Every handgunner knows purchasing the sixgun that will fill a need, either real or imagined, is only the first step. Every good gun deserves good leather and good grips. A few years back it was impossible to find good usable stocks, or grips, on very many factory sixguns especially those of the double action persuasion. Today that has all changed. Both Smith & Wesson and Colt gave up trying to supply wooden grips that would suit anyone and instead have gone to highly functional rubber grips from Hogue, Pachmayr, or Uncle Mike's for most of their mainline sixguns. Ruger's GP-100 and Super Redhawk Models feature rubber grips also with wooden insert panels to fancy them up a bit.
Even with the improvement in factory stocks there are still enough sixgunners interested in personalizing their sixgun with special stocks to keep several grip makers very busy. Some need grips to improve the handling of their sixguns; others simply want to dress that special revolver up a mite. In addition to this, cowboy shooting, which is not only a shooting competition but also a competition of another sort, that of seeing who can dress the most authentically or flamboyantly, almost requires fancy grips for fancy sixguns.
Grips can be had in rubber as mentioned, fancy and exotic woods of all kinds, laminated woods, micarta, polymer, staghorn, both imitation plastic and natural, and the two premium materials, ivory and ram's horn.
When I started sixgunning I discarded several pair of imitation staghorn grips. Plastic grips such as found on the Great Western sixguns of the 1950's and also in many "B" movies riding on pre-War Colt Single Actions. Today I search gun shows for boxes of grips in the hopes of finding those same style old plastic stag grips that can be fitted to current replica sixguns for cowboy shooting. True staghorn is a great choice being tougher than ivory, a whole lot less expensive and a certainly able to withstand tougher conditions than either ivory or mother of pearl. However staghorn is often supplied too thick and rough for my tastes. They can be left rough or thinned down and smoothed with the result being a look much like old bone grips.
Micarta is a tough synthetic material from the electronics industry that makes superb grips. In the past one could get both ivory and black micarta. The ivory micarta even ages like real ivory turning a deep yellow color in the process. The bad news is ivory micarta is now hard to come by however the black micarta is still available and makes very good looking and durable stocks especially for stainless steel hunting handguns.
In the past I have often written about sixgun stocks from Charles Able and Deacon Deason (BearHug Grips). It is our great loss that Charles is now retired from gripmaking and Deacon has gone Home. I use many grips from both of these craftsman and a big hole now must be filled. Let us look at those who are filling the hole and some of the excellent grips that are available for sixgunners today whether for looks, improved handling, or both.
AJAX: Ajax Custom Grips offers a full line of custom stocks for sixgunners including stag, ivory, and mother of pearl. Ajax stags are on two of my single action sixguns, a Ruger Super Blackhawk and a Colt Single Action Army. Many suppliers of stag grips seem to think more is better and the result is overly thick stocks that are very sharp and only usable on mildly recoiling sixguns. Stags from Ajax that I have experienced are already of the proper width without the rough surface found on many stag stocks. They are also slightly oversize to allow a perfect fit to each grip frame.
For cowboy shooters who want an inexpensive grip that is also tough and good looking, Ajax offers grips made of four synthetic materials, ivory polymer, pearlite, black pearlite, and staglite, all designed to replace the costlier ivory, pearl, and stag stocks. These grips provided by Ajax are also slightly oversize to be hand fitted to each individual grip frame as there is considerable variation in the dimensions of factory grip frames on both Colt and Ruger single actions.
For those who prefer a more traditional grip of natural material, Ajax also offers a line of wood grips for most revolvers in walnut, cherry wood, and black silverwood and are also one of the few sources of genuine African Elephant ivory. These grips must be special ordered and custom fitted to each individual handgun. Ajax is also the only supplier I know of that offers stocks for the original Ruger Blackhawks, the XR-3 grip frames that were standard on the .22 Single-Six and .357 and .44 Magnum Blackhawks from 1953 to 1963, without requiring custom fitting.
JOHN BEASLEY: Wild Best Grips from John Beasley are a direct result of the great interest in cowboy shooting. Nothing dresses up a sixgun better than ivory stocks however ivory is very expensive and also quite fragile. Both of these attributes makes one think twice about using ivory grips in the demanding sport of cowboy shooting. The obvious answer is synthetic grips that look like ivory without the attendant expense or need to be extremely careful when handling them. Beasley offers ivory style stocks that feature 19th century style carved motifs for all the replica sixguns.
