Bill Laughridge, widely acknowledged for the decades of knowledge and care he poured into tuning, tweaking, polishing and modifying handguns, is retiring. His ability to produce tack-driving, high-performance firearms made his Cylinder & Slide shop name familiar to enthusiasts, and attained legendary status among competitors.
Laughridge, one of friendliest regular attendees at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show and readily recognized by his trademark handlebar mustache, began his gunsmithing career while working—for free—at a local gun range. When one of the club members grew frustrated at the stoppage his Colt Woodsman suffered and was unable to take it apart to attempt repair, Laughridge volunteered to give it a try. He disassembled the pistol, fixed the problem and put it back together on the spot. The range owner witnessed the mechanical prowess and immediately hired him as a part-time gunsmith.
Three years later he landed a full-time job with a sporting goods store. In the meantime, he traveled to IPSC competitions several times. There, he often repaired fellow shooter’s guns and methodically built a reputation for solid work.
After four years behind the retail counter, he decided the future was brighter in tuning and fixing IPSC guns. He opened up shop from under a tent at the matches, business grew and the permanent Cylinder & Slide shop opened in 1978. It was, and still is, located in Fremont, NE. Despite the official mailing address, Laughridge continued to haul his skills to matches across the nation. Now, he was towing a specially built shop trailer behind the 1986 Ford dually he’d procured for the job, though. Those exhausting, cross-country promotional/business trips behind the diesel-engine truck continued for the next 18 years.
After more than 36 years, the most knowledgeable handgun craftsmen is retiring. He made some of the best-tuned Ruger Super Redhawks, Colt Pythons, Ancondas, 1911s, SIGs and Glocks to ever grace a firing line. He also leaves behind a very long list of friends, who understand the quality and reliability he delivered will be hard to replace—if that feat is even possible.
Laughridge is currently in discussions with several firms and people to continue his legacy of creating “The Finest Bespoke Handguns,” but moving slowly to ensure the Cylinder & Slide tradition continues and the shop maintains its excellence. Shooting Illustrated will update readers when a decision is announced.