& 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
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
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
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
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
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
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