Currently Beasley offers 11 designs all of which look like they came right off of Old West sixguns. The Western enthusiasts has five choices of eagles, the Mexican Eagle, the Hickok Eagle, the Williams Eagle, the Custer Eagle, a Flying Eagle and an Eagle Wing. The Mexican Eagle, with an eagle holding a snake in his beak, is exceptionally good looking on single action sixgun grips. Other designs include a Running Buffalo, two different Longhorns, a Rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike, and a Buffalo Skull.
All Beasley grips are supplied in kit form, oversize and requiring hand fitting to each individual sixgun with pin holes being drilled and escutcheons fitted for two piece grips or gluing of center spacer to each panel for those grips that are one piece style. Currently, designs are available for Colt Single Actions and replicas, the Schofield, Ruger Bisley, and New Thunderer. All designs are not offered for every sixgun. BLUMAGNUM: Tedd Adamovich runs the one man BluMagnum shop offering custom fitted one and two piece style grips for single actions, Colt, Freedom Arms, Ruger, Texas Longhorn Arms, and all replica single actions. Nothing looks better on a Colt Single Action than one-piece grips with no screw hole in the middle. Materials offered by BluMagnum are walnut, plain and fancy, exotic woods such as tulipwood and rosewood, ivory and black micarta, and genuine staghorn. Both workmanship and materials are of the highest quality.
I've worked with Adamovich in coming up with what we believe is the perfect grip for single actions with the proper diameter, shape, and feel, so ordering grips from BluMagnum will give the sixgunner what I consider the best possible single action sixgun grip. Thicker or larger grips are available on request. BluMagnum also provides a grip for Ruger and Freedom Arms hard kickin' Magnum sixguns that fills in behind the trigger guard and does an admirable job of keeping felt recoil to a minimum. I also worked with Adamovich on this design and we have tried to come up with stock that handles recoil without being overly bulky.
I often get requests for information about the stocks that were offered by Deacon Deason as the Skeeter Skelton design. As mentioned earlier, BearHug Grips are no longer made as Deacon went Home in 1994 and those grips have not been available since. By the time you read this, BluMagnum expects to have set up all the machinery to provide stocks for double action sixguns. These grips will fill in behind the trigger guard and be shaped for easy handling and control of felt recoil using the same materials as for their single action sixgun stocks.
EAGLE GRIPS: Eagle catalogs Oversize stocks in both rosewood and ebony wood for double action sixguns that are very close to the Skeeter Skelton style I have preferred in the past. Oversize stocks are available in both checkered or smooth finger groove style in addition to standard smooth grips. Rosewood Oversize grips from Eagle are now right at home on my nickel plated Model 19 .357 in the smooth style while finger groove checkered rosewood Eagle grips now reside on a Smith & Wesson Model 629. Dark colored rosewood stocks look exceptionally good on stainless steel sixguns.
Eagle also offers genuine ivory, including carved designs, staghorn, buffalo horn, and mother of pearl grips for most single action sixguns. Buffalo horn is from the Indian buffalo and is a shiny black finish that looks very good on stainless or nickel plated sixguns. Eagle's answer to the 'boot style' grip is their concealment stock design known as the Secret Service. These tiny grips are of finger groove style in rosewood or ebony with or without checkering. They combine a very small size for concealment with finger grooves for control. The backstrap and bottom of the butt are left open, while two finger grooves fill in the front strap. They go well with the round- butted grip frame now offered by Smith & Wesson on all their sixguns. The Secret Service grip style from Eagle conceals easily and is as small as a grip can be and still be practical for shooting a big bore sixgun.
ROY FISHPAW: Fishpaw, through his shop, Custom Gun Grips, is recognized as the Master when it comes to providing stocks for all makes and styles of handguns, single action, double action, and semi- automatic. Not only are all manner of exotic woods available, including the most mouth watering fancy walnut imaginable, Fishpaw is also one of the few sources for ivory and the very hard to come by rams horn. The latter, taken from the horns of a bighorn sheep, provides yellowish colored stocks that almost seem to be translucent, and is highly prized and extremely beautiful.
