A custom carved pair of 1911 pistol grips

Custom Carving 1911 pistol grips

     I just finished a carving on a Rock Island Armory 1911 pistol in 38 super caliber.   The owner of this 1911 pistol needed a good looking, functional carving on the grips.   The grip on this 1911 pistol was a smooth hardwood and in the summer in Arizona, your hands can get anywhere from a little damp to down right sweaty when you’re at the range.  That makes gripping a pistol with a smooth grip a little tough.

     The 1911 pistol celebrates it’s 100th anniversary this year.  It was designed by John Moses Browning and became the official military sidearm in 1911.

 Here is a little history of the 1911 pistol, courtesy of Wikipedia:

John Browning’s most successful designs include the M1911 pistol, the Browning .50 caliber machine gun, the Browning Automatic Rifle, and a ground-breaking semi-automatic shotgun, the Browning Auto-5. These arms are nearly identical today to those assembled by Browning in the 1920s, with only minor changes in detail and cosmetics. Nearly all parts may be freely swapped between the earliest and latest of each series of these weapons, no matter when made, which has extended their service lifespan nearly indefinitely.

Service history

The Colt pistol was formally adopted by the Army on March 29, 1911, thus gaining its designation, M1911 (Model 1911). It was adopted by the Navy and Marine Corps in 1913. Originally manufactured only by Colt, demand for the firearm in World War I saw the expansion of manufacture to the government-owned Springfield Armory.

Battlefield experience in the First World War led to some more small external changes, completed in 1924. The new version received a modified type classification, M1911A1. Changes to the original design were minor and consisted of a shorter trigger, cutouts in the frame behind the trigger, an arched mainspring housing, a longer grip safety spur (to prevent slide bite), a wider front sight, a shorter spur on the hammer, and simplified grip checkering by eliminating the “Double Diamond” reliefs.[4] Those unfamiliar with the design are often unable to tell the difference between the two versions at a glance. No significant internal changes were made, and parts remained interchangeable between the two. 

  World War II

World War II and the years leading up to it created a great demand. During the war, about 1.9 million units were procured by the U.S. Government for all forces, production being undertaken by several manufacturers, including Remington Rand (900,000 produced), Colt (400,000), Ithaca Gun Company (400,000), Union Switch & Signal (50,000), and Singer (500). So many were produced that after 1945 the government did not order any new pistols, and simply used existing parts inventories to “arsenal refinish” guns when necessary. This pistol was favored by US military personnel.[6]

After World War II, the M1911 continued to be a mainstay of the United States Armed Forces in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It was also used during Desert Storm in specialized U.S. Army units and US Navy Mobile Construction Battalions (Seabees), and has seen service in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, with U.S. Army Special Forces Groups and Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Companies.

     As mentioned before, a more positive gripping surface was needed for this pistol.   The grips on a 1911 pistol are only about 1/4″ thick so the actual carving could not be very deep.   But it had to have a good gripping surface.   It was decided that adding a book-matched Basket Weave pattern to the grips would add the right amount of roughness as well as adding to the style of this 1911.   It also work perfectly with the pistol’s leather holster.  The leather on the holster was hand tooled in a Basket Weave pattern also.







     The grip carvings turned out to be a great gripping surface and a classy look that the owner was very happy with. 

     If you’re interested in this type of carving, give me a call, or drop me an email.


Thanks for stoppin’ by…

Lance Larson  


Lifestyles Magazine Awards project


In November,  I  was commissioned to custom engrave over 60 “readers choice awards” for Pinal County Lifestyles magazine.   Every year they give out awards for businesses in many catagories based on their reader’s votes for best businesses.   The Lifestyles magazine editor also thought it would be a great idea to feature me carving one of the awards on the cover of the magazine for the December Awards Issue.    Since I’m not exactly “cover model” material, I just figured they knew what they were doing and went with the plan.

Lifestyles magazine cover

The awards were hand made, four inch square, black glass tiles made by a local artist.   All the tiles were engraved by hand using designs the magazine laid out on the computer.   After completion of the custom hand engraving on each of the tiles, gold was added to the engravings and the tiles were buffed out.


Each award was mounted in a wooden base after completion, including the Magazine’s Big Award of “Best Customer Service”.

I was very Honored and Happy to do this engraving work for the businesses in my community and I do hope all the award winners enjoy their well deserved 2010 awards …  Congratulations !

Thanks for stoppin’ by …

Lance Larson


Custom Carved African Eland Rifle Stock …

Another rifle with a story to tell …

 The story behind this custom carved gunstock is that it started with a Weatherby Vangard rifle purchased with a tax return check.  The stock was added a few years later and shaped from a Maple Burl gunstock blank the the owner had been saving for the right rifle project.  It was shaped by a company specializing in aftermarket wood gunstocks.  Fast forward two years and a hunt of a lifetime was planned.  A trip to Texas to hunt the largest Antelope in the world, The African Eland.  They can tip the scales at almost a ton!  The owner was sure he would never make it to Africa to hunt but had always wanted to hunt Eland.  By going to hunt the Eland in Texas, there was the bonus of filling the freezer with steaks.  After his trip he wanted to add a memory to his stock to commemorate the hunt.  Carving African animals, any type of African animal  is one of my favorite carvings to do so I was happy to do this carving for him.


