Donahoe Dynamics Takes Grip-Stippling to Artistic Heights
Eve Flanigan 11.18.19
When Chance Donahoe isn’t deployed as a Seabee in the US Navy, he’s at home in Gulfport, Mississippi making shootable, functional art. What started out as a hobby is now a burgeoning business. Recently, OutdoorHub scored an interview with this rising star in the firearm industry to find out more.
For those who don’t know, “stippling” is the name for the process of using a tool, like soldering iron, to heat up the polymer that forms the grip/frame of many modern handguns. Improved traction is the result, negating the slippery effects of stuff like sweat, blood, and sunscreen. All stippling jobs add traction—but a Donahoe Dynamics-stippled firearm is also a work of art.
A Donahoe Dynamics-treated pistol can sport more than just a neatly pebbled surface, though they can create that too. Donahoe’s process employs a combination of designs. The main attraction is the pattern—from a finely detailed “basket weave,” to a sunburst-like “rising sun,” to the dreamy “starry night” (see feature image) and others.
Around each pattern is a distinct border which, in Donahoe’s description, these unique borders “help the work stand out and show the extra steps and quality of what I do.” He says figuring out the border process was a breakthrough in making his work an artful and professional product.
Donhoe’s work includes more than just grip stippling. He also performs accelerator cut detailing (for Glocks), finger groove removal, and trigger guard undercuts. In a marriage of military experience, warrior mindset, and art, Donahoe aims to provide improved functionality for combat conditions through his work. Improved purchase on the gun is good; improved control over recoil as a result of removing potentially impeding finger grooves and trigger guard bulk is even better.
Chance says that the Starry Night pattern is a favorite, for both him and his customers. “I wanted to create art as well as function,” he states. It doesn’t take long to see that the artistic touch on some pistols featured on his website have cerakote treatment as well as stippling. The color is the mark of an established and growing partnership between Donahoe Dynamics and Valkyrie Arms, LLC. The fluidly matching appearance of their collaborative projects is surprising considering they aren’t even based in the same states—for now. Plans are underway for a shared facility and shared production, but not an outright merger, in 2020. This closer partnership will be located in Gulfport.
It’s clear when chatting with Chance that this is more than just a job to him. When asked what drives him, he said, “during a military career there are ups and downs. I always want to be the best of the best. I’m very goal-oriented. It had been my goal to be in special forces. That didn’t happen, but this work is something I put my all into. For some people, spending $300 or $400 on gun customization is a big investment. For anyone to invest in a work of art, and entrust me to make that art by making permanent changes to their gun, means a lot to me.”
When asked if he foresees technology changing the way he does things, Donahoe replied, “I love the personal touch and I work to make a product with my hands, my time, my blood, sweat, and tears. That’s one thing I never want to change.”
Price-wise, a Donahoe-treated frame varies widely. Most orders are $250-350, depending on options and the size of the pistol. Starry Night treatment starts at $200. The order form on the company website allows customers to self-calculate their final cost.
Not every brand of handgun easily produces a good result with stippling. Using Canik and FN as examples, Donahoe says he’s discovered that Canik’s tan-colored polymer can be challenging to work with because of its coating and texture. Likewise, FN pistols can have a less malleable texture. Sometimes, brands use a different type of material on backstrap inserts as compared to the main grip. While he works with any brand, the labor involved and final appearance can vary in comparison to the material in, say, Glock pistols which Donahoe says is consistent and more friendly to customization.
For a truly custom and memorable appearance that also helps with gun handling, a Donahoe Dynamics/Valkyrie Arms gun is like no other.