Cylinder & Slides 
Real World Carry Gun

By Joe W. Goreman
Originally Published in Gun World Magazine January 1998

Sometimes we gun writers don't deal well with reality. In the gun writers world, all of us who have concealed carry permits would pack mega-customized Colts, Rogers, Springfield's or Smith and Wessons. Each of these guns would weigh more than 1 and 1/2 pounds and cost more than a month's salary by the time a world-class gun-smith had worked his magic upon it.

In the real world, legal gun packers must contend with things like comfort, taking jackets on and off, conceal ability and cost. Let's face it, when you have to wear a pistol and it must always remain concealed, qualities like weight, size, freedom from sharp edges and, if you're a married, family man like me, cost matter a great deal.

Full-size guns are heavy and tend to bump into and hook onto all manner of everyday objects, like car doors, desks and chairs. Full-size guns are also nearly impossible to fully conceal. How could you conceal a 1911Al if you were not wearing a jacket or heavy sweater, or, if it were summer and you were wearing a T-shirt and shorts? For all practical purposes, concealing a full-size pistol in light, summer dress is impossible. Even if you wear a jacket or heavy sweater, full-size guns have a nasty habit of betraying their presence. A small, lightweight pistol makes immeasurably more sense than a gun writer's fantasy carry rig for many of us that carry concealed.

In my search for a small, reasonably priced carry gun I came across the Colt Government .380. It's not small enough for the grip to get lost in my hand. And it is substantial and accurate enough to pull double-duty as a trail gun, something I think is asking too much of the smaller Colt .380 Mustang and Mustang Plus.

Out of the box, the Colt Government .380 makes a good carry gun. But, as with almost any mass-produced pistol, it could stand a few improvements. Nothing too radical mind you; rather, a few carefully considered modifications to improve reliability, accuracy and controls. (And please, a 10-pound trigger? That's how my Colt .380 arrived from the factory. My carry guns all end up with a 5-pound trigger; this Colt will be no exception.)

Bill Laughridge, of Cylinder & Slide in Fremont, Nebraska, works on these tiny Governments routinely. In fact, he says he works on more of them than you might imagine. It seems many people consider the .380 Government the ideal concealed carry gun. He even admitted a fondness for the little Colt and its smaller siblings. Consequently, I turned to him for his expertise on building a gun for this article. Not unexpectedly, he advised I start with reliability enhancing.

As is usual for improving a Colt autopistol's reliability, I started this project by replacing the stock springs with a Brownells Pro-Spring Kit. The Brownells Pro-Spring Kit #GM 455 includes a 12-pound recoil spring, an extra power firing pin spring and two hammer springs, one reduced-power and one factory-spring-rate spring. These springs smoothed out the little Colt's function and were easy to install.

I then installed a Scott McDougall & Associates Stainless Guide Rod and Spring Plug Kit. This is a drop-in kit that replaces the factory plastic rod and spring plug. After installation of the McDougall Guide Rod Kit, I noticed immediately that the slide moved more easily across the frame rails. Of course, spring binding is nonexistent with the McDougall Guide Rod Kit in place. (McDougall also makes an excellent aluminum replacement trigger for the .380 Colts that eliminates the dreaded trigger-finger pinch.)

Bill Laughridge further smoothed the .380 by polishing all contact points and rough edges. As you might suspect, this improves reliability by reducing friction, as well as allowing the slide to lock up more consistently.

Bill also installed his C&S Extended Thumb Safety, which allows quicker engagement and disengagement of the thumb safety. The C&S design Extended Thumb Safety improves the "street-ability" of the Colt .380 Government, since the factory thumb safety is too small to easily thumb back up and re-engage-especially after an encounter awash in adrenaline. The C&S thumb safety's round edges, serrated top and curved thumb pad simply feel right on the tiny Colt.

Bill also pointed out a weak point in accurate shooting of the little Colt often overlooked---the tiny sights. How someone is supposed to turn in a tight group with the factory sights is beyond me. He steered me toward a Novak Low Mount front and rear sight. These sights require milling of the slide to install, but as you can tell from the photos, they are worth it. These sights are so smooth they'll never catch on clothing, and they're high enough to provide a great sight picture.

Once installed, they also lengthen the sight radius. This helps in acquiring tight groups, as well. One caveat though---because the Novak low mounts require milling to install, it's best to trust a reputable company to do the work. (Check the photos to see the precision work C&S did on the sight-to-slide fit and remember, the stingy man pays the most.)

Before going to the range to test the little C&S/Colt, I generously applied C&S Reliability Lube "0" 1. This lube goes on like an oil but stays put like grease. All precision mechanisms require proper lubrication and pistols are no exception. This C&S product works well on all auto pistols. Some may think that due to advancements in metallurgy, lubrication is not as critical as it once was. Don't believe it. Lube your weapons especially your carry guns, with a high grade lubricant. I was rewarded with a Colt .380 Government with a slide that was as smooth as if suspended on roller bearings after applying the C&S "O"1 Lube.

Bill lowered the trigger pull weight to 5 pounds and flued a new Bar-Sto bushing. I'm sure these two modifications are responsible for the awesome groups this pistol turned in on the target range. Colt .380 autos gained an undeserved reputation for poor accuracy in some gun writers' eyes. True, the Colt .380 autos will never be true target guns by any stretch of the typewriter. But for the ranges at which they are designed to work-out to 25 yards-they are capable of excellent groups.

On the range, I tested American Eagle's 95 grain, full metal case, Winchester's 95 grain, full metal case, Federals 90 grain Hydra- Shok hollow-point and Winchester's 85-grain Silvertip hollow-point ammunition. With more than 600 rounds of various factory ammunition fired, I experienced no failures.

The full metal case ammo shot to point of aim at 25 yards, and the lighter hollow points shot to point of aim at 15 yards. Keep in mind that the largest five-shot group went four inches, center-to-center measured at 25 yards! I'd say that's quite an accomplishment for a little pocket gun and quite a compliment to the pistolsmithing at Cylinder and Slide.

Of course, a good carry gun requires a good holster. DeSantis Gun Leather makes a comfortable little holster, the Number 2, that rides nice and high and out of the way. The holster also covers up the hammer and the trigger for safe-cocked and locked carry. As usual for any product carrying the DeSantis name, its quality is evident.

So, there it is. A real-world carry gun that works like a German lighter and doesn't require a second mortgage to acquire. Kudos to all companies involved. GW