How to checker pistol grips

Written by chuck brown
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How to checker pistol grips
A steady hand is required to checker pistol grips. (pistol image by Ivanou Aliaksandr from

Recoil generated from firing a pistol can be surprisingly powerful, so a firm hold on the grips is essential for shooting accuracy and control. Checkering can give a better, more secure grip. The pattern created by the checkering will roughen the wood grain, which can help the hand more firmly grip the pistol. Checkering your pistol handles is best accomplished with the purchase of a checkering kit, which will help you keep the lines straight.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pencil
  • Shop vice
  • Work lamp
  • Painter's tape
  • Magnifying glass
  • Checkering tools
  • 2-line spacer
  • Bordering tool
  • V-edger
  • 90-degree finishing cutter
  • Veiner gouge (sharp or sharpened)
  • Checkering kit
  • Sealer

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  1. 1

    Remove the grips from the handle frame. Pad the jaws of a vice with bands of leather or other material, and place one of the grips firmly into the leather-covered vice jaws face up. Make sure the grip is not crooked or at an awkward angle to prevent it from breaking when you apply pressure.

  2. 2

    Set up an unobstructed light source. Aim light directly on the grip from the opposite side you will be working. Enhance the view of the grip, if needed, with a magnifying glass positioned as close to the surface of the grip as you can get it and still have enough room to work.

    How to checker pistol grips
    Work lamps with flexible necks get the light directly on the work surface. (Metal lamp image by Lithium366 from
  3. 3

    Use a pencil to transfer the pattern from the checkering kit onto the grip. Place it on the grip according to the instructions in the kit. Draw the checker pattern carefully, keeping the lines straight.

  4. 4

    Hold the guide in place on the transferred pattern. Use painter's tape if you need to to hold it firmly on the grip. Cut the first line along the guide using your single line cutter. Cut very lightly to start with. Deepen the lines once they are all lightly cut in.

  5. 5

    Keep the cut straight by keeping your forearm aligned with the line. Do not try to adjust your hands or tilt your head at an angle. This can affect your cut. Let your arms do the cutting by slowly pushing and pulling, and let your hands do the gripping.

  6. 6

    Repeat the same procedure and make your first cut in the other direction. Switch the tape to the same holding position in the opposite direction.

    How to checker pistol grips
    The handle should look checkered when finished. (pistol image by AGphotographer from
  7. 7

    Start the checkering using your trace cutter. Set the guide in the scribed line and let the cutter do its job. Work in one direction until the surface of the grip is covered. Rotate the cutter to keep it level as you near the rounded edge of the grip.

  8. 8

    Retrace all the lines with the single V tool once, then use the double-V tool to get depth in the checkering. Continue to check your work and switch back and forth with these two V tools until checkering is complete. Seal the grips before reinstalling them in the pistol handle frame.

    How to checker pistol grips
    Checkered grip (pistol image by Lani from

Tips and warnings

  • Deepen the lines gradually, and use depth in the cut to straighten any adjacent lines that are slightly crooked.
  • Take your time with this job; one crooked line will make the other lines crooked.

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