Here is some information about The African Eland courtesy of Wikipedia: 

The elands are spiral-horned antelopes belonging to the Bovid tribe of Tragelaphini. Females weigh  660–1,300 lb,  and stand 49–60 in at the shoulder.  Bulls weigh 880–2,200 lb,  and stand 59–72 in at the shoulder.   Coats are generally smooth at most of the body with a rough mane. Females have a tan coat, while males have a darker tan coat with a blueish-grey tinge; there may also be a series of white stripes vertically on the sides of bulls (mainly in parts of the Karoo in South Africa). But as males age they tend to turn a grayer color. Males have dense fur on their foreheads and a large dewlap. Both sexes have horns, about 26 in long and with a steady spiral ridge (resembling that of the bushbuck). The horns of males are shorter (17–26 in) and thicker than the females (20–27 in), which are more pointed. The female’s horns are wider set and thinner than the male’s. The eland has a mass of about 650 kilograms, which is the double of the kudu. They have a hump at the shoulder and a broad fold of skin hanging from the neck.  Elands are said to be one of the slowest antelopes and can even jump over a height of 2.5 meters or above.  Elands have an average lifespan of 15–20 years, and some have been known to live for as many as 25 years.  When walking, tendon or joints in the eland’s foreleg produce a sharp clicking sound, the cause of which has not been widely investigated. The sound carries some distance and is a good indication of an approaching herd.  Scientists take it as a form of communication in elands.


Eland Carving imageThe Maple Burl stock blank had been air dried for five years before shaping it into the gun stock.   Maple is a dense wood so it took the detail very well.   I did use photos of the client’s Eland to do the initial drawing and designing of the final design.  The Burl in the buttstock was too beautiful to carve over so I used a freeform border design and worked the Eland into the Burl without taking away from the natural grain.   The stock’s pistol grip and forend were done with a Basket Weave & Oak Leaves combination.   The caliber was a .300 Weatherby magnum so a good solid grip style was requested and a basket weave fit the bill with both solid grip and classic looks. 

This is a working rifle that gets used even with the carvings.   I am always happy to see a client happy with the work and also planning to continue to hunt with the rifle.   It is always good to know there will be more memories made with this family heirloom.    To develop your own heirloom, drop me a line.

eland drawing

Thanks for stoppin’ by…

Lance Larson  

Coues Deer Rifle

Custom Gunstock Carving of a Coues Deer

Coues deer & cactus carving image

   This rifle is one of my own.  An ongoing project with the end finally in sight.   It started as a 1909 Peruvian Mauser bolt action rifle in 7×57 caliber that I found used in a small gun shop in Mesa AZ.   It caught my eye because the receiver was not blued, it was what is known as “in the white”.   It had a shiny, bare metal receiver.   It had  an old military, stepped barrel with most of the bluing worn off and a basic sporter stock from the 60’s or 70’s .   But, it was a Mauser action and I saw another fun project.


    It took a couple years to get this rifle to the carving stage.  First, there was installing a new barrel in .257 Rigby caliber to replace the old short military barrel.  I removed the action from the old stock.   The new stock was shaped from a beautiful aged blank of Maple Burl. The blank was sent to a gentleman in Texas to shape it and I inletted the stock by hand to fit the action when I got it back.   I had initially carved fish scale and leaves on the grip and forend of the stock a couple years ago but was waiting for the right inspiration for the butt stock carving design.


    Coues deer & cactus rough out carving imageIn the design phase of a gunstock carving, I ask all my clients what type of hunting or shooting they do.   I ask them what their favorite game animal is and where do they like to hunt.   Are they looking at telling a story about a particular hunt on the stock?    I had to do the same for my stock and decide what this rifle would be used for.    I knew it would be my go-to rifle to hunt Coues Whitetail Deer here in Arizona.


   For those who have no idea what a Coues deer is, think about a common whitetail deer in the rest of the country and Coues deer buck imageshrink it in size by half or more.   A big Coues deer buck may only weigh 85 to 90 lbs.  My dog is the same size this deer.   They are a desert animal and have the nickname of “Grey Ghost” since you see them and they just dissolve into their surroundings and are gone.


“Arizona’s ‘Grey Ghost’, the coues deer, is one of the smallest deer species of the whitetail deer. This small, elusive deer is one of the most popular deer to hunt and one of the most challenging of the deer species.    The country these deer inhabit is some of the most beautiful, rugged country in the United States. They are found from the desert floor to over 8,000 feet.”


