As I get older, I’ve discovered the increasing importance of size, shape and diameter when it comes to shooting big bore sixguns.
It’s widely known I prefer the .41 Magnum over the .44 Magnum for the slightly flatter trajectory and slightly lower felt recoil, but when it comes to the latter, part of the equation is the grip.
Years ago, when I first acquired a Model 57 Smith & Wesson with a 6-inch barrel, I took a pretty quick dislike to the factory grips. They just didn’t have the right feel, and when I touched it off with full-house loads, there was no mistaking a revolver had gone ‘BANG!’ in my hand.
At the time, I was on a tight young family budget so I bought a superb Pachmayr rubber Presentation one-piece grip and it made a world of difference. The rubber covering the backstrap reduced felt recoil, and I also slapped a Pachmayr on my Ruger Blackhawk with the same result. This ignited what has become something of a lifetime study of grips.
As these things go, I wanted to fancy my revolver up a bit and found a set of synthetic grips at a gun show. The salesman said they were “bonded ivory” — a mix of synthetic and ivory dust that would age with time (they did) — and not only did that attract my attention, but more so did the shape. This set of grips had a palm swell so I plunked down a modest bit of cash (far less expensive than real ivory, which was still legal at the time) and I discovered having a wider profile along the backstrap and the palm swell really did make a difference.
The width of the grip spreads recoil over a slightly wider area of the hand, rather than pound a narrow space between my thumb and the pocket of my hand. These grips—I have no idea who the maker was—truly did the trick.
I am guilty of searching for perfection, which years of experience has taught me really doesn’t exist. Translation: I have more than one set of grips for the N-Frame S&Ws now in my gun safe.
Raj Singh at Eagle Grips built a set of beautiful elk antler “magna” style grips that I consider my “barbecue” set for getting really fancy. When he introduced me to some stuff called Kirinite, I suggested that if he made target-style grips for double-action revolvers out of the stuff to the same dimensions as Eagle’s popular Heritage grips, he’d probably sell a bunch of them. I got one of the first sets, and I’ve had very good luck with them.
A few years ago, I bought a set of imitation ivory grips from Altamont. They were on my 4-inch M57 when I had to dispatch a wounded mule deer buck a few years ago in an Eastern Washington canyon. These grips look superb with the S&W medallions, and in my opinion, they’re far preferable to the factory grips that were on this revolver when I bought it. Depending upon the size of one’s hand, they just might be what you’re looking for.
Once, while attending a long-range handgun shoot, I met a guy who had mounted a set of American holly grips on his revolver. The stuff looked like real ivory from a distance because it had yellowed slightly, so we had quite a chat. Some months later, I talked to longtime pal Rod Herrett at Herrett’s, and had a set of holly grips made in the Roper design. Once again, a great fit and feel, but the one thing I noticed immediately was how lightweight holly is. Compared to the antler and synthetic materials, this wood is almost weightless.
The Roper style also has a slight palm swell, which spreads the recoil comfortably. The butt end on my set is a bit narrower than I prefer, but they hide well under a vest or jacket.
The Importance of ‘OUCH!’
Some folks think gun writers are immune from recoil discomfort because of all the shooting we do. Let’s put that one to rest immediately; recoil hurts regardless of who you are.
I once had the displeasure of shooting a big bore revolver manufactured with awful narrow synthetic grips. For serious handgunners, especially those involved in silhouette shooting or hunting where precision is paramount, firing a painful handgun can contribute to developing a flinch.
Don’t ignore the “ouch” factor. It’s as hard on the hand as running a chainsaw all day, typing with carpal tunnel or hammering nails or busting firewood for hours using a maul. Later in life, that’s going to come back and haunt you. At my age, that’s not conjecture, it’s experience.
A sidearm needs to fit the hand comfortably. This can only be determined by trying out a few with different grips, before making a purchase. I swap out my grips occasionally, same as using different holsters, but none of them produce discomfort upon discharge. I learned my lesson years ago.
Has Turnaround Started?
Earlier this month, the Washington State Department of Licensing provided me with data showing a year-long decline in the number of active concealed pistol licenses has turned around, and the number is on the way back up.
May saw almost 5,000 additional CPLs in circulation, and I am anxiously awaiting the June data to see if the positive pattern continues.
Washington, like all other states, saw a spike in gun sales over the past 12 months due to a variety of factors. Numbers declined due to COVID-19 shutdowns of basic services such as accepting new license applications by law enforcement agencies.
Gotta Love the Judge
Someday, they’ll be talking affectionately about U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez for his no-nonsense rulings on gun control and the Second Amendment.
Twice this jurist has smacked California gun control laws, most recently a couple of weeks ago when he declared the Golden State’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” to be unconstitutional. Anger from the gun control crowd, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, was predictable.
In his 94-page ruling, Judge Benitez dropped this gem at the top of Page 60: “How well has the California ban on assault weapons worked? Before AWCA (Assault Weapons Control Act), twice in a decade, an assault weapon was used in a mass shooting. On average, since AWCA, twice a decade, an assault weapon was used in a mass shooting. The assault weapon ban has had no effect. California’s experiment is a failure.” (Emphasis in original.)