Guns, like cars, are mass-produced in some factory with all the same specs, but that does not mean we keep them that way. There are many different after-market parts and accessories we can purchase for our guns that allow us to get a feeling the gun is all “ours.” However, nothing beats custom work. Back in November, the bossman and the bosswoman took me to the Dallas Gun Show where we happened to stumble across the Pyro Grafix booth, owned by Dallas-Fort Worth local, Harold Chrismon. Harold custom inscribes handgun grips, which he calls “Death Grips.” His super cool skull designs caught our eye immediately and we spent a few minutes chatting with him. I have since had a chance to catch up with him through e-mail to get more details about this work.
CTD Suzanne: How did you get started? Harold: I’ve been an illustrator most of my adult life, but mainly used it for my own enjoyment. I would paint my own motorcycles, or send Christmas cards with my drawings on them to friends. After job loss in the auto industry, I started buying military rifle stocks and wood pistol grips and burning illustration on them, hence my company Pyro Grafix. One day at a local gun show, I picked up a set of fake ivory 1911 grips, and scribed some primitive half skulls in them. Folks saw them at the gun range and I started doin’ a few here and there for friends. Now, the past couple of years it has become a full-time effort.
CTD Suzanne: What materials do you use? Harold: I use several types of pre-made grip blanks, all are made from different types of polymers. Bonded Ivory, Corian, or Micarta, is what I can afford to use, but I can also scribe on real ivory, bone, and antler if provided by customer. I’m limited on certain handguns, due to availability of product in a suitable material. The illustration technique is called Scrimshaw, but I seldom do traditional sailing ships and whales. My work leans toward the bizarre. While I have done military, wildlife, and religious themes, most of my inventory is skulls, demons, and the grim reaper illustration.
CTD Suzanne: Are you a shooter yourself, and if so, what custom grips have you made for your own guns? Harold: I have been a firearms enthusiast since I got my first .22 rifle when I was eight years old. Did the hunting and fishing thing until I discovered motorcycles and women. The biker thing lasted 40 years or so, and as I got older, my interest in firearms came back. I was a single dad, and while raising my son, I thought he would enjoy the shooting sports, so I started buying firearms again.
Those half skulls I first made stayed on my 1911 for two years then I sold them at a show. I have made a few grip sets for myself, but someone usually buys them from me.
CTD Suzanne: Are there certain materials you cannot use? Harold: The grips have to be a light color material, so the scribing will show up. At gun shows I’ll get asked several times a weekend, “do you have grips for my Glock?”…so, let me just say here, I cannot scribe on black polymer frames, but I can use my wood burning tools and stipple the grip area to gain a more aggressive grip.
CTD Suzanne: What made you decide to experiment with gun grips? Harold: Well, after scribing a few sets for friends and having no luck with real employment searches, an ol’ motorcycle brother funded me in acquiring materials, to make this my job. [I] displayed a few sets at local shows, and once people saw the work and could touch and handle it, I started picking up work. Fans of my scribing started posting them on handgun blogs and a local holster maker and friend, David Bullard posted his grips on his business web site…that brought more attention to my medium. It’s been a slow process, I tell folks, “I’m on the second rung of the ladder, slowly movin’ up.” CTD Suzanne: How long does it take to make a set? Harold: This is going to depend on the customer’s request, or on my show inventory, I’ll do some with less coverage to offer a less expensive alternative. Let’s say a one-inch area on two grips, could be four hours, but some very detailed work, covering the entire grip, may be 30 hours start to finish.
Harold’s grips not only look badass, but also are a truly unique and detailed work of a great artisan. You can find him at local Dallas-Fort Worth gun shows and on the Web at: http://www.myspace.com/pyro-grafix