I don’t believe there has ever been more interest in concealed carry than right now. Obviously, the unrest and violence we see dominating our news nightly has been a factor in this trend. But a realization that law enforcement may be miles away when you most need them certainly has a bearing on this trend, and many of us have lost a significant degree of confidence in our own government.

Today, there are plenty of handguns that function very well as concealed-carry weapons, but in many instances the performance of those firearms can be greatly enhanced by simply swapping the original factory grips for aftermarket CCW grips. No matter whether you prefer to carry a full-sized model like a 1911 or one of the smaller compact semi-autos or revolvers, there is likely a grip that will work better for you than the one that came on the gun from the factory. And best of all, making the conversion is frequently a very easy one to perform.


Since 1968, the Hogue family has been producing high-quality shooting products. This line now includes a vast array of shooting accessories like stocks, knives, AR components and other related items. However, the company is likely best known for the handgun grips it produces. Obviously, those grips are meant to improve the performance of the shooter, but at the same time they often contribute greatly to the overall appearance of the gun itself.

A great example of this can be seen in the company’s exotic hardwood, finger-grooved, one-piece revolver grips. These are very functional and exceptionally attractive grips that are available to fit a wide variety of handgun models. They are available in several exotic wood choices or laminate versions, and in some cases even similar rubber versions are available. My own personal favorite Hogue grip, made of Kingwood, is mounted on my Ruger SP101. Prices vary based on the type of material and the model handgun they are meant to be installed on. They range from about $60 up to $210 for wood models and in most cases considerably less for a similar rubber model. There are also choices available without finger notches and other configurations.

Quality Sleeve

Many of the modern-day semi-autos available today, particularly those with polymer frames, do not come with removable grips; rather, the grips are an integral part of the molded polymer frame. My own S&W Shield 9mm falls into this category. In these cases, your ability to improve your grip is a little more limited than those handguns designed with the typical removable grips. But Hogue has addressed these concerns with its HandAll grip sleeve. These sleeves have been scientifically engineered and designed to conform to the shooter’s hand and the firearm itself in order to improve handling as well as shooting comfort.

In order to function properly, the HandAll sleeves are extremely tight-fitting. As such, they can sometimes pose a bit of a challenge when it comes to installation. Nevertheless, I found that by carefully following the instructions that came with the HandAll sleeve, including submerging it a pan of boiling water, I was able to master the process. Once installed, the sleeve is almost like a second skin over the grip. Hogue’s HandAll sleeves are available to fit many different models from various manufacturers and carry suggested retail prices ranging from only $9 up to $13.


Pachmayr has been in the shooting accessory business for decades, making recoil pads, grips and other related products. A few years ago, the company was purchased by Lyman Products but continues to produce the same high-quality accessories it always has. The company’s new GuardianGrip is a perfect example of that dedication. This grip was designed to make concealed-carry revolvers a bit more user-friendly by keeping the overall size to a minimum.

What makes this system so unique is the patented spring-loaded finger extension. With the simple press of a button, a grip extension immediately drops down, converting what is often viewed as a two-finger hold into a more controllable three-finger grip. The result is a revolver that carries like a compact but shoots like a full-sized model. The GuardianGrip is contoured in order to accommodate loading with a speedloader and comes with checkered grip panels. Currently, GuardianGrips are available to fit Ruger LCR and S&W J-Frame revolvers, but other models are likely in the works.

While many CCW shooters prefer small, pocket-style weapons, others favor the advantages inherent in a full-sized handgun, like the very popular Model 1911. Pachmayr’s American Legend grips address those needs and come in a range of materials and patterns to choose from, including rosewood, charcoal silvertone and heritage walnut laminate. These grips come with attractive wood trim and recoil-absorbing rubber panels with comfortable finger grooves. They feature a wraparound design with relief cuts for ambidextrous safeties and the mainspring housing pin. The American Legend grips for 1911s start at $50.


Based out of Moriarty, New Mexico, Ergo develops and manufactures high- performance small arms accessories for civilians as well as law enforcement and military personnel. Ergo’s Delta Grip is a one-piece design consisting of a rigid polymer core overlaid with a texturized rubber layer. The result is a grip that is secure and durable as well as comfortable. This design encourages a more natural point of aim. It also helps to improve the mechanics of the human hand, wrist and arm. Currently, Ergo Delta Grips are available to fit S&W J-Frame models (excluding the S&W Bodyguard 38) and Ruger LCR/LCRx handguns, with suggested retail prices from $27 to $33.

Ergo also produces heavily textured, but minimally abrasive, hard rubber grips for the Model 1911. These are thin-profile scales that allow the gun to better hug the body of the wearer to better coincide with the needs of a CCW. They are available in tapered or square-bottom designs, with a couple of different textures and in various colors, all for $27.


The Altamont Company specializes in high-speed machining of wood and composite parts, particularly those used by gun-makers and others within the shooting industry. The company’s Bateleur grips are artistic and can help improve your steadiness. These grips are available in a wide variety of different configurations to fit many different model handguns. They are available in bonded ivory, plain wood patterns, textured and checkered designs, and with or without engraving.

They are available in a variety of appearances, ranging from very fancy to semi-plain, checkered or not. For my own K-Frame S&Ws, I chose a couple of Altamont Bateleur finger-grooved grips: I put a Super Walnut set without checkering on my S&W Model 15 Combat Masterpiece in .38 Special and a textured/checkered Super Rosewood Spanish Diamond set with a laser-inscribed logo on my snub-nose S&W Model 19 in .357 Magnum. I found both grips were superbly well made and very attractive. Both sets were a bit larger than the S&W factory grips that came on those guns, but this provided me with a much steadier hold. The suggested retail prices vary depending upon the design and material used but generally range from about $40 up to $80.

Lifesaving CCW Grips

I personally can’t think of a single factory- built firearm that couldn’t stand to be improved upon. Cost savings are always factors when it comes to production firearms, and that desire sometimes comes into strong contention with the performance of the weapon. While out-of-box firearms may in some instances be adequate to get the job done, isn’t it better to give a little thought to improving its performance—particularly when it comes to a weapon that may one day be the only thing standing between injury to you or your family?

While many firearms improvements require the assistance of a gunsmith, changing handgun grips is usually a fairly easy process that you can accomplish on your own. Whether you decide to take advantage of the unique extendable design of the Pachmayr GuardianGrip to minimize the carrying size, install one of the eye-appealing exotic hardwood models from Hogue for enhanced stability or go with one of the other many aftermarket improved grip styles, chances are it will likely result in an improvement in your ability to hit what you are shooting at.

For More Information




This article was originally published in the March/April 2018 issue of “Combat Handguns” To order a copy, visit

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