Click on Pictures for a larger, more detailed image.
Published in American Handgunner March/April 1991
-s\ [akin to Old English raes rush, running leap]:
a running competition: a contest of speed.
is a definition from Webster's Third New International Dictionary, the recognized
authority on the language of English.
here is a definition from American Handgunner, the recognized authority for the language of shooting.
' gun\ n -s [akin to old IPSC fulI-house]:
a super-charged combat pistol customized with the latest most sophisticated
that is precisely what you see before you, a radically customized .40
S&W Para-Ordinance hi-capacity combat pistol featuring the most
advanced new materials and most refined new technology available
anywhere at any price.
is a racegun, a gun that combines the speed of a sprinter with the heart
It's a gun that can go the distance with 16 uninterrupted shots of the
hottest new .40 S&W cartridge. Plus, here's a gun that can blaze
furiously ahead with the blinding speed of the lightest and fastest lock
mechanism available today with parts made of titanium, carbon fiber and magnesium.
gun that is bred to win must have a champion's bloodlines. This amazing
gun boasts a proud lineage that includes some of the finest pedigrees in
Laughridge, master gunsmith and consummate craftsman, conceived the
design of the entire pistol and directed its production. Establishing
himself early on as the expert on the Browning Hi-Power pistol, the
20-year-veteran of the gunsmithing profession has also been successfully
customizing Colt autos and S&W revolvers in his Cylinder & Slide
Shop that he has owned and operated for the past 12 years. His work was
first featured in American Handgunner over a
ago in an article written by Detroit PD's Evan Marshall in the May/June
Chris Hagemann, the master gun-smith and manager of the Cylinder &
Slide Shop who personally executed the incredibly skilled handwork that
went into the racegun's creation.
Robert Pond, the talented Browning specialist who apprenticed at the
Cylinder & Slide Shop and learned the gunsmithing craft entirely
from Bill Laughridge.
George Huening, the former Indy car chief mechanic turned pistolsmith
who contributed his proprietary technology of a carbon fiber scope
Mccormick, the entrepreneur who brought
NASA-levels of sophistication to pistol components, designed the special
magnesium and titanium parts for this racegun.
Irv Stone, the incomparable master barrel maker whose very name is
synonymous with accuracy, fabricated a special match-grade stainless
steel hull barrel in .40 S&W with minimum-Tolerance chamber
dimensions to wring the last morsel of precision from this high-tech
Kim Hendon, the savvy master-mind of Aimpoint USA organized a special
prototype of the new Swedish-made 5000 series scope with a large field
of view in its 30mm tube designed especially for speed shooting.
incredible example of the pistol-smith's art reflects the absolute
latest in combat handgun technology The frame is one of the new
Para-Ordnance steel units (as opposed to the aluminum alloy version).
The Caspian Arms 10mm slide is made slightly over-sized for precise
magnesium and titanium components made with advanced EDM and CNC
tooling went into the action: hammer, hammer strut, firing pin and
trigger. A carbon fiber skin is stretched over a unique aluminum
honeycomb core to yield a custom scope mount that weighs less than one
sophisticated components formed the basis for this very special
competition pistol produced by Bill Laughridge (pronounced lawf-ridge).
But before we get into looking at the details of the gun, it's important
to understand the three motivating factors that resulted in this design.
September of 1990 something happened that will forever change the face
of practical pistol competition. This game we call combat shooting has
seen tremendous changes over the years from the street-legal .45s of the
Seventies to the exotic .38 Supers of the Eighties- but nothing quite so
radical as the electronic sight with which Jerry Banhart won the '90
just as the shooting world was reeling from this stunning shocker, only
a month later in Australia another equally earthshaking development blew
apart the long-cherished notion that God created the Government Model,
Doug Koenig won the IPSC world championship with a
me Father, for I have sinned 9mm Italian clone of the CZ-75!
dramatic events may have shattered the cozy little worlds of insecure
people who cling desperately to the status quo, but to a man of vision
like Bill Laughridge, it was a challenge and an opportunity. Here was a
chance to advance the state of the art of combat pistols; here was a
time to build the ultimate new racegun.
then a third factor came into play that affected Bill's thinking. At a
special meeting of the IPSC assembly in Australia, the body that governs
the sport of practical shooting worldwide, a resolution was passed to
amend the rule governing what constitutes a "major caliber"
cartridge. Beginning on Jan 1,1993, the minimum caliber for
"major" will be .40!
is drastic---the .38 Super that Barnhart used to win the nationals and
the 9mm that Koenig used to win the worlds will both be permanently
relegated to minor caliber.
those three factors up and, logically, you would have 1) a hi-capacity
pistol 2) in .40 caliber with 3) a large electronic sight.
