[This post brought to you in it’s entirety by Gemtech, a member of JTF Awesome]
Just The Tip: Get a Grip
Stippling is awesome. That is, it can be. If you DIY, not only may you end up futzing up your frame completely, it can end up being fugly. For the latter, take Gorillafritz’s example as seen in a special issue of RECOIL magazine:
There are certainly commercial options for those lacking any artistic talent and who actually care what the output looks like. I’ve never seen bad work from Boresight Solutions or SSVi. Furthermore, they can perform grip reductions, finger groove removal, and all manner of extras.
Still, these services are expensive, and over time even the most aggressive stippling will wear down. The ‘Easy Button’ answer for me was the Glock RTF2. Straight from the factory it comes with a texture aggressive enough to wear through a cover garment and maybe make a hand bleed during gun grabs on force-on-force. Unfortunately, these are no longer available as factory options (though the limited Vicker’s special editions do indeed sport RTF2 frames).
So you want some extra grip, don’t have the extra coin, and don’t want something ugly? Let’s talk grip tape.
Grip tape is not some panacea–there are problems. Most of the commercial offerings look slick, are laser cut to your exact gun, and have plenty of sand texture, but don’t live up to the hype. One of the main problems is their adhesive. If you don’t use your gun, that custom tape purchased at your local big box store or Amazon will probably be fine.
But if you actually use your gun, especially in crap conditions, Murphy rears his ugly head. Shifting of the tape is a huge problem; the last thing you want is your tape to shift around under recoil, playing mucky muck with your grip, and possibly even inhibiting functionality by getting in the way of a slide or magazine release. Skip the commercial options if you use your guns.
But there is a solution, and it only takes a bit of work.
3M Safety Tape (also referred to as ‘ladder tape’) is a commercial product designed for use in high traffic and/or dangerous areas. As the secondary name would imply, ladders are one of the places it’s used most. You can find it at your local hardware store, such as Lowes or Home Depot. I must caution you: resist the urge to cheap out and buy an off-brand, because 3M absolutely makes the best adhesive on the market. In fact, if applied correctly, over time you’ll have the opposite problem of the grip tape shifting: The adhesive will stay in place long after the grip surface has worn off.
As you can see from the above photo, that’s the exact scenario happening with my primary carry gun. It’s long overdue for a swap, and since my trust BattleComp slide is currently being Cerakoted I thought I’d show you exactly how it’s done.
Peel off all the Old Crap
Straight-up HR Giger up in here.
Which leads us to our next step:
Clean and Degrease
Use whatever you desire, as long as it doesn’t melt plastic. Just as with painting or applying any kind of finish, surface prep is the most important step. One reason the ladder tape holds so well, in addition to the excellent adhesive, is because it’s applied to a clean and grease-free surface.
Get as fancy (or not) as you want with this one. The only hard and fast rule is to ensure you don’t impede your controls. On the plus side, if you screw it up you can just peel it off and start over.
A cheap-o Harbor Freight heat gun works perfect for this. Gently warm the surface of the grip (don’t melt that shit) before applying your grip tape sections. Once you have it where you want it, apply heat to the tape itself. Press and squeeze everything into place, ensuring you fill any voids, especially the groove where your thumb rides. Make sure all your edges are tucked. You can use an exacto knife to make on-the-spot corrections. As long as you’ve properly prepped your surface, once the tape cools it can be on there until you wear it through honest use, with no worries about shifting.
Conclusions and Loose Rounds
For a carry gun, you might want to consider only applying tape to the off-body side. Experiment with gas pedals and additional points of friction, No, it’s not pretty. But no, it’s also not permanent. Decently done, a good grip tape job should last about a year–or more if you push it like I did.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
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About the Author: A combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Dave “Mad Duo Merrill” is a former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men. An occasional competitive shooter, he has a strange Kalashnikov fetish the rest of the minions try to ignore. Merrill, who has superb taste in hats, has been published in a number of places, the most awesome of which is, of course, here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He loves tacos, is kind of a dick and married way, way above his pay grade. You can contact him at Merrill(at)BreachBangClear.com and follow him on Instagram here (@dave_fm).