Getting a Grip

Custom Grips for Special Pistols

By Harwood Loomis

One of the many great things about the historic and ubiquitous M1911 pistol platform is that it is a standard. With the exception of the Spanish-made Llama pistols, virtually any 1911 clone will accept replacement parts from virtually any source, OEM or aftermarket. This has resulted in a healthy and vibrant industry producing all sorts of ways to customize your Roscoe, not the least of which is custom grips (or “stocks,” for the purists). Choices range from plain Walnut to exotic tropical woods such as Cocobolo to ebony; stag horn; water buffalo horn (all the way from Vietnam); genuine ivory; various synthetic materials that can either look like … synthetic materials … or that can mimic the appearance of exotic natural materials at less cost; and various metals ranging from aluminum to brass to pewter to silver.

Owners of traditional, single stack 1911 pistols have no shortage of choices in selecting just the grips (stocks) they need to make their pistol into a personal statement. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for double stack pistols in general, and ParaUSA pistols in particular. The same problem faces owners of Springfield Armory’s tiny EMP pistols, and custom pistols built on Caspian Arms’ proprietary double stack frames. Until now, aftermarket choices for these platforms basically didn’t exist.

Grip maker AlumaGrips has finally taken up the cause and is introducing custom aluminum grips to fit the ParaUSA P14.45 (and the same grips fit the 14.45LDA, the P18.9 and the CTX1890, the Springfield EMP, and the Caspian Hi-Cap. AlumaGrips recently sent us prototype samples of each for evaluation. I wasn’t at all sure I would like aluminum grips, but I have to admit that I was impressed.


The first set I looked at was the grips for the ParaUSA P14.45. There are multiple issues with making grips to fit the Para double stacks. Although the overall width (thickness) of a Para double stack isn’t significantly greater than that of a Colt single action, the grip frame is obviously considerably fatter. The factory grip panels have to be correspondingly thinner to keep the overall grip size within reason. At the top, the fat double stack magazine well portion of the grip frame tapers down to the width of a standard, single stack 1911.

Magazine well taper of a ParaUSA P14.45

Where the back side of standard 1911 grips are perfectly flat, the grips for a Para double stack have to incorporate a tapered wedge filler portion at the top. Moreover, they also have to curve around at the back edge to cover the transition from the double stack magazine well to the single stack-sized mainspring housing.

P14.45 frame with grips removed

Because the trigger stirrup has to also be double wide to fit around the double stack magazines, the back of the grip frame is notched to allow the trigger to be inserted into the pistol. The grip panels incorporate an integral filler piece to fill these notches. (See above.)

All this has apparently discouraged most of the aftermarket makers of custom and semi-custom grips, because there simply isn’t much available for the Para double stacks. The new offerings from AlumaGrips, then, respond to a gaping opening in the market. These new grips are very well made, and they address all the issues that need to be addressed. First, they incorporate the wedge shape at the top, for the frame transition. They wrap around the back of the magazine well. And they include the fillers for the trigger stirrup slots.

OEM Para grips on top, AlumaGrips below

AlumaGrips alone

The new grips dropped right onto the frame of my P14.45. The Para double stacks do not use grip screw bushings; the screws thread directly into the frame and incorporate oversized heads to retain the grips. The AlumaGrips were perfectly sized, the holes lined up, and the holes were correct for the screws.

The AlumaGrips, with the transition wedge at the top

The fillers for the trigger slots also fell right into place and fit perfectly flush with the surface of the frame:

The design of the sample grips we received is very attractive. The surface is mostly checkered, with a diagonal area at the top rear on each side left smooth. I am not generally a fan of half-checkered grips, but these are very attractive. They also feel very good to the hand. The OEM Para grips are checkered in the traditional pattern, with the individual diamonds ending in points. The diamonds on the AlumaGrips are truncated, making for a much smoother feeling panel that nonetheless has sufficient “bite” to allow the shooter to hold the pistol securely.

Here’s what they look like in profile:

AlumaGrips succeeded in making their grips nearly as thin as the OEM ParaUSA plastic grips. The overall width of the pistol with the OEM grips installed measured 1.330 inches at the lower grip screw location. With the AlumaGrips installed, it measured 1.340 inches. I could not feel the difference in thickness at all, and in such matters feel is often more perceptive than sight.

