You can have almost anything you want engraved into the side of a gun. It is fairly common to have the owner’s name and address engraved into the gun. This makes it easier to get the gun back if it is stolen.
Engraving the NFA number into the side of the gun proves that it is registered, minimizing the risk of massive fines later on. But most gun engraving is done for aesthetic reasons. Here are most popular types of gun laser engraving patterns.
There are some gun owners who have a line engraved on the top of the slide. This makes it easier to line up the sight without having a dedicated sight attached to the gun. You certainly don’t need to take time to add a gun sight to the picatinny rail, assuming the gun has one.
Others have the gun engraved with stripes. The goal may be to improve their grip on the gun, or it may be to make it look cool. And it can be both, such as when you have a tiger-stripe or dragon-tooth pattern engraved on the gun.
Just know that the gun engraving isn’t allowed to interfere in the readability of the gun’s identification information like its serial number and place of manufacture.
2- Checkered Patterns
A checkered pattern can create a light or deep grid on the handle of the gun. This will significantly improve your grip of the gun stock. This is often done with wooden gun stocks. Note that a checkered pattern is not the same thing as a stripple pattern, though they may look similar.
This type of engraving tends to be cheaper than the others because it is only done to the parts of the gun the owner may touch, whereas scrolling or decorative patterns may cover the entire gun.
3- Stripple Patterns
Stripple patterns are a series of dots arranged in a gradient. It turns a slick stock grip into one with a good grip. The stripple pattern may use dots, dimples, ridges or other features. It can also be done in a way that reduces overall grip size. One point in favor of strippling is that it can be done to provide a personalized grip for the gun’s owner.
The gunsmith might stripple a single two inch by two inch area or the entire grip. Note that the time it takes to determine where the gun should be strippled is separate from the time it takes to engrave the patterns into the gun.
4- Spirals / Waves
Spirals and waves are incredibly similar. The only question is if it partially loops or loops all the way around. These patterns tend to be decorative but may improve your grip on the gun. We’ll include scrollwork in this category, whether it is on the grip or covers the entire barrel. These gun laser engraving patterns are often programmed into the machine because they are so popular.
The price of the engraving will depend on how much area you’re going to have engraved. For example, you’ll pay more to have the revolver’s chambers engraved along with the barrel than if you simply had them put the spiral pattern on the barrel.
You’ll also pay less for gun engraving if they can use a vector artwork they already have versus having to come up with a new one. At least you won’t pay more for curved lines relative to straight lines, because it is all the same to the laser.
5- Floral Patterns
Floral patterns are overwhelmingly decorative. Yet they may be done to prove ownership of the gun. It can certainly prove which gun is hers and which gun is his. You’ll pay more for complex scrolling than simple scrolls with a few floral or leaf-like patterns.
Remember that you’ll pay more if they have to add a border, since that’s additional work. This is the same reason it is cheaper to have the gun engraved with your initials than your full name. But the pricing isn’t proportional, since the craftsman has to take equipment setup and teardown into account.
For example, half-coverage of the gun with a design is generally 50 percent more expensive than quarter coverage. Full coverage of the gun may be three times the cost of one-quarter coverage. Ironically, you could save money if you’re having several guns or knives engraved with the same pattern, since they don’t have to do as much work with changeovers.
We don’t know how often people engrave their gun with a logo. This could be anything from a testament to the NRA to the logo of one’s favorite sports team. These markings are generally personalization.
The only exception is when someone has the logo for the gun manufacturer emblazoned on the side of the gun. This can be a form of bragging rights, whether you’re bragging about having a classic Winchester or a Glock.
We recommend against having a humorous saying or funny image engraved on the gun. Engraving a gun is like getting a tattoo; it may be nearly impossible to remove without marring the surface, and even then, others can tell it once had something else done to it.
7- Custom Artwork
This category includes advanced artwork and custom designs that don’t fit in any other category. This can include anything from the Punisher symbol to Elmer Fudd. You’re going to pay more for gun engraving when it is a custom order rather than something they can do using existing patterns saved in the laser. You may need to hire an expert engraver to create a realistic engraved portrait in the handle of the gun.
The price of engraving will depend on the style, the coverage, the detail and the background. For example, you’ll pay more to etch both sides of the gun than both and you’ll pay more if you ask to have different patterns on different parts of the gun. The overall cost will include the cost of setting up the workstation and the time the artist has to spend doing the engraving.
You will pay more for engraving that requires more background removal, because that takes up time. Deep relief cuts can cost 50 to 100 percent more than standard cuts. It depends on the depth and the complexity of the design. It is harder to cut a delicate vine pattern than cut a single deep groove or someone’s initials.
On the other hand, it really doesn’t matter if they are cutting stainless steel, brass, wood or blued gun steel. You will pay more for silver or gold accents added to the pattern. That’s just the price you pay for craftsmanship. This is because the labor required to do the inlay is often greater than the cost of the precious metal itself.
What Issues May Prevent the Gun from Being Engraved?
A worn finish won’t prevent the gun from being engraved, though it may limit how deep your etching can be. But the gunsmith may not be able to do the work if the gun metal is significantly pitted. Minor scratches may not matter, if it doesn’t interfere in the design. Note that most gun engravers only engrave the gun.
That means they won’t restore the finish of the gun unless you contract with them to do that, too. This is why you should have dents, scratches, pits and any other imperfections dealt with before you have the gun engraved.
Tell the engraving service what kind of gun you have. Different pistols have a different polymer composition for the frame. If they don’t have the right information, they might melt the frame if it is a polymer frame.
That’s why you may be told that they can stripple your Glock, Smith and Wesson or Springfield XDS but not much else. Polymers can’t be deeply engraved. On the other hand, there are few limits when it comes to engraving wooden rifle handles.
Aluminum can be soft and gummy, so the engraver may not do deep or detailed engraving on it. Stainless steel ranges from soft to hard. Brass could be high or low quality, thus varying in hardness.
The hardest metals cost more to engrave because it takes more time. And the same is true of “gummy” metal. If you have more than one gun you want engraved, let them look at all of them and tell you which ones will be easiest to engrave.
In general, the newest gun will be the easiest to engrave because it has less wear and tear and is less likely to be damaged. We’d recommend against engraving historic guns, since that can hurt their damage as an antique.
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with taking a modern gun and having it engraved to make it look like an antique as long as you don’t plan on trying to sell it as an antique. The engraver may even tell you when you’re dealing with a historic firearm that will lose value if you engrave it.
Gun laser engraving patterns may be functional, decorative or both. Just know that the scale and complexity of the design will affect the cost of having it done.