A friend recently gave me a Stark Equipment SE-1 to try out. I have to admit that I started this review a little biased against the SE-1. Many people object to the SE-1’s unconventional looks but that wasn’t my issue. I didn’t think that I would like the way the grip forces the hand lower since I generally tend to grip my ARs very high. Now, having spent some quality time with the SE-1, I can say that my concerns were unfounded. This is an excellent grip and it may even solve some problems for some users.
Function Trumps Form
The Stark Equipment grips certainly don’t look like anything else that is on the market right now. The design is different enough to elicit a lot of negativity on the online forums. Thankfully, there are people like you, who are willing to give something a try before they completely disregard it. Once you see the SE-1 in person and actually try it, you will see that it is all about function and ergonomics. This grip works.
The SE-1 is more vertical than most AR-15 grips which tend to rake backwards. This may be the single best feature of the SE-1. Think of how you hold a carbine. Generally the strong side (weapon side) hand is on the pistol grip and the elbow is tucked down close to the body. This requires that the wrist to be bent forward at a relatively extreme angle in order to hold the grip. Reducing the angle of the grip allows the wrist to be held in a straighter, locked position.
The SE-1 also forces the hand into a lower position. You can not ride your hand up as high behind the grip as you typically can with other grips. The conventional wisdom is that a higher grip helps control the weapon. The SE-1’s lower grip brings the trigger finger straight behind the trigger which should help your trigger pull mechanics feel a bit more natural. On some grips, I tend to grip so high that I am actually pulling the trigger back and up. This is not the case with the SE-1. It positions the trigger finger so well, that this would make a great choice for an AR geared toward precision shooting. I also find that the lower position helps to further straighten the wrist because it reduces the angle at the elbow.
The straighter angle and lower position of the SE-1 may actually help alleviate the wrist pain that some shooters experience while shooting. It certainly seemed to fatigue the wrist less than some of my other grips.
The grip also features some very nice contours. It reminds me a lot of the old “Coke Bottle” grips on S&W revolvers. It is narrower at the top and bottom, with a nice palm “swell” in the middle. This palm swell area has a very nice medium texture that provides plenty of purchase without being abrasive. The texture is positioned in a place where it will make maximum contact with the part of your hand that is on the grip at all times. The areas under your trigger finger, which doesn’t provide grip, are left without any aggressive texture. There is also a subtle thumb shelf that promotes consistent thumb placement. This grip was made to fit the human hand.
The SE-1 features an integral trigger guard that replaces the flat trigger guard that most ARs use. Like other products on the market, the SE-1’s trigger guard provides some extra room for gloved users and covers the irritating gap behind the trigger guard. However, unlike any other trigger guard that I have seen, the SE-1 completely covers the “ears” that hold the trigger guard roll pin. This makes much more surface area for contact with the middle finger than any other product that I have used. It is very comfortable.
It only takes a minute with the SE-1 to see that the designers were more concerned with making something that worked well with the human body than they were concerned about making something that looks cool. I haven’t really seen a decline in control from the lower grip, so perhaps the straighter, locked wrist position that the SE-1 affords, offsets any perceived difference in control.
Fit, Finish, and Other Features
The SE-1 certainly seems to be well made. It is made from polymer that has a very slight pebble texture to it which makes for an attractive and functional finish. The injection molding lines are clean, even, and do not abrade the hand. It certainly seems on par with other quality plastic products on the market.
There is threaded metal insert that accepts a small screw to secure the front of the trigger guard. Most other grips and trigger guard products use a metal screw that threads directly into the plastic so a metal insert is a welcome addition.
Extra items, like CR123 batteries or a spare bolt, can be stored in the grip using the provided rubber plug. The plug is very secure when empty and, once items are placed in it, it becomes even more secure. The items stretch and expand the rubber plug which makes it an even tighter fit in the grip. I have a hard time imagining how you could lose this plug.
There is also an SE-2 version of this grip that features a sling mount on the upper back extension. This positions the sling exactly where I prefer it – the rear of the receiver.
Is the SE-1 strange looking to some people? Yes. Are looks the most important thing when you are choosing what to use on a tool that might save your life? Not even close.
If you are someone who will gladly exchange function for form, you know, because you actually shoot your carbines. Then you may want to give the Stark Industries SE-1 a try. This grip is has a lot of unique features that really make a lot of sense. I am very impressed with this grip.
You can read more about the SE-1 on the Stark Equipment website.