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Handgunning: The Hip-Grip

PistolHipGrip

Holsters exist to be used. The idea of stuffing a carry gun into a pocket, waistband, purse or anywhere else without a holster is now on par with shooting without hearing protection or the phlogiston theory of combustion. (And rightly so.)

Yet that was not always the case. Back in the days before we knew better, it was common to simply tuck a handgun someplace convenient and count on it being there when it was needed. This did not always work. One of the best life lessons is this: Whenever possible, learn from the mistakes of others.

One evening, I was eating in a fast-­food establishment in Detroit. Like most of the other patrons, I had a seat with my back to the wall and an eye on the door. A gent walked in, intent on ordering food. As he strode to the counter, he suddenly got a hitch in his step, clutched at his leg, and the result was a handgun sliding out of the cuff of his trousers. Propelled by his stride, the handgun skidded along the floor and smacked into the counter with a loud crack. Nonplussed, he picked it up, turned, tucked it back in his waistband and walked out. (Smart, as at that time, in that place, the average number of guns carried by the patrons would have been two or three. That was Detroit in the 1980s.) Clearly, he was not using a holster. But then, half the patrons there probably weren't, either.


One trick we used back then to try to ensure the snubbies we had tucked in our waistband stayed at our belt was to wrap a big, messy bundle of rubber bands around the frame. This lump acted as a sticky spot and a hindrance to the gun sliding down our trousers. It sometimes worked.


But then we found the Hip-­Grip. The Barami Hip-­Grip is a simple device; it is a replacement set of grips for revolvers with a paddle or wing added on the right-­hand side. The wing hooks onto your belt and keeps the snubbie where you put it.

When they first appeared at The Gun Room, there was no keeping them in stock. It didn't hurt that the shop was so close to the border with Detroit that we could hear gunfire from the Detroit Police Department (DPD) range when they performed quarterly qualifications. (Had I a Major League arm, I could have thrown a ball into Detroit from our parking lot.)

The big Barami sellers were for Smith & Wesson J-­ and K-­frames. One particular application was not uncommon for Detroit officers who worked in the more active precincts. (The "slowest" precinct in Detroit back then had more felony arrests a year than any suburban city on its outskirts, which should give you a clue about the meaning of "more active.") They would put a Hip-­Grip on a stainless J-­frame and then tuck it behind their speedloaders or mag pouch on their duty belt. Technically, that would make it an early version of appendix-­inside-­the-­waistband (AIWB) carry.

PistolGripVariantsWhat I found out decades later was that the Hip-­Grip had been invented by Detroit police officer Ed Mikus. He joined the force in the 1950s and moved up in rank and experience by the late 1960s to be part of a special unit DPD had formed to deal with the then-­increasing violence: S.T.R.E.S.S. The Stop The Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets program was simple: The police looked at a map of reported robberies, put an undercover officer as a decoy there, and then moved in for an arrest when someone tried to rob the location.


It should not have been surprising that when trying to arrest armed robbers, there would be a series of gunfights. DPD ended up in a lot of them (over and above the nightly shootings they were called to or involved in already), and given the high tensions of the very early 1970s, the unit was disbanded due to political pressure.

A few years after that, Mikus retired from DPD, went into private security and spent another couple of decades armed every day, as he had been with DPD. I talked with his boss at one of his security gigs, and both he and Mikus carried snubbies inside their shirts under their suits (business security required suits). They used the Hip-­Grip.

And just to add a bit of fame to Mikus' Hip-­Grip, it appeared in both the TV show "Miami Vice" (1984 — 1989) and the Richard Gere movie "No Mercy" (1986). I have to confess that I never watched "Miami Vice," and I hadn't noticed the Hip-­Grip in the Gere movie, even though I was still using one at that time — no doubt due to my focus being mostly consumed by a 1986-­era Kim Basinger.


The invention was one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" events, and the rest of us just bought them, used them and adapted them. That it was invented in Detroit should not come as a surprise. You see, in the Detroit area, back when the Big Three were ascendant, you could not possibly count the number of tool-­and-­die makers, machinists and inventors who had their own machine shops in a garage or basement. Everyone was an experimenter, they all had a garage R&D shop and even back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, everyone carried a gun. Finding eager buyers for a cool, new piece of gear that made everyday carry (EDC) life easier was a boon. As soon as someone saw a Hip-­Grip on a gun, the next two questions were, "Do they make it for my gun?" followed by, "How much does it cost?"

" As between the [Colt] Python and the [S&W] M-27, I have no choice. They are both excellent revolvers." — Jeff Cooper, 1977
The product name, Hip-­Grip, is pretty obvious. The company name, Barami, is a combination of the initials of the company's owners. And they are still in business, albeit not at the volume they used to produce.

Why?

Simple. Guys like me realized that while there were valid uses for a Hip-­Grip, say for a backup gun or a quick "I need a handgun while I roll the recycling bins to the curb," modern EDC demands a more traditional holster. So, I went completely to holsters, put the Hip-­Grips away and moved on. In time, most of us, and the new guys we taught, did the same.

Just out of curiosity, I went digging through some old gear. It appears the old adage that three moves are as good as a fire is true. Could I find those Hip-­Grips I had depended on those many years ago? No, I could not. (The smart alecs will comment that I probably could not find Jimmy Hoffa in the shop, but that's a vicious lie. I found him; I just can't say where.)

So, I went to the purveyor of all goods, Amazon, and ordered two identical to the ones I used to have. Since the Hip-­Grip was designed before there were hand-­filling grips, I made sure I reinstalled my Tyler T-­Grip (another still-­useful vestige of prehistory) on a Smith & Wesson Model 15. It's a more recent acquisition, and my original Hip-­Grip was on a 2-­inch S&W Model 10, long since gone. And my Model 60 had never had a T-­grip, so this was like being back in the '80s again without the popped collars.

I'll still tell you that your first choice for daily carry should be a good holster, but there may well be a time when you need a second or third handgun (even though it isn't Detroit in the 1980s) and for that, you can tuck a snubbie with a Hip-­Grip on it into some useful locations. Sometimes progress doesn't make old gear obsolete, it just changes its use.

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