Grip material for heavy recoiling SA?


April 1, 2013, 06:00 PM
I'm having issues with a lightweight .45 Colt that has micarta grips on it, and I'm considering getting custom grips made to see if that helps sort things out. It's a Freedom Arms 97, and with Ruger loads, it is really hard to hang onto. Even with standard loads, I find it slips around in my hand a little making consistent accuracy a challenge. The micarta is just so smooth, and since it doesn't absorb water, a little sweat exaggerates the issue. There is no pain when firing unless it rolls hard enough to cut me or get me with the hammer spur; I just feel like I'm trying to hang onto an angry squirrel or something to that effect.

So I'm curious, is there a grip material or finish that is often used to help give some control with the big bore single actions out there? I see all these beautiful 5-shot conversions with beautiful grips to match, but I wonder if there is some trick to leaving that ultra-smooth-sanded wood with some traction. Does a glossy varnish-like finish give more or less traction than an oil finish? Are antlers or bone the way to go and do they absorb water at all?

If I had to guess, a wood grip left with an open grain and an oil finish might be the way to go.

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April 1, 2013, 06:13 PM
Depends on what you want. I've got a set of badger walnuts on my 41 mag BH that do awesome. It's all about your hand. I prefer the gunfighter style of grips and fairly thick. I do not like hogue grips on a blued gun. Gotta find a style that fits your hand. Go to the next gun show and find someone selling grips. Try em out.

Mat, not doormat
April 1, 2013, 11:23 PM
I've got buffalo horn on my .44 Mag Super Blackhawks. It's about as smooth as glass. I find that it moves just enough to keep from tearing the skin up, (checkering on a big bore magnum is for masochists,) but not so much as to cause accuracy issues.

April 2, 2013, 05:25 AM
Wood is the best grip for a revolver. Plastic and rubber grips just don't work as advertised.

April 2, 2013, 05:57 AM
I would say wood grips, custom made to your hand shape and size (maybe even a little oversized as well), would work well for you. A friend of mine has a Ruger Super Blackhawk that has a set of slightly oversized grips that are lightly checkered walnut and they do wonders at controlling muzzle rise and felt recoil.

April 2, 2013, 01:28 PM
Best grip for a heavy kicking SA? Trade it for a Bisley.

April 2, 2013, 01:49 PM
Yep, the Bisley grip is so much more comfortable. But have you tried and padded shooting glove? This works with my Ruger SBH. I of course don't use the magnum loads for extended range use or plinking.

April 2, 2013, 02:09 PM
A wood grip with open grain and not much finish on it would probably be the best, without actually getting into something more grippy like checkering or rubber. All the checkering is going to do is abrade your hand, same with rubber.

For extended shooting at the range, I'd recommend getting a thin leather glove. Something like a golf glove, or a batting glove.

April 2, 2013, 02:10 PM
Well the Freedom Arms 97 does have a very Bisley-like grip, it is just smaller, slicker (with the micarta) and only about 35 ounces compared to roughly 48oz for my Bisley (I have a .45 Colt Bisley and absolutely agree with you guys about comfort).

The problem isn't pain for the most part unless I let it over rotate and stab me with the hammer spur or bang my knuckle on the trigger guard, it's just that it is so hard to keep from moving in my hand with these slick grips. And being smaller, there isn't as much room to keep your hand away from the painful bits. At the moment, it takes nearly a death grip to control. I'd just like to get something with a bit more traction so I could get it down into the firm or extra-firm handshake grip level to control it. I think taking some of the bell out of the width of the grips at the bottom might help too.

I'm thinking I may try to put some surf board wax on it just to see if that helps. Ought to give it more grip without requiring any irreversible changes or real money spent. As much as I like the gun, the grip frame may just be too small for me though I don't have giant hands or anything like that.

Mat, not doormat
April 2, 2013, 07:40 PM
I can't speak for the rest of the shooting fraternity, but I quit trying to "control," or "hold down," or "strong arm," a pistol at anything much above the .44 Special power level. I switch from meeting force with force, karate style, to guiding the gun's force, aikido style. The more your arms can roll with it, the less the impact is gonna be concentrated in your hands and wrists. Also, the less grip tension you need to keep a hold on the gun.

April 2, 2013, 09:09 PM
Micarta is usually finished on a buffer for a smooth, glassy finish. It's easy enough to rough up the surface a bit with 600-grit wet-or-dry sandpaper, which will give you a more secure grasp on the gun. If that doesn't suffice you're better off switching to wood, either smooth or checkered, depending on how much friction you want on your grip. And the black synthetic rubber grips as made by Pachmayr or Hogue will give you an even better grip, although they don't look authentic on a single action.

