Sweetheart grips: Tactical and historic

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Back in the 1940s, GIs often found themselves in possession of surplus pieces of clear plastic. This soon led to the phenomena that was the clear 1911 grip and its offspring the sweetheart grip. And they never really went away.

WWII origins

Clear plastic Plexiglas became one of the wonder weapons of the Second World War. It was used in windows on vehicles and, due to its lightweight and malleability, began appearing on warplanes used by both sides, covering canopies, gun turrets, and aircraft viewing ports.

The thing is thousands of planes were shot down, wrecked, and otherwise left for so much scrap across every theatre of war. This left those precious clear plastic bubbles and windows up for grabs and soon enterprising soldier-craftsmen turned figured out that they could turn these into replacement grip plates for 1911-style handguns.

A well-worn US Navy PBY pilot's 1918-made Colt with repurposed plastic grips. These allowed the flyboy to see the rounds left in the magazine through the visible witness holes.

Closeup of pistol grip w. photo of girlfriend of Lt. John Ernser, 26, leader of the US infantry engaged in attacks of German fortification positions at the Italian front, 88th US Inf Div, 1944.

These often were set up with the sweetheart's picture on the right plate while the left plate was left unadorned so that the right-handed user could glance into through that side of the grip to see the rounds left. Besides the tactical advantages, such customization helped the gun's owners keep a special eye out for their hard-to-get pistola if it ever grew legs and walked away.

Another set of sweetheart grips.

Tactical evolution

By the 1960s and 70s, a few tactical gun makers hit on the idea of using high impact plastic and Lexan incorporated in their guns for the same tactical advantage as the old sweetheart grips. One such maker, Mr. Paris Theodore of Seventrees Ltd, in New York City, designed a custom S&W Model 39 that he called the ASP.

These guns, used by spies (we aren't making this up, James Bond even carried one in a few books), federal agents, and others who creeped around at night, were in limited production for twenty years. Among the dozens of special tweaks on these custom 9mm's were transparent grips and cutaway magazines.

The clear grip today

A number of makers still produce transparent grips in one form or another, most notably Haken and D&L Sports. For those with basic handheld tools (read= dremel), there is always the prospect of building your own especially if you have a simple flat plate style grip such is on the Browning HP and Colt 1911 style.

(Hakan Ghost grips)

Afterall, all you need is a sheet of decent plastic/Lucite polycarbonate that you are comfortable with and are aware that some cleaning chemicals can haze or distort said grips as a warning.

So whether you want to recreate a classic WWII 'sweetheart grip' on your GI 1911, using that special person in your life as a model under Lexan, or want to go with something slightly more tactical, the clear grip plate is here to stay.

What's your thoughts on these? Let us know below.

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April 5, 2016  •  04:05 AM
You actually used my Taurus pt1911al with the first set of grips and my milled magin your story now thats kinda cool running across.