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What to do instead of checkering ?

1297 Views 12 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Ned Christiansen
I have a stainless Kimber Gold Match that I was going to send to a smith to have the front strap checkered. now I think I want something different. Maybe scalloping or the wave treatment. Any opions or pictures of what you have done to the front strap and mainspring housing of your 1911 would be greatly appreciated.
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Can't throw you any pix,but an archive search of Dane's posts will get a pic of both (I believe).Simple serations are a great improvement over nothing at all.I personally like 30lpi on the MSH with the same or less on the frontstrap,but for a shooter I go for 20-30lpi on the front.Just my opinion tho.
I had the front straps stippled on my Kimbers. Replaced the plastic mainspring housings with stippled steel ones to match. Looks good, feels good. I never paid photopoint, so can not post a pic.


"And by the way, Mr. Speaker, The Second Amendment is not for killing ducks and leaving Huey and Dewey and Louie without an aunt and uncle. It is for hunting politicians like (in) Grozney and in 1776, when they take your independence away".
Robert K. Dornen, U.S. Congressman. 1995
Well, John had his Kimber Stippled by the very best who ever stippled, but you won't be able to get yours done by the same person, sadly...

I had a chance to hold, and fire Dane's (Actually Heinie's) scallop work, and found it very comfortable, lot's of "stickshun".

The Wave is even better I am told.

Ned's Conamyd's look impressive as hell, and personally, I would never endure anything more than 30lpi checkering on a gun. Especially if they are sharp.

I prefer something less abrasive on clothing, and find my 3M tape solution works fine for most purposes, and is cost efficient. I am still torn, not owning enough guns to have one Checkered, Stippled, Wave'd, Scallop'd, and Conamide.

There are even more options, but those are the ones that interest me most.
I like Heinie's scallops. There is a good illustration of same on his website at www.heinie.com

The hand matting/"woodgrain" stippling works well too. As already noted, the late Brian Bilby did excellent stippling work. Wayne Novak's shop www.novaksights.com and Kurt Wickmann www.kwgw.com both do great stippling.

What reason do you have for wanting your front strap modified? Is this cosmetic, functional, or both?

I think scallops look really cool, but the one gun I handled that had them did not impress me as adding anything significant to the gripping of the gun. Do note my sample size was just one.

Vertical serrations also did not seem to improve grip as the serrations paralleled the direction of muzzle flip torque.

Horizontal serrations are something I have not seen, but would help with muzzle flip torque, but I don't know if it would look good or not.

Stippling is nice in appearance and does add some additional gripping capabilities without snagging clothing, and it can be done in some neat patterns by a skilled person, but the amount of added grip is not substantial as compared to checkering, but better than scalloping - IMHO.

Grip/skateboard/friction tape is something I really like because you can cut it to whatever pattern you like, take if off if you don't like it, it comes in different amounts of grit or grit size, and for the $150-300 you spend for checkering or scalloping, you could get 150-300 panels of grip tape cut for your gun. I think this is a really good alternative that is extremely functional. It is not highly regarded as being attractive by most folks, however.

My personal guns have 30 lpi checkering. With 30 lpi, grip is improved significantly over a bare front strap and still provides good grip capabilities for wet or sweating hands and does not seem to be too aggressive at snagging on clothing. To help cut down on snagging, have the checkering on the front strap and main spring housing stop 1/8" short of the bottom edge and the little corners of the checkering won't be there to snag clothing. One of the problems with checkering is that if you go someplace like Thunder Ranch or Gunsite and do a lot of gun handling and shooting and have white collar hands, you will get blisters. Checkering can do some nasty things to your hands. By day 2 at TR, a few of us had white medical taped around each segment of several fingers. By the end of the week, most people had fingers wrapped. If I am ever in a gun fight, chances are I am not going to be shooting several hundred rounds through my 1911 such that would cause blisters so that isn't an issue for real world application, but can be for training when you handle the gun much more than you would at any other time. This is especially true for 20 lpi.

