Stippling is simple enough in concept, but it’s a skill that takes practice and training to properly hone. Gun stippling can be a solution for you if you find yourself unenthused by how the grip of your gun feels in your hand. If your grip is slipping while you draw, shoot, reload, or holster, then stippling could be a good solution.
Stippling is also permanent. There’s no going back, so if you’re going to commit to doing it, commit to doing it correctly. Hopefully this article will help you with that, but I would also advise you to seek out additional help and advice on YouTube to help answer your specific questions.
How to Stipple a Gun
Gun stippling is done by applying a hot soldering iron to a polymer section of a firearm, usually the grip. The soldering iron melts the polymer that comes in direct contact with it, then immediately hardens when the iron moves away, creating a new texture as the stippler goes.
There are different patterns that can be made, but the simplest to make is the EDC texture, which is done by pressing lightly down on the polymer frame in one spot, then lifting and pressing right next to the first spot, and so on until you’ve covered the whole area you are stippling. I would highly recommend sticking with EDC for your first stipple job.
Tools Used in Stippling a Gun
The stippling process itself just requires a soldering iron. As you get more experienced, you may want to try out different tips for your soldering irons, but a standard tip will do just fine. Before you stipple, though, you should sand or file down the existing grip pattern so that you’re working with a smooth surface. You also may want a Dremel tool to make clean borders.
6 Steps to Follow While Stippling a Gun
Step 1: Practice Stippling
The first step should, without question, be practicing your stipple on something else. You can use just about anything made out of polymer. Different polymer gun products will react slightly differently, but you’ll still get a much better sense of how things are going to work by practicing on something first.
A lot of folks use p-mags to practice on, so if you have one of those that you’re willing to deface, that can be a good solution. As you practice, make sure to follow all of the steps below so you get experience with every aspect of the process. Pay a lot of attention to how hard you need to push to get each individual dimple.
If you’re just doing the EDC pattern (which I recommend), then you shouldn’t need to slide the hot iron across the polymer at any point. Just dip down in a spot, then come back up and dip down right next to it.
Step 2: Plan Out Your Stipple
Long before you plug in the soldering iron and start melting your handgun, you need to clearly plan out exactly what you’re going to do and where on the concealed carry gun you’re going to do it. It can be a good idea to draw out the borders with a white-colored pencil or something so you have a visible border on the grip.
You also want to make sure that you understand clearly how your stipple job is going to solve the problem you want solved. Random dot pattern is also quite popular pattern. For instance, if you just want a grippier surface, then that should be pretty straightforward. But if you are trying to make the grip more ergonomic, that takes a lot more forethought.
You can also check our article if you want to know more about best holster for your gun.
Step 3: Prep the Gun
You shouldn’t start the stippling process of the gun without any sort of surface prep. You need to sand down the existing grip texture so that the surface is smooth before you start the stipple.
The surface needs to be free of any obvious grip texture. You can stipple without sanding, of course, but you won’t get anywhere near the same quality of results as you will if you take the time to properly prep the surface.
Another component of preparation is the border. Use a dremel tool (or similar) to cut a clear border around the area that you’ll be stippling. This will be incredibly helpful as you go through the process, and give you a nice, finished border for when you’re done. If your stipple encroaches into the border as you go, don’t worry, it will still look good.
Step 4: Start Stippling
This is where the polymer meets the iron. The process you go through as you melt the polymer with the soldering iron will depend on the pattern you’re trying to make, so again I’ll assume you are (wisely) sticking with a simple EDC pattern.
Your goal is just to make some overlapping dots all throughout the stippled area. Think of it like if you tossed several rocks into some water all at once, then took a picture as the ripples started to run into each other. Each time you dip the iron against the polymer is like another one of those rocks being thrown in the water. When you start keep in mind finger grooves. Because finger grooves are sometimes hard to stippling.
The ridges that result from doing this will run into each other and give you a cool pattern.
To make it look better, try not to work in rows or a straight line. Start in one corner and go out, doing only a few dots next to each other before starting in a different spot. You want a little randomness to the pattern or it won’t look quite right.
