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GUNS Magazine Digital March 2011 - Page 64
keith Brown’s way. Steven Dodd Hughes he decline in manufacturing in america has put many a man out of work, but in a few instances has initiated a second career in the firearms trade. after 20-something years as a journeyman Screw Maker, 11 with General Motors, handgun grip maker keith Brown faced the closure of his plant. His subsequent venture into selfemployment renewed his lifelong interest in grip making and resurrected the legacy of some of the finest grips ever made in america, those of walter F. Roper. T Between the World Wars, competitive pistol shooting was an enormously popular sport as were custom pistol grips, the most popular and subsequently best-known grips were made under the name W.F. Roper. In truth, an engineer and designer, Walter F. Roper did not make the grips himself. A virtually unknown French-born craftsman named Mathias Gagne actually crafted Roper grips and departed this Keith Brown made Roper-style grips for the Steven’s 1950-era S&W K-38 .38 Special and K-22 .22 Long Rifle. Keith Brown at his workbench surrounded by custom grip projects. 64 earth with little known about him. A few constants remain in the surviving examples of Gagne/Roper grips: Each and every pair is entirely different, all feel good in the hand even if they don’t fit your hand and each has an artistic quality beyond W.F. Roper’s notion of the practical shooter’s needs. There is no known information regarding production records, manufacturing techniques or much of anything about Gagne. Roper went on to design target sights, target guns and accoutrements, as well as write magazine articles and books titled Pistol and Revolver Shooting and coauthored Smith & Wesson Handguns. He wrote at length about his theories of grip design that Gagne obviously used, but Roper rarely mentions the craftsman himself. One enlightening tidbit about Gagne is found in this paragraph by Roper, “I doubt if my experiments with handgun stocks would have gone any further… if I had not met a man who I believe to be the finest worker WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MARCH 2011