   A carving of a Coues deer buck was what I wanted to do, but it took a long time to get the design right.   I wanted to make sure not to cover up the beautiful areas of burl in the butt stock so the carving had to be smaller than normal.   Since the grain of this stock flows freely , I decided not to have a definite border to the carving and let the carving edges flow like the wood grain.


Coues deer & cactus closeup image   Since the Coues deer is a desert animal, a prickly pear cactus had to be included in the carving along with the deer.   You’ll notice I left the front half of the butt stock untouched to show off the beautiful wood grain.  It would have been a crime to carve over this area.  After I completed the carving, oil paints were used in a diluted form to stain and highlight the cactus, the antlers, and the white areas on this buck. 


   This rifle goes on it’s first hunt with me this fall but, as with all old mausers, I’m sure it’s been out there many times before.   But it never looked as good as this before.


  If a carving like this appeals to you for your deer rifle, contact me and we can talk about your ideas.   You can make your rifle a one-of-a-kind.   Life’s too short to hunt with an ugly rifle.


Thanks for stoppin’ by…..

Lance Larson  

Do you need to “Get a Grip” ?

Do you need to “Get a Grip” ?

Carved gunstocks and carved pistol grips look great, there is a functional reason that grips and forearms are carved on guns.  It is so you can….. get a grip.

The importance of getting a good grip on your firearm has been around almost as long as firearms themselves.Cape Buffalo & Lion Carving On Sako Gunstock   There are many ways that gripping surfaces have been on put on firearms.  The most common gunstock grip is wood checkering.   There are many levels of quality when it comes to checkering.  Quality hand checkering is a classic look for a firearm.  This is something you don’t find on standard rifles and shotguns from the major manufacturers anymore because of the cost involved.   Heck, it’s getting hard to find wood stocks on guns now, much less good checkering.  

The first thing I saw to replace hand checkering was Pressed Checkering.  The stock was pressed with a mold of something that looked like checkering under high pressure to make a dent in the stock.   It looked cheap – It was cheap.   Some rifle models even came out with a pressed basketweave.   It didn’t look much like basketweave and it was smooth – very little grip.   Many manufacturers have now moved on to Laser checkering.  It works better the pressed checkering but is still lower quality than hand checkered guns from a true craftsman. 

Carving Fishscale

But there are the other custom options……..Options that can be added to your rifle , shotgun, or pistol anytime.  These options are hand carved  stocks and grips.   Your carving choices are totally up to your likes and dislikes and can include, but are not limited to, basketweave, fishscale, stippling, feathers, leaves, birds & animals, etc.  

Basketweave & leaves on 300 wby stockBasketweave – This is a great grip carving that can be put over the top on pressed checkering to really improve the looks of your gun.  There are many variation of size and style that can be added.  It can also be used over press basketweave patterns to add real quality.   The basketweave carving on the left is on the Maple Burl stock of a 300 Weatherby Magnum rifle.   This type of carving goes very well with accent carving such as leaves.  Definitely a style that adds a positive grip.

Fishscale – This has a classic look and can also be carved over the pressed checkering.   The style lookspheasant and fishscale carving great in conjunction with leaf accent carvings.  This style also works well with animal and bird accent carvings such as the Pheasant carvings on the stock to the right.  The carving  is on a Ithaca 16 gauge side by side shotgun.  This is a classic carving style as well as great grip design.

Leaves – They work anywhere in stock carvings, usually as an accent.  The work well by themselves on a smooth wood pistol grip for a much better “grip”.    I did an entire gunstock with leaves Chipmunk and leaves carvingcompletely covering both sides of the .22 rifle.   With leaf carvings, there are number of options.  As many options as there are different shaped leaves.  Oak, Maple, and Aspen leaves are just a few choices.

Feathers –  These can look great in certain situations.  I have doneTurkey Feather Carving with Ivory Inlay these several times on pistol grips and also have worked them into shotgun grips and forearms.  Classic lever action rifles could also be candidates for feathers carving designs.  The Turkey feathers carved on the forend at the right were done complete with a simulated Ivory inlay at the feather tips.  This is more of a subtle carving style.  The carving of a feather does not have any real high and low Fox & Pheasant - Ithaca 16 carved forearmrelief points.  It is a somewhat smooth carving.

Birds & Animals – Here you are only limited by your imagination.   Birds and animals can work well with other types of carvings on your grip areas.   How about a squirrel on a tree limb on the grip of a 22 rifle.   Maybe Pheasants or Quail or your best Gundog carved on your favorite shotgun.   Possibly a Bull Elk carving for your favorite elk rifle.

Getting a grip can be as simple or a elaborate as you want.   As I mentioned before, let your imagination take you away when you work on a design.  Make your rifle, shotgun, or pistol truely your own.   Go ahead, you’ll be glad you “Got a Grip.”

 Custom carved Marlin Model 60

Thanks for stoppin’ by…..

Lance Larson