By Steve Zimmermann
Maintaining a proper grip on a firearm is an important strategy for winning a gunfight. Even back in the day of the hand cannon, early shooters knew that holding onto the gun would be a priority.
Well, lucky for us we have advanced a long way from the fuse and pipe to magazine bearing semi-automatic safe action firearms. Mankind is always finding ways to customize their stuff. Look at the caveman, all he wanted to do was paint stick figures on cave walls to make his domicile look cooler than Grog’s cave! I guess, what I’m getting at is, that we want to make our stuff “ours.” One growing trend in the firearms community, is stippling polymer framed guns. Simply put, stippling is taking a hot tipped device, like a wood burning kit, to melt the surface of the frame, creating a new texture. I have many friends that do this, some who make a good living at it, and others who do it to just their personal firearms.
So, this brings us to the question…should you stipple you gun or not? The answer is one that only you can address.
Here’s what I think.
I have several stippled guns. I love how it feels to put a stippled gun in my hand. My T-shirts, however, don’t like the stippling. It can be so rough that it’s hard on clothing as well as skin (if you are carrying in a way that causes the frame of the gun to rub against your side). For me, the pros outweigh the cons. To be able to have a good “purchase” on my gun in any condition, wet or sweaty hands, gloved or not, is a big selling point for me. I want the odds in my favor, be it during a match or while defending my family.
Though I cannot validate it, some believe that stippling finds its origins in competitive shooting (USPSA and the like). That may be true, but finding info on that is tough. I do know several USPSA shooters that have had stipple work done on their competition guns. Due to the nature of the texture, it’s thought that your grip could be, in theory, not as tight on the gun. I would argue that your grip pressure shouldn’t change depending on the handgun. That whole “being consistent” thing. It seems now that it’s more “tacticool” than tactical. I can almost imagine Billy Madison saying, “you’re not cool if you don’t stipple your gun.”
Now, the big problem with stippling is, if you like your tactical tupperware and want to keep your factory warranty, stippling wouldn’t be the option for you. I have talked to several factory reps that state, if you want a warranty, you cannot alter your frame (remember that your frame is the “firearm” not the entire gun). That brings us to another thing to consider, stippling your own firearm is okay to do. If you have time and patience, it is really simple. If you plan on stippling for profit, the ATF will require you to obtain a FFL for gunsmithing.1 I know it seems silly but I don’t make the rules. Do it at your own risk. There are many great companies out there that do grip work. INDEPENDENCE INDOOR SHOOTING (nudge nudge), SSVI, Agency Arms, and Taran Tactical are the ones that come to mind. The nice thing about having it done in our facility is that turnaround times tend to be shorter than the big guys, though they all will do fantastic work.
Short story long, having your gun stippled is as personal as what socks you want to wear. You most likely have a friend with a tricked-out GLOCK, or can find a guy with grip work done. Get it in your hands and shoot it if you can. It may turn out that you hate it. Once it’s stippled, you can’t go back.
[18 U.S.C. 921(a)(11) and (21); 27 CFR 478.11]
Bureau of Alcohol, T. F. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.atf.gov/firearms/qa/license-needed-engage-business-engraving-customizing-refinishing-or-repairing-firearms.