I asked if AlumaGrips has any intention of offering these grips for the shorter P13.45 and P12.45 pistols. Unfortunately (for me), at this time the answer is no. If sales of these grips take off, however, and it becomes apparent that there is a demand, I believe that AlumaGrips could be persuaded to expand the line to include more models.

Springfield EMP

For those who have not been paying attention, a few years ago Springfield Armory set the 1911 world on its collective ear by introducing a “miniaturized” version of the 1911 specifically (originally) for the .45 GAP cartridge. Although Springfield never brought the .45 GAP version to market, they did release the little pistol in a 9mm Parabellum version dubbed the EMP … for Enhanced Micro Pistol. What they did was to (in automotive hotrod terms) “chop and channel” the 1911 frame, cutting a vertical slice out of the grip frame up through the magazine well, making the overall pistol about 3/16” shorter fore-to-aft than a standard 1911 of the same (3-inch) barrel length. The fore-to-aft truncating of the magazine well portion of the frame means that anything running through that portion of the pistol has to be made correspondingly shorter: the trigger, the plunger tube, and extractor, the firing pin … and the grips. And because the EMP is a non-standard size, there aren’t a lot of aftermarket grips available for it.

AlumaGrips has now filled this void in the marketplace, as well.

When we first discussed the new offerings, I told AlumaGrips that I had once handled an EMP but that I do not own one. I was somewhat taken aback when I discovered that they had sent me a pair of the EMP grips anyway. Knowing that Springfield Armory and ParaUSA are engaged in a battle over who gets to claim the smallest 1911, I had assumed the EMP was the same extra-short height as the Para Slim Hawg. Since the Slim Hawg is not a “standard” 1911 style pistol, I was dubious that the screw holes would line up with those on my Slim Hawg. To my surprise, I was informed that the height of the EMP is the same as that of a Colt Officers ACP or Defender, and that the grip screw spacing is “standard.” So I pulled out a Colt M1991A1 Compact and tried the new AlumaGrips on that. Sure enough, the holes lined up and they fit perfectly. Almost.

AlumaGrips on the Colt M1991A1 Compact

Remember, the EMP is truncated fore-to-aft. Although the new grips went right onto the Colt, there was a bit of extra flat surface ahead of and behind the grips than with standard Officers grips. The Compact I used for these photographs happens to be equipped with Pearce rubber grips. Laying one of the new AlumaGrips on top of the Pearce grip from the opposite side shows the difference in dimension. In the photograph below, the trailing edges are aligned, and the forward edge of the AlumaGrip is visibly set back:

The AlumaGrips are thin, too. The pistol in the photos has standard grip bushings, which are too tall to allow the screws to be run down into the holes on the grips. With the AlumaGrips mounted, the thickness at the lower screw holes measured 1.075 inches. With the Pearce rubber grips installed, the thickness was 1.270 inches. The ParaUSA Slim Hawg has very thin grips. As a comparison, I also measured a Slim Hawg (again at the lower screw hole location) and found the measurement to be 1.095 inches. The AlumaGrips are even thinner than the very thin ParaUSA grips on the Slim Hawg. If I hadn’t measured it myself, I probably would not believe it.

This sample pair of grips is fully checkered with a smooth border, truncated diamond checkering, and is finished in an attractive matte grey. The M1991A1 Compact is a bit larger than an EMP, but the following photographs offer a close approximation of how these new grips might look on an EMP:

Caspian Hi-Cap

Caspian sells their proprietary double stack frame directly to custom gunmakers. If I understand the marketing approach, it is intended fundamentally as a “working” gun for people who shoot in competition. Cosmetics are secondary, and the only “grips” offered by Caspian Arms themselves are strips of abrasive “grip” tape to affix to the sides of the magazine well. I have seen one pair of actual grip panels offered for the Caspian frame somewhere but, in all honesty, I cannot recall where I saw them. There are not a lot of options for this pistol.

AlumaGrips now offers grips for the Caspian Hi-Cap frame, too. They are VERY thin, with the intent (like Caspian’s grip tape) of keeping the overall thickness of the pistol as small as possible. We don’t have a Caspian frame on which to mount the grips for photographs, so we can’t show what they would look like in place. The key thing about the Caspian grips is that, unlike the ParaUSA double stacks, the Caspian frames accept a flat grip panel. The reverse side of the AlumaGrips for the Caspian are machined perfectly smooth.

As with the other new grips, the workmanship and finish was faultless. Like all AlumaGrips products, these are high quality grips that can be expected to last for a very long time.

You may discuss about these grips in our Forums site here:


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