April 3, 2013, 12:16 AM
I would've said micarta. Micarta usually has a smooth finish but it doesn't get slippery like plastics or buffalo horn. The problem could be your technique. If you're trying to manhandle it, that could be your problem. I don't grip my sixguns any harder than I would my wife's hand (without getting slapped) and my elbows are loose enough to bend during recoil.

April 3, 2013, 08:47 AM
I appreciate the continued advice. I do keep my elbows bent and pretty loose in an isosceles stance. My wrists are fairly locked mainly because it is hard to mentally separate those muscles when squeezing hard. As much as possible, I try to keep the man-handling limited to my kung-fu grip. I'm used to getting small amounts of roll from my Bisley if I shoot it with a really high hold, and a little roll doesn't bother me. Somehow with these grips, it just feels like if you give an inch, it takes a mile. Some of it could be the grip shape which was a very belled bottom from front to back and side to side. I think because of this, as soon as it slips down some, it takes the pressure/friction out of the hand-to-micarta connection. I have even experienced some torquing side to side where after a shot with a Ruger-level load, the gun may be aimed a few degrees to the left (I'm right handed).

April 3, 2013, 10:49 AM
The original plow handle SA grip was designed in the 19th century when handguns did not really generate much recoil and they cause the grip to rotate in your hand. That's fine for black powder cartridges but when you chamber a SA in .41 or .44 magnum something more is required. I started shooting SAs back in the 80s with a Blackhawk in .41 magnum with my own handloads, some of which were fairly heavy and no matter what I did as far as grips and gloves and different holds and trying to "muscle the gun", the gun would just take skin off of the palm of my hand. With heavy leather gloves the glove would take the skin off. The gun is going to rotate regardless of what the grips are made of or how they are finished. I finally got sick of fighting it and bought a Bisley. Problem solved 100%. I can shoot very heavy (but safe) loads all day with the Bisley with no strain. It really does make a huge difference.

dagger dog
April 3, 2013, 01:44 PM
Something smooth.

Have you tried a thin calf,buck,or goatskin full finger glove? You would be suprised at the reduction of felt recoil,and it helps hanging onto the grip without shifting your hand for a follow up shot.

April 3, 2013, 07:59 PM
Try using Paste Wax on it. It will give just a little stick to it.

April 3, 2013, 08:59 PM
Soft "rubber" grips actually have the same effect on the hand, during recoil, that one can simulate on the shoulder by holding the butt of a light 12 gauge slightly off the shoulder before firing it.

PROPERLY fitting wood stocks on a revolver, with a good firm grip, is best when shooting any revolver in a hot caliber. OTOH, a set of wood grips that poorly fit the shooter's hand can hurt about as much as "rubbers" that allow those rubber grips to compress during recoil only to slam the hand hard after the compression of the grip is maximized.

April 3, 2013, 09:10 PM
Pachmayer Decellerators always worked for me. Not all "soft" rubber is the same, the way in which materials dissipate energy is complex.

April 4, 2013, 01:10 PM
I found some tight fitting garden gloves with a rubberized palm that I am gonna try out to see if it is a traction issue. If that doesn't work, I may try to re-shape the grips some. If that doesn't work, I'll have to figure out something else to do with it.

I hadn't shot my Bisley in a while and took it to the range today. Shot 100 rds of 255gr cast over 27.0 gr H-110. As had been said, with that gun, I didn't need much more than a handshake grip to control it and didn't really have much pain until about the last 10 rounds when I started getting a small blister on my palm. I compared the grips side by side, and it really is amazing how different the shooting experience is because they are fairly similar grip shapes between the Bisley and FA 97.

April 4, 2013, 01:22 PM
If you've got bigger hands that take Large to X-large gloves then it might be that the upper area of the grip scales is simply too small.

I ran into this same issue when I got a Super Blackhawk. The stock scales were just too small a circumference around the upper area for my hand. As a result I wasn't able to get a sufficient hold to control the rotation in my hand. In addition the smaller area around the rear of the "neck" of the shape pushed back into my hand farther.

I ended up making a new set of scales that provided a larger circumference around the bent or "neck" of the scales. Suddenly the gun stayed in place better with both less rotation in my grip and less distortion of my hand and "push back". I can now shoot full power max .44Mag loads with a normal grip strength and do so without the dreaded "dragoon guard bite" and with less short term trauma to my hands. The gun still rotates up within my grip. But it does this in a manageable way now compared to the drastic way it did with the smaller stock scales.

April 4, 2013, 02:14 PM
That's an interesting thought BCRider. I do not have particularly large hands, but the FA97 grip is a bit smaller. Almost a mini Bisley. I have not liked the taper from the bottom of the scales to the top, but I had been thinking that maybe the bottom is too wide. In fact maybe the top is too thin. When gripping it, my middle finger does wrap all the way around the thin part of the grip neck to where it touches my palm on the other side. Also there is a little space on both my thumb and index finger sides where they don't exactly wrap around the top portion because it might be a bit thin.

