Bill Laughridge's chopped
down .45 is the worlds smallest 1911.
American Handgunner Magazine ©1998
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firearms buyers seen to consumed with small and light.
In response to this consumer demand, we’re seeing in
arms race, especially in .45 caliber pistols, to see who
can make the smallest, lightest possible gun – and
still make it function. But sometimes it takes some
pretty heavy duty engineering to shrink things beyond
Government Model, John Browning’s enduring
contribution to American pistolcraft, is a pretty big
gun. The original weighed 38ozs. And was really just
fine up until 1949 when Colt introduced the Commander,
which shaved 9.5ozs. off the weight and ¾" off the
barrel length while keeping the frame dimensions the
The Lightweight Commander is, in
my view, an ideal carry gun. But Colt took things a step
further with the
Officer’s ACP. On this one, both the barrel and frame
were shrunk even further. Many said that the Officer’s
was as small as you could go with a .45. Not quite.
Laughridge at Cylinder and Slide Shop set out to shrink
the envelope even more. "Our goal was to make the
smallest .45 we could without sacrificing
reliability," said Laughridge. Obviously he wanted
a product to complete with the Para-Ordance P-10 and the
This latest custom offering is the
Adventurer, and it is, to the best of my knowledge, the
smallest .45 ACP automatic pistol out there. The closest
comparison is the P-10, but the Adventurer isn’t fat
or uncomfortable to hold.
uses Larry Seecamp's patented recoil spring
system with a full length guide rod.
|Laughridge begins with a
Colt Commander in either stainless steel, or
lightweight aluminum alloy, and then goes to
work from there. The reductions are dramatic. A
full inch is removed from the grip portion of
the frame and a like amount from the side. The
finished product is just a little smaller that
the previous winner: the Officer’s ACP.
The final dimensions are:
- Weight: 25.7 oz.
(lightweight), 32.7 oz. (steel)
- Barrel length:
- Overall length:
- Height: 4.4"
- Width: 1.25"
The model that we’re shooting is
an early prototype and Laughridge has now decided to
have some special parts made for the job. Both grip
safety and mainspring housing have to shrink by roughly
half an inch each. The grip safety of this gun is taken
from a Para-Ordance P-10 and Laughridge reports that he
will have a real beavertail made for the little gun.
You can’t believe what a
difference a beavertail makes in the way the gun feels
and handles. During these tests, I used a buddy’s
Lightweight Officer’s SCP that was fitted with a
custom beavertail safety for subjective recoil
comparisons. The beavertail, while it doesn’t have any
effect on actual recoil, distributes the force over your
hand so much better that it feels as if recoil is
and extended tang grip safety are Adventurer
features. The mainspring housing is from a Para
obsticle to shrinking a semiautomatic pistol is
the recoil spring. While everybody thinks that
springs moderate recoil, their primary function
is actually different. Springs are energy
storage devices and provide the force needed to
close the slide, pick up a fresh round and hold
the slide in battery. Recoil buffering is just a
minor side effect.
Laughridge uses the
patented Seecamp "Captive Recoil Spring
System" which makes it possible to have a
spring that is both effective and strong in a
lot less space than would normally be needed.
While the Seecamp system does use
two springs it is not the customary dual spring
arrangement with a small diameter spring fitted inside a
larger one. Instead it uses a "coupler" that
works with two small springs to give an effective length
much longer than it really is. I’ve studied all the
technical stuff until my head is spinning and am still
not able to completely explain how it works, but it
"The Seecamp system is one of
the main reasons the Adventurer is so reliable."
said Laughridge. Seecamp has licensed the system to Kahr
and addition to Laughridge. Is the fact that Colt bought
a license from Seecamp a hint of a new gun to come in
1998? I wouldn’t be surprised.
the grips are a bit different. If you look closely
you’ll see that there is no clearance cut for the
mainspring housing pin. In other words, you’d have to
take the grip off to remove the mainspring housing.
That’s not really a big deal,
but it shows that some real thought went into this.
Here’s why: when you remove an inch from the length of
the grip, that clearance cut for the mainspring housing
pin is now going to be right in the middle of the palm
of your hand. It has sharp corners. It will hurt you. By
making the grips smooth, a source of aggravation is
Recoil was not
at all bad with the stubby Adventurer, due to
the diminished mass of the slide.
|When I saw the
size of the pistol and felt the weight, my
expectation was that recoil would be fierce. It
is not. "I get a charge out of watching
someone shoot for the first time." Said
Laughridge. "They’re expecting it to just
rip their hand, but it doesn’t. It’s
controllable. It’s really fun to see the look
on their faces."
Anytime you reduce the
size and weight of a gun, you pay a price in
heavier recoil, but it’s far from
unmanageable. As part of the test, I lined up
five different guns and shot them all with the
same ammo. Included were a full-size Government
Model, lightweight Commander, Springfield
Compact, Lightweight Officer’s ACP and finally
On a subjective level the felt
recoil of the two steel frame guns was considerably
less, but I could not tell the difference in feel
between the other three. The Adventurer did not seem
to have any more recoil than the Lightweight Commander,
although it does require a very firm grip since you’re
only holding it with two fingers.
When I did some calculations of
free recoil, the numbers confirmed my subjective judgment. Actually, it was a bit surprising to see that
the free recoil of the Adventurer was exactly the same
as that of the Lightweight Commander.
The reason is that even though the
Adventurer weighs less, the velocity lost due to the
shorter barrel kept the recoil about the same.
Even though the Seecamp spring
system is very effective, these shrunken pistols have a
problem that can’t be entirely solved with springs.
This isn’t limited to the Adventurer and will be found
in any pistol that reduces the total amount of
slide travel that is available.
The shorter, lighter slide
reciprocates much more quickly that a full-size slide.
On the Officer’s and Adventurer, it is necessary for
the total slide travel to be reduced by about .25"
to achieve the desire compactness. You wouldn’t think
a quarter of an inch would make any difference, but it
can dramatically affect reliability. Let me explain.
With the faster slide recoil
velocity and the reduced slide travel, the magazine
spring has to really hustle to get a round up there in
time for the slide to strip and feed it. Sometimes it
doesn’t. This is something that can happen to any
compact pistol and it did happen a couple of times with
It was a very specific, ammunition
related problem and only happened with 185 gr.
Hollowpoints and only on the last round in the magazine.
The 185s are generally the highest velocity loads
you’ll find and are simply not a good idea in this
Laughridge advises against the use
of +P ammunition in alloy frame pistols so none of those
loads were included to point out that the only
malfunctions experiences during this entire test were
failures to feed the last round when shooting the 185s.
test also included a large quantity of 230 gr. Loads,
both ball and hollowpoint, which fed and functioned
flawlessly. Laughridge reports that he is working on
some additional modifications which may recover as much
as .1" of the lost slide travel. Even thought the
Adventurer was completely reliable with every other type
of ammunition used in the test except the 185s, the
change might correct the problem there.
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