It doesn’t take long for any new gun owner to start planning ways to make their firearms a bit more personal through various accessories and modifications. One of the easiest ways to customize the overall feel and handling of a pistol, is to stipple the hand guard using a very basic, DIY gunsmithing technique.
Whether you own a lightweight, polymer Glock, or any other polymer handgun, we have a solution that offers a great grip design that you can even take advantage of to provide personalization. This step-by-step stippling guide is a technique anyone can master, and allows you to complete a basic gunsmithing project to grow from.
What is Handgun Stippling?
Stippling is the process of texturing the surface of the gun for a better grip and handling when drawing and firing. This is a process that has been used in gunsmithing for centuries, but is a simple technique that even an amateur or DIY enthusiast can master. What’s better is that it can be used to provide a decorative touch, as well as functionality to your firearm.
This modification technique is most often used to texture the slick surfaces of a polymer handgun’s grip. The addition of dots, ridges, and other formations provides patterns that you can customize to your own preferred feel when drawing and holding your gun. This is a common lesson taught at most gunsmithing schools as a way to become comfortable and familiar with altering a firearm for customization purposes. However, it is something you can easily complete at home as well with some basic tools.
Why Stipple a Handgun?
Many older handguns may lack a good grip altogether, and to avoid having to change out grips – you may want to address the issue with your own addition to hand placement with a more grippable texture. New handguns also have this issue from time to time, or simply don’t provide the texture in a manner that you prefer. Although they may have a rough surface, if it doesn’t provide a good “grasp”, it makes itself an excellent candidate for stippling. Glocks, despite their popularity, are notorious for offering a grip that may leave a lot to be desired concerning this subject, as do many other modern polymer pistols.
The addition of stippling on firearms designed for self defense provides a quick, safe, and effective solution. Stippling gives a more secure grip, which in turn grants a gun owner a more refined, confident sense of control, accuracy, and ultimately safety.
How to Stipple a Handgun Grip
If you feel like stippling would be a benefit to your use of your personal firearm, you can always contact a good gunsmith and discuss the areas you would like to address for both function and aesthetics. However, because this is such a simple process, you may prefer to simply pursue some photos and designs and then practice the technique upon a piece of scrap wood just to get a feel for the iron and approximate pressure required.
Also, pay close attention to where you prefer added texture on a grip by watching where your hand falls when you draw and shoot. If your hand slips when handling the firearm, these are areas to pay particular attention to when stippling.
In addition to a nice, clean work area, you’re going to need a few basic supplies for this project, including:
- A soldering iron, wood burner, or other such device (device type depends upon grip material)
- Two sheaves of sandpaper, one of 220 grit, the other of 400 grit
- Safety glasses / safety goggles
- A roll or two of duct or electrical tape
- A cleared handgun with the safety on (Beginners, it’s recommended that you pick a weapon you don’t mind marking / scuffing up or even damaging if you make a mistake)
Watch the following to help you visualize how this all works:
Step 1: Decide What You Want to Stipple, and Tape Off Other Areas
The grip is the most likely place to stipple, although all other smooth areas are fair game. Choose what you want to stipple, and then tape off the other areas to provide a border to work off of. If you are new to this, it is generally easier to work only with the grips as they are larger and more forgiving. You can always come back and do more when you are more comfortable with the technique.
Step 2: Start Stippling, Working in an Organized Pattern
Allow your iron or burner to warm up and start in a pattern that is easy for you to follow, such as back and forth, top to bottom, or up and down. Press your iron into the polymer and get a feel for pressure and depth of the stipple or ridge you desire and then continue to repeat that within the areas you are “roughing up”. As a rule, the harder you press into the grip, the deeper your lines, ridges, dots, and so forth will be.
Step 3: Sand and Smooth Out Rough Areas
Once finished, set your gun aside and let it cool for a bit. Once the gun is cool enough to safely handle, break out your sandpaper and smooth out any rough edges – use the two-twenty grit first for the broad strokes stuff, then the four-hundred grit for delicate, refined work. Once all your rough edges are smoothed out and you can use and carry your weapon without any snags or discomfort, you can pat yourself on the back, because you’ve officially stippled your very first handgun grip!
As you can see, this is a seriously simple gunsmithing project that you can master quite quickly. It is a helpful option for many grip issues, and resolves the way you hold and draw your weapon without having to invest in help from a professional gunsmith.
Plus, as you get more comfortable with the technique, you can apply more intricate designs to your surfaces for a truly customized look and feel.
We’d love to see what you have done with this technique on your own guns, and have the chance to answer any questions you may have. As always, please share!!!
Frequently Asked Questions
What tools are necessary for gun stippling?
Stippling a gun requires a specific set of tools. In my experience, the most essential item to have is a soldering iron. This is the primary tool you’ll use to create the custom dimples and textures that transform your gun from factory-standard to uniquely yours. If you decide you’d also like to take the personalization one step further by removing the finger grooves from the grip, then you’ll need a Dremel tool. First, you’ll use the Dremel to tailor the grip to your liking, then you’ll use the soldering iron to press into the polymer skin of the weapon, resulting in a small, precision hole that marks the start of your stippling journey.
What benefits does stippling a gun offer?
Gun stippling is a technique, an art form in some circles, used by skilled gunsmiths to enhance both the aesthetics and functionality of a firearm. By pressing in a pattern of dots, ridges, and other formations to add or reduce texture, the result is a customized, often more visually appealing weapon. More than just looks though, these alterations can tailor the grip to fit your hand better than the factory-standard model. Stippling has saved my fingers from many a blister during prolonged sessions on the shooting range. It truly is a combination of form and function, making your firearm not only more attractive but also more comfortable and easier to handle.
How difficult is it to stipple a gun?
While manufacturers aren’t likely to alter their standard textures in the near future, luckily for the hands-on firearm enthusiasts among us, stippling a gun is a relatively simple process. All it requires is a little patience and a steady hand, remembering that perfection is not achieved overnight. Having stippled many of my own firearms over the years, I can confidently say that it’s a technique accessible to anyone willing to invest the time and focus that it invariably demands. While the necessary tools are seldom expensive, be prepared to invest a lot of your time and energy into perfecting this art form.
Is it necessary to sand before gun stippling?
The actual act of stippling is reliant on your trusty soldering iron and, as you become more practiced, you might want to experiment with different tips to achieve a variety of effects. But before you get to the fun part, there’s a necessary step to prepare the surface. In my early days of stippling, I soon realized how crucial it is to first smooth down the existing grip pattern with either sanding or filing. Working with a smooth surface ensures that the stippled pattern is uniform and salient, really making your personal touch stand out.