While “legend” is a word that I find very applicable to Bill Laughridge, it is not a word that he is comfortable with or would ever apply to himself. Just the same, Bill’s impact in the gunsmithing community over the past 40 years rises to, if not surpasses, the term. I must admit, I am biased in my accolades. I have had the privilege of calling Bill my friend since our first meeting in the early ’90s. When Bill has visited my house in Georgia, we always seem to find ourselves, along with a few friends, sitting at my kitchen table into the early morning hours. The table tends to be covered with multiple pistols, mostly 1911s, as those in attendance are tutored about the history, design and function of John Browning’s masterpiece. Along the way, we always seem to con Bill into some “free” work. It is always a good time that produces fond memories.
“On the range, the Super Lite was a joy to shoot, feeding all of the ammunition used with nary a hiccup, and recoil proved easily manageable.”
While Bill’s Cylinder & Slide is a general service gun shop, the company has developed a reputation for its work on specific pistols. To this day, C&S is the shop to send an old Colt Python for a tune up. Bill was an early supporter of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS), and C&S has become one of the top shops to send a Colt Single Action or Ruger. During the heyday of the Walther PPK and PPK/S, C&S developed a reputation for its custom options that included an ambidextrous safety, the addition of a beavertail and sight upgrades. Bill is also a fan of the Kahr line of pistols and offers three levels of custom work to both the polymer- and steel-frame models.
Along the way, C&S also became known for its custom work on the Browning Hi-Power. Bill developed a modification for the Hi-Power that drastically improved the trigger. He also grafted on beavertails to prevent hammer bite and performed a variety of frame treatments and internal tuning to enhance reliability. A Peerless Grade Hi-Power is a work of both beauty and love that epitomizes class. One trait of Bill’s is his constant desire to push the envelope when it comes to new designs and models. This was never more so the case than when he decided to build the M2008 Pocket Model. Bill has always been a fan of the Colt Hammerless Pocket Models, and he wondered if he could build one in .45 ACP. The prototype started life as an Officer’s Model frame and Commander slide. Bill grafted material onto the rear of the slide and frame to enclose the hammer. He also redesigned the barrel profile, hand-built the miniature sights and installed an external extractor. The result was a Pocket Model that was proportionally scaled up to accommodate the hard-hitting .45 ACP cartridge. In my opinion, the .45 ACP Pocket Model is Bill’s most impressive accomplishment.
I recently received a new C&S Super Lite Government Model 1911. The Super Lite is aptly named due to its weight of just 25.5 ounces unloaded! The advertised weight of a standard 1911 is 35 ounces. Doing the math, the Super Lite weighs 27 percent less than a stock Government Model 1911. As Bill put it, the older he gets, the less he likes carrying heavy guns.
So how did Bill and the guys at C&S do it? They started with a high-quality OEM aluminum alloy frame. The first modification was to open up the frame window under the grip panels. A steel throat was fitted to the frame for improved reliability and to reduce wear. The magazine well received a deep, but not extreme, bevel, and the frontstrap was cut high for an improved purchase. A Caspian beavertail grip safety and flat mainspring housing were fitted and blended to the frame. The extended thumb safety and checkered slide stop are from Cylinder & Slide. The fire control components are part of C&S Tactical II kit, and the trigger is a solid, medium-sized unit with a smooth, round face. Finally, the frontstrap and mainspring housing were machine stippled.