Step 5: Let Cool
The polymer gun actually cools pretty quickly, but once you’re finished you may want to set the gun down and give it time to come all the way back down to room temperature. The polymer will re-stiffen as it cools, and that’s important for the last step.
Step 6: Test & Touch-Up
Stippling process is permanent, so once you’ve finished doing it, there’s no going back. That said, you’re also likely to have a few spots where you can feel a ridge that’s too high or perhaps a spot that’s too smooth. You can very carefully sand down areas or even plug the soldering iron back on to redo a spot that isn’t to your liking.
Once it seems like it might be ready, take it to the range for a spin and make sure that it does what you intended. Hopefully, you get good results!
Benefits of Stippling a Gun
The main benefits of stippling a gun are as follows:
- Stippling a gun allows you to alter the existing grip on your firearm. If the existing grip is slipping or making it hard for you to shoot, you can adapt it to suit your needs!
- If the existing grip isn’t well-contoured to your palm, then you can stipple it to make it so. However, it is important to note that you must be skilled and experienced enough to take off exactly the right amount of polymer in the right places. This process requires a lot more experience than you probably have if you are reading this article.
- You can make your gun look cooler and more aesthetically pleasing!
Things to Consider Before Stippling a Gun
Hire A Pro to Stipple Instead
Having a pro stipple the gun will often still void your warranty but at the very least, you’ll be able to have a lot more confidence that the job will be done correctly and achieve the goal you’re trying to achieve.
Yes, it is expensive, but if you’re shooting your gun often enough to really justify the benefits of stippling, then your ammo costs are going to dwarf your stipple costs anyway.
Buy Grip Tape
Another option that usually makes more sense than stippling your gun on your own is to just buy tape for grip and apply that to your gun. You can’t do much for the contour of the grip but you can make a huge difference in the comfort and usability, and they’re very affordable compared to hiring a pro to stipple your gun. Grip tapes have issues in extreme heat, and it’s not permanent, so those are some drawbacks to consider. You can use talon grips.
Here’s a video that I think is a good place to start
Consider the Ramifications of Stippling
I touched on this above, but it bears repeating: stippling your gun will most likely void your warranty. You probably will never need that warranty anyway, but it’s worth waiting until you’ve had your gun for long enough to know that it’s not a lemon before you stipple it.
Stippling is also permanent, and the added grippiness can also make the polymer wear down faster. You’ll need to clean your grip more often because dead skin, dirt, and other grime will get caught more easily in the drops of your pattern than they do with regular stock grips.
Safety Tips Before Stippling a Gun
Here are some safety tips to bear in mind when stippling a gun:
- Follow standard safety procedures with the soldering iron and keep it in its little upright cage when you’re not using it. Use safety glasses during the process.
- You’ll also want to disassemble your gun before stippling. There’s no reason to have the slide attached or anything else there, not even the trigger and trigger guard.
- Get everything out of the way unless it’s part of the receiver.
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Yes, in fact that’s the best way to do so. I’m not aware of any other method for stippling a polymer grip. I’ve never stippled wood before, but my understanding is that it is done with a hammer and nail and cannot be done with a soldering iron.
You can practice stippling on anything that’s made of polymer. A good option for most gun owners is a p-mag.
No, but also yes. You can stipple a gun on your own with no help besides this article and a couple of YouTube videos, but it’s a lot like building your own dinner table: sure, it’s got four legs and stays up when you put plates on it, but is it as good as one made by a pro woodworker?
If you hire a pro to do your stippling, it will be at least a few hundred dollars plus shipping. Even for pros, stippling takes a long time, so you’ve got to pay for all those hours to get the type of stippling that you want.
Absolutely! Skateboard tape like Talon grips are a great alternative if you’re looking for something non-permanent that doesn’t void your gun’s warranty.
Stippling is an option for folks who aren’t interested in grip tape or willing to pay a professional to stipple their gun for them. If you fall into that camp, then I hope you found this article helpful and informative. I’d advise you to check out some YouTube videos to get some good visual representation on what this process should look like!