What you would have is a whole that's greater than the sum of its
parts---you would have the ultimate combat pistol for the Nineties!
Bill was already two steps ahead of the game when the events of late
1990 unfolded. At the Steel Challenge in April of 1990, Bill was
displaying an alloy-framed Para-Ordinance in .40 S&W. He had already
demonstrated that the wide-body frame from Canada could be modified
successfully to shoot the new 40 S&W cartridge. Altering the
magazine feed lips had proven to be child's play for the talents of this
gun was already working. All that was lacking, really, was the
willingness of the market to buy such a gun. Even though Bill knew the
gun would be The Hot Set-Up, it took the matches of late '90 to prove
take a detailed look at this study of high-tech sophistication, this
remarkable pistol It began life inauspiciously enough with a pitted,
pock-marked Para Ordnance cast frame, Typical of metal castings, the P-O
frame's surface is flawed with tiny holes and blemishes steel acne, if
spent hours and hours hand-polishing that frame to make it look good for
the photographer I want you to make it clear to your readers that the
normal frames don't look anywhere near this good." Bill pointed out
because he wanted to be totally fair with you Handgunner readers.
surface blemishes of a casting do not affect the part's strength or
durability; they are just that, surface imperfections. They're ugly, but
they don't hurt anything.
took about 10 hours of hand-polishing to bring the frame's surface up to
the high luster that you see here in Ichiro Nagata's stunning color
gun has not been touched with a buffer," the pistolsmith from
Nebraska explained, "It's all handwork, That's why the lines are
straight and crisp. You make just one goof with the buffing wheel and
you've rounded off an edge. You simply can't get that kind of finish
except by hand."
the frame had been polished to perfection, it was time to fit the
Caspian Arms 10mm slide, Caspian Arms manufactures slides and frames,
but does not sell whole guns which gives the Vermont manufacturer the
ability to maintain oversize specs. These Caspian parts are intended to
be individually hand-fitted instead of mass-produced like other
first cut the Government-length slide to commander-length and then
meticulously hand-fitted it to the frame with a tedious trail-and-error
process that is the only way to get a perfect fit of these two crucial
came the match-grade Bar Sto barrel, the premier brand of target-grade
barrels against which all others are judged. Not only Bill Laughridge
but also virtually all recognized gunsmiths attest to the quality of Irv
Stone's remarkable stainless steel Bar Sto barrels.
won't use anything else," Bill emphatically insists.
this is not just any Bar Sto barrel; it is a special-order over-size
bull barrel. Rather than merely threading a standard barrel and screwing
on a separate tapered steel cone to match up with the slide, Bill takes
the much more precise path of machining the over-size Bar Sto barrel to
his exacting specifications.
result is a barrel with a long gradually tapering cone-lockup instead of
the short sharply-tapering cones that most gunsmiths add on. Bill says
that his system, "saves tremendous battering on the locking lugs
and cone." The master gun-smith explained in very technical terms
exactly what transpires during the firing sequence of the Browning
designed semiautomatic pistol: "It beats the hell out of things.'
barrel design, coupled with his precisely fitted stainless steel
two-piece guide rod that supports the compensator during recoil, greatly
reduces the natural wear and tear of firing.
this special Bar Sto barrel is attached Bill's distinctive dual-port,
double-chamber compensator. This compensator Is a sophisticated design
employing two separate expansion chambers. Each of the twin chambers are
carefully contoured to maximize the particular gas flow characteristics
of the potent .40 S&W cartridge.
addition, each of the dual chambers is radiused with a "scoop"
on the bottom surfaces. These scoops serve to enhance the smooth flow of
burning gas to escape through the exhaust ports in the dual chambers.
The scoops tend to minimize the turbulence of the gas while at the same
time maximizing the upward flow in a sort of Venturi effect.
energy is being deflected in an arc" Bill said, "We've
worked with a flat wall and a rounded wall, but we've had a lot better
results with the scoops."
The wall thickness of the plates between the two chambers have precise
dimensions that are customized to the particular cartridge. "The dwell time of the bullet in the
port is important," Bill observed, "Even though a lot of gas
escapes forward, past the bullet, it's still important to vary the wall thickness
according the length of the bullet."
dual-port, double-scoop compensators employ different wall thickness on
the plates separating the chambers, according to caliber.
