Leather vs Rubber: What’s The Best Type of Grip For Your Rock Hammer?

The other day I received an email from a Rock Seeker subscriber. They had a question about the Estwing rock hammer that I recommend to readers.

In the email they asked if a rock hammer which has a grip made out of leather rings is better than a rock hammer that has a synthetic or rubber handle. And would I still recommend the rubber gripped hammer?

Below is a picture of the rock hammer with the leather grip that the person writing the email was referring to.

You see, the person emailing me has neuropathy in her hands and she wanted to make sure she was buying a hammer that was still good quality but would also work well for her and her condition. My response was that the most important thing is to choose a hammer that works best in her own personal situation!

Afterwards, that conversation got me thinking…is there really a major difference in quality between the hammers with rubber grips and leather grips?

Rubber VS Leather

Deciding what kind of grip to have on a rock hammer might sound like a minor issue, but to be totally honest, choosing the style of grip can actually be a fairly important decision.

As long as I can remember I’ve recommended the Estwing rock hammer that comes with the leather handle. That’s because this is the rock hammer I started out with and is the one I still use. Its a great hammer and the leather handle has done a fantastic job at reducing impact shock or jarring. My hands have thanked me over and over.

The problem is that over time these leather rings tend to dry out, become brittle and eventually fall out. Then once the ring falls out, it leaves a small space in the handle where the ring once was. This might not seem like a major problem, until it is…because every once in a while when you’re holding the hammer just right and hit a rock just so…that empty space in the handle can grab a chunk of your hand pinch it hard! Ouch!

In comparison, the synthetic or rubber gripped handles can often times be more durable and last last longer compared to their leather handled counterparts. Estwing has done a great job designing these rock hammers too. See the picture below.

Just like the leather grips, the rubber grip rock hammers also do a fantastic job at reducing impact shock or jarring that come with repeated use. In fact, a lot of people claim the rubber grips do an even better job at reducing the jarring. I can’t say for sure because I haven’t used the rubber gripped hammers enough to give a good comparison.

In addition to the “shock reduction” of the rubber grip, these grips are also known for lasting a very long time and can take a beating and keep on going.

What’s Better? Rubber or Leather?

So what’s the best type of grip to have on a rock hammer?…Leather or rubber? Unfortunately, the answer just isn’t that simple, and I can’t give you a definitive answer. Ultimately, it comes down to what works best for you.

Quality. Most Important Factor

What’s most important is the quality of the rock hammer. A high quality rock hammer is going to absorb more jarring and shock than a cheaper constructed rock hammers, regardless of what type of grip they have on them.

Not only that, but better quality hammers are going to have better quality rubber and leather used on the handle, which is going to help make the hammer last longer.

Again, that’s why I almost always refer folks to Estwing products. I know they manufacture quality tools and construct them out of quality materials.

What Makes a High Quality Rock Hammer?

How do you know if a rock hammer is high quality or not? Here are some of the things you can look for.

A quality rock hammer is going to be constructed out of a single piece of steel. Quality hammers are made out of one single slab of steel whereas the cheaper hammers will be made out of two.

You can easily pick out these cheaper hammers because they will either have a weld or a seam where the handle and the head are joined together. See the picture below as an example.

rock hammer

Finally, a discussion about rock hammers wouldn’t be complete without a mention about safety.

Please, always use eye protection when using a rock hammer out in the field. Not only can chips of rock material fly back into your face and eyes, but so can small pieces of metal!

That’s right! Rock hammers of lesser quality are known for chipping off small pieces of metal shards…which is all the more reason to 1.) WEARE EYE PROTECTION and 2.) Don’t use a low quality rock hammer!

If you’re looking for a quality rock hammer, the two below are the hammers I, and countless other rockhounds recommend.

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