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All About Cylinder & Slide
How Bill Laughridge became a pistolsmith & more
By Mac Scott

 

 In the early seventies, as a young man in Fremont, Nebraska, Bill Laughridge hung out in the local gunshop just about every Saturday. It was there that he watched the shop owner's son make a futile and brutal attempt at taking apart a Colt Woodsman to "fix it." Just before the guy totally lost his cool and heaved the hapless .22 against the shop wall, Bill asked if he could have a go at it, and he did so successfully. This was the first step on the road towards today's Cylinder and Slide, Inc.

Like so many in the gunsmithing business, Bill's career began when he realized he had a natural aptitude for understanding the mechanics of firearms and saw a demand for such services. Although many people can be and are taught about how firearms fit and function, the really good 'smiths seem to have a natural ability towards that end. Laughridge is one of those.

Bill worked for several years as a gunsmith in a couple of different shops in Nebraska. It didn't take too long for the local IPSC crowd to start flocking to his door for modifications on their 191 is. Soon Bill was accompanying some of these fellows to the Second Chance World Speed Shooting Championships in Michigan, toting a box of tools and parts with him, to repair any of his buddies' guns that might decide to fail in the middle of a world-class shoot. It wasn't long before word got out and people started flocking to Laughridge for on-the-spot help during the match.

Never one to ignore opportunity, Bill Laughridge checked out a tent from his Army Reserve unit, lugged it out to the next Second Chance and set up his "Armory," offering quick repairs for the broken and soliciting custom pistol work from the willing. Business blossomed, particularly after Evan Marshall sidled up to Laughridge the second year he had his tent setup and asked him to build a revolver for him. That gun soon wound up the basis of an article in a major handgun magazine and Laughridge was officially "on the map."

Bill opened Cylinder and Slide in November of 1978 and began advertising nationally. He also had a specially equipped trailer built to his specifications and annually traveled to most of the major IPSC matches (he found this trailer to be far superior to the hand-receipted Army tent). From this trailer he could do everything from minor repairs through almost building a complete race gun from scratch. After dragging this trailer around for close to twenty years, Laughridge finally discontinued the shooting circuit about four years ago.

"I'm getting too darn old to haul that trailer from coast to coast and border to border," says Bill, who claims he averaged about 50 MPH towing that trailer; a little quick math will disclose how long it takes to travel from Nebraska to California, New York and Florida at that speed. One can hardly blame him for giving up that end of the business. Nonetheless, Bill is typically blunt and open about the experience.

"I've met some really great people and made some lifelong friends," says he, "while traveling to those matches. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Hell, I think that I've fixed a race gun during a match for just about everyone of the big name shooters. I don't know one of them that isn't a nice guy and willing to help an up-and-coming shooter. Says something about our sport, doesn't it?"

Today, Cylinder & Slide is one of the more respected pistolsmithing firms extant. A quick glance at their website (www.cylinder-slide.com) gives an insight into the work they do on pistols by Colt, Ruger, Browning, Kahr, ParaOrdnance, SIGARMS, GLOCK, S&W, Walther and H&K, just to name a few. From basic reliability work through serious, full-house custom handguns, C&S seems to have a package for almost everyone's tastes and budget. They also normally have fully customized handguns in stock for immediate delivery to a customer's FFL dealer, for those who simply cannot wait.

Cylinder & Slide also manufactures many high-quality parts for the 1911, Browning Hi-Power and numerous other firearms. We've been using their hammers, triggers, sears and other custom parts for the Hi-Power for years now and have never had a single problem with them. Quality is first rate; trigger pulls achieved with these parts, when properly installed and fitted, are match-grade. C&S also makes extended thumb safeties for the BHR These are some of the best safeties we've seen for this gun. They work well, fit perfectly and look as good as they function.

C&S is one of the few firms that makes custom parts for the little Colt .380 series of pistols, primarily extended thumb safeties for the Mustang and Government .380. Since Scott, McDougall has been known to do a bit of work on, and make specific parts for these particular guns, we long ago reached a sort of accord with Cylinder & Slide: They don't manufacture Colt .380 guiderods and triggers and we don't manufacture safeties. It's been a symbiotic relationship, with each company buying their needed parts directly from the other. I wish all our business relationships were as seamless and rewarding.

Of late, Bill Laughridge has been touting his new sear/hammer sets for the 1911. These sets come in various trigger-pull settings and consist of five separate parts each: hammer, sear, disconnector, hammer mainspring and sear spring. There are several models of these "trigger pull sets" available, with trigger pull weights set at 4.5, 4, 3.5 and even 3 pounds. C&S does a 100% inspection on each part and includes a Rockwell hardness certificate with them.

Each kit is installed in a test frame and set for the pull-weight advertised. This is the trigger pull the customer can expect in his gun, although certain allowances must be made for individual tolerance differences. Details such as pin-hole regulation will obviously have an effect on the trigger pull of any 1911. As it is often said, "your results may vary;" nevertheless, our experience with a couple of these kits has been that the trigger pulls they provide are so close to those advertised that only a slight amount of sear spring tweaking puts them right on the money.

C&S offers a limited lifetime warranty with these trigger pull sets. If the parts have not been modified in any way and they break or wear out, Cylinder & Slide will replace them at no charge-period! Prices range from $116.50 for the 4.5 pound set to $183.75 for the 3-pounder. (Prices have changed, since the publication of this article, visit our online store for the latest prices.)  They are also available as a three-piece set (sans springs) and with beveled hammers. The accompanying pictures will give you an idea of what these parts look like; a trip to C&S's website will give you full price and delivery info if this sounds like what you're looking for. (C&S parts are also available through Brownells.) Not pictured but soon available is a spur-hammered set identical to the one (identified as the "Mcorps Set") C&S is manufacturing for the U.S. Marine Corps Marksmanship Unit.


Oh, and about that C&S "handlebar mustache" logo. A friend designed that for Bill as he entered the business years ago, basing it on Laughridge's trademark facial hair. According to Bill, the logo "kinda caught on" and became symbolic of his business and doomed him to sport a handlebar mustache for probably the rest of his business life.