April 4, 2013, 02:54 PM
try wrapping tape around your hand. cheap way to find out if you need a bigger grip at the palm-swell area.


dagger dog
April 4, 2013, 06:54 PM
Larry at can furnish you with semi finished grips that you can "fit" your self, he even adds an extra panel for practice.

I bought a smooth set for a NMBH 4 5/8" 45 Colt, left them wider at the top ,as I have long narrow fingers, about twice as thick as the OE hard rubber, fills the hand better, and gives more control.

+1 to popbangs tip on the pastewax, that and a buckskin glove ,shoot all day with 45 Colt pushing 30,000 PSI loads of H110, no blisters, but what a FLINCH ! :D

April 4, 2013, 08:08 PM
I have a Ruger SBH and was having trouble shooting it as accurately as I thought I should. I tried Pachmayr grips and the improvement was noticeable. It was also more controllable for me. I don't like the appearance so much, but when I've tried switching back to the originals my accuracy drops off. So my gun wears Pachmayrs.

April 5, 2013, 12:18 AM
laminated finger groove grips on my 41mag Blackhawk
and a shooting glove for "full house" loads.

April 5, 2013, 02:37 AM
Eldon, what you describe of your hold in your Post #21 is pretty much identical to the issue I had originally. It was just too hard to get a good grip around that all important neck at the top of the bend. And as you say the flare towards the butt simply means that once it started to move it slid up and kept going. You should have seen the bruise on the back of my middle finger... :D

I've posted these a few times before but here they are again if it'll help you out with your issue. These are my home made grips. You can see how much more full they are around the upper area. I also reduced the flare to what felt good in my hand and as it turned out they came out pretty much straight as you can see in the edge on picture.

April 5, 2013, 02:58 AM
It's not the prettiest, but you could try skateboard grip tape.

April 5, 2013, 08:56 AM

Those grips look great. I'm impressed with the fit up. I've never tried my hand at grip making, but is it something most folks could accomplish with enough patience? Do you need much in the way of special tools or experience? There are just about no off-the-shelf grips for FA revolvers, and the few custom gripmakers that seem willing to touch them want you to send in the grip frame and pay a pretty penny which is tough to commit to without having any idea if it would actually solve my issues or not.

April 5, 2013, 01:16 PM
Those were made in rather primitive conditions. I'm just now nearing the end of 2 1/2 years of renos to my new retirement house and the workshop areas are the last to be done. So the only tools I had to make those scales were hand tools and my drill press which just happens to be at the edge of the moutainous pile in my garage.

There is no reason at all why I could not have done these completely with handtools though. The drill press was only used to drill the pin holes and screw holes in the wood for the alignment pin at the base and to accept the bushings for the screw. Both jobs could have been done with a hand drill and stop collars on the drill bit to limit the depth.

The shapes were cut slightly oversize with a coping saw other than the butt end which was left a few inches long so that I could hold the wood safely in my metal working vise for shaping. Once done the butt ends were cut off and shaped.

The critical parts are the square corner that fits into the frame up by the trigger guard and the alignment pin hole. I first fine tuned the upper corner with sandpaper on a block and then pushed out and used the pin hole in the frame as a guide to drill the hole for the alignment pin. If doing this with a hand drill it would be wise to sacrifice the drill bit by stoning the sharp spiral edges starting from just behind the tip and on up to dull the edge and avoid cutting into the metal of the frame.

With these key alignment points done I located the wood on the frame and with a very sharp pencil marked the margins. A basic coping saw was used to cut the rough shape and to carve away the outer corners to waste the lion's share of the wood. The wood was then shaped with a half round and 3/8 round coarse cut metal files that I use only for wood. By reserving them for wood only you get a great carving tool which cuts fast but not TOO fast.

Once down to nearly at the margin lines I switched to sandpaper wrapped around a stick to act like the files and checked the fit and angles of the grips on the gun both for fit to my hands and fit to the frame. When doing this it's best to work a smaller area down then move on to the next. Remove a little, check, remove a little more, check, etc.

So all in all it's fussy but not difficult work. Mostly it's about the small things and sneaking up on the shaping to get a good fit to your hand and to the frame of the gun.

You don't need to start with a blank of expensive wood either. In fact that's the LAST thing you want to do because it'll make you afraid to take off that last few strokes of wood for fear of going a "stroke too far". Instead buy a length of 1/2 x 4 hemlock or fir trim wood from the local lumberyard and do your first few sets with that to get in some practice and to play with the shapes that fit your hands the best.

