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If you’ve seen or handled custom handguns before, you may have encountered models with an extra-grippy, even aggressive grip texture. Sometimes this grip texture is from a customization treatment called stippling.
Learn all about stippling, what it does to your gun, why shooters enjoy using stippled guns, and how to do it yourself.
What Exactly is Stippling?
In the context of firearm modifications, stippling is the process of modifying the grip of a firearm (specifically, a handgun) to change its texture and modify its ergonomic feel.
Stippled grips typically feature a grippy, pebble-like texture, although there are different patterns with wide variances in complexity and looks.
You will typically encounter stippling on polymer-framed handguns, as the material is easier to work with than the steel or aluminum of metal-framed models. Glocks are the most popular donor guns for a stippling project, although you may also see stippling jobs on pistols from other manufacturers, such as CZ, Smith & Wesson, or SIG Sauer.
What are the Benefits of Stippled Guns?
Outside of the cosmetic changes to your firearm, the main reason to apply a stippling job is to improve your pistol’s ergonomics.
Many modern polymer-framed handguns (especially Glock Gen 3 and Gen 4 pistols) often possess features nominally intended to improve grip and ergonomics, such as finger grooves.
However, while such features are meant to fit average hands, few shooters seem to find these grooves and recesses comfortable, leading them to look for ways to grind them down or replace the frame altogether.
In addition, the actual grip textures of these models vary from acceptable to nonexistent, which caused some shooters to be unable to find the right way to grip these handguns, finding them uncomfortable to shoot for any length of time.
Stippling fixes both issues; not only does it let you reduce or eliminate features such as finger grooves, but you can also dramatically change the feel and comfort of your handgun with a different grip texture.
A near-infinite variety of patterns and depths exist, allowing you to create the perfect texture and get the tightest and most comfortable grip on your handgun, provided you spend the time to find the right one for you. Texture examples include random dots, semi-random dots, basket-weave, or sprinkles.
Pistol frames are not the only thing that can receive stippling. Generally, any wood or plastic furniture can receive stippling. For example, if you enjoy shooting 1911s, you may benefit from stippled grip panels, even though your pistol is metal-framed. You can even apply stippling to your polymer rifle magazines (Magpul PMags) to customize them.
How to DIY Stipple Your Handgun
Although many gunsmiths offer stippling services, you can do a stippling job at home with the right tools and enough time. The DIY route allows you to customize your gun to your liking.
Before you decide whether you should stipple your pistol frame, remember that you will be directly reshaping it, making it a permanent modification. Consider buying a spare pistol frame to work on, keeping your original frame stock as a backup if anything goes wrong.
Before learning how to stipple a gun, you need to gather the following tools:
- A soldering iron, preferably a soldering pencil with variable temperature setting, as it will give you finer control over your work.
- A Dremel tool
- Some 150-grit sandpaper
- Although not strictly required for stippling, you may need some strongly recommended soldering safety gear, such as a soldering fume extractor fan or heat-resistant gloves
Because the stippling process involves melting plastic, ensure your working area is well-ventilated to avoid breathing toxic fumes and follow all soldering safety rules.
If you’re already familiar with the use of soldering irons, these recommendations should be no surprise.
When you’re ready to start, field strip your firearm and set the frame aside. You don’t have to detail-strip your gun (removal of the trigger group, controls, frame parts, etc.) unless you intend to stipple the whole frame.
Using the Dremel
Part of learning how to stipple a gun involves learning to use the Dremel.
If your pistol frame features finger grooves or equivalent ergonomic features you wish to delete, start by using your Dremel to grind them off. Apply light pressure and don’t rush the process.
You can continue using your Dremel to grind off the frame’s factory texture if you wish, although this is optional.
Although it is possible to stipple over the factory grip texture for faster results, if you take the time to remove the factory texture first, you will have a flatter, smoother surface to work with, allowing you to do more intricate grip textures.
For added ergonomic appeal, you can grind off the underside of your trigger guard, creating a wider undercut to make it more comfortable for your dominant hand. Some shooters enjoy cutting a double undercut to fit both of their hands.
Once you’ve finished using the Dremel, use your 150-grit sandpaper to smooth out the surfaces you grounded. You can then move on to the next step.
Using the soldering pencil
Prepare your soldering pencil on a low-temperature setting, then start applying it onto your frame to draw your grip texture.
If you’re a beginner with soldering irons, you should start with a simpler pattern, such as random dots, as all you have to concentrate on doing is applying the proper amount of pressure.
Pick a starting point on your frame (either left or right side), then draw texture element manually all over your pistol frame from this starting point. Take care to avoid damaging your pins and controls (magazine release button, etc.) or the holes in which they sit.
For example, if you’ve chosen the random dot texture pattern, you may want to draw concentric circles around your first dot until you’re satisfied with your working surface. Repeat the process on the other side of the frame, then, if you wish, on your front and back strap.
If you want to stipple the entirety of your frame, make sure you have fully detail-stripped your frame, and be careful when applying your soldering pencil around the holes for your gun’s pins and controls.
Remember that you can use your soldering pencil on any plastic, polymer, or wood surface; your only limitations are your imagination, skill level, and time.
Gun Customization is for Every Shooter
If you’ve never used a Dremel or a soldering iron before, you may want to avoid jumping directly to your stippling process. Get some practice using them first, even if you bought a spare frame just for this project.
An excellent way to practice using your tools is to use scrap or inexpensive polymer parts as a working surface. The practice can help you get a feel for the right amount of pressure to apply, giving you more confidence when you begin your stippling job.
Remember that it doesn’t have to look good to be functional! If your newly stippled gun feels more comfortable in your hands than it did stock, you’ve succeeded.