Improving Handgun Grips with Homemade Macrogrooves

By John Michael Williams (jmmwill@comcast.net) Sunnyvale Rod and Gun Club, Cupertino, California 2008-10-29 Copyright (c) 2008, by John Michael Williams. Permission is granted to copy or post the PDF of this work for any purpose, royalty-free, provided it is copied unmodified in its entirety.

The Problem
With my Ruger P345, using iron sights, my rapid-fire accuracy was terribly bad. This is a .45 calibre gun with 4" barrel. Part of the problem was my gun: If gripped lightly for good aim, using factoryloaded 230 grain rounds, the gun shifted in my grip on the recoil after every shot; the gun rotated upward, my grip slipped; and, after each shot, the gun was moved too high in my hand. This meant that, after every shot, I had to do a quick joggle to reseat the gun properly; the sights then would have to be reacquired. The cost was about one second per shot. Because standard Bullseye rapid fire permits only an average of two seconds a shot, this handicap was just too much to overcome for this kind of competition shooting. There also was a noticeable loss of aiming time even for the average 5 seconds per shot in timed fire. I tried factory loads with 180 grain bullets, and this helped somewhat; however, I still had to tighten my grip to prevent the recoil shift. A tight squeeze on the gun created its own problem: Whenever I purposely gripped the gun tightly, my sighting would get shaky, and the bullets tended to go too low, almost off the paper. Gripping tightly for fast shooting just wasn't a good solution, because it would require at least two different sight adjustments for slow versus timed or rapid fire. I tried applying floor wax to the grips; this was great for a better aim with sweaty hands in slow fire, but it didn't help with the grip shift.

The Solution
The Ruger P345 has a plastic frame with integral grips. There is checkering on both side grips and on the front (below the trigger guard) and rear of the handle. The checkering is about standard for a plastic pistol grip: The pitch is about 8 lines per centimeter, with grooves less than 1/2 mm deep. If gripped lightly, this checkering indented the skin of my hand a little, but the interlock of flesh with plastic just was not enough for the gun to carry my hand up with it on recoil; this is what made the gun slip. I guess the slipping is for complicated reasons involving the design of the gun, including the rather high barrel, the recoil mechanism, and the shape of the frame. What I have tried, and found successful, is to use deeper, more widely spaced "checkering" to improve the interlock of flesh and plastic. Because the impulse on recoil mostly is vertical (causing rotation of the gun-barrel upward), there is no reason to use crisscrossed checkering at all; instead, I added horizontally-grooved rubber, made from scraps of black rubber floor matting. I glued a strip of this to the front of the handle, extending from the base of the frame to just below the trigger guard. The rubber matting had grooves spaced about 4 per centimeter and almost 2 mm deep. I call these "macro grooves", because they are much bigger than the original checkering.

Macro Groove Procedure
It's important to bond the rubber strongly to the plastic frame. Details of my approach follow; other methods, for example using contact cement, might work as well. I first cleaned the front grip of the frame thoroughly, scraping out the floor wax using the corner of a razor blade (very lightly), applying a wire brush, and then soaking it with Goopâ cleanser. I repeated this many times, finishing with a light wipe of 99% isopropyl alcohol. After cleaning, I cut a piece of rubber mat to fit the front grip and sanded the back of it with #400 wet-dry paper. I likewise sanded the front grip of the frame from the trigger guard to the bottom. Sanding exposes molecules in

Fig. 1. Materials prepared for gluing.

the rubber and plastic which have not been oxidized or exposed to oil and are strongly integral with the rest of the material; it also somewhat increases the surface area of the bond. The rubber piece can be seen in Figure 1. I decided to use cyanoacrylate glue ("super glue"). This kind of glue is brittler and weaker than epoxy when hard, but it is very fluid and bonds well to rubber. Cyanoacrylate glue hardens from moisture in the air or in the materials being glued. Normally, this kind of glue is used in very thin layers, so that its brittleness has no effect (even glass, in thin fibers or blown as thin as a soap bubble, is very flexible). For my application, I disregarded the normal gluing instructions as follows: I stood up the frame with the front grip about horizontal and covered the front grip with a layer of glue (see Figure 2). I also covered the back of the rubber with glue. I then positioned the rubber on the grip and put a rubber band Fig. 2. Wetting the front grip with glue. around the middle of it. After The grip later was this, before the glue had tilted to let the glue begun to bond, I applied run up and soak the checkering more several other rubber bands on evenly. the handle. See Figure 3. The purpose of the rubber bands was to bend Fig. 3. The rubber matting formed to the down the edges of the rubber matting so that it grips with rubber bands. took on the curved shape of the front grip of the frame. The purpose of the thick layers of glue on both surfaces was to fill in the checkering as much as possible, at the cost of having to wait for enough moisture to penetrate and harden it all. I then allowed the frame to remain unmoved overnight, until I no longer could smell the glue. After removing the rubber bands, I used a fresh, single-edged razor blade to bevel the edges of the rubber. The final result is shown in Figure 4. The bevelling makes the grip feel more comfortable and reduces

Fig. 4. The macro grooved front grip, glue hardened and bevelled. The light-colored substance in the checkering of the side grip is floor wax.

the chance that extended use might cause the edge of the rubber to pry itself up, separate from the checkered handle, and begin to come loose.

Result
After two sessions on the range, my slow-fire aim is maybe a little improved, and I can shoot without losing my grip. I can shoot 230-grain timed or rapid fire much better than I could before applying the macro grooving. Readers using a .45 or .357 magnum handgun might consider trying macro grooves for improved accuracy in fast shooting.

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