June 10, 2022
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Many dedicated firearms enthusiasts like to customize and upgrade their firearms. Upgrades like custom engraving, aftermarket barrels and action or trigger tuning can cost a considerable amount of money and may require special skills and tools to accomplish. One upgrade that’s fast, simple and affordable, though, is applying a set of Showgun Grips.
Located in Lakeside, California, Showgun Grips offers a wide range of adhesive decal grips for Glock, SIG Sauer and Smith & Wesson pistols that are easy to install at home and don’t cost a great deal of money. And the number of styling options is vast. There are 600 options for Glock pistols alone, covering every model and offering just about any graphic you can imagine—from Armed Forces insignias to camo to outlaw zombies and the American flag. Some firearms wraps are designed to fit multiple gun models and, as such, you’ll have to spend time trimming and modifying the decal so it fits your particular firearm. Showgun’s product ships as flat pages with adhesive decals that are custom cut to fit individual models. The decal panels don’t require custom crafting, they mate to the contours of your firearm without modification, and the contours of your pistol will guide the application process.
Essentially, it’s simply a matter of sticking a decal on the gun, but that description doesn’t do justice to the finished product. The application process takes less than a half-hour, and when the adhesive is finished setting after 24 hours, your pistol sports a custom look.
I’m a fan of Glock pistols, but they’re not known for their aesthetics and styling, and my Glocks look just like the millions of others out there. Barrett Dutra of Showgun Grips offered me a solution. I ordered a pair of Digital Snakeskin decals, which Dutra told me is one of the most popular choices. Before I began installing the grips, Dutra suggested I watch Showgun’s instructional online video, which proved helpful since it shows a full decal installation and highlights important details of the application process that help prevent mistakes.
With the gun completely unloaded, wipe any excess oil or solvent off the surface of the gun so there’s nothing to interfere with the adhesive on the decal. After the gun is carefully wiped down, the directions prompt you to wet the surface of the firearm by hand or with a spray bottle.
Determining which decals go on which section of the firearm isn’t hard. The largest pieces cover the slide and grip, and since Showgun decals are cut to fit individual firearm models, you can use the gun’s lines and contours to help with the application process. While applying the decals on my G19 Gen 3, I found it simplest to moisten one section of the gun at a time. This prevents drying, and since this was my first install of these decals, I wasn’t as efficient as I would have been had I applied the decals before.
The video repeats the advice of using a spray bottle or dampening the surface by hand, and I elected to dab the surface with a damp cloth. Moistening the surface of the firearm prevents the decals from adhering immediately to the surface of the gun, which allowed me to make corrections as I went. I suggest beginning with a smaller decal. Peeling the decal from the sheet upon which they are supplied can be a challenge, and I found that if I dug at the corner of the decal I ran the risk of damaging it. Instead, bending the sheet slightly at the corner of the decal causes it to rise off the paper so it’s easy to peel away. Be careful not to allow the adhesive to stick to itself, which can ruin the decal. The video makes this clear, but in a moment of haste I allowed one of the pieces to stick to itself and panicked. Luckily, I managed to pull the pieces apart without damage.
You have plenty of time to apply the decals. Working too quickly usually results in a misaligned decal, and that will require you to lift and reapply. This is not a problem if the surface of the firearm is moist enough so the adhesive doesn’t cling to the metal immediately, but it’s worth slowing down to make certain everything aligns properly. Pieces were easy to install because on the slide they perfectly matched the slide’s cutouts and the surface is flat. The most complex applications are grip decals because they must wrap around curved edges and look natural. This isn’t hard to accomplish so long as you are patient and pay attention to how closely the lines of the decals mate to those of the pistol.
Once you’ve attached all the decals, begin smoothing out any bumps or uneven spots. This is a critical step. I had to pay particular attention to the lower portion of the pistol grip decal near the magazine well. I discovered there were a few narrow gaps between decals, but by pressing the edges together I could close those gaps. It’s worth spending extra time ensuring everything is smooth, but once that’s complete, the firearm needs to sit for 24 hours to allow the adhesive time to cure. Once the drying period was over, I inspected the gun for any problem areas I might have missed. I did have one section on the rear of the grip that didn’t seem to adhere, but that may have been because I missed some grease or oil when wiping down the gun. I pressed down on the surface and the added pressure seemed to cause the adhesive to stick.
Showgun Grips look good, but there’s also a practical reason for adding them. The surface of the decals is slightly tacky, which offers a more secure hold on the firearm than surface texturing typically provides. The gun feels planted when firing, and the extra purchase is an advantage on the draw, especially if your initial hand position wasn’t perfect.
The texturing on the slide is also a nice benefit. Most self-defense courses teach an overhand position when operating a pistol slide because this is a gross motor movement and thus easier to accomplish under stress. Showgun Grips make it easier to grab the slide and reduce the odds your hand will slip.
With a suggested retail price of $40, Showgun Grips were a welcome addition to my otherwise vanilla G19. The Digital Snakeskin decals look good, and they add a bit of exclusivity to my pistol. The application process wasn’t difficult, and the finished product looks even better than I imagined it would—plus the decals add additional wear and damage protection to the gun’s exterior. The decals don’t interfere with normal takedown or operation of the gun, and you can still add accessories to the rail and change sights without damaging the decals.