Cylinder & Slide's Fast-Shooting Safety

At 4:00 AM, sleet hammered my windshield as I drove down the long gravel drive to work. The isolated location, two miles from the main building, was checked by a security guard a couple of times each night, but on five occasions I had arrived to see the tell-tale light near the door that indicated the burglar alarm was going off.

Today, as I approached the cinder block carport, a silhouetted figure ran from it into the darkness beyond.

I was late. I didn't have time to hunt down the guard. Opening my attaché case, I pulled out my Colt .38 Super. I rammed home a 9-round clip of hollow points, racked the action, flipped up the safety, and went to work. I toured the building with my 1911 in my fist. This time the alarm wasn't going off and there was no indication that anyone had even tried to enter. Apparently, some transient had been hunkered down in the carport to escape the pounding sleet. He shouldn't have panicked. I'd brought fresh coffee.

Tour over, I stuck the .38 Super inside my waistband and called the security guard (who claimed to be a retired Marine) and informed him of the incident. When he arrived, he focused immediately on the 1911. "That thing's cocked!" he said.

I nodded slowly as you do to get through that kind of fog. "Cocked and locked," I told him. "Just like John Browning designed it." Then I cleared the piece and locked it away in my attaché.

With the same mindset as the "retired marine," police departments across the country refuse to allow their officers to carry the finest semi-automatic ever designed because of mistaken public perception that their cocked 1911's are unsafe. Never mind that it has three safeties on; never mind that an officer trained with the 1911 is better qualified to protect himself and the public than one half-trained on the latest politically-correct bullet hose; never mind that the 1911 has been safely carried and used by soldiers, police officers, and citizens billions of times in the past 90-odd years. All that matters is that it looks dangerous.

The modern department's answer, of course, is the double-action autoloader. Personally, I don' t like them. I don't like the long, hard trigger pulls many have for their first shot, and I don't like shifting my grip or the position of my trigger finger between the first and the remaining shots. The Glock, with its safe-action, has a consistent single-action trigger, and I can get along with it, but it's just not the same. Nothing works as well for as many people as the 1911.

Bill Laughridge of Cylinder & Slide, Inc. of Fremont, Nebraska, has an answer. In partnership with Leon Hurbert, a designer for Fabrique Nationale for thirty-five years, Bill produces the Safety Fast Shooting System. Hurbert worked on the Fast Action System for Browning, but the Belgian company never did anything with it. When the patents expired, he redesigned the system to function as safety-activated instead if trigger-activated, making it a lot safer.

Produced for the Browning Hi Power and 1911 pistols, the SFS System merely replaces exiting parts on the pistols without any filing, fitting, or gunsmithing. The 1911 kit comes with a new hammer, ambidextrous safety, mainspring, plunger spring, and a couple of extra parts for those who have Series 80 Colts. Just disassemble the pistol, replace the parts with those of the SFS System, and you're ready to go.

The pistol is loaded as normal, but to make it safe, the hammer is pushed up toward the rear of the slide, the normal hammer-down position. The safety levers will automatically come up with it into their normal "safe" position. This locks the hammer, the trigger, and the slide. The hammer cannot be manually cocked, pulling the trigger does nothing, and the slide will not cycle. It's as safe as a pistol can be and still work. When you're ready to shoot, simply push the ambidextrous safety down as you normally would, and the hammer pops back, ready to fire. It's as quick as cocked and locked 1911.

Now, I'm no gunsmith. I shoot them, I reload for them, but when it comes time to work on them, I take them to someone who knows what he's doing. I have, however, learned to detail strip a 1911. (Uncle Sam made sure of that.) For this job, you don't even have to completely detail strip it. Release or capture your recoil spring, depending on what model of whose gun you own, remove the slide stop, and remove the slide. Ease the hammer down into the "fired" position, tap out the mainspring housing pin, and remove the mainspring housing. While you're here, you can replace the mainspring with the part furnished with the SFS System. Remove the safety, the sear spring, hammer pin and hammer. The grip safety will fall out by itself. Take out the safety lock plunger assembly, too.

Replace the safety lock plunger spring with the new, stronger spring, and put it back in its tube. Then, reassemble your pistol with the new hammer and ambidextrous safety. The right side of that safety -- now technically the cocking lever -- is held in place by a tiny pin. Tap that pin down, and you're done.

If you have a Series 80 Colt, there are a couple of other steps that are explained in the detailed, illustrated instructions. It really is that simple.

But, of course, I can't have anything that simple in my life. I asked Bill if I would have any trouble installing it in a rather well-used, retired competition .45 that now works as my home defense weapon. He said that I would not, and I didn't. What we didn't take into consideration was exactly how used that particular pistol was.

I took the pistol with its new safety system to my first IDPA match. Thanks to CCI Blazer Hard Ball shooting so straight, I managed to come in 7th overall, and was quite proud of myself. After all, it's been nearly 13 years since I retired from competition. About 200 rounds and thousands of cycles of the SFS System later, however, I broke it. Further investigation showed that my pistol, which had been a competition veteran when I traded for it, had been a bit over-modified. Measured against correct 1911 specs, my disconnector was .020" too short, the hammer hooks set back .035" too far, and the sear was .005" short on the nose and .015" short on the legs. I'm surprised the darn thing functioned at all. Just shows you what a 1911 pistol will put up with and still fire reliably.

With new parts in correct tolerances, the SFS System was replaced, and the testing went on. I can't seem to break this one. It works perfectly. My caution is: make sure your pistol's parts are within correct tolerances. If not, replace them.

With everything in correctly (which was easy) and the worn-out parts of my pistol replaced and tuned (which took gunsmith Laughridge's talents), the SFS System in my old .45 burned a little over 400 rounds without a bobble. I then sent it with a police firearms instructor friend to a to a statewide meeting of instructors. He didn't tell me how many rounds they put through my old pistol, but the instructors were suitably impressed. The universal first reaction to touching the safety and having the hammer slam into the cocked position was a very big grin. Cylinder & Slide will be hearing from some of them very soon.

At first glance, the Safety Fast Shooting System seems to be an answer that will allow officers to carry the best available pistol without alarming an uneducated public. And, it is that. However, it's also one of the safest carry systems I've ever seen. With that hammer pushed forward, the trigger can't fire the weapon. The hammer can't cock. The slide won't function. The pistol is totally locked up. A bad guy who gets control of an officer's pistol will have to accidentally push down on the safety/cocking lever before he can make it work. Nothing else he tries is going to make that pistol fire.

I take the defense of my home and my children seriously. The SFS System is staying on my house gun. It retails for only $139.95 plus $6.50 shipping and handling for blue steel, $154.95 plus $6.50 shipping and handling for hard chrome. Look into it.  (These prices have been changed, since the publication of this article, please visit our online store HERE for the latest pricing.)

For more information get in touch with Bill Laughridge at:
Cylinder & Slide, Inc.
P.O. Box 937
Fremont, NE 68026-0937