When it comes to upgrading your firearms, stippling is an interesting concept. The idea is to create a better grip for your firearm by using heated tools to engrave dots.
Stippling your own weapons and gear may sound like a fad to some, but to others it’s a useful and permanent solution to a nagging problem. The naysayers to stippling will drone on and on about how they don’t need the extra work. To me, stippling is about making my weapons and equipment as comfortable and functional as possible. If you are more comfortable with your gear it eases the stress between the ears, and we all know the mental aspect of shooting is critical.
What Is Stippling ?
The dictionary defines Stippling as the following: To paint, engrave or draw by means of dots or small touches. A little known fact is that the word originates from around the 1660s in Holland, derived from the Dutch word “stippelen” — a technique that evolved into a painting technique that we now call pointillism, made popular by artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Signac.
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Stippling involves making permanent modifications to a firearm or component. Generally, either hand tools like steel punches/hammer for metal projects or a soldering iron with interchangeable tips for polymer projects are used. All it takes is desire, patience, practice, a few tools, and you can be on your way.
Why Should I Care About Stippling ?
It’s an honest question asked by more than one person, myself included. I found out about stippling by a fluke, to be honest, while I was in the middle of my Browning Hi Power rebuild and wanted some sort of texturing on the front strap. I spoke with my gunsmith who suggested I check our stippling and once I shot the pistol with the stippled front strap, I was sold on the idea.
Adding texture to any smooth service obviously allows the user to grasp the object more firmly, enhancing the control a user can exert on said object. It doesn’t matter if its a hockey stick, a golf club or a firearm, the principal is the same: More grip equals more control. I am willing to try just about anything that will enhance my shooting skills.
Where to Start?
That’s always a tough question. I chose to focus only on polymer parts, such as the Magpul PMAG and various plastic pistol grips. I chose polymer parts for several reasons. No. 1, plastic parts are cheaper and more readily available. Secondly, working with plastic parts require cheaper tools that I can source from any local hardware store like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
A soldering iron that can be purchased for around $20 and some sand paper are really the only tools you will need for stippling plastics. An exhaust fan is highly advisable due to the fumes given off by melting the plastic. Once you have those items, all you need is a well lit work space and patience.
Practice Makes Perfect
The old adage of “practice makes perfect” still rings true, even in this day and age of fast food and instant gratification. I found it most helpful to experiment on handguards, grips, and stocks I had gotten free from friends or at little cost on local Internet forums. The great thing about AR-15s nowadays is that everyone wants aftermarket parts and very few people keep factory plastic furniture. Ask around and you will have plenty of parts to practice on.
Some helpful safety tips to pass on to anyone getting started stippling magazines and accessories that will enhance your experience.
- Beware of the heat: Soldering irons get hot, most of them more than 700 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Plan accordingly: Have a plan of what you want to accomplish.
- Limit all distractions: I’ve found no radio or noise helps lessen the chance of mistakes.
- Don’t rush things: Take your time, breaks are your friend.
- Manage frustration: Mistakes happen, learn from them and move on
- Don’t be afraid to experiment: Try using other style bits to get new patterns
- Ask questions of others: You’ll never know what you may learn.
We realize that stippling isn’t for everyone and I wasn’t sure it was for me until I tried it. I, by no means, am an expert at stippling or grip reductions. I simply saw a way to enhance my shooting experience by grabbing a soldering iron and trying it out for myself. There are people who will gladly stipple their own pistol frames like the one shown above. I don’t have that confidence in my skills yet. Burning up a grip or PMAG is one thing, but ruining a Glock or Smith & Wesson frame is a completely different thing.
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In closing I want to take this moment to thank Joe Kim and Frost Modular Systems of Anchorage, Alaska, for their help with stippling knowledge and saving me from ruining my M&P.
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