Dressing Up Your 1911
January 3rd, 2021
5 minute read
Owners of the iconic Springfield Armory 1911 pistol buy this firearm for a wide range of reasons, including their great looks. In most cases the handgun’s blued or stainless finish closes the deal and the appealing factory-installed grips are a bonus. The true American way, however, is tinkering with what you have in hand, and the 1911 fits this mindset with ease. There are numerous upgrades that can be made at home to 1911s, and changing the grips is a quick and simple project that anyone can complete. This change can truly make your 1911 a personal statement.
If you want to add color and flare to your favorite 1911, replacement grips can add the personal flash to get that custom WOW! factor. The great news is that companies such as Florida-based VZ Grips offer more than two dozen 1911 grips in various colors, patterns and materials. From the patriotic red-white-n-blue to a rattlesnake skin pattern, they have you — and your 1911 — covered. This can be a great DIY project.
Which 1911 Is It?
When you want to do a grip replacement or upgrade, the first question is what 1911 are you outfitting? The distance from hole-to-hole is about three inches apart on most models — fortunately — and generally most 1911 pistols have two flathead or hex-head screws on each side to hold the grips in place. You’ll need to determine if you have a standard full-size frame or the smaller compact-frame pistol. “Commander” style models, as an example, normally use full-size grips.
“If any 1911 owner is uncertain about the distance between screws on a grip so they select the right size, taking the measurement is simple,” says Stephen Tillman with VZ Grips. “The best way to measure the screw-to-screw distance is with calipers or a mechanics ruler. Take a look at the VZ Grips FAQ page to get more specifics.” For more details, visit www.vzgrips.com/FAQ.
Then you must decide what you want the new grips to feel like in your hand. Your options include thicker for more in-the-hand surface, or thinner for a slimmer grip. Look also at the heel of the 1911 you have because there are a couple of styles, such as standard or bobtailed.
Finally, your preference in pattern, color, thickness, material and other considerations must be decided to select your best new grips. VZ Grips offer wider and deeper cut-outs on some grips to make reaching and pushing the release button easier and also some grip styles to make reaching the ambi-safety easier. In fact, you’ll need to select whether your grips are cut for an ambi safety or not when placing your order. As you can tell, there are many options. These provide more customization choices that aid with deciding what new grips you select and install.
VZ Grips representative Tillman also stressed a basic of firearms safety and Rule No. 1 before making any grip change: “Make sure the gun is unloaded!!!!” Before working on the pistol go beyond removing the magazine. In a safe area and while not pointing the firearm at yourself, physically open the action and visually inspect the chamber ahead of the magazine well to be certain a cartridge is not in there.
Next, select the right tools and ensure a proper fit with the four screw heads. Be certain you have the proper fitting screwdriver so the head does not extend and scratch the grips, or a hex head strips out the screw because it is not the right size. This is where a multi-head set of screwdrivers sold in a kit and designed by companies in the firearms industry shine because you can select the right tool and head, and these are generally designed for use on firearm parts with a perfect fit.
Then select a clean and well-lit area to work on the pistol so you don’t lose parts or the small screws. Carefully remove the screws from the grips, and then remove the grips. If they seem to be stuck, insert a small screwdriver into the magazine well and gently push up. While you have the grips off, inspect the frame for cracks or wear. Align your new grips with the screw holes, push those onto the frame, and carefully reinstall the screws. Then tighten and check that the pistol’s magazine release and safeties work properly.
“Changing the grips on a 1911 really shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes,” says Tillman with VZ Grips. “Sometimes though the OEM will Loctite the screws in, and then you will have to use a heat gun or blow dryer to heat the screw and bushing up before removing the screws. Keep in mind if you change the size of your stock grips to a slimmer profile you will also need to change out the bushings.” VZ Grips offers universal bushings that will allow the use of slim and regular thickness grips.
I did a grip change on a Springfield Armory Ronin Operator 1911 in around five minutes and found the new VZ Grips in G10 that I installed had a great in-hand feel. This is a great DIY project to customize any 1911. So be sure to visit VZ Grips and check out all the options they offer. From G10 to carbon fiber to wood or more, and with just about any color and configuration you could want, they have an option there for you.
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