Saturday, February 8, 2014

VZ Grips - 1911 Slim Grip Install

The project gun with it's smooth, thick, slippery grips.

Back in 2010, I bought a Rock Island Armory 1911. It was intended to be a project gun, a learning gun. The first thing I needed to do was break it in. That break-in period made it clear to me what I needed to change about this gun. The first thing that had to go were those thick, slippery wooden grip panels. My other 1911 has VZ Gatorback grips, which are nice and grippy, but they also grate on my spare tire while carrying in the summer. So I knew Gatorbacks were out of the question on this gun. One day last year, a friend and I were at the range and he had two 1911's with different types of VZ Grips, Recons and Frags. I loved both of them, but I knew the Recons would grate on me like the Gatorbacks.

Frag style VZ Grips in Grey G10
Buying and installing these has been a learning experience. Luckily, the VZ website takes a good bit of the guess work out of the buying part of the experience. If you're replacing standard grips with thin, you're going to need to thin grip bushings and screws. VZ recommends the o-ring set with these, but to be honest, I couldn't get the screws to tighten down with the o-rings installed. The screws tightened down just fine without them. I've seen reviews on YouTube that said the same thing, so take that into consideration if you place an order. 

Grip Bushings

VZ has lots of different grip screw styles to choose from.

Installation was a breeze with only one hiccup. One of the old bushings stripped at the screwdriver slot while trying to remove it, so I was off to Home Depot for a set of easy-out screw extractors. For this install, you'll need a rag, a flathead screwdriver with a 3/16" head, a Torx T-15 driver, and some BLUE Loctite (red is NOT an acceptable substitute.)

Required tools (Assuming your bushings don't strip when removing them)
Once you've verified the pistol is unloaded, and then verified it again, you're ready to remove the old grip panels. Start by removing the four grip screws.

Here's a tip that will save the finish on your 1911. Don't try to pry the old grips off the frame if they are stuck. Put your finger up into the magwell and push on the back of the grip panel. With a little effort, they'll pop off and go flying across the coffee table.

Once the old panels are off, remove the bushings, being careful not to strip the heads of them. If you do manage to strip one, use a #2 easy out screw extractor. Don't be tempted by the #1, as it's not quite big enough to get a good grip on the inside of the bushing and it will just make you that much madder. If you don't feel confident doing this, take your project to your favorite gunsmith.

Bushing Removal
Once the old bushings are out, clean off any remaining thread locking compound. I just used the screwdriver head to lightly scrape it away from both sides of the screw holes in the frame. 

You're almost ready to install the new bushings. Do yourself a favor and trial fit them dry and then try each grip panel. This does two things. One, it will make you aware of any fitting issues you might have with the bushings and panels, and it will give you a bit of practice handling those little boogers bushings before you add Loctite. Just resign yourself to getting the Loctite on your fingers. One drop on those bushings is a LOT, and it will get on you. NOTE: Do not get Loctite on the coffee table, lest you enjoy cold shoulder and hot tongue, and you wish to spend a week in the dog house. 

Bushings Installed

Add a single drop of blue Loctite to the threaded portion of the bushing and carefully screw it into the frame. Make sure the bushing shoulder is flush against the pistol frame. DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN! It just has to be snug. It's not a lug nut on your car. Once it's installed, wipe away any excess Loctite from both sides of the frame. We don't want any speed bumps inside the magwell.

Install your grip panels and screws. You can apply a drop of blue Loctite to these screws as well. Some folks don't like thread locker on their grip screws. You don't have to use it, but if you notice the screws coming loose, you might want to give in and use it.

Grip screw installation with a Torx T-15 driver
And so, you are done. Here is my finished product.

I think it looks and feels a lot better. Now I have to figure out what my next project will be for The Rock. Any suggestions?

Be safe.

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