TiPi Knifeworks Custom Grips
by Boge Quinn

photography Boge Quinn

February 19th, 2003




It was a bright day out, and pretty warm for February. Ol' Jeff and I were developing some hefty .44 Magnum loads using the excellent Cast Performance bullets. For testing, we were using Jeff's Ruger Super Blackhawk fitted with a set of Herrett's "Shooting Star" grips that Jeff had slimmed-down to fit his hand, and my favorite .44, an early-production Ruger Bisley with 7-1/2" barrel and beautifully-figured grips. Ruger's Bisley grip frame has always been my favorite for shooting heavily-recoiling loads, and judging by the number of custom gun makers who use the Bisley grip frame as the starting point for their heavy hitters, I am not alone.

The shooting was going along fine and we were having a high old time when all of a sudden one of the grip panels on my Bisley went AWOL, splitting in two under recoil at the grip locator pin. Jeff managed to mend the grip with "super glue" so that one could hardy tell where the mishap occurred, but I started casually seeking the right set of custom grips for my trusty old Bisley.

A few months later (September 28, 2002 to be exact), Jeff and I attended the CSA III shoot, held at Jim Taylor's ranch in Missouri, and it was there that I met Bill Snow. Bill is a fine gentleman and easy to talk to, and we hit it off right away.

After retiring from a distinguished career in the Army, during which he was custom gunmaker for the elite Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, GA, Bill established TiPi Knifeworks in neighboring Columbus, GA and began making some of the finest custom knives you're likely to see (be on the lookout for a review of Bill's knives here on Gunblast.com!). After Bill showed me a few of his knives, I asked him if he ever thought about making custom sixgun grips. Bill smiled and got a couple of his personal Ruger Bisleys out of his car.

I was immediately impressed by the quality of Bill's work. The wood was so perfectly and seamlessly fitted that it seemed to grow from the metal. The quality of the materials used was immediately apparent, and the finish work was impeccable. But that was just the beginning.

I have never handled any sixguns that felt any better than Bill's Bisleys. It was not just the quality and fitting of the woods used, but Bill subtly re-works the metal of the Ruger Bisley grip frame, rounding the contours and generally "melting" it to better fit the hand. Best of all, Bill's grips feature a gentle but generous palm swell, improving the handling qualities to an extent that I would never have thought possible.

I knew that I had found the right man to create the custom grips for my treasured Bisley. I instructed Bill to use his own discretion as to the type of wood for my grips. Bill normally re-blues the grip frame after the frame is reshaped and the grips fitted, but I had instructed him to return the grip frame "in the white" so I could have it custom chromed along with the ejector rod housing for a nice "two-tone" custom look. After sending Bill my grip frame, it was only a few weeks before I received the completed grip frame and grips in the mail. It took longer to get the parts chromed than it did for Bill to turn-around my custom grips!

Bill crafted my grips from what he calls "Wormy Oak", and they are both tough and gorgeous. They are perfectly fitted and finished, and they add both enhanced handling qualities and beauty to my Bisley. 

As happy as I have always been with the way Ruger's Bisley grip shape performs when firing heavy-recoiling loads, they are better than ever now. Bill's subtle reshaping and "melting" of Ruger's Bisley grip frame is very effective. The palm swell effectively spreads the recoil force through the entire hand, and significantly reduces the tendency of the gun to "squirm" in the hand under recoil. Recoil also seems to be more "straight back" than before. As a fine touch, Bill also relocates the grip locator pin from its stock location near the front of the grip frame (which is the reason my factory grip split in the first place) to a more central location in the web of the grip frame, as shown in the accompanying photos. This is necessitated by the reshaping of the front of the grip frame, and it also serves to make it much less likely that I will ever experience a split grip panel on this gun again.

After a long career creating custom target guns for the greatest marksmen in our Army, it should come as no surprise that Bill Snow knows how to make a stock Ruger feel like a custom target gun. Bill can work his magic on any type of grip frame, from semi-auto and double-action revolvers to single-action sixguns, and I am considering having him put his touch on an old .357 Blackhawk XR3 that I'm going to make into a "project gun".

I cannot recommend Bill Snow's work highly enough. If you are considering having a gun customized to fit you, I suggest you contact Bill for a price quote. He is easy to work with, his grips are perfectly crafted and fitted, and his prices and turnaround times are very reasonable.

You can contact Bill Snow at:

TiPi Knifeworks, 4824 18th Avenue, Columbus, GA 31904.

Phone: (706) 576-4390

Email: tipikw@knology.net

Boge Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Bill Snow (left) and Jeff at CSA III.



A couple of Bill Snow's personal Ruger Bisleys. Jeff preferred the "pinky rest" design (at top), while Boge opted for Bill's "melted Bisley" shape.



Bill perfectly fits the figured wood grips to the reshaped grip frame.



Shown in comparison to a standard Ruger Bisley Vaquero with factory simulated ivory grips, the effects of Bill Snow's reshaping of the grips and grip frame are apparent. The rounded grip frame shape, along with the palm swell of the grips, make for a much better-feeling and better-shooting sixgun.



Measured with a caliper at the butt of the grip, the TiPi Knifeworks custom grips measure 1.068", as compared to 1.405" for the factory grips. This results in a more "tapered" shape and a much more natural feel.



Measured with a caliper at the grip screw, the TiPi Knifeworks custom grips measure 1.428", as compared to 1.214" for the factory grips. This palm swell makes the TiPi grip much more hand-filling, and is a substantial aid to the only good kind of "gun control".




The grip locator pin is moved from the factory location (white arrow) to a more central location of the grip frame web (red arrow). This makes the grip panel less likely to split under heavy recoil.



TiPi Knifeworks custom grips greatly enhance the handling qualities of the author's Ruger Bisley, and also give a beautiful custom look.