How to Stipple a GLOCK Pistol (or Any Polymer Handgun)

How To Stipple a Glock

image via Polinger Firearms

‘Stippling’ is melting the plastic exterior of a polymer gun with the intent of improving the texture for a better grip. Below is a good example from Polinger_Firearms.

Polinger Firearms via Instagram

This article is not a step-by-step “how-to” on stippling jobs: There are too many good YouTube videos demonstrating how to stipple, and I’ve linked my favorites in the appropriate sections below. This article has more to do with where to start, how to progress, and little tips and tricks that may help you along the way.

Health Warning: You are melting/burning plastic. This creates toxic fumes. Wear a mask rated to filter out the fumes, have a fan blowing, open a window, work outside – do something to minimize/eliminate how much of these fumes you breathe in.

What can you stipple? Any GLOCK handgun, Smith & Wesson M&P, Springfield XD, any polymer SIG, AR-15 grips, PMAGs. Basically, anything with a polymer frame, or plastic in general.

Why should you stipple? Aesthetics aside, stippling is a permanent way to improve the grip texture of a firearm. A common counter to this is grip tape or Talon grips. I’ve used both extensively and they never last. If you don’t plan to sell your gun, then stippling is an excellent way to improve the aggressiveness of the texture of the grip without having to worry about it wearing off.

What should you stipple with? You stipple with a soldering iron or wood burning tool. Wood burning kits, like this one, are, in my opinion, the best option. They’re inexpensive, have adjustable temperature and interchangeable tips.

The adjustable temperature will give you more control since not all polymer melts the same. The interchangeable tips give you lots of options for different textures and designs. That being said, none of those features are absolutely necessary. The most common and basic stippling pattern can be accomplished with an old soldering iron that has a fixed pointed tip.

Do you need to prep the grip before stippling? No, you don’t need to. Plenty of stipplers stipple right over the stock GLOCK texture. That being said, I think you should. By removing the stock texture and sanding it down to an even, smooth finish you improve the consistency of the stipple. Sanding it to 220 grit is easy and can improve your results. This is also a great opportunity to do trigger guard undercuts and remove the finger grooves if desired.

What pattern should you start with? The easiest pattern is the random dot pattern.

PainX via Youtube

Pain X has a great video covering the whole process. Random dot uses a pointed cone-shaped tip.  Simply cover the area you want to be stippled in dots. The dots should overlap. There isn’t supposed to be any order here. This is the easiest pattern because the only thing you have to worry about is your pressure and time.

You want to be consistent with how hard and how long you press down with the iron. The time and pressure aspects of stippling are the biggest fundamentals. This pattern is a great way to practice it. Once you’re good at this, it makes more complicated patterns easier.

The next pattern I would try is what I call a semi-random dot pattern. The first image in this article is an example of this pattern and it’s done using a dome-shaped tip.

You line the dots up in neat rows, then go back over and touch all the major intersections.

This is a good progression because it allows you to practice being ordered and precise with your stippling. If you make a mistake it’s not a big deal because you will be adding dots that randomize the pattern.

Next, I would try the starburst pattern, like this one from SuburbanHobbyist. This pattern adds layout to the process. It also gives you options for tip choice. The rectangular tip is what I commonly see used, but I’ve seen designs use the teardrop shape among others. Pick a point on the grip you want to be the center of the pattern, and draw straight lines from there.

Suburban Hobbyist via YouTube

Suburban Hobbyist via YouTube

Stipple along those lines, then fill in each section. This is a culmination of all the other skills you have been practicing. These stipples are ordered and shouldn’t overlap. There is also more leeway for creativity. The design will look different depending on how you fill each section.

Although one definitely looks more like a starburst than the other, my point is there is more room for creativity here than the other two designs. You can even forego a dotted stipple pattern and create a series of straight-line stipples. Like I said, lots of room for creativity with this one. Despite all the options, the structure of the design is very simple.  If you have a good layout and good fundamentals it should be easily accomplished.

One of the more challenging designs is the basket weave design.

Frank Castle Customs via YouTube

In this design, you are creating dozens of tiny squares that line up in straight parallel rows, at an angle, on a round grip. Did I mention the human eye is unfortunately good at picking out errors in a design like this?  If everything is supposed to look the same, it’s easy to spot the thing that doesn’t. So good luck hiding your mistakes.  But, if your layout and fundamentals are solid, it looks great when done right.

The image above is from Frank Castle Customs.  One way to accomplish a pattern like this is to use a tip like this one from OTD defense. That way, all the little squares should be the same. Just don’t forget the orientation of the bit.

If you don’t have that, don’t feel like buying it, or think you can do better without, use a rectangular bit and create each individual square yourself. Pulling off this pattern without any mistakes is a great indication that you have mastered the fundamentals of stippling. Do your best to keep the iron vertical. An angled iron can distort the stipples next to it.

Borders are a great way to enhance any stipple pattern. A clean, defined border really helps the stipple pattern stand out from the rest of the gun. Dave Modz Customs has a great video on doing recessed borders.  His use of stones instead of toothed bits really helps create an even, consistent border.

