A Nurse with a Gun

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The 1911 Grips of Mr. Vu Kim Son

I received a package from the other side of the world today. Back on May 8, I pondered an email from Mr. Vu Kim Son of Vietnam, who wondered if I might like to try and possibly review his 1911 grips. I wrote him back, and stated my conditions. On May 10, Mr. Kim Son agreed, and said he was sending a package my way. Fourteen days later, two sets of grips were in my hands, sandwiched between two styrofoam slabs inside a rigid box from the Saigon post office.

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? Click to enlargeI 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.Click to enlarge 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. Click to enlargeThey 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. Click to enlarge

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.

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Blogger Carl said...

Nice write up, good on Mr. Kim Son.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous Rabbit said...


I think that's enough to disobey my Cardinal Rule of SIG and consider some for my P220.

*Cardinal Rule of SIG- fancy grips on a SIG are like wire spoke wheels on a Hummer.

SWMBO would love some for her 1911, though.


2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice! How do I place an order?

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Diamondback said...

After checking out his site, I think I'll have to place an order soon. Hope the shipping isn't too bad.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Excellent! I now know where I will get grips for all my custom guns!

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? The only thing more dangerous than pointing loaded gun at your head is running a table saw with out a push stick.
I was cringing the whole time I had that video running.
Great looking grips though.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CAn you imagine the smell of the bone in the saw????

Grips look great will check it out!!

8:44 AM  
Anonymous 1894C said...

"CAn you imagine the smell of the bone in the saw????"

I was thinking the EXACT same thing!

The whole place must stink of burnt bone/ horn.


Nice workmanship though. Too bad the shipping is so high. A good place to pool orders.

9:37 AM  
Blogger KIMSON Handicraft Co,. LTD said...

Bone have process to don't have any bad smell.Don't need worry about that.

P/s Xavier: Did your receive my email about compact 1911?

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if i have a colt commander would i click on the compact box or the full size box?

4:08 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Commanders use full size grips.

4:27 PM  

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