Fishpaw has a perfect feel for what a sixgun grip should be and his work is absolutely flawless and as close to perfect fit as is humanly possible. The fancy walnut grips ordered from Fishpaw for my Ruger Blackhawk and Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum are prized possessions. The latter is not only able to handle felt recoil well, it is also a work of art while the curve filling in behind the trigger guard can only described as exquisite.
HERRETT'S: Steve Herrett was a handgunner of the highest order. Winner of the Outstanding American Handgunner Awards Foundation bronze and designer of the .30 Herrett and .35 Herrett cartridges for the Thompson/Center Contender, Herrett founded Herrett's Stocks more than 40 years ago. Today, Herrett's is in its second generation and headed up by Rod Herrett.
Herrett's works only in wood offering several classic designs. The Trooper, designed by Steve Herrett, fills in behind the trigger guard and along the backstrap of double action sixguns. Lightly checkered, Troopers provide a non-slip grip for hard kickin' Magnums. My first pair purchased in the early 1960's is still going strong and now bolted onto a Smith & Wesson Model 25-5 .45 Colt.
Herrett enlisted the aid of Bill Jordan in coming up with a grip for fast and easy shooting of double action sixguns. The Jordan Trooper stock completely encloses the front and backstrap and is rounded with no sharp edges anywhere with a smooth finish, no checkering allowed. This is an excellent grip for shooting such hard kickin' sixguns as the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum . A third standard design from Herrett's is the Roper designed by Walter Roper well before World War II. Roper, a dedicated handgunner, came up with the grip that eventually became the Smith & Wesson target grip in its purest form, not the square shaped and blocky aberration offered in the 1970's and 1980's.
Roper's design features an open backstrap and fills in behind the trigger guard. Skeeter Skelton took the Roper design and changed it ever so slightly, mainly by changing the curve of the front strap and flaring the butt very subtlely. Finally, Herrett offers the Detective design. Originally for use on small frame sixguns as their name indicates, the Detective, a round butted design that fills in behind the trigger guard, also works extremely well on Smith & Wesson round-butted medium and large framed sixguns. Herrett's also offers a Custom Shop service. Check with them for your specific needs.
HOGUE: Guy Hogue's design, the MonoGrip, is unique in that instead of using two panels bolted to the frame, it is instead a one piece design that slips on the frame from the bottom of the butt and is secured by bolting to a stirrup that fits over the factory grip pin. A tightly fitting and secure way of stocking a sixgun.
MonoGrips are supplied to sixgunners in rubber, laminated woods, and some of the most beautifully grained exotic woods imaginable. Most designs are supplied with finger grooves for easy handling of heavy and hard kickin' Magnum sixguns. Smooth grips are available on special order.
Hogue's has recently entered the cowboy shooting scene with grip panels for Colt Single Actions and Ruger Blackhawks and Bisleys. Materials are black and white micarta, as well as exotic woods such as tulipwood, rosewood, kingwood, and Goncala Alves. Hogue's single action stocks are supplied slightly oversize without the grip pin drilled for custom fitting by each sixgunner to one particular sixgun.
LETT MANUFACTURING: Lett supplies the grips to Ruger for their single action and double action sixguns. In addition to this Lett's Custom Grip division also can provide special grips for Ruger owners who desire something a cut above the standard grip.
Recently Ruger started offering ivorylite grip panels with Ruger medallions for their Vaquero sixguns. Lett can supply these as well as ivory micarta grips for Blackhawks, Bisleys and Vaqueros including scrimshawed examples. I have a pair of Bisley grips from Lett with a scrimshawed elk that fit perfectly on a Custom Stainless .22 Bisley Single-Six.
A lot of variation exists among single action grip frames be they Colt, Ruger, or replica. I recently ordered two pair of custom grips from Lett, a pair of fancy walnut with Ruger medallions for a Bisley and a pair staghorn stocks for the standard single action grip frame as found on the Vaquero. Bolted to a Vaquero and a Bisley Vaquero, both in .45 Colt, they could not fit better if they were individually handcrafted for each frame. In addition to fitting precisely, both grips are of the proper thickness for easy handling, not the least bit bulky, and in the case of the stags, having plenty of grain without being rough to the touch. Nice grips.
