The following information on grip material and checking for pistol and revolver grips comes from Section 16 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.
I believe many of my readers will be interested in a discussion on the different materials used in the manufacture of revolver and pistol grips, also the checking of front and back straps, and the value of each in different branches of small arms shooting.
The rubber grips, for many years furnished as standard equipment on the hand gun, are now being replaced on many of the arms by the more popular checked wood grip. This is a great improvement and an aid to the shooter who wishes the last word in revolver or pistol grips. The rubber grips through use become smooth and slippery and if the hands perspire it is almost impossible to hold a revolver or pistol with worn rubber grips. If the arm is dropped a rubber grip will usually break and will sometimes break from the jar of a fired shot. I have also seen many rubber grips on the larger arms warped in a manner to allow dust and lint to enter the action.
The sport model grips made of pearl, both plain and engraved, are beautiful if the arm is to be placed in a collection or used for stage work. However, they are cold and slippery even when engraved and this type of grip is very brittle. It will not stand the rough usage to which some arms are submitted. Pearl cannot be checked properly and if checked at all must be cleaned or brushed frequently as dirt will accumulate in checking, destroying the luster of the pearl.
Aluminum has been tried and, while it may be checked, it is little used for it discolors the hands and clothing. Bakelite has also been tried and this may be made in plain or variegated colors; it will also stand checking, the only trouble being its tendency to warp, allowing dirt to enter the action. Fiber has also been tried, but the same trouble was found as with the bakelite.
Ivory has been extensively used in the manufacture of grips, especially for presentation pieces. It may be procured in many beautiful designs,—carved steers’ heads, American eagles, gold inlaid work, the American flag, and many others, which become more attractive as they yellow with age. Walrus, hippo, elephant, and many other kinds of ivory are used, but they cannot be properly checked, and will sometimes crack from use or if made into grips before it is aged.
Sometimes ivory stocks are fashioned to form a groove or depression for each finger and the thumb, which tends to prevent slippage. Many plain wood grips are fashioned in the same manner with a thumb rest on the side, as on the Tell pistol, and the bottom of the grips fashioned to form a rest for the little finger and bottom of the hand. This type of grip is made for either left or right hand but will not interchange.
Grips are also made from buck horns, deer horns, moose and elk horns. If the natural or outside roughness of these horns is preserved they are attractive and have the natural checking or roughness to prevent slipping, which makes them very satisfactory.
The latest metal that may be used on fancy arms is Durigold. It looks like yellow gold and is a little heavier than aluminum. It may be checked and has a very rich appearance. The price is not high enough to prohibit it for this use.
Grips are, of course, fashioned from other materials besides those mentioned, but for actual service, whether for target, hunting, trick shooting, or police work, the roughly checked wood grip stands alone as the all-around perfect grip. If the checking is too rough on a pair of stocks a piece of sandpaper will quickly change it to the desired roughness.
The back and front strap on a revolver or pistol, by this I mean the metal frame at front and back of grip, may be finely or coarsely checked. This is a distinct advantage if any kind of a grip is used, except a coarse checked wood grip, and even with them it is an advantage, because with both grips and straps checked the arm can be lightly gripped without the arm changing position as each shot is fired. The properly or roughly checked grips, that is, all that comes in contact with the hand, will eliminate the need of many specially constructed grips now being used and the checked front and back strap will aid in this.
Plastic wood may be used to change the present form of grips. It may be used to build up behind the trigger guard the much-talked-of gadget, or it may be used on any part of the grips or straps. It is not a thing of beauty when the grips are so changed, but it will make any addition which the shooter requires. Some of these changes are all in the back of a shooter’s head, but if he thinks they help, they do help. Plastic wood properly used will not fall off and has a roughness almost equal to checking. The little finger under the bottom of the grip tends to prevent slippage and depressions may be cut or filed in grip to keep the finger in the same position at all times.
Sometimes weights are added to the bottom of the grips screwed to the frame and in other cases the inside of the frame is filed away to lighten the weight of the entire grip. Both of these will change the balance of the entire arm.
My old friend, Max Wendlandt, of the Detroit Police Department, uses a revolver to instruct those who would crush the grip, equipped with steel brads one-eighth inch long covering nearly the entire surface of the grips on right and left side. I think that this is the finest instrument for this purpose that I have ever seen. I call it “The Silent Persuader.” It would be of great help if the same idea could be carried out on the outside of the thumb to instruct in the application of proper thumb pressure.