"Quite frankly, we don't see that much of difference in .45 because
the pressure is so low. But you can really tell a difference with the
.38 Super and the .40 S&W which have a higher volume of high
pressure gas to work that comp," Bill told the Handgunner.
a final bonus to the Laughridge design is that the scalloped shape of
the scoops in the twin ports makes for a very clean comp. Lead build-up
is absolutely minimal. A bit of residue accumulates in the corners,
but it is really nothing compared to some flat-bottomed comps that
lead-up badly in less than a l,000 rounds.
digression--- the slickest way to clean lead from a comp is with
the Foul Out electronic bore cleaner from RCBS. I've been using the
device for over a year with nothing short of phenomenal results. You
plug the barrel at the chamber with a rubber stopper, pour in a special
solvent and drop a metal rod down the barrel. Attach the electrodes and
switch on the unit. Several hours later, depending on the degree of
leading, the barrel and comp are clean as a whistle. The Foul Out works
great on cooper build-up too.)
Laughridge-designed compensator system is a full-profile that matches
the form of the slide exactly. Like so many handgunners who appreciate
an aesthetic sense of proportion in a combat pistol, Bill agrees that a
comp which just dangles off the end of the slide looks awkward.
The full-profile compensator body, Bill thinks, blends harmoniously with
the lines of the slide and, in fact, cannot be distinguished from the
slide itself except upon close inspection. The fit is really that good.
Laughridge is a far cry from a neighborhood "parts changer" in
his basement who buys a baggie full of Wilson parts, slaps them on a GI
45 and calls it a custom gun. The 43-year-old master gunsmith used a
combination of good old fashioned elbow grease and state-of-the-art
modern technology to produce his racegun.
front strap is "checkered" with precise rows of sharply
pointed diamonds cut at 20 lines to the inch. Interestingly, the frame
itself is not checkered because The Para-Ordnance frame is too thin at
the bottom so that checkering would break right through the metal.
Instead, Laughridge cleverly installs a .030" checkered steel
plate, so expertly silver soldered to the frame that it is totally
trigger guard is wrapped entirely in a fine pattern of hand cut checkering.
with the fine crisp lines running 30 to the inch, the rows of checkered
points still run straight and parallel-- a sign of an expert hand.
Checking through an 8x loupe, the perfectly pointed diamonds shine
clearly and distinctly with not a blunted or flawed tip in their midst.
This is perfection in handout checkering.
trigger guard itself is tastefully squared for the very functional
purpose of providing a more supportive surface for the weak-hand's index
finger to wrap around.
finest of the checkering is found on the rear of slide, exquisitely
detailed at the very fine pattern of 40 lines to the inch. Such
fine-line checkering, perfectly executed, is indeed the hallmark of a
master craftsman's touch.
flat mainspring housing is blended into the frame with wrap-around
checkering, handcut at 20 lines to the inch and executed with the
distinctive attention to detail that is characteristic of Bill
Laughridge's commitment to excellence.
maintaining his distinctive flair for precise tolerances, the frame is
sculpted beneath the trigger guard to remove metal and thereby raise
the shooting hand's grip. This modification is becoming more and more
popular as a sound example of ergonomic engineering designed to increase
the hand's leverage over the gun's recoil.
aid in a fast, reliable mag change, Bill installed an enlarged mag well
from Gun Craft of Florida (813-645-3828).
Well, that's an understatement. Enlarged? Try humongous! We're talking
the Holland Tunnel here folks!
fact, let's coin a new term. You've heard of the mag funnel? Meet the
Gun Craft unit is tastefully blended into the frame with no unsightly seams or lines to betray its silver soldered derivation. Like everything
else on this gun, it's the best it can be.
frame is finished with the superb hard chrome plating from Metaloy
Industries. Using special extra-fine glass beads to bead-blast the
frame, Metaloy's Jim Kelley lavished the gun with his most handsome Star
internal parts were also finished in super-hard, super-durable Metaloy
plating for long lasting wear and superior protection.
to achieve a striking two-tone effect, Bill applied a rich, deep blue to
the Caspian Arms slide.
in mind that Bill does not expect any customers for the high-capacity
.40 S&W racegun to ask how much it costs (if you have to ask, you
can't afford it!), no expense was spared on the parts. As Bill put it,
"We all know there are a zillion parts out there, but we used the
premium of the premium."
selection of the creme de la creme components was greatly facilitated by
the availability of a new generation of super-sophisticated parts that
is just now sweeping the combat pistol business
by innovations found in auto racing and space exploration, the absolute
latest materials and techniques are now revolutionizing the status quo.
One man is largely responsible for taking combat pistols on this quantum
leap forward in technology.
