For revolver grips, few materials beat the natural beauty and class of real ivory. Ivory has long been used for both practical and decorative purposes, and has been found on some of the the most interesting historical firearms. It is a fairly durable material, yet readily accepts intricate carving work. When ivory is polished is shows some depth and, like all natural materials, show variations in color and texture. It is clear why the appeal of ivory has not diminished through the ages.
The demand for ivory has diminished the population of the most popular ivory-bearing animal, the elephant. Today the sale and use of elephant ivory is extremely restricted, and ivory revolver grips are made from old stocks of ivory that are becoming drastically more expensive as they diminish. The price for elephant ivory grips is out of reach of all but the most wealthy shooters. The only affordable option has been faux ivory grips which are still surprisingly expensive and lack the natural variations and patterns found in true ivory.
Unfortunately, there is no good source for real ivory grips; there are no ivory-bearing animals that can be harvested for the right reasons, and not simply exploited for their tusks. Or is there?
As I write this, I am on a remote island in the midst of the Bering Sea. Today the fog is heavy, but on rare sunny days the coast of Siberia is clearly visible. A small village clings to a pea-gravel beach, and a small, unmanned airstrip provides a tenuous link to the outside world. Access by sea is blocked by sea ice apart for couple months during late summer. Supplies can come in about once a year by barge, and on small bush planes when the weather is good.
Perfect for cowboy action shooters, these real ivory grips show the natural variations in color that can be found in true ivory. Walrus ivory grips, carved by native artists who depend on walrus for survival, are an affordable alternative to expensive elephant ivory grips.
The people here depend on the sea for their food. Traveling up to 100 miles in 16′ open skiffs through the dangerous ice packs, they hunt whales, seals, and walrus. From these animals they take the food they need to survive, and they use as much of the animal as possible. From the walrus comes meat, skins, clams from their stomachs, and bones and ivory for crafts. The walrus is essential for survival here, and is harvested foremost for food; the tusks are a byproduct, and a wonderful byproduct they are. Local Yup’ik carvers create beautiful animal carvings, jewelry, and games from the ivory and bones. The talented carvers can also make ivory revolver grips for a much lower price than previously available.
The grips in the photo were made for me by Merle Apassingok from the tusk of a bull walrus. They are finished smooth and polished to show the beauty of the ivory. The artists here can make grips that are smooth, textured, or relief carved with images of arctic animals, or any other animal or artwork requested. The grips can also be inlayed with whale baleen, or carved from whale or walrus bone instead of ivory.
Pricing is very reasonable. A set of single-action revolver grips must be made from the most valuable part of a large bull walrus tusk, but are still far less expensive than elephant ivory grips. Grips for most revolvers will start in the $300 range and go up from there depending on the size of the grips and complexity of carvings or artwork. Grips for some semi-auto pistols or revolvers such as the Ruger SP101 will be less expensive.
You can send your existing grips as a pattern, or for single-action Ruger owners, the grip frame can be easily removed from the frame of the pistol and sent to the artist for a perfect fit.
For your own set of ivory pistol grips, contact:
P.O. Box 182
Gambell, Alaska 99742
This article originally appeared on Dylan Saunders’ blog, 7.62 Precision, and is republished with permission.
Images courtesy Dylan Saunders