Grip Tape: Cheap, Effective Performance Booster.
The grip on a fighting pistol is a critical part of the user interface. When the grip does not provide adequate purchase, performance suffers. Recoil is more difficult to mitigate, followup shots are slower. Accuracy can suffer if the user’s grip starts to stray from appropriate placement. High-end and custom solutions often come in the form of machined checkering or serrations. Custom polymer guns can be seen with stippling melted right into the frame. Cheaper options can be seen in wrap around rubber grip panels, or slip on rubber grip sleeves. Bicycle tubes have even made an appearance here and there, stretched over a grip to increase its performance. Then comes the dreaded “SKATEBOARD TAPE”. Grip tape has been used on combat handguns for a while, but sometimes it is seen as an ugly solution to the problem. Grip tape does wear, but it works, and it works well. Grip tape is a thin solution, with an aggressive texture.
I’ll admit I’m sold on the product, it performs and the price is right. I was showing a co-worker my 1911 with it’s VZ Gunner Grips and DIY grip tape fronstrap. As he gripped the gun he exclaimed: “This gun is not gonna care if your hands are covered in blood… solid grip. You could fall into a swimming pool and come out shooting!” It was high praise, and exactly the performance I wanted out of the grip.
As time has gone on, I’ve carried and shot the firearm quite a bit. It’s time for the occasional replacement of the grip tape. I’ll first discuss how to prepare the pistol and install the tape for good performance. I’ll then go over how to remove and replace the tape when the time comes.
First thing’s first, make sure the firearm is unloaded. You’ve got to prepare the surface you’re gonna attach the tape to. That front strap had better be clean and de-greased. If you’ve been shooting the gun chances are there’s oil on that surface. Ensure the gun is unloaded, check and double check, follow all firearm safety rules. Wipe all debris off the front strap first. Remove any surface oil. It’s time to de-grease. In my experience isopropyl alcohol works adequately. Scrub the area with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol. It’s a good idea to be pretty meticulous at this point–The surface needs to be clean for the tape to adhere.
After you’ve prepared the surface, cut your grip tape to size. For front straps I like “Skid Guard” strips. These can be found at Lowes or online. I got a pack of 8 for under four dollars. The strips are 12″ x 3/4″ it’s enough to last you a while even if you find yourself replacing them more often than I do. The Skid Guard tape is grit adhered to a plastic strip which has a strong gummy adhesive on the other side. In my experience it adheres well and tends to slowly wear off rather than peel up in one big piece. Cut the tape with scissors to the size and shape desired and adhere it to the surface. Once you’ve got the tape in place, repeatedly press and hold the tape so it adheres well to the gun.
Replacing Worn Tape.
As you use the firearm, the grip tape is going to wear. At some point it is going to need replacing. The good news is that this type of grip tape is aggressive so you’ll likely replace it before it becomes ineffective. First, slowly peel up the edge of the plastic tape layer. It is important to go slow and get enough peeled up to get a good grip on with your fingers. Slowly peel the sticker off, so it does not rip. You’ll be left with a fair amount of gummy adhesive stuck to the gun. I take a cotton swab soaked with alcohol and start working the glue. After the glue has enough alcohol on it, I use my finger to remove the adhesive. It will take little work. Once you’ve got the glue off, make sure you clean the area well and de-grease with alcohol before you put your new tape on the gun.