One-piece SAA grips

An obsession confession
62

Duke has many types of grips on his single actions but one-piece style wood
is his all-time favorite. From top clockwise: Eagle Grips buffalo horn, bison bone,
stag, Colt hard rubber, ivory and fancy walnut.

Like so many readers of my age I grew up on Skeeter Skelton’s great articles. One that has influenced me unto this day came out in the late ’60s or early ’70s. It showed an exquisite set of one-piece grips on a Colt SAA. Of course I was aware of one-piece grips as they were on virtually every replica Colt revolver coming from Italy. The difference was Skeeter’s were beautiful.

Skeeter mentioned the company in Idaho made his. So, in the spring of 1973 I made a lengthy detour on my travels to visit the outfit. When I explained why I walked through their door, the greeter said, “Sure, we made those for Skeeter but we won’t do it for you.” With the dash of cold water, I left. At the time I’d had a mere three articles published in firearms periodicals. Now I’ve had over 2,000 published and still have never mentioned the company’s name!

Like most things you can’t have, my desire for one-piece Colt SAA grips became a near-obsession. On another trip, I tried a fellow in California. He was a lot friendlier but just didn’t want to mess with making one-piece style single action grips. Therefore, I decided to try my hand at it. At the end of the day, I’d ruined valuable vintage grips from a sample Colt by dropping them on concrete, and my block of wood looked like a chainsaw maniac had been turned loose on it.

This set of one-piece style grips are Duke's most recent. They were built
by Bill Fuchs of Spring Creek Armory in Ten Sleep, Wyo.

Why?

The California grip maker explained it. In the early days of Colt revolvers, the grips were actually cut from a block of wood and inlet so the grip frame fit around it. The Italian Colt replica grips I’ve examined are made the same way. However, to simplify matters grip makers today produce each side’s panel and then glue them together with a spacer. The look and function is the same. Even better; I’ve never seen a glued set separate.

Right now I have one-piece Colt SAA grips made of water buffalo horn, elephant ivory, bison thigh bone, stag antler, hard rubber and various types of wood. My favorite wood is usually fancy walnut but rosewood is beautiful also. My one-piece-style grips have been made by a variety of craftsmen. The first finally came in the early ’80s — a talented stock maker for Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing, the producer of those beautifully crafted Sharps Model 1874 recreations, made some for me. The wood was fancy walnut salvaged from rifle stocks broken in shipment. Another time the nice folks at Eagle Grips sent me a set of panels made of rosewood. With my history of wood butchery I prevailed on another stock maker to fit them for me.

One reason after-market grip makers might shy away from Colt SAAs is this — at the factory, grips are fitted before the final polishing of the grip frame. In other words the final polishing is done with the wood fitted so the end result is a perfect fit. Aftermarket grip makers have to be exceptionally careful in fitting grip panels lest they get into the metal and leave a major boo-boo.

Duke obtained a set of rosewood panels from Eagle Grips and than had a local stock
maker fit them as one-piece style grips on this Colt Sheriff's Model .44-40/.44 Special.

Come Lately

And this brings us to my most recent set of one-piece style Colt SAA grips. In 2019 I acquired a 1926 vintage Colt SAA .38 WCF (.38-40) wearing a set of modern so-called Colt hard rubber grips. With its 7½” barrel, the Colt turned out to be a fine shooter but the grips not only didn’t suit the revolver’s era, but their fit to grip frame was atrocious. I said to myself, “One of these days I’m going to have a set of straight-grained walnut grips put on this Colt.” After all, a Colt of such age and wear wouldn’t look correct with grips of fancy wood.

Luckily, I dallied because just recently I discovered a fellow named Bill Fuchs doing business as Spring Creek Armory in Ten Sleep, Wyo. Among the many services he offers for single-action shooters is making one-piece style grips. The .38 WCF was sent down to him and returned with grips exactly as I had envisioned.

They feel good, fit well and best of all, have made me happy. As this is being written, I’m preparing to send him a Colt Frontier Six-Shooter made in 2008. It has some of the best color-case-hardening I’ve seen on an SAA along with lovely deep blue. I told Bill to pick out the wood and make me some beautiful one-piece style grips to go with it.
There’s nothing better than an obsession satisfied!

SpringCreekArmory.com

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