Grinding or sanding bits don’t cut as aggressively as toothed bits. A toothed bit wants to bite into the material it is cutting. This makes it easier for the bit to dig deep and take more material than wanted. Stone or grinding bits don’t have this problem. That being said, to establish his U-shaped borders, Polinger Firearms uses a carbide burr that looks something like this:

I’ve also seen wood gouges used to create U-shaped borders.

When using a Dremel tool, be aware of which way it spins. The bits will create a burr on one side. If you are aware of this, you can keep the burr consistently on the same side, like the inside of the border. Not only will this make everything more consistent, it will make cleanup easier down the line. It will also leave the outermost edge of the border the sharpest and cleanest.

Tip orientation when stippling is an important detail that is often overlooked. The iron is usually held at some sort of angle, like when you hold a pen/pencil. This angle prevents the stipple from being symmetrical. If you can keep the iron in the same orientation in relation to the grip the entire time, the pattern will be more consistent. Keeping the iron straight up and down eliminates this issue, but is hard to do, and isn’t necessary unless doing certain patterns like the basket weave.

This applies to the direction of your stipple as well. Work away from what you just stippled so that you can clearly see what you just stippled. This will keep the new stipple from bleeding into the previous one and distorting it. This is important for patterns like the basket weave or starburst where you don’t really want overlap or stipple distortion.  Not a big deal for the random dot pattern.

Finding a stable way to hold the firearm is also very helpful. Travis Polinger likes to use a rolled-up towel. Other than that, you can use parts of your body, a flat surface, or anything that helps you be stable and consistent.

So that about covers the basics. Your imagination is the only limit when it comes to stippling. The key is to practice. Practice your fundamentals and different designs on something other than a real firearm. Cheap airsoft guns are a good alternative because you get to practice maneuvering all around a grip. Either way, grabbing something plastic and practicing pressure and taking your time is helpful no matter what it is.

 

Matt Sandy is an Austin-based gunsmith who competes in both USPSA and PRC matches. 

comments

  1. avatar strych9 says:

    We’ll see. The guy at the shop really did do a very good and professional job at helping her find something she wanted without telling her what she should get. I just kind of sat back and watched. It did take some convincing to get her to drop down to 9mm since her smallest pistol to date has been a .40 so I’m going to be interested to see how she reacts to it.

    Amusingly enough the guys working there, when not dealing with customers, were reading TTAG.

  2. avatar Geoff "Bring the EDIT button back, will ya, TTAG?" PR says:

    Ah, but that makes…

    Hey, Dan? Any news on *WHEN* the edit button may return???

  3. avatar Bigus Dickus says:

    Ah yes, Glock Perfection.

    1. avatar guest. says:

      Complaining about something other people do that doesn’t affect you? Found the Democrat.

      1. avatar Iron Cat Beast says:

        More poking fun at the marketing angle of a product being “perfect” when consumers are finding all sorts of ways to improve upon it. But sure; let’s never, ever take a break from politics for even one second.

    2. avatar Jim Bob says:

      Yeah, or just get a P80 frame – already has textured grip and a MUCH better grip angle. And the frame is recessed for the mag release.

      1. avatar -Peter says:

        Or buy a Sig, CZ, HK, S&W…

  4. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    One of my friends recently had someone he knows stipple the grip of his AR build, and he ended up unhappy with it because it was too agressive. Felt like sandpaper on your palm. If you do it, take the depth and “sharpness” of the little dimples in your pattern into account before you get too far into it.

    1. avatar All Hail! says:

      His wisdom is priceless, yet he freely gives it away. What a time to be alive!

      All Hail.

    2. avatar Anymouse says:

      AR pistol grips are great to practice on. They’re pretty cheap and aren’t the serialized part, so you can try the different techniques and find what you like.

      1. avatar BLAMMO!! says:

        Good idear. Cheap enough to throw away and replace if you wreck one. And, you can test the real-world practial feel of what you did.

      2. avatar Jim Bob says:

        I have about a million A2 grips you can practice on…

    3. avatar -Peter says:

      Consider practicing on a Magpul PMag. It looks cool and improves the magazines, but if you accidentally botch a patter or get too aggressive with the texture, there’s no real loss.

      I just stippled three Pmags this weekend, and I could see a big improvement in the quality of my work just over the course of those three small projects.

  5. avatar kahlil says:

    I prefer the Glock stippling method where one places the firearm ~3 yds away and “stipples” is with something around the the size of a .45-70 round. A few of those and the Glock cleans up right nice.

    1. avatar possum says:

      #6 and a 12 gauge work pretty well too.

  6. avatar shiggs says:

    Practice your technique on a Pmag. Way cheaper than a new frame if you don’t like it or mess up.

    1. avatar guest says:

      If you go from a magpul product to a pistol frame you’ll go way too deep. Magpul stuff is a much harder plastic.

    2. avatar -Peter says:

      Good advice! I stippled three Pmags over the weekend, and I could see a big improvement in my own work just over the course of the three small projects.

