Wednesday, October 19, 2016

1911 Grip Sizes & Options: What you should know before buying... (an UPDATE)

(Note from the author: I wrote this article 7 years ago and decided that I needed to update it a bit.)

Replacing the stock grips on your favorite 1911 is one of the fastest & most affordable ways to upgrade the look & feel of your firearm. This can be done for as cheap as 2 or 3 boxes of ammo. There are so many choices of grips in the market today... exotic hardwoods with old-school checkering, wicked flames or skull designs... high-strength polymers with wild inlays & medallions... there are grips made of the latest high-tech materials like aluminum alloys, G-10 & micarta... and goin' nature-trippin', there are rattlesnake, alligator, stingray & other types of skins & hides that are now available... and don't forget ivory (legal), antlers & bone... whew! So many grips... So little time...

A lot of 1911 owners have multiple number of grips to suit their different moods. Some like the subdued look on their everyday carry, but on special occasions, they bust out their most outrageous, flashy grips. I have this regular customer from Hamburg, Germany who only has 2 or 3 1911s but has something like 20+ grips!

But before you start your own collection of grips, you must first determine your grip size and options for better fit. In this posting, I will attempt to briefly summarize what you will need to know before you purchase your dream set that you were drooling over these past few days (or weeks)...

Before we begin, here is a summary of the basic information that you will need:
1. Grip Size: Full-sized frame (includes the Combat Commander), Officer's Model, or
2. Options: Standard (no additional cuts), Ambi-cuts, Taurus-cuts, cuts for Extended slide stop &/or Extended safety lock?
1. Grip Size.
Size does matter! There are 3 basic grip sizes for the commercially available 1911. All of these are determined by the frame size of your handgun (and not the barrel length or slide size as some people think).
Grips for the Full-Size Frame: Government/Combat Commander/Pro Carry. This is the frame size of your original government issue-sized pistol with barrel lengths of 5" or more. Most of the ones in the market fall under this category. If your 1911 is not a "compact" gun, chances are, your handgun has a full-sized frame. The "combat commander" was first introduced by Colt as a compact variant of the "government" design. Like it's big brother, it's frame is actually full-sized too. The only major difference is that the barrel size (& slide) is shorter at 4.25". To quickly check if your firearm has a full-sized frame, the distance between the grip holes should be slightly MORE than 3" from center to center.
Grips for the Compact: Officers Model/Defender/Ultra Carry. After the introduction of the "commander", there was still a need for even smaller models for concealed carry. So Colt introduced a 3.50" barrel variant called the "officer's model". To make this gun work, they modified the frame. Grips for this model are slightly smaller & would not fit the full-sized 1911s. The Colt Defender & the Kimber Ultra Carry's grips are similar to this model. To quickly check if your compact firearm is similar to an officer's model, the distance between the grip holes are slightly LESS than 3" from center to center.

Others. Of course, everybody wants an even smaller gun, right? So they did it again. The Sub-Compact was introduced as a backup to the backup gun... The frame is now even more smaller, and so are the grips. Other variants of the 1911 like the classic Llama, the double-stacked Para Ordinance Hi-caps, the itsy-bitsy SIG P238 (Is this still a 1911?), and my all-time favorite, the hard-hitting .50 cal Grizzly LAR have very different 1911 frame configurations. Of course, these
variants have different types of grips as well. Take note that aftermarket grips for these are hard to find, so don't be discouraged. I do have grips for the P238, but in VERY limited quantity.
2. Options.
This section deals with the optional cuts needed on the grips for proper fit.
Standard/No Cuts. Yup, no cuts needed. The firearm does NOT have the following: ambi-safety, extended slide stop, or extended safety lock.
Ambi-cuts. The grips will need special cuts for the Ambidextrous Safety. They involve the trimming of the top of the right panel & I notch just behind the top screw.
Special Cuts for the Extended Safety Lock, &/or Extended Slide Stop. Check if your 1911 has these aftermarket parts. The grips may need to be trimmed down for these as well.

Special Taurus-cuts. The Taurus PT1911 is a special one because all the extended options mentioned above are found as standard on this gun. This & the fact that it's affordable make it quite popular to a lot of first-time 1911 owners.

Beveled or Magwell/Square Bottom? Finally, does your firearm have a magwell? Then you need flat or square bottoms. The standard grips have beveled bottoms.
The Bobtail. These guns popularized by Dan Wesson are pretty cool & functional. The bobtail gives the handgun a smaller footprint when carried with a cant & minimizes contact with the body while in the holster, so they say. Obviously, the grips of bobtails need to be trimmed. They actually have the same dimensions except for the diagonal (or round) cut at the bottom corner.
So you want new grips to spice up your 1911 handgun, huh? Take note of the grip size & the options and you will have a smooth & easy time with your friendly neighborhood grip maker!!!

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Back to 1911 Custom Killer Grips.


  1. I buy every firearm product with the word "tactical" in the description

  2. I have a set of the railed grips and a tac-lite on my 1918-vintage Colt when it's the on-duty burglar extinguisher. I like them.

  3. I have always liked the basic design of the 1911, but that doesn't stop me from also liking many look alikes, such as the bushing less Kimber 4" and the Sistema Colt from Argentina. The trigger is a particular like of mine as it just slides straight back, with no change in the trigger finger to trigger geometry for a crisp "breaking glass rod" release. A lot about accuracy is in the trigger pull. Of course, I also love single and double action revolvers as well. I guess I'm just an "equal opportunity" type when it comes to handguns.