Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In Search of the Perfect Snubby Grip - Part I

Snubby Grips
Unlike most firearm enthusiests my age, I spent the majority of my adult life sans a revolver. In fact, for most of my adult life I was happy as a one-gun, 1911A1 toting guy. The only revolver that I owned was a SA Ruger Blackhawk 3-screw and that wasn't purchased until I had reached the ripe age of 44-and change. Heck, I didn't realize that I needed a snubby!

When I “discovered” snubbies I began a search for as much information that I could gather. In the old days that meant searching back issues of gun rags and books at the local library, but with the advent of the Internet there’s a plethora of facts, figures, real-life stories and individual opinions from which to initially inform one’s self at the touch of a keyboard. The snubby search led me to the discovery of the excellent Snubnose Files, Steven A. Camp’s Hi-Powers and Handguns and finally to The High Road and the incomparable 642 Club. After all this info-gathering I decided on the purchase of a 642 as my first snubnose revolver, a decision I have yet to regret.

S&W 642-1 wearing stock Uncle Mike’s grips in Robert Mika’s superb round-cut pocket holster.

For me the rubber grips that come standard on Smith & Wesson’s line of lightweight wondersnubbies are adequate, but do not allow me a firm enough grip purchase from a pocket holster (the perfect carrying mode for the lightweight revolvers.) When first searching for a 642/442 to purchase I also checked out models equipped with Crimson Trace laser grips. Not enthralled with the laser philosophy or the fit of the grips to my hand I ruled these out too.

I found almost immediately during my search that I liked the visual impact and stylish simplicity of S&W's classic-style grips, but would I be able to shoot them adequately? I ordered a set of black polymers from Sidney Ryan via his auction based website to find out. Sidney’s grips fit with minimal modification right out of the bag. They felt good in the hand, allowed a full grip from either a Mika or Desantis Nemesis pocket holster and looked great in contrast to the matte finish of the 642-1. Unfortunately I quickly discovered during my first 100-round range session that this style of grip did not allow me to sufficiently tame +P rounds in the little snubby - I consistently shot well to the left of aim as the grip frame and grip twisted in my hand while I tried to maintain a good grip during the trigger pull and recoil.

The 642 with Sidney Ryan's black polymer grips and Diane’s leather pouch for the Bianchi Speed Strip.

Tyler T-Grips
I still really liked the ease of concealment and lack of snag-ability during the draw the polymer grips afforded, so I decided to make an additional upgrade to see if I could get them to work for me. A call to Tyler Mfg. netted a shipment of two T-Grips, one in brushed aluminum and one flat black anodized. Mounting the T-Grips is as simple as loosening the grip-screw and sliding the brass tabs under the grip panels.

642-1 poses with classic size-1 T-Grips & HKS speed loader with Speer 135gr GDHP+P‘s.

For my hand size and medium-high gripping style the installation of the T-Grip resulted in an instant and comfortable transformation. At the range the tendency of the snubby to shift position and pull left was replaced by a much more acceptable grip position.

642-1 shares space with the classic mid-seventies Charter Arms Undercover in .38 Special.

For me, the combination of Sidney Ryan's polymer grips and the Tyler T-Grip resulted in an almost perfect grip combination for rapid return to target while still maintaining the narrow profile and slick draw-ability from pocket carry that got me headed in this direction to begin with.

Mika Pocket Holsters
Tyler T-Grip
Hi Powers & Handguns Blog