve the fit. Some older firearms can be also retrofitted, though reducing a gun’s grip size is more difficult than increasing it with aftermarket grips.

Handguns: Get a Good Grip
Textured grips can help you grab and hold onto a firearm. A downside is that they can be uncomfortable to carry concealed.

I own a 2011 STI Edge, a double-stacked Model 1911. The grip was slightly too big for me so I considered finding a gunsmith to reduce its overall circumference. Another shooter with the same gun warned me that if too much material is removed, the integrity of the structure could be compromised. She told me that she’d had her grip reduced, but then had actually crushed the altered grip while shooting. With that warning in mind, I opted to find a smaller replacement grip for sale, which I was able to change out myself. This simple modification improved the fit of my STI, which increased my shooting speed and accuracy.

Priority 2: Increased Comfort and Grasp

A firearm grip that is too big or too small for your hand cause discomfort, but so can the texture of the grip, which plays an important role in maintaining a secure grasp. Grip finishes range from gritty to smooth or even spongy, and only you know which one is best for you. Ultimately, shooters should select a grip with a texture that balances both comfort and grasp, as you need to be able to get a solid grasp on a gun when you draw it and when you shoot.

Handguns: Get a Good Grip
Grips can let you personalize a gun.

Certain grip textures can be uncomfortable when shooting certain calibers and cartridges. An aggressive grip texture on a large-caliber, compact firearm can be painful to shoot. Shooters who experience pain every time they pull the trigger will most likely compromise their shooting fundamentals in order to reduce that pain. When shopping for a grip, make sure that you test it by dry-firing a gun with those grips. Any discomfort you feel while pulling the trigger on an unloaded gun will increase exponentially when you actually shoot it.

When selecting a grip, keep in mind the conditions in which you’ll be shooting. Moisture from weather conditions or perspiration from stress or heat can weaken your grasp of the gun, which means that it might move during recoil. This movement can force you to adjust you grip after every shot, decreasing accuracy and speed. The objective is to find a grip that will balance the fit, comfort, and grasp.

Here is a list of grip types and pros and cons of each:

• Rough-Textured/Gritty Grips: Some shooters prefer a rough-textured or gritty grip because it improves their grasp in adverse conditions. Aggressive grip patterns, however, create friction, which may cause some shooters pain when firing.

Handguns: Get a Good Grip
You can change a handgun’s grip to improve its fit, and you can change a grip to add some flair.

• Grips with Finger Grooves: Grips with finger grooves should be avoided unless your fingers can touch. Although those grip styles may feel as if they allow for a better grasp, space between the fingertips will allow the firearm to move and shift during recoil, and you’ll probably have to adjust you grip after every shot. This re-adjustment will slow down follow up shots and/or decrease accuracy. Similarly, shooters with slender fingers should beware of selecting grips with finger grooves.

• Slip-On Grips: Hogue and other companies make a slip-on grip sleeve that can be positioned over the existing grip, which increases grip size. It’s reasonable to argue that something that slips on, under certain circumstances, could also slip or rip off; some law-enforcement agencies have raised concerns about the potential for these grips to come off during a gun grab. For the record, I used these grips for years on my duty weapon when I was a police officer because of their improved fit, grasp, and comfort. Fortunately I never had to find out if the grips would come off.

Priority 3: Aesthetics

Handguns: Get a Good Grip
With many handguns, you can add a backstrap to help you fit it to you. Many compact pistols also allow you add an extended grip.

Don’t consider the aesthetics of new grips until you take fit, comfort, and grasp into account. This will narrow down the field considerably, and it’ll be easier to find a model that suits you.

Handguns: Get a Good Grip
Features of Slip-on grips from Hogue, Pachmayr, Tuff 1, Butler Creek; Skateboard type grips from Talon, and GunGrip GT-5000; a full polymer Grip Force Adapter, and other grips from Hogue.