PRECISION PRO GRIPS: When I examined Elmer Keith's sixguns after his death I found out how he was able to control the felt recoil on Smith & Wesson's .44 Magnum without using handfilling stocks that also filled in behind the trigger guard. Keith used the standard Smith Magna grip design however on the right grip panel of each of his sixguns was a carving, he especially liked steerheads and Mexican eagles, to fill in the palm of the hand and keep recoil to a minimum.
Pictures of those original Keith grips were sent to Bob Leskovec at Precision Pro Grips to see if he could duplicate both a pair of double action N-frame and Colt Single Action Army grips with the carving placed exactly as on the Keith sixguns. Leskovec works in an antique ivory polymer and was able to copy the grips with carved steer heads to perfection.
Precision Pro Grips can supply custom grips in ivory or antique ivory acrylic, plain or carved, and also in exotic woods plain or inlaid with such exotic items as silver snakes. He also is making a "Roy Rogers" style grip that duplicates the stag grips used by Roy in so many Westerns. Carried out in polymer ivory and carved to look like the old stag, they are a great improvement over the old plastic grips. They look especially "B-Western" on a Ruger stainless Vaquero.
Precision Pro Grips does not turn out stocks on a factory basis but rather prefers to work with each sixgunner individually. Leskovec also prefers inquiries by phone rather than by letter.
SMITH & WESSON: With the advent of the first Magnum, the .357 Magnum in 1935, Smith & Wesson offered the Magna grip that filled in to the top of the backstrap on both sides of the grip frame. These soon evolved into the target style grip designed by Walter Roper. This latter style of grip was found on many large framed Smith & Wessons in .357 Magnum, .45 ACP, and .44 Special chamberings through the 1940's and 1950's. When the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum came forth in 1956, it carried this same style of target grip of an exotic wood from South America known as Goncala Alves.
Then something started to go wrong. The target grips from Smith & Wesson became blockier, with more pronounced checkering and a shape that was harder to hold onto. The area behind the trigger guard which had been filled in ever so smoothly was now dished out and inadequate to handle felt recoil well. Smith finally shut down their wood grip section and now supplies rubber grips on all of their sixguns. Highly functional they may be but they are not as aesthetically pleasing as other materials. This has now been addressed by Smith & Wesson with the addition of a new line of custom grips.
Known as DymondWood, these laminated synthetic grips are made of veneers of exotic woods combined with a thermoplastic resin to give them a scratch resistant finish and make them extremely tough and impervious to wear. Fourteen, yes 14, different colors are offered from Rosewood to a black and silver finish to a camo pattern with designs for both round and square butt Smith & Wessons, and in the small boot grip design for concealment all the way to a hand filling grip for the big N-frames. I have DymondWood grips on a M60 .357 Magnum, a Model 696 .44 Special, and the new AirLite .22. All are of the finger groove style and are the best grips offered by Smith & Wesson in several decades.
We may have differing opinions when it comes to a choice as to the to best handgun stocks. Standard or handfilling, smooth or checkered, finger groove or regular, synthetic or genuine. Whatever the itch may be, one of these stockmakers can scratch it.
Ajax Custom Grips, 9130 Viscount Row, Dallas TX 75247; 214-630-8893
John Beasley, P.O. Box 423, Nemo TX 76070 (Note: John Beasley sold
his company last year and it is now owned by Larry Little of
BluMagnum, 5960 Wilson Rd., Colorado Springs CO 80919; 719-260-7072
Eagle Grips, 460 Randy Rd., Carol Stream IL 60188; 800-323-6144
Roy Fishpaw, 793 Mt. Olivet Church Rd. Lynchburg, VA 24504
Herrett's Stocks, P.O. Box 741, Twin Falls ID 83303; 208-733-1498
Hogue Grips, P.O. Box 1138, Paso Robles CA 93447; 800-438-4747
Lett Custom Grips, 672 Currier Rd., Hopkinton NH 03229; 603-225-7818
Precision Pro Grips, 4429 Stanton Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15201; 412-781-3753
Smith & Wesson, 2100 Roosevelt Ave., Springfield MA 01102; 413-781-8300