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Compact lightweight 1911 boasting custom details galore!
By: Rob Garrett
2005 - Custom Combat Handguns Annual

In 1997, we were introduced to a new custom pistol from Cylinder & Slide. The Adventurer project grew from a demand for a sub-compact, large bore (read .45ACP) pistol that was unquestionably reliable. Several manufacturers had offered reduced size .45s but many had less-than-stellar reputations. C&S set out to "remanufacture" a Commander or Officers Model sized 1911 into one of the smallest and slickest autos on the market.

When I shot the first Adventurer, with the exception of a single faulty magazine and three shooter induced malfunctions, the new mini-45 ran flawlessly for over 600 rounds. Since that time, I obtained a Colt 1991-A1 Officers Model, which has also been converted into an Adventurer. During the initial conversion, I opted for the basic pistol. Later I returned it to C&S for the addition of a custom beavertail grip safety, premium stocks, and an 18-karat gold bead inlayed into the front sight. ON a recent trip to the range with fellow Harris gun scribe, Dale Chaptico, the Adventurer went through 400-plus rounds without so much as a hiccup.

What really defines Bill Laughridge's work is that his guns run--every time, all the time. Small autos, especially with large bores, have been notoriously unreliable and offer a variety of challenges. The reduced slide limits the space available for the recoil spring and guide. Also, the geometry between the muzzle and locking lugs is dramatically changed making reliability even more difficult. The higher slide velocity and increased recoil not only stresses the frame and springs but requires specially tuned magazines and magazine springs. The magazine spring must lift the round fast enough for the slide to pick up the round, while also providing enough retention to ensure that the last few rounds do not dislodge during recoil resulting in a stoppage. If all this sounds complicated, it is.

Gun Details

The .45 caliber Adventurer has been extremely successful for Cylinder & Slide and has  been produced in both steel and alloy frame versions. The alloy frame reduces the weight from 32.7 to 25.7 ounces. Laughridge builds these guns to the customer's specifications. The customer can order a base gun or add as many options as he chooses. Gun finish variations range from a deep luster blue to hard chrome. Sight options include Novak Lo Mounts and Richard Heinie's excellent Straight Eights. Both sights can be ordered with tritium inserts. a reduced beavertail grip safety, custom grips, and special markings round out the options.

Laughridge has now taken the Adventurer project to the next level by introducing an ultra lightweight Adventurer in 9mm. The new pistol cartridge in a compact 1911 platform with significant weight reduction over the .45 caliber guns. The pistol tested for this article is the first 9mm to be completed and was sent to the author shortly after completion. As with any first edition, it was built to demonstrate and display all the options available in the Adventurer line of pistols. In other words, it is loaded with almost every option available.

The foundation for the pistol is a custom Caspian frame made from titanium. Laughridge has a long standing relationship with Gary Smith, and uses Caspian frames and slides exclusively for all of his custom pistols. The titanium frame offers a significant weight reduction over steel, and is lighter and stronger than aluminum alloy. Laughridge has undercut the front strap, beveled the magazine well, and checkered the front strap with a flawless 30 lines per inch (lpi). This is no small accomplishment considering the hardness of titanium.

Internally, the Caspian slide has been lightened while externally the font of the slide has been radiused similar to an ASP or Hi-Power. the pistol has a tapered cone Bar-Sto match barrel that has also been turned down, reducing weight. In addition, the barrel has an 11-degree crown and the muzzle has been highly polished. The hammer, sear, disconnector and trigger are Cylinder & Slide parts that combine to produce a crisp 5-pound trigger with no over-travel.

Externally, the pistol features Novak Lo mount sights that have been fitted with Trijicon's tritium inserts outlined by white rings. The front sight base has been contoured to the profile of the slide; the rear sight dovetail has been melted into relief cuts on the side of the slide. The slide has a French border and the top has been serrated with 30 lpi line running the length of the slide between the front and rear sights. A C&S extended ambidextrous beavertail grip safety has been fitted. The grips are thin double-diamond Coco bolo that are well suited to a concealment pistol like the Adventurer. The entire gun was given a light carry bevel to relieve any sharp edges. This is functional while retaining a refined appearance.

Shooting Impressions

When I received the pistol, it had just been completed and Bill asked that I give it a quick   shakedown. It should be noted that, since final fit and finish, Bill had not even shot the pistol. My ranges time was limited to one cold and blustery afternoon. I was able to run about 250 rounds of various 9mm service ammunition through the little Adventurer. The first thing I found is that it did not like any +P or +P+ load. I experienced several stovepipe malfunctions on the last round and, upon policing up my brass, found that the cases of these hot loads were bulged. The majority of standard velocity ammunition ran without any problems.

I was very impressed with the way the little gun shot. Recoil was mild with limited muzzle flip making follow-up shots very easy. While the tritium Novak's presented a crisp sight picture, I have found that my 50-year-old eyes have come to like the XS Sights large white dot front sight with the tritium insert. The grip was short, but it fit my hand well and the thin stocks just seemed to be the right combination.

When I called Nebraska the next day to report my findings I garnered a typical Laughridge reply. Regarding the feeding and pressure problems with the +P and +P+ ammo, his answer was, "well I guess so!" In fairness to Cylinder & Slide, the little gun was built and tested to run with standard velocity service loads that are available to the general public. Bill admitted that he did not even have any +P+ ammo for test purposes. Bill surmised that the pressure bulges on the cases were a result of the slide coming out of battery before the pressure in the chamber had dropped to a safe level. The problem was not with the gun of the ammunition, just the combination.

This was the first test drive outside the shop for the 9mm Adventurer and I was forewarned that the pistol was not "customer ready." Upon returning to the C&S shop, the little 9 received a new barrel, recoil spring and extra power Wolf magazine springs. This solved the problem and additional field tests resulted in no malfunctions. Bill still advises against using +P+ in the little gun, and in all honesty, the short barrel negates using hotter loads.

The more I handled the little gun, the more I liked it. It is the perfect-size package in a versatile caliber. The base price for a new Adventurer is in the $1,695 range. Our test pistol was priced significantly more given the additional features such as the checkering, French border, tritium inserts, and other features.

Final Notes

Every new pistol has teething problems. The mark of a great shop is that these are resolved and it runs right when in the hands of the customer. this is a standard that Cylinder & Slide has maintained over the years. Bill Laughridge personally inspects every pistol and backs it with his reputation. The new Adventurer in 9mm is no exception.

Prices reflected in this article are respective to the date of the article.  Current prices will more than likely be different.

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