If you have really tough hands, have to wear gloves much of the time, or are often in situations where your hands might be wet with some fluid and you want no nonsense grip capabilities that even works under the worst circumstances, 20 lpi is the way to go. At 20 lpi, your hands could be slick with water, oil, or blood and because the little pyramids are tall enough, they have tremendous bite into the hand (or glove). Basically, the points can literally pierce the top layers of skin. Talk about grip improvement! Given the time my hands spend on a keyboard, I probably would not be doing too well after shooting 50 or 100 rounds with 20 lpi checkering, but the grip would be solid. I know a guy with callouses than can regularly shoot his 1911 with 20 lpi checkering, but even he doesn't like to do it all day long. 20 lpi will also tend to snag clothing more than 30 lpi. If I could afford it, I would have two identical guns made, one with 30 lpi for summer carry and one with 20 lpi for winter carry when I would be most likely to be wearing gloves. If I knew I was going to be in a gun fight, I would make a point to take the gun with the 20 lpi checkering.
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Double Naught Spy,
Thanks for the detailed post; it clarified some things I was curious about regarding checkering and stippling. However, I must strongly disagree with you on one point;
Originally posted by Double Naught Spy:
If I knew I was going to be in a gun fight, I would make a point to take the gun with the 20 lpi checkering.
If I knew I was going to be in a gun fight, I'd take my Benelli!
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If I knew I was going to be in a gun fight I would take the entire US Army. Or at least head the opposite way.

As for normal carry, Double Naught, made some very good points. In training that great grip of 20lpi turns alot of people's hands into chewed up monsters. I am most interested in the wave pattern that is being done. The stories of great grip and the looks really appeal to me. I hope it just doesn't eat away at your hands. I am a computer tech so I have soft hands, which makes 20lpi a no chance in hell. 30lpi is nice except when shooting ALOT. Scallops felt nice but I only shot 50 rounds using it so I can't be sure of the volume shooting feeling.
Yeah, okay, whatever.

I did fail to mention that with more aggresive grips, it can be difficult to change your grip if you get it wrong on the first grab. With 20 lpi checkering, you don't just slide your fingers into better position, but actually have to lift them off the checkering and then reseat the gun in your hand. With 30, it is not as much of a problem. With vertical serrations, stippling or scallops, no problem at all. With tape, it just depends on how abrasive the tape is.
I prefer stippling, but FLG won't beat on a gun with a hammer. So I have one checkered 20 lpi, one 30; both with the checkering flattened and dulled, cut down by about 1/3 the height of the diamonds and wire brushed to knock off the edges. Great for carry and competition, but I still would not want to use either for a three day class in my desk engineer's hands.
I have soft office hands and two 1911's with Pete Single's 20 lpi checkering. That stuff is sharp.

Many times I have shot a 3-500 round session with medium-strong or factory loads with absolutely no damage to my hands. I don't understand how people are hurt by this stuff. Yes, it's sharp, but no, it won't cut you. At least it doesn't cut my rosy pink hands. Maybe its how people hold the gun?

Have any of you actually been cut up by 20 lpi checkering? I wouldn't hesitate to go to a class with either of these guns. In my experience it isn't an issue in my shooting, and I shoot a fair amount of ammo per session.
Over the course of several 500+ round days, 20 lpi can get tiresome, but so can the tiny little bump of the shoulder of the thumb safety after 2-3 such days. Unless your gun is purpose built for training or attending high volume shooting schools, you should use your normal volume of shooting to determine what's right for your grip. Carry needs can also affect your grip choice. Here's my 2 cents on grips:

20 lpi: aggressive grip, great with gloves, a little hard on clothes and furniture but I don't care. My preferred grip texture.
3M grip tape: my second choice for grips, but actually the primary grip on all my Glocks (which are my second choice of gun). Very good grip, cheap, replaceable. Also hard on clothes and furniture and car interiors. Moreso b/c the side panels are also tape covered.
30 lpi: about as aggressive as tape. Very attractive. Not as much traction as 20 lpi, but easier on hands, a moot point to me. For the money, it's too little traction.
stippling: ugly. Had it on an IPSC gun in the 80's, and that's where I want all stippling to stay for me - in the past. Very little traction gain, similar to vertical serrations.
scallops: aesthetically unique, not for everyone. Traction similar to 30 lpi or slightly less, but not as fragile and easily dented.
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The angle of the checkering has quite an effect, too (sorry to further complicate things-- just my meddling nature!). I don't see much written about this-- so I'm not totally sure what other guys are doing, but I have not done a 60-degree checkering job in quite a while-- lately it's all at 90 degrees, talking about the included angle between the side of each pyramid here. 90 degree pyramids are not as sharp, obvioulsy, and not as deep. Kind of a good all around solution to a few different problems-- specifically, thin frontstraps and checkering that draws blood. 60 degree certainly has its place, and I'm not saying that 90 is better-- each one is better than the other for some things, and of course, 60 can be "dulled down" to equal sharp 90 degree. For myslef, the only place I care to have really sharp 60-degree would be on something like a bowling pin gun where there is no draw and you are shooting heavy loads. I won't attempt to throw out relative percentages of stickshun, but 90 is SOMEHWAT less grabby than 60, given the same LPI and that both are to dead sharp points.
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