Revolvers and auto-loading pistols are different in more than a few respects. Many would argue that pistols are easier to customize. When it comes to aftermarket controls, sights, and magazine base-plates, this is absolutely true.
The revolver does have one particular advantage over it's mag-fed kin, the ability to accept a myriad of differently sized and shaped stocks. Need a small slim profiled stock for concealed carry? Boot grips. Need a large comfortable grip for shooting a match all day? Target grips. Need a recessed and contoured grip for fighting? Combat grips. These options exist and come in all shapes and sizes.
In this post, I am comparing stocks on a few Smith & Wesson revolvers. S&Ws have two different frame shapes: the older square butt and the newer round butt. As long as the stocks are cut for that shape and are sized for the correct small, medium, or large frame, they are interchangeable. While materials vary, they are mostly to be wood, rubber, or G10. Ivory is nice but way out of my price range.
Wood vs. Rubber
Wood was the predominant material for revolver stocks until rubber grips were introduced. In my opinion, wood stocks have a classic look, especially on a blued handgun. The K-22 is a square butt with stocks designed for single action shooting rather than double action. Unfortunately, I don't find them to be particularly comfortable when shooting. Since the butt is square, many stocks have sharp corners which make concealing those with this frame type challenging.
The Ahrends stocks on the Model 66 (far left) are a bit more comfortable because they are designed for double action shooting. The round frame rests naturally against the palm. This shape fills the hand a bit more and doesn't move as much under recoil. The round frame also conceals better because of the rounded edges.
Rubber became an option for revolvers just as the revolver began loosing ground to the auto-loading pistol. Rubber is cheaper to produce and many manufactures offer these over the more expensive wood stocks. In addition to the lower cost, rubber is often more comfortable because of the "squishy" nature. This material also absorbs some of the recoil and cushions the impact on the hand.
I honestly prefer rubber grips due to the comfort in shooting for extended range trips or all day competition. The rubber is tacky enough that it kind of sticks to your hand which is assists in maintaining a solid grip. On the other hand, this sticky characteristic can be a curse if you are trying to conceal the revolver under clothing. The fabric clings to the grips and can make it obvious you are carrying.
Wood vs. G10
Wood stocks have some advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion, wood stocks really bring out the best in revolvers. The smooth sides don't hang up on clothing and they are comfortable to shoot on shorter trips to the range. However, they are susceptible to changes weather and can crack if dropped. So is there an option that is less affected by weather, feels similar to wood, and is visually appealing? Perhaps.
G10 is a glass based epoxy resin laminate. To over simplify, this material is basically multiple layers of resin compressed into a tough, lightweight package. The best part is that G10 is nearly impervious to moisture and temperature. Unlike wood. It can also be manipulated easier, often with hand tools, but does not require refinishing like wood.
In hand, G10 feels very similar to wood. Companies such as VZ Grips make grips for both square and round butt Smith & Wesson's in both a smooth or a rough texture. I prefer the smooth over the rough texture but a little sanding can take some of the bite out. I wish VZ made a finger-less grip for round butt Smith's, but that feature is not offered at this time. If this was an option, I might prefer G10 grips to Wood stocks on my round butt S&W revolvers.
G10 vs. Rubber
The final comparison I'd like to make is G10 vs. Rubber. If you will be running your revolver regularly, I believe that these are the best options on the market. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate wood stocks on wheel guns. This material is both functional and aesthetically pleasing; however, modern materials are more durable for regular or hard use. Wood may best serve on presentation or collection pieces.
G10 is nearly impervious to adverse conditions. Moisture from rain or sweat should not affect the grips at all. If the revolver is dropped the stocks have less of a chance to shatter or chip and are easily replaced at a reasonable price. Also don't forget that clothing catches less on these grips for carry. These stocks may be a great option for concealed carry.
Rubber if also a great choice. My favorite aspect of rubber stocks is the comfort provided in prolonged shooting heavier rounds. It has some resistance to heat and moisture. Prolonged exposure to the elements might eventually wear on rubber grips, but the material is comparatively inexpensive and can be replaced for significantly less than wood or G10. For a revolver you plan to open carry or for duty use, rubber is a great choice.
At this point, I've done a lot of shooting with each stock which has formed my own opinions. Here is what I determined; I like all three materials as long as they are finger-less. I hate finger grooves because they just don't fit my hand correctly.
Each material has strengths and weaknesses but all make for quality stocks/grip on revolvers. Once I understood this factor, I began to decide what role each material would best serve. Presentation? Wood. Carry? Rubber or G10. Competition? Rubber, G10, or Wood. These are just my preferences. At the end of the day it is totally up to you.
As always, if you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to share your experience on the current topic please post below!