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1911 Grips for the Ruger 22/45 Mk II

The molded-in 22/45 Mk II grips are ugly, narrow and uncomfortable. The Mk III version is better, but you still can't install aftermarket grips. You can install a Hogue grip sleeve but you then have to remove it every time you field strip the gun... and that gets old really fast. I had a Colt Gold Cup for 20 years and loved it's Pachmayr rubber wrap around grips - this project installs those grips onto the Ruger. The guys at RimfireCentral have been doing this for several years, but it took me this long to get up the nerve to attack my frame - here is one link that inspired me: MKIII 22/45 mods, my way. - RimfireCentral.com Forums

First I stripped the pistol all the way down - this was easy since I had just installed a (wonderful) Volquartsen target trigger kit a few weeks before, so the steps were fresh in my mind.

The stripped frame, the Pachmayr Signature Grips (1911 Government, Commander with Thumb Swell Rubber Black), and a set of stainless Ed Brown grip bushings and Allen head grip screws, from MidwayUSA.

Update 07/17/08:

Compare the above pic to this new 22/45 Mk III frame. The grip is still molded in, but the frame is nice and flat high up to the slide. This gun still needs to have the grip milled, but it will be a lot easier job.

The other side of the Mk III. Both pics were found on the Internet, source unknown.

Rather than grinding with an angle grinder, I decided to use my drill press and machinist's vise. It has feeds at 90 degrees to each other and a 6 inch jaw capacity - perfect for this job. I used a 3/8 inch die grinder bit and set the speed to Warp Factor 5. I also hooked up my shop vac attachment to suck away plastic dust so I could see what I was doing. I did not mask anything off.

I set the frame in the vise, making sure that the barrel recoil lug was positioned beyond the jaws (to allow full and even clamping) and leveled the top rail by laying a straight edge along the jaw's top surface....

... then again at 90 degrees, to make sure the frame was not sloping up or down.

Ready to start cutting. Time for a deep breath - if I screwed it up, I could always order a new frame, since the serial number is on the Upper.

I lowered the bit until it was just off the surrounding frame, attached a bungee cord to the handle to keep it down, and took a long cut. There is no turning back at this point.

About half way through the first set of cuts. I finished the first pass, and saw that the finished surface was not quite parallel with the frame sides, so I tweaked the frame position slightly and dropped the bit down a little bit, and went around the work area until I had removed almost all of the factory ribs. I wanted to be sure that the height of the newly milled surface was very close to that of the surrounding material, so that the new grips would not have a gap anywhere.

The first side is finished. I flipped the frame over and attacked the other side. Any little "booboo"s will be covered by the new grips.

I cleaned up the newly machined areas with 220 sandpaper and blew off all the dust with compressed air.

The link at the top of the page suggests that you invert and insert the grip bushings into the grips, and use them as guides to scribe the frame to locate the new holes. I tried this method, and while it did work, I was not happy with the accuracy, so I decided that I would simply drill straight through the grips. Since the Pachmayr grips have steel inserts, I did not worry about enlarging or "oblonging" the grip holes. CAUTION: If the grips do not contain steel, or are made of wood, it would be best to use a different method.

The 1911 grips are a close match for the Ruger frame, but they require trimming at the top corners (left grip) and the rear top corner (right grip). A 1911 frame is flat all the way up to the slide - the 22/45 polymer frame flares out. I used an Exacto knife with a new blade, followed by a fine file and 220 sandpaper. The rubber on these grips is tough and you must use a brand new blade. The grips extend below the frame and magazine, but that is ok - it sort of forms a mag well.

I clamped the right grip into position. I used a number 3 drill bit (0.213") and drilled straight through the grip into the frame. This pic shows the top grip bushing still sitting in the other hole - that was a brain fart - I removed that and drilled the second hole.

I flipped the frame and drilled the other set of holes.

I tried threading the bushings manually into the frame, but they kept cocking. Since the alternative was to order an expen$ive ($20) grip bushing tap from Brownell's, I finally said "Screw this" and drilled the holes a little bigger using a number 1 bit (0.228") and threaded the bushings in with some JB Weld, and left the frame to sit overnight. CAUTION: be sure to use only a TINY bit of epoxy and ensure that there is no excess goo inside the frame where the sear spring fits! It would be prudent to lay the frame on it's left side so the epoxy has no chance of dribling into that area and hardening!!!

The next morning I assembled the pistol and saw that the trigger pin now extended out past the frame surface by about 0.1". This would cause the grips to not lay flat, and it would stress the new bushings and screws. I placed a couple of small strips of masking tape inside the grips, reinstalled the grips and tapped them lightly with a mallet so that the trigger pin would mark the tape.

Here's one of the impressions. I drilled both grips to 3/16" to give the pin some room, being careful to not drill clear through the rubber.

The finished gun.....

The left grip panel fits quite nicely after trimming. The rubber checkering on the front strap feels very nice - I don't like finger grooves on most handguns.

The mag release is now REALLY hard to reach and will have to be replaced with something longer. I'll update this section when I correct the problem. EDIT June 05, 2009: See 1911 Extended Mag Release for the Ruger 22/45

The right grip doesn't fit as well - the gap at the upper front corner is a little unsightly, but there isn't much to be done about it.

Ooooops! I couldn't get the mag out! The overhanging rubber in front blocks the mag well. I removed the grip once more....

... and trimmed the bottom section.

All better.

The new grip hangs down below the Ruger frame bit from the side it looks nice.

New grip thickness is 1.405". This is a little bit fat - my Glock 23 grip measures 1.18 inches, which is a little thin for my tastes, but too fat for a daily carry gun. A typical 1911 pistol is about 1.28 inches. I wish the Ruger had ended up about 1.3", but I can live with 1.4. It feels very hefty and satisfying compared to the OEM frame.

If you want a thinner grip, consider a thin 1911 grip, like a set of traditional wood panels. Chip McCormick makes a Slim Line wood grip set that is 40% thinner than standard: http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpage.exe/showproduct?saleitemid=147134 (remember to order the thin bushings and screws!)

**** Ruger is now making a nifty .380 BUG called the LCP. If you like this mod, email Ruger and suggest that they offer a "22/45 RGP" (Replaceable Grip Panel) with 1911 style grips. That would make things SO much easier for Ruger buyers! We could fit the gun to our hands with rubber grips, or fancy it up with custom rosewood  or laminated grips.

Page updated July 17, 2008