Mccormick founded his CMC company a scant five years ago with little
more than a rusty '64 Ford pickup, a used patent for a magazine follower
that he picked up for a song and an unshakable belief that there was a
ready market for space-age pistol components.
a time when it was really gee-whiz to have a Commander hammer on a
Government Model, chip introduced an ultra-precise, uniquely profiled
hammer made on a wire EDM machine that sold for nearly three times as
much as a "Custom" hammer.
with merely the best steel hammer, Chip turned to titanium. And not just
a titanium hammer, but a titanium firing pin and hammer strut. If a
great reduction in lock-time results from the 45% lighter titanium
hammer, reasoned the ambitious entrepreneur, then surely the other three
parts of the action would also benefit from the reduced weight. Lock
time would be speeded up even more.
all three parts are made in titanium making for a tremendously improved
lock-time. Chip's advertising claims that installation of his
titanium components, which weigh 45% less than the standard steel parts,
will result in a 50% reduction in lock-time.
were suspicious. We asked an independent engineer with experience at
Boeing Aircraft to verify these claims. Based on calculations, the
engineer determined that CMC's advertising claims are false---there is
not a 50% reduction in lock time but a 66% reduction!
"Yeah," Chip confessed, "We're conservative in our
claims. We researched it
two engineers and their estimates were higher, but we figured fifty
percent would be safe,"
this just some theoretical improvement, some abstract advantage?
No, categorically and emphatically no. With the full set-up of titanium
components, Bill Laughridge says that the lock-time is dramatically
faster. "Man, you can see the difference!" Bill exclaimed,
"Just dry-fire the gun and then snap one without the titanium parts
and you can actually see the difference, it's that obvious!"
himself a champion shooter who knows the needs of a combat pistol from
first-hand experience, demonstrated the ability of his in-house
engineering and manufacturing capabilities by making a custom one-of
a-kind magnesium and titanium trigger for the Para-Ordnance
standard P-O trigger weighs 110 grams, but Chip's titanium bow,
magnesium pad trigger weighs a scant 67 grams. The McCormick trigger for
the P-O was strictly an experimental unit and is not for sale--- unless,
of course, sufficient demand is there to warrant production.
participate in the free-market economy and stimulate the demand for this
product- or other high-tech CMC products call Chip McCormick at (512)
addition to the McCormick trigger and hammer components, Bill also
selected other top-quality parts. For the two safeties--- grip and
thumb-- Bill chose the new stainless steel units from Ed Brown Products.
The Brown ambi thumb safety is unique in that the levers are wider than
the standard Swenson unit and are also ergonomically contoured to match
the human thumb. Rounded instead of angled, the Brown thumb safety is
indeed a more comfortable fit.
Brown beavertail features a cutout in the rear tang into which the
hammer sinks when in the cocked position This allows the beavertail to
be raised higher, thus elevating the shooting grip higher on the pistol.
Better for recoil control, the higher grip is made possible by the Brown
beavertail which is called, appropriately enough, the
Bill selected the unsurpassed Bo-Mar BMCS (Bo-Mar Combat Sight) for
inclusion on the Caspian Arms slide.
Caspian Arms slide came with cocking serrations on the front. Because of
the Huening scope mount, the right side serrations are covered up, but
they are useful when using the iron sights.
of Bill's C&S extended and enlarged mag release buttons is attached.
This is particularly necessary on the P-O frame which is awkward to
reach around and punch the mag button.
borrow a phrase from a TV ad, George Huening gives you the racer's edge.
This former Indy car Chief Mechanic has successfully translated the
advanced technology of the racetrack into combat pistols.
a sport where an ounce or two can mean the difference between the
checkered flag and ignominious defeat, George Huening learned to wring
every last advantage from the considerable resources at his
multi-million dollar Marlboro Team disposal.
of the tricks of the trade that George picked up while captaining
Patrick Racing to victory with the Marlboro car in the 1989 Indianapolis
500 was the use of aluminum honeycomb and carbon fiber parts. An inner
hull of honey-combed aluminum serves as the chassis, if you will, of a
part that will be finished by stretching over it a thin but very strong
layer of carbon fiber skin.
result is a scope mount that fits low over the gun, actually flush with
the front sight, and weighs less than an ounce! The mount attaches to
the gun via a special dustcover fixture that is silver soldered to the
is strong, durable, light. The remarkable Huening mount is just exactly
what you would expect- the best.
how does it work? Is it as easy to shoot an Aimpoint for IPSC as Jerry
Barrihart says it is?
