New Grips for the No. 3 Frontier

But the question is, how does the replica S&W New Model shoot with Triple K’s replacements?

Story and Photos by Mike Nesbitt

In my story last issue about the new Smith & Wesson No. 3, I was able to tell you why I like that Uberti-made S&W-style gun. There are several reasons and I don’t think I missed any of them. However, there was one little thing that I wanted to change and that was mainly for personal reasons.
I favored some original-looking grips, such as what Smith & Wesson used to have when they were making the New Model No. 3 revolvers, so I ordered some from Triple K Manufacturing. Triple K makes replacement grips for several older pistols and revolvers, and they also make replacement buttplates, so I might call on them again.
Just putting new grips on a revolver is almost as good as getting a new gun. Actually, this was an almost new gun because I really hadn’t gotten it too long ago. The wooden grips that Uberti had put on the gun were very serviceable, certainly, but I wanted something just a little more authentic in appearance and the vintage-style grips from Triple K quickly filled the bill. Those authentic grips were just what I was looking for.

Triple K’s grips are made in the shape and style of the old hard rubber grips that Smith & Wesson used to put on their New Model No. 3 revolvers in the late 1870s and later. S&W actually had two colors for these rubber grips.

Black was probably the most common, but they also had mottled red rubber grips. I think the red grips (and forearms) were most often used on the unusual .320 revolving rifles, making them look rather outstanding. Triple K has even more color options, far too many to list here, but they do include both a red and a deep-red color, plus a burnt-orange “flavor.” The black grips are priced at $37.50 and selecting an optional color raises the price by $17.50.

There is also an additional cost for the screw and escutcheon kit, which includes three screws of different lengths plus the two brass escutcheons for holding the grips to the gun. That screw kit is priced at $16.
These grips made by Triple K are actually made for the original S&W guns, not the reproductions or copies of those guns that are being made today.
And in their lineup of S&W grips, they also have grips for the old top-break .44 double-action models, which had a slightly smaller grip when compared to the single-actions. If you plan to place an order for grips to go on the Uberti New Model No. 3, be sure to look for “SA” instead of “DA” in the description. The grips I bought were Triple K’s part No. 3917G.

BECAUSE THESE GRIPS are made for the original S&W guns, there is some slight fitting that needs to be done. I’m guessing that some fitting is needed if putting these new grips on an old Smith & Wesson too. On the grips shown with my .44, the right grip needed to have the lower “shoulder” cut down just a little bit before the “halfmoon” at the top of the grip would fit more closely next to the frame. I’m not saying that was the grip’s fault or the gun’s fault, but in any case, the grip was modified to fit the gun.
A bigger problem, if you will allow me to call it that, was that the indexing holes at the bottom of the grips on the inside were not in the right places for the indexing pin in the revolver’s grip frame. This is most likely a difference between the old S&W guns and the modern replicas. Corrective action was simply to drill a new hole in both of the grips to receive that indexing pin, but drilling those holes is not simple.
Drilling the holes in the grips can be tricky because the inside of the grips at that point is on a slant, which will invite the drill to travel by sliding downhill. That is compounded by the fact that the face of the grip is rounded, so getting a properly located hole going straight down without letting the grip “teeter-totter” can be tough.
My friend Allen Cunniff had a good solution to that. He removed the indexing pin from the gun’s grip frame, then selected a drill that was just about the same size as the pin. Next, he positioned one of the grips to the gun where it should be and “anchored” both the gun and the single grip in a padded vice. Then, with a hand drill, he drilled through the indexing pin’s hole in the gun’s grip frame and into the replacement grip. Once that was done, taking care not to drill through the grip, the same thing was done to the grip for the other side. Attaching the grips was then completed with the installation of the escutcheons and the longest grip screw in the kit. Then it was time to admire the “new gun” look that the new grips made possible.
The fit of the grips is not quite perfect; they are a tiny bit small. But not too small. You might notice in the photos that a sliver of the grip frame can be seen around the edge of the grips. To me, that’s OK and it can’t be felt while holding the revolver. Now my .44 revolver looks more like the real thing and I can’t be more pleased.
Of course, the replacement grips for this S&W-style revolver are just one of the many vintage pistol grips and rifle buttplates offered by Triple K. They offer a very wide assortment and the best way to look at their offerings is to visit their website at

THE NEXT THING I did was take the gun shooting, to see if the new grips helped. Well, those new grips certainly didn’t hurt anything. They feel so nice and I do appreciate the checkered grips more than the smooth wooden grips that came on the gun. The checkering simply allows for a firmer grip, due to the “traction” of the checkering.
My loads for this gun are now almost exclusively made up using 18 grains of Olde Eynsford 2f black powder in the .44 Russian cases. A very slight change was made in the bullets and now I’m casting the bullet for these loads in my old Lyman mold for their obsolete No. 429184, which is the old original bullet shape for the .44 Russian. These cast at about 255 grains. The original loads used a bit more powder, but most of those were also loaded in balloon-head cases. Today’s solid head cases, by Star Line, are stronger, but their capacity is slightly reduced. While I have not chronographed this loading, it does shoot with a very pleasing performance.
On one of my first trips to the shooting range with this revolver after fitting the new grips, a generous target was posted at just 30 feet and I held right on the “X” while holding and aiming the .44 with both hands. The five shots from the first cylinder-full were so good that I just added five more. Then the 10-shot group was good enough to just keep going.
I did get two high shots when my shooting partner, who was using full black powder loads in a .44-40 revolver, fired just before I was squeezing off, which surprised me just a bit. Even so, I kept going until I had fired 20 consecutive shoots, all through the 10- and the X-rings. That’s the kind of performance that will keep me reaching for this sixgun for my black powder cartridge shooting.

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