As our only connection to our handguns, grips play a key role in accuracy, comfort, and recoil control. Good grips help us better control our arms and shoot more accurately, while poorly designed or ill-fitting grips make it tough to shoot well or control our handguns under recoil.
Because all our hands are different, there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all grip. For some, a bulky handle with finger grooves is just the ticket, while others are better served by a compact, minimalist design.
I’ve used custom grips for as long as I’ve been shooting. They give my small hands a better hold on big guns, and they make concealing a carry gun even easier. I’ve tried grips from most of the top grip manufacturers and several custom makers over the years with mixed results. Recently, I tested three styles of custom revolver grips from Gemini Customs (www.geminicustoms.com) and came away very impressed.
Gemini’s Marc Morganti is a master of metal work and a world-class pistolsmith. For his grips, he starts out with dimensional lumber of the finest tropical and domestic hardwoods such as ebony, Bolivian rosewood and cocobolo. Marc and his staff cut those blanks down with conventional machine tool methods, holding the tolerances to a .001-inch. There are no shortcuts to get that perfect fit–only hours of painstaking sanding, polishing and fitting.
The grips are hand-sanded and hand-polished to a smooth, perfect finish, and coat of fine wax is applied to protect the wood and bring out the color and figure of the wood. A hidden grip screw bushing eliminates the hole on the right stock, leaving only the screw head visible on the left side.
I ordered a set of grips for my J-frame, and he sent me two loaner sets of Ruger grips for me to try. The latter included a set of compact boot grips made from XX-grade cocobolo for a Ruger SP101, and the second was a finger-grooved model designed specifically to make the Ruger GP100 a bit easier to conceal.
The Ruger grips are the firm’s World Class Grade and are made from Macassar ebony, with loads of figure and a perfect finish. Both fit perfectly on my own revolvers, with no gaps or uneven spots. The GP100 model was a big improvement for me over the factory grip, and the boot grip fit my hand like a glove. Both made the revolvers to which they were fitted noticeably easier to conceal than the factory handles.
The style for the J-frame is a bit unusual. It is a fairly compact grip made from a beautiful block of XXX-grade cocobolo. It has two finger grooves where you’d expect them to be, and a third groove on the bottom of the butt angled slightly forward. It looks a bit odd, but the minute I held the revolver in my hand, with the new grip installed I knew Morganti was onto something.
The three-finger grip allows a stronger grip and makes the revolver much easier to hold securely during rapid-fire strings without adding appreciably to the gun’s length or affecting its concealability. To prove the concept, I toted a pair of J-frame 642s–one with Morganti’s three-finger grip and another with a rubber Spegal-style boot grip–with me to the shooting range for a brief testing session.
I don’t enjoy shooting excessive amounts of +P .38 Special out of alloy-framed revolvers, but my training partner and I fired 50 rounds of +P ammunition through each revolver to test the effectiveness of the new grip design. I was not surprised that my hand was a bit sore afterwards, but I was pleased to see that I was a little faster from shot to shot.
My training partner and I also noticed a bit less muzzle flip with the Gemini Customs-gripped 642 than with the rubber-stocked J-Frame as long as we remembered to squeeze the third finger groove firmly with our pinkies.
I was extremely impressed with the fit, finish and design of Gemini Customs’ grips. With an average MSRP of $200 or more, they are not for everyone. But if Old World craftsmanship and knock-your-socks-off beauty are important to you, I don’t think you can beat them.