The 1911 Grips of Mr. Vu Kim Son
It is understandable that some people would be skeptical of grips hand crafted and shipped halfway around the world. In a thread on The High Road, Mr. Kim Son admitted that he did not have a 1911 handgun to use as a pattern to make his grips. Such is life in countries where firearms are restricted or banned from the public. He was trying to work from blueprints, but the blueprints were confusing in translation to a man who had never held a 1911 pistol in his hand. Mr. Kim Son was not to be deterred, however. One of the High Road's members offered to send a pair of Alumagrips for Mr. Kim Son to use as a guide. Mr. Kim Son then had all he needed.
Both sets of grips sent to me by Mr. Kim Son appeared to be crafted from buffalo bone. I immediately noted the high polish on the grips. Inside the screw holes were brass inserts to prevent undue stress on the grip itself. That is a very nice idea, I think.
The real question, though, is how do the grips fit? I pulled my Colt Commander off the rack, and removed the grips that had long adorned it's exterior. I breathed a small "wow" as I dropped the grips into place. They fit so well I would have sworn they were crafted for my specific pistol. Even without the grip screws in place, there was no wiggle. Yet when I inverted the pistol sans screws,the grips fell right into my hand. For a hard, but organic product such as bone, a perfect fit like that is remarkable indeed.
When I held the pistol, the grips were just the right width. The extended thumb safety did not contact the grip when snicked off. The edges of the grip ran exactly along the round of the grip frame. The screws were perfectly flush across the top of the grip, not sticking up above the surface nor snugging up a quarter inch below the surface like you see with some popular grips. The bevel on the bottom met the edge of the grip frame perfectly, about 1/64 of an inch short to help prevent chipping. The edges of the grips were straight, and the corners sharp without being "pointy". The bottom of the grip did have a small gap where the interior of the bone would have been (see the picture at left). Many grip makers would have filled this gap with polymer. I like the fact that Mr. Kim Son chose not to. These grips are made from the real deal, natural bone. One must accept that there will be a few imperfections. The only imperfection in the manufacture of the grips is the magazine release indentation in the right grip was a frog hair too shallow. The magazine release rubbed the grip just a bit. A couple of passes with a round jeweler's file though, and that issue was put to rest.
I did not like the second pair of grips as much as the first. They were no less well made, but they had a swell at the bottom. I suppose this is to assist a shooter with hanging onto his gun while shooting. Rather than bulges, I would prefer a rougher surface for that purpose. Perhaps I am too much of a traditionalist. I know I have seen shooters competing with similar grips on their race guns. For me, the concept just doesn't transfer well into bone, ivory or horn as a material. It just looks and feels funny to me. It makes the sidearm less conducive to carry.
Even though I do not like the bulged bottom idea, I have to say that these grips are also impeccably crafted. They drop right on and off the pistol with no wiggle. The lines of the grip are arrow straight. The screw holes (at least the top ones) are the perfect depth for the screws I had. It is hard to believe these grips were not fitted to my specific pistol. When one considers the obstacles Mr. Kim Son faced bringing these grips to market, they are amazing indeed.
Mr. Kim Son also makes 1911 grips from buffalo horn. He has them priced from $23 to $35, depending on the material used. Along with the handgun grips, his company makes many items from horn and bone, from intricate hair pins to eyeglasses frames. You can find Mr. Kim Son's grips and other items at his website, Kim Son Handicraft Co. Ltd. I salute his efforts to produce beautiful and affordable exotic grips for the 1911. He has achieved a nearly irresistible product and a price that cannot be beat!
Update: It seems as if Kim Son has disappeared and has stiffed several people who helped him, never sending them the grips he promised. Caveat emptor.