  7. avatar napresto says:

    I never take gun modding advice from people who think gold Glocks and home-brewed grip stippling are cool.

  8. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    Go with Polymer 80 frames and you won’t need to stipple and it cures all of Gastons other ills, no hump no bump no Glock knuckle,gee true perfection.

    1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

      Agree with that. Poly 80 frames solve some issues.

      I use skateboard tape on most everything I shoot.

  9. avatar ak47 says:

    Trumkp’s Face look stippled….in a very bad way!

  10. avatar ak47 says:

    that is the Russian spelling for Trump!

  11. avatar BeoBear says:

    Keep in mind that any stippling done to a S&W will void it’s warranty. I heard this before I intended to stipple my Gen I M&P so I contacted S&W. They confirmed that ANY stippling will void the warranty. The Gen I has as much traction as a wet bar of soap so I went with a Hogue grip instead of voiding the warranty.

    It’s just something to consider before melting that first dot on your S&W.

  12. avatar The Rookie says:

    Okay, Rookie Question of the Week: Does stippling have the potential to weaken the integrity of the grip? I would guess you’d have to go way overboard to damage the frame, but I’m curious.

  13. avatar LifeSavor says:

    Hmmm…I have G17 and a G43. Never considered stippling; grips seem fine. Same with my Ruger LCP 2. HOWEVER, I might purchase a set of Talon grips for the 43 just to see if the shooting experience improves. Try something new, learn something new. Reminds me of a girlfriend from a while back….

    1. avatar Napresto says:

      I had talons on my Glock 43 for a while. The grip on the gun was good – like sandpaper or skateboard tape – but I didn’t like how it caught on clothes, upholstery, etc. Since it was my CCW, I pulled it off after a while since catching on things all the time was not cool with me. I wonder if the more rubbery talons would be better? I liked the grips in general…

      1. avatar -Peter says:

        Try a Hogue Handall or Handall Jr.

    2. avatar SoCalJack says:

      I still have the original Talon rubber grip on my primary Shield, I have 2, for 4 years now. I carry appendix and have subjected it to sweat and heat. The grip has not lifted but has shifted 1mm or 2.

  14. avatar possum says:

    Get the plastic melty then push a bone in the grips, wow cool bone handled Glock

    1. avatar JustSayin(OG) says:

      God bless you Possum.

  15. avatar Wayne R. says:

    I’ve stippled a few of my own, and since recently I picked up a laser engraver, I figured I’d up my game a bit & learn how to do it with the laser. First thing I discovered is how different each manufacturers polymer recipes are. The settings (power, advance speed, etc) for a S&W are WAAY different than for a Glock, or a SIg. It’s a great “theory” that practicing on AR grips is a cheap way to learn the craft; it is to a point, but some of them are so different that what works great with a Glock isn’t worth a crap on a Sig…the same problem is gonna exist doing it by hand.
    Looking forward to getting it figured out. Lasering, the pattern choice is the easy part. Getting the layout, time, power settings dialed in is a lot bigger challenge, and it’s not something you want to make many mistakes with. Lasers can do some Amazing looking work, but they can cost you a bunch of money in a hurry if you make a mistake

  16. avatar tdiinva says:

    There is a kind of Glock owner who pursues perfecting perfection. By the time he is finished perfecting perfection the only thing left of the original Glock is the serial number. The Glockster perfectionist doesn’t have a significant other since he starts recommending plastic surgery on the first date. There is no second date.

    The other kind of Glock owner revels in nedicority. He loves his Micky D’s #1 medium, drinks Bud Light and his significant other is a plain Jane who could to stand to lose 20lbs.

    Back in the late 80s Glock was it. Today you can buy a modern polymer striker fired pistol that is more or less good to go out of the box. You can get a nicely stippled grip, decent trigger and sights all with equal reliability and durability.

    And I final bought a Glock. I needed a new energency/backup gun so I bought a G42. Worst trigger outside of a Walthers PK380 but I confess that the find sights to be just fine. I still put all the rounds in a 9 x 12 oval on a FLETC target at 15 yards never having fired it. I won’t be wasting my money on a new trigger on gun that might carry as a primary a dozen times a year.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Looks like you’ve got it figured out……or it could be ….people buy stuff and then play with it to their satisfaction…..not giving a shit about what you think.

      There are one kind of people that denigrate someone else’s hobbies or interests…. dicks.

      What do you waste your money on?

      I spend my money on guns and liquor. The rest I waste.

  17. avatar Mike says:

    Another option is cnc laser stippling. The patterns are clean and much more even than hand stippling.

  18. avatar sound awake says:

    i was thinking about fixing up my glock 22
    then i added up the cost of all the stuff that i would do to it if i started to do anything to it
    it would have been about the same as building another ar pattern
    and i never would have carried it
    and probably shot it very little
    because it would have been so nice that i would have been too afraid of scratching or otherwise damaging it
    all i would have done is rub it with a diaper
    so i nixed that idea…

  19. avatar Use it to beat Antifa and blm demonstrators, stipple up! says:

    Patterns of freedom

  20. avatar Ralph says:

    I prefer rudyard stippling.

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