Having at most a buck's worth of wood involved you can afford to be brave In fact work your first set down in stages from "they feel a little fat" to "that's too far" in stages with shooting sessions at each stage. This is the time to find out what both feels right and what works. Our hands can be fooled into accepting a fairly wide range of nice shapes that feel right. But the target will quickly tell us when the shape is truly right. And we simply don't know where that point is until we go a little too far.

At that point do up a second hemlock/fir set shaped to the optimum that you found.

With that second set on the gun for longer term testing you can go shopping for some nicer hardwood. By this time you're looking at your third set of scales and the methods and techniques should be pretty well practiced. And at that point I think you'll agree that it's one of the easier, if somewhat fussy, bits of wood working that anyone can do.

Hints for shaping if you have a go at this.... Most new wood workers for stuff like this tend to think "square". And square is certainly good where it's needed. But our hands are NOT square. So try to think "organic" so you achieve a nice flowing "ovality" to the grips where your hands tell you during the shaping.

Despite priding myself on being an "organic" thinker I was surprised that the scales on my guns came out looking rather flat and simple. But my hands don't lie to me.... much :D and the shape shown works well for me. But there may be some room for improvement with a palm swell or heel recess. I'll have to try another set at some point. But there's no doubt that the basics of a fatter neck area and less flare at the butt works in the hand.

I've already got another set of grips in mind for my SBH. The ones shown solved the trigger guard bite but I find that my pinky extending down over the lower edge of the butt tends to get scraped hard by the edge during the recoil which leads to some discomfort. So my next set will have an extended butt that fills inward like to mirror image "L" shapes. The lower end will have a finger groove for my pinky along with a set back rest hook in the butt end extention for it to park around for consistency and comfort. And this trial set will be done in the "buck a set" hemlock wood for all the reasons mentioned already.

Hey, as long as you keep the sandpaper and files away from the gun itself ALL your risk is concentrated in that buck's worth of wood. So if it doesn't work or something goes badly simply sigh and start over with another buck's worth of wood.

April 5, 2013, 02:30 PM
I just use wells lamont work gloves without fingers. I the oversized grips that are meant to be cut to fit your hand with no checkering. I shoot everything from ruger only handloads to cheap eastern bloc ammo. Lots of the eastern bloc ammo is actually better than premium ammo.

April 5, 2013, 02:40 PM

Those grips look great. I'm impressed with the fit up. I've never tried my hand at grip making, but is it something most folks could accomplish with enough patience? Do you need much in the way of special tools or experience? There are just about no off-the-shelf grips for FA revolvers, and the few custom gripmakers that seem willing to touch them want you to send in the grip frame and pay a pretty penny which is tough to commit to without having any idea if it would actually solve my issues or not.
You can balls of chalk at the hardware store to trace anything with. Once you have fitted the grips use the tip off a stick of chalk to mark your holes. I am not real bright at figuring but I can mark almost anything with chalk.

April 5, 2013, 05:11 PM
I've been working on a set of grips for my Virginian Dragoon (I believe it's not quite the same size grip as a Super Blackhawk). Used the chalk method (which worked great on the shaping) somehow I goofed the hole for the pin by 1/32nd that leaves enough of a gap that I'll start a new set, now. Only tools I used were a jig/saber saw, orbital sander (a mouse would work well for the inner radius), a rasp, and the previously mentioned chalk. If someone didn't mind doing it by hand, a coping saw, rasp, and sanding block would be all that are really necessary.
If you have one nearby, lumber liquidators occasionally sells job ends, very inexpensively. They get a lot of fancy wood and since it's too small for a room it's usually well under $1/bf, most of it is thick enough for grips (the only negative is the finish can be a pain to remove).

April 5, 2013, 05:38 PM
I bought a pair of bicycle riders gloves at WAlmart. Works great in improving my grip on my Ruger colt .45. I have a set of stags on order from Sack Petersen. Been waiting since January for those.

Steve C
April 5, 2013, 05:41 PM
I put these old Sile rubber grips on my Ruger .41 mag BH. They allow me to hold on to the gun during recoil without the slipping of the standard grips. They also absorb recoil eliminating the pain from heavy loads. Sile is no longer made but the Pachmayer for the Blackhawk are pretty much the same.

Jim Figaniak
April 6, 2013, 11:41 AM
Check out the Altamont site,their grips are all laser cut & fit perfectly, besides that the finish is inmatched & priced right.

April 7, 2013, 03:00 AM
I went with lace wood on my largest thumper as I was advised it was pretty tough stuff yet still looked pretty nice.

One of my 475's wears black micarta which, again, is known to be tough stuff though lacking in beauty IMO.

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