I don't know yet. The Laughridge racegun is the only IPSC pistol I've
ever shot with an Aimpoint and my limited testing, even including
dry-firing time, was woefully inadequate to draw any meaningful
conclusions. I think you need at least six weeks of working diligently
with an Aimpointed IPSC pistol before you would be in a position to
offer a valid opinion. I only had a couple of weeks with the racegun
before the dreaded dead-line drew relentlessly upon me.
in those few weeks I was able to tell that the Aimpoint takes some
getting used to. Don't think you can just switch right over from years
of iron sights; it ain't that easy! I hasten to add that I was working
with a standard two-minute dot Aimpoint 5000 with the wide 30mm field of
view- not the "big dot"10-minute version which is unavailable
at the time of this writing. Barnhart used a 12-minute Tasco.
must say that the uncluttered field of view in the new 5000 series
Aimpoint is a dramatic improvement over the one-inch tubed 2000 series
The 30mm tube of the new 5000 has the same outside diameter as the 30mm
Tasco Pro-Point, but the I.D. on the new Aimpoint- which is the
measurement that really counts- is significantly bigger.
Laughridge racegun weighs 44 ozs. without the Huening mount and Aimpoint,
53 ozs. with the optic installed, That's really not too bad for a high capacity
gun that gives you 16 shots of major caliber ammunition.
But here's the rub the Para-Ordnance magazine, with brass base pad and
15 rounds of .40 S&W, weighs 13 ozs.
pleasing heft of the solid pistol felt good. Recoil was minimal, but
that was expected thanks to Bill's ingenious dual-chamber compensator
with the twin scoops and the efficient .40 S&W handloads I was using
(7.5 grs. of WW Super Field under a 150 gr. Sierra JHP for 1,227 fps for
a power factor of 184).
accuracy was utterly phenomenal. This gun is quite simply the most
accurate IPSC pistol I've ever tested- period Consistent sub-one-inch
groups were standard at 25 yards. The best of five consecutive five-shot
groups measured 3/8" and the worst was 3/4" with a flyer! One-holers
all the way!
it should be noted that these groups were obtained with the Aimpoint
5000 in place. Shooting accurately is much easier with any optical
sight, but the superior Aimpoint 5000 with its sharp, clear sight
picture in a true 30mm tube is a real delight for wringing the last drop
of precision from a pistol. I know that I could not have extracted
such accuracy from the Bo-Mar iron sights and my near-sighted eyes.
supplied a set of specially thinned-down grips, not the gorgeous Coco
Bolo panels from Dave Wayland shown in the color photos. Bill's
lackluster black plastic grips are sharply stippled to give a solid
purchase and, more importantly, they're wafer-thin to reduce the girth
of the fat frame as much as possible.
don't have large hands, and I was very surprised to find that the
Para-Ordnance frame, which looks so "blocky," was amazingly
comfortable to shoot, I thought the gun would feel awkward and it would
balance badly, but it didn't. Live and learn.
thing I learned about shooting the P-O gun is that the magazines are
prone to jamming if dropped when loaded. I accidentally hit the
super-big C&S mag release button a couple of times when I snagged a
bad draw out of the holster, and dumping a 15 shot mag on the ground was
not good. The follower tweaked inside of the magazine tube and it
required a complete disassembly of the floor plate to get things
you ever have to do an El Presidente or other drill where you have to
Fire only a few shots and then reload, be sure and start with a
partially loaded magazine. Avoid dropping a fully loaded .40 S&W
Para-Ordnance mag unless you have your tool kit!
rounds of major caliber ammunition staggered in a super-accurate
immaculately handcrafted combat pistol- will this be the ultimate combat
gun of the Nineties, like the .38 Super was of the Eighties?
that's not easy to answer because this exhilarating and exasperating
sport that we call IPSC is predictably unpredictable.
is clear, however, is that this .40 S&W "racegun" has
redefined the concept of the "full-house" custom combat
pistol. Only a handful of advancements in the base science of combat
pistolcraft have occurred in the past 15 years that can honestly be
described as quantum leaps forward--- the Clark pingun, the Plaxco
compensator, the Devel .38 Super And the Laughridge racegun.
the very latest in high-tech components and sophisticated designs with
time-honored handwork, this remarkable combat pistol is destined to
become the standard by which all others will be judged.
out at nearly $5,000, Bill Laughridge's racegun is not for the casual
plinker. It is for the man who appreciates the very finest in
combat weaponry, the man who prides himself on owning nothing but the
last words on the Laughridge racegun belong to Bill himself:
has really been fun building a no-holds-barred, to-heII-with-the-expense
super gun. It's not often we get to do it, Does the soul good to pull
the stops out once a awhile.
guess that's what I really thought I would be doing all of the time once
I had 'made it' in the business. Then I got older and wiser and
found out that reality dictates that you rarely have a customer with an
suppose that the aspiring pistol smith looks at this work as a glamorous
occupation. We soon find out that it too is a job like any other.
The real difference is that I really love what I do."