Grip stippling is a modification often used by gunsmiths to create a superior gripping surface on factory stock polymer grips by etching grooves or craters on the grip that may result in better traction and reduce the amount of sweat, rain, or even blood that may come into contact with the palms of the hands. An improved gripping surface will almost always result in improved control and recoil management, both of which make a huge difference when the goal is to shoot accurate multiple shots at speed. For me, stippling makes a particularly significant difference when shooting lightweight semi-automatic pistols that may weigh less than two pounds fully loaded that have a five to six-pound trigger pull. The single largest cause of missing is most likely an inability on the part of the shooter to hold the muzzle steady while pressing the trigger, and a combination of a firm grip and improved gripping surface can make a huge difference when shooting the smaller handguns. Actually, the same is true when shooting small revolvers, but that is an easier fix because the owner can simply replace the factory grips with textured grips using nothing more than a screwdriver.
To the best of my knowledge, the gunsmith starts the process of stippling a polymer frame by hand-sanding the grip. From there he or she may use a template based upon a pattern chosen by their customer and then stipple the grip and perhaps portions of the frame using a laser or stipple the grip entirely by hand using a soldering iron. I typically have the gunsmith radius or undercut the trigger guard slightly forward of the grip in order to remove what is sometimes called a “hot spot” that may abrade the side of my support hand index finger. Other options might include removing finger grooves, stippling the frame ledges, and performing a grip reduction that removes girth and the changes the grip angle.
I am particular about both the stipple pattern and the roughness of the texture. Some gunsmiths can literally turn a stippling job into a work of art. Patterns I have seen include, but are not limited to, woodgrain, golf ball, basketweave, mesh, Fleur De Lis, skulls, logos, Punisher symbols, and many more. My personal preference is to err on the side of caution when it comes to a handgun that I intend to conceal carry that will likely come under intense scrutiny if I am forced to use it someday to defend my life. I personally would avoid any stippling pattern that might suggest that I perhaps have a callous disregard for the sanctity of human life. This is just my opinion, but if my actions are ever scrutinized by a prosecutor or a personal injury attorney in open court I do not want to make it any harder for my attorneys to defend me.
My personal preference when it comes to stippling my concealed carry pistols is to choose a design that in no way conveys an implied message or makes a statement of any kind. My understanding is that the appearance of my concealed carry pistol probably will not matter if I am forced to defend myself and the prosecutor declines to prosecute because the facts are overwhelmingly in my favor. Even if they are, it does not mean that I will get a pass by a national media with a strong anti-gun bias. And if there is even a slight possibility that a prosecutor believes that he or she has a case worth taking before a Grand Jury I would prefer that the appearance of my handgun plays no real part. One of the best responses that I can think to an assertion that stippling somehow makes the pistol more deadly is that in the last few years more and more manufacturers are coming out with polymer-framed handguns that feature a rougher texture on the grip.
I believe that concealed carriers should pay attention to how rough the surface of the grip will be after stippling. Too smooth, and there is little to any to gain over a slick factory grip. An overly aggressive texture may abrade the hands, any part of the torso it comes into contact with, and perhaps even damage a thin cover garment. If in doubt, it might be a good idea to err slightly towards the overly aggressive side so then it can be smoothed by light sanding with fine grit sandpaper. Gunsmiths who have experience stippling polymer grips can usually steer their customers in the right direction when contacted by phone.
I currently own handguns stippled by Lone Star Armory (www.lonestararmory.us), Tommy Gunn Stippling (www.tommygunnstippling.com), and 5B GunWorkx (www.5bgunworkx.com) and could not be happier with not only how functional they are but how pleasing they look to the eye. The stippling on the Glocks that I own resemble woodgrain, tiny craters, termite trails, and even tiny sharks teeth. The amount of detail these gunsmiths put into their work is incredible, and regardless as to whether one has in interest in stippling the grip of their gun it is nearly impossible to ignore the artisanship. I usually make it a point to never recommend anything that I do not have personal experience with, but I will make an exception this time and mention that nationally recognized defensive firearms trainers Tom Givens and Craig Douglas praise the work of Ben Simonson (www.boresightsolutions.com). If either or both of those men (and many others that I personally know) will stand behind his work then I will most certainly do the same. Ben gets a lot of favorable press for his ability to perform grip reductions on full-sized grips that allow persons with small hands or short fingers to get a much better grip on a larger handgun with greater magazine capacity.
Regardless of everything that I have written to this point, if the handgun already owned by a concealed carrier performs well even under less-than-ideal conditions then there is likely no reason to have it stippled other than the owner wants it done. My Generation 5 Glock 19 has a noticeably more aggressive texture than previous generations, so I left it alone. The factory grip works just as well for me as the stippled grips on other handguns. I still like my stippled grips better …
Steve Moses has been a defensive firearms trainer for over 26 years and is a licensed Texas Personal Protection Officer with 7 years of experience performing as shift lead on a church security detail for a D/FW area metro-church. Steve is a co-owner and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. Moses is a retired deputy constable and spent over 10 years on a multi-precinct Special Response Team. He owns multiple instructor certifications, including Rangemaster Advanced Handgun Instructor and Defensive Shotgun Instructor, Red Zone Knife Defense Instructor and Adaptive Striking Foundations Instructor, Modern Samurai Project Red Dot Sight Instructor, and State of Texas Personal Protection Officer Instructor. Steve holds a BJJ Brown Belt in Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He is a content contributor for CCW Safe and writes weekly articles on various subjects of interest to concealed carriers. Moses shoots competitively and holds an IDPA Expert rating. Steve is an annual presenter at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference.