Firearms Review

Back up your duty gun with the 
SFS .45 Adventurer

By Ron Dorman 



Originally published in
Law Enforcement Technology Magazine May 2000 issue
Click on bordered images to see larger size.

The chore of selecting a suitable handgun for use in law enforcement for years has been an exercise in choosing between the lesser of evils. The term "ultimate carry gun" is an often-used misnomer frequently found in firearms-related publications. But in reality, the term denotes little more than an individual's personal preference and willing compromises, as opposed to clearly definable and quantitative advantages.

There are many variables to consider when evaluating a duty sidearm. These variables include accuracy, reliability, ammunition capacity, safety, legal and civil liability, comfort, the degree of training required for proficiency, and the weapon's durability.

All the variables come with a price. To put it in simplest terms, an agency that chooses to arm its officers with double-action revolvers is willing to sacrifice firepower and speed in exchange for reliability and safety, while the department that chooses single-action autos is willing to incur a higher degree of liability in exchange for accuracy and ease of use. Traditional double-action autos offer officers high capacity and reduced liability but require an aggressive training regimen to overcome a decreased degree of accuracy.

These are all generalizations painted with a wide brush, but the point is that there are no panaceas where handguns are concerned. However, the new SFS system from Cylinder & Slide may be helping to change that.  The company has released a new type of handgun action that incorporates the advantages of a single-action weapon with the safety of a double-action gun. Bill Laughridge, owner of Cylinder & Slide, calls it the Safety Fast Shooting (SFS) kit. It's a deceptively simple set of drop-in replacement parts for Browning Hi-Powers as well as 1911's that can be installed into an existing handgun by a qualified gunsmith.

Another innovative product from Cylinder & Slide is its custom-made Adventurer 191 1, one of the smallest .45s available. LET tested the SFS kit installed in the Adventurer 1911 as a backup gun.

How the SFS works

The SFS consists of a slide stop, hammer, hammer ring, return spring, sear, sear spring, and an ambidextrous cocking lever. The kit comes in a box complete with installation instructions for a qualified gunsmith. Customers also can send their guns directly to Cylinder & Slide to install the kit.

Once the kit's installed, the operating instructions are simple. After visually and physically inspecting the weapon to ensure it's unloaded, point it in a safe direction and insert a fully loaded magazine. Then slingshot the slide to the rear and allow it to fall forward, chambering a round into the battery. The weapon is now ready to be fired in single-action mode, if desired.

To deactivate the gun, the user simply pushes the hammer forward to the de-cocked position with his thumb.  This action generates three safeties - it locks the slide, the sear and the hammer in the forward position. With the safeties generated, the weapon cannot be fired by squeezing the trigger, pulling the slide or cocking the hammer, and can be safely bolstered and carried.

To fire the weapon, an officer simply draws it from the holster, aligns the sights on the target, and pushes downward on the cocking lever as he would with a thumb-safety on a conventional single-action handgun. Pushing down on the cocking lever deactivates all three safeties and causes the hammer to spring back to the cocked position. The gun is now ready to fire.

Benefits of the SFS

The SFS presents several potential advantages over conventional single-action or double-action handguns, while maintaining the inherent assets of each. It affords the shooter an exceptionally fast reaction time to a threat but without the liabilities associated with carrying a cocked-and-locked pistol. Although the gun is always chambered and ready for immediate use, the slide, sear and trigger are safely locked into place until the user depresses the cocking lever. The trigger press is also short and consistent operation, from shot to shot, which has a positive impact on shot placement compared to the  long, inconsistent pull of a traditional double-action handgun.  And because of the reduced prominence of the hammer during carry, the weapon is safer and easier to draw from the holster.

The SFS allows three additional safeties to be activated in one simple operation, and for those familiar with carrying single-action autos this movement is already part of muscle memory and requires no additional training.

Finally, should an assailant gain control of an officer's weapon, his immediate action may be to point the weapon at the officer and attempt to pull the trigger, which is locked. Failing that, the assailant may try to operate the slide, which also is locked. Finally, the assailant may try to cock the hammer, which, of course, doesn't work either. This could give the officer time to transition to a secondary weapon or employ an alternate defensive technique to stop the attack.

One point to consider, however, is that the cocking lever on an SFS-equipped 1911 or Hi-Power cannot be placed in the upper position like the thumb-safety.  This means that should an officer shoot a three-round string and then decide to re-holster the weapon, he will need to either push the hammer back into the locked position or unload the weapon. This aspect will require some repetitive training to integrate it into an officer's muscle memory.

The Adventurer 

In making the Adventurer, Laughridge set out to produce the smallest defensive .45 available without sacrificing reliability or performance. The resulting gun is 6.8 inches long, 4.3 inches tall and 1.2 inches wide. The LET test gun, featuring an aluminum-alloy construction, weighed just 25 ounces. The weapon carried 6 rounds(5+1) of.45 ACP.

The Adventurer is a true custom gun with a host of premium features. The Cylinder & Slide custom barrel features a tapered-cone lock-up. The sights are fixed Novak low-mounts with a dove-tail front. The gun has a Videki aluminum alloy trigger complete with an over-travel stop that has been tuned to a very crisp 5 pounds.

The weapon's magazine well is beveled for smooth re-loads and all of the external edges and comers have been rounded off and beveled for a snag-free presentation from the holster. In addition, all internal parts were polished and de-burred to ensure smooth functioning. To provide for proper feeding, the barrel and ramp were throated and polished. The extractor and ejector also were fitted and tuned. 

One of the most unique features of the Adventurer is its recoil spring. Laughridge used a Seecamp captive recoil spring system to ensure the slide had sufficient energy to strip each progressive round from the magazine and force it into the chamber, as well as to help manage recoil.

Every Adventurer comes with two five-round magazines and checkered walnut grips. Prior to leaving the shop, each gun is test fired for perfect function with several types of hollow point ammunition and zeroed to 15 yards.  There are a number of other options available. The company will custom build a gun from the ground up to a department's individual specifications.

 Test firing the Adventurer

The SFS-equipped Adventurer performed exceptionally well at the range. However, it should be noted that the gun must be loaded with 230-gain (not +P) ammunition. This is a good idea for two reasons. As a rule, an officer should never use +P ammunition through an aluminum-alloy gun. If an officer needs to shoot hot loads, a gun made of steel should be used. The Adventurer's very short, very light slide, combined with the added energy of a 185-grain round may cause the weapon to cycle too fast for the magazine spring and follower to lift subsequent rounds out of the magazine properly, which could cause a malfunction. The user of the SFS Adventurer is relegated to using ammunition like a 230-grain Federal Hydra-Shok or a Remington Golden Saber.

During the test fire, LET fired 350 rounds of hollow point bullets, from Remington, Federal and Winchester, through the Adventurer without any failures or malfunctions.

Accuracy was found to be more than adequate for a combat handgun. From 15 yards, the gun kept five-shot strings well within center mass.  

Officers testing the Adventurer found it pleasant to shoot. Officers expected muzzle Rip and controllability to be a problem, but the Seecamp captured-recoil spring did a good job of controlling felt recoil and allowing for quick follow-up shots. The Adventurer has more bark than a full-size 191 1, but there are other super-lightweight revolvers that deliver more felt recoil..

Even with the drop-in replacement parts installed, the trigger pull remained crisp and consistent. The tests began with several dry firings using snap caps to help the officers get a feel for the mechanism. Then the test transitioned to live ammunition for two- and three-shot strings.
After chambering a round and locking the hammer forward, four other officers at the range were asked to try and fire the gun. Without fail, all of them immediately saw that the hammer was down and tried to cock the hammer.  When the hammer didn't move, the officers attempted to work the slide. At this point one of the officers depressed the cocking lever and was able to pull the trigger, which dropped the hammer on a dummy round. Two of the other officers began pulling on the trigger before finally depressing the cocking lever. The last officer simply laid the gun back down on the shooting bench and declared that it was broken.

The safety the SFS-equipped Adventurer offers is among the best. While the best firearm safety obviously rests between an officer's ears, the SFS system does offer some serious safety advantages for law enforcement. 

Purchase the SFS Kit visit our online store.

Ron Dorman is an agent and certified firearms instructor with the U.S. Border, Patrol in San Diego,