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
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
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
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
Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or
disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.
All content © 2003 GunBlast.com.
All rights reserved.