Stippling is a craft technique that involves using a soldering iron to burn small dots onto polymer frames, rail panels, grips, fore ends or even magazines. While it’s applications are endless for arts and crafts projects, it is also frequently used as a customization and safety enhancement for the grip of a firearm. It’s used on handgun grips to create a raised surface texture for better shooting control. Stippling is an effective and affordable way to increase safety while simultaneously adding a personal touch to your firearm.
Evolution of the Craft
Stippling is a functional and decorative technique that has been used for many centuries in various applications. It started as a blacksmithing technique long ago and has evolved to find use in contemporary applications where electric soldering irons are used.
DIY gun owners and gunsmiths use stippling today to reduce the risks associated with gun handling and firing by creating textured surfaces to increase grip. Raised surface formations can be created on the handles and casings of guns through dimpling. The technique also supports pattern customization to your personal preferences.
Importance of Handgun Stippling
Stippling is easy because modern handgun grips are mostly built with the design-in grab feature. Ergonomic handgun grips require minimal stippling. However, antique guns manufactured before the 20th century more frequently benefit from stippling.
The technique enhances how the grip of a handgun conforms to your hand, improving your shooting control. With better anti-slip use of your gun, the technique improves its safety during loading, cleaning, firing, and general handling. Custom modification is possible if your handgun has removable or replaceable grips because you can use various stippling techniques or stipple your gun over time.
The kind of stippling you can have on your gun depends on its use. If you use your gun for self-defense or sport recreation, its original grip will have a unique OEM-level texture embedding. It’s important to choose a stippling technique suitable for your gun.
Although you can stipple based on your personal needs and for better appearance, your main focus should be to improve the safety, shooting control and accuracy of your gun’s grip.
How to Stipple the Grip of Your Handgun
Stippling basically involves coating your gun and its features through an easy and accurate process. If you find the DIY process cumbersome, you can hire the services of a professional gunsmith. However, many gun enthusiasts and collectors enjoy stippling their guns the DIY way. What’s more, you add personal touches to your gun through the DIY process.
You can use a standard soldering iron for DIY stippling. Depending on your preferred finish, a wood burner can come in handy. With a soldering iron, you can also burn designs into your gun’s plastic or wooden parts for improved appearance and uniqueness. The pro of using electric soldering irons is that they’re affordable and don’t require cleanup after use.
If you’re a beginner, practice your stippling skills on other objects before working on your handgun.
Materials needed for stippling a pistol
- Soldering iron
- Two pieces of sandpaper
- Goggles or safety glasses
- Electrical tape or duct rolls
- Metal/Brass screw with a modified slotted or checkered head (optional)
- Unloaded pistol with the safety engaged
- First choose the part to stipple on your handgun. Consider the sides if you’re a beginner and use tape to cover the areas you don’t want stippled.
- Heat the soldering iron and press it onto your gun’s grip to create a desired pattern, line, ridge or dot. Repeat until you cover the parts you intend to stipple. (Again, we recommend practicing beforehand as this procedure will irreversibly modify your grip!)
- Optionally, you can remove the tip from your soldering iron and insert a screw with a patterned (checkered) head and then use the heated screw head to stipple instead of the soldering iron tip.
- Apply finishing touches and let the gun cool. Use the sandpaper to smooth the surfaces of the stippled areas. Start with the broad strokes of 220 grit sandpaper and finish it with 400 grit sandpaper for a refined finish. Cover your gun with a case and store it for future use.
Stippling is fun and easy for most gun owners and collectors and it adds a personal touch to your firearm while simultaneously increasing safety!
Best soldering iron for stippling: Weller WLC100
Weller WLC100 40-Watt Soldering Station
- High performance analog soldering station produces up to 900° F to handle many soldering projects
- Variable power control dial adjusts power from 5 watts to 40 watts for accuracy
- Quality, lightweight pencil iron with cushioned foam grip provides extended comfort during long term soldering projects
- Includes: a Weller certified ST3 iron plated tip for long life and consistent performance, a built in soldering holder to safely rest your pencil, and a cleaning sponge to remove unwanted residue from soldering for next time use
- UL Listed: Tested and meets independent safety standards
Our pick for the best gun/iron for this application is the Weller WLC100. Why? Because it features adjustable temperature control, station functionality (easy access to a wiping sponge and somewhere to set your hot iron down), light weight, and a foam grip. It comes with a fine tip and has an assortment of additional tips available if you don’t prefer to use the included tip. It also features a set screw with removable tips – so you can easily use a screw head for stippling as well. Be sure to also check out our full review for the Weller WLC100.