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.
The Super Lite’s forged slide received some radical internal machining to reduce weight without compromising the strength or reliability of the pistol. The shop installed a C&S Series 70 extractor and an extended ejector to further enhance the Super Lite’s reliability. A semi-drop-in barrel was throated and re-crowned before being fitted to a solid National Match bushing. The ejection port was relieved, and the forward edge received a bullet-nose relief to ensure safe ejection of live rounds. Richard Heinie’s excellent Ultra Low-Mount Ledge sight was selected as the rear sight. The front sight on my test pistol was a plain dovetailed post. Bill can change this per customer requests. While tritium is popular, the Super Lite really deserves a gold bead. The front sides of the slide received Hi-Power-style cuts, while the top of the slide was serrated with an arrow-point pattern. A subtle French border defines the matte-finished top of the slide from the highly polished sides. The entire pistol received a medium-carry bevel, and the frame received a silver gray Cerakote finish. The slide was polished with 400-grit paper and given a deep, lustrous blue. The combination is reminiscent of an earlier time. However, no matter how appealing the Super Lite model is, the key feature is the reduction in weight. The majority of the weight reduction came from cuts in the slide. The barrel was also reshaped in critical areas.
When I first received the Super Lite, the slide-to-frame fit was very tight and had a distinct bump as the barrel unlocked from the slide. In talking to Bill, he stated that, other than test-firing to confirm zero, the pistol had not been shot. On the range, I broke the Super Lite in with a box of standard 230-grain FMJs. Recoil, while snappy, was manageable as long as I used a proper grip and position. For the formal testing, I used two of my favorite 185-grain loads, ASYM Precision’s 185 grain Barnes Tac-XP +P and PNW’s 185-grain TacOps. Both loads were pleasant to shoot. The ASYM +P averaged 993 feet per second (fps) while the PNW TacOps averaged 925 fps. We also tested Winchester’s 230-grain SXT load that averaged 851 fps.
Accuracy testing consisted of firing five-round groups off-hand at 25 yards. I will confess to being a little out of practice, and it took a couple of magazines to settle in to where I was getting some consistent groups. The best group was produced with the PNW TacOps ammo, which measured 2.06 inches. The ASYM produced a group that measured 2.19 inches, while the Winchester SXT group measured 2.32 inches. While this is impressive, it is not surprising given the quality barrel and precision fitting by the guys at C&S. However, the C&S Super Lite was designed to be a concealed-carry pistol. I know of no better personal-defense drill than Ken Hackathorn’s “10-10-10” drill. The standard drill is shot from the 10-yard line and consists of 10 shots in 10 seconds. The target is a standard 25-yard NRA pistol target. Given the magazine capacity, I modified the drill to seven rounds in seven seconds. My time was just over eights seconds, and the group had an extreme spread of 3.25 inches.
The Super Lite is a purpose-built pistol that is constructed to fill a specific need. Any time parts are lightened or modified, it can have an adverse impact on the functioning and reliability of the pistol. The lighter the slide, the faster it cycles. This can result in several types of malfunctions as well as accelerated wear on critical components. Fortunately, these are the same issues that Bill had to solve when producing his Adventurer and Pathfinder pistols. As a result, I had no pistol-related issues with the Super Lite. In fact, the only issue I experienced was when the magazine follower started to override the slide stop. This was quickly corrected by switching to a second magazine. The Super Lite is the ultimate 1911 carry pistol and represents ingenuity, skill and precision.
Bill has recently started working to ward “semi-retirement.” Two years ago, he bought a spread in western Nebraska and built his dream home and dream shop. While he still comes into the C&S shop, Bill Laughridge has cut back on his work week so he can enjoy his new tractor. While retirement is in Bill’s future, don’t write him off just yet. He is working on a new reproduction of the Colt 1910. In the meantime, Bill still sports his legendary mustache and will continue visiting with old friends and making new ones at industry trade shows, all the while crafting some of the finest 1911s available.
For more information on the Super Lite Government Model 1911 .45 ACP, visit: http://wwww.cylinder-slide.com or call 800-448-1713