.......And after finding several times that my safety had somehow been bumped and deactivated on these intermittent checks, I was a bit concerned, but comforted myself in knowing that the weapon still cannot fire without the user pulling the trigger and gripping the weapon accordingly, that it was designed to be carried C&L, and that the 1911 is safer in that regards than most to those ends (thanks Mr. Browning!)
And then I came across the Cylinder and Slide SFS system, and read up on it. http://www.cylinder-slide.com/sfs.shtml
Still intellectually knowing the truth of above-mentioned safety features, I nonetheless was still intrigued with what I saw in it's design, function and form, and did a good deal of research both here and other online places for real world opinions. There were few, but no lack of 1911 traditionalists who claimed a "solution looking for a problem", which has some truth to it, but the superior manner in which it was said often reminded me of being a kid and being told by my parents "don't ever do this"-and that was something I sure wanted to do after that (in theory anyway)! :P
Did I mention I like being a bit different at times too? The ability to instantly release the hammer from down to back and cocked tickled my different bone, and I ordered the system to try it out, figuring I could sell it for some loss if it wasn't what I thought it was. (The fact that the package came with a few 'standard' upgrades such as the extended slide release and ambi-safety were all additional attractions in doing so.)
The system itself comes with:
-longer plunger spring
-interesting looking hammer assembly, with built-in FPS block
-extended slide stop
(The box indicated that at some point, or perhaps as an option, a ambi mag release as well-mine did not come with this. Mine also was in blue, apparently it can be ordered in hard chrome for addition $$.)
Initial inspection of the parts was that they were well-made steel of a kind I'd like to see in any piece of my 1911-good deal.
Installation was very easy (even for me-a layman gunsmith of modest ability), and took all of 30 minutes, much of which was spent just checking things out. The last piece was the right side of the ambi safety, which held a secret that I didn't see until then: it's made of polymer. Doh! Not something I had expected or wanted, and something I was a bit concerned with. It escaped my initial cursory check as it's (formed) so well that it matches it's steel cousin on the left side almost exactly in both color and design. The left side is entirely made up of steel, which extends all the way through to the other side, to which the polymer base and ramp side attaches by way of a small metal pin that mates the two.
But it works, and well. From the hammer down position, racking the slide does the normal 1911 thing: it locks the hammer back ready to fire, and chambers a round. Now on the SFS system, one then manually pushes the hammer fomr it's down position forward to the slide(yes pushes) which at the same time locks it in place, engages the FPS, and moves thumb safety upwards and locked. The hammer remains forward against the slide and rests on an ingenious firing pin safety block that's a part of the SFS system. (This procedure is not as scary as it sounds in practice folks, really-remember, the action is designed to do this, the hammer cannot fall because it's not under tension at this point unlike the "normal" 1911, and the FPS engages as the hammer goes forward as well). The thumb safety locks the slide, the hammer and the sear, and the grip safety is still activated as well-just like a standard 1911.
At this point, the pistol would be loaded with a round in the chamber, hammer down and resting on the firing pin safety, and the thumb safety engaged and up, and the weapon is on safe and ready to carry.
To engage and fire, all one does is (besides draw and aim of course) flip down the thumb safety like on any 1911, but with the SFS the hammer automatically and quite instantly flips back to it's ready to fire position with a satisfying ping. The weapon will then fire normally in single action, just like a standard 1911. There are no manual of arms changes here.
And here's a real bonus: my already good trigger pull was made even better with the installation of the SFS system-I'm not kidding, nor am I imagining things. The creep disappeared, the pull was slightly lighter (slightly-I don't have a scale to determine just how much, but an improvement in the safe range), and the overall feel was noticeably smoother and better. I may have paid a gunsmith for a trigger that well done. Really.
I also found that in day-to-day carrying it these months, I also got back one of the easy checks I lost: I can quickly and surreptitiously touch the hammer over my shirt, using no overt movement that would attract and kind of attention, and know the complete status of the weapon. With the SFS, a quick touch of the hammer, and I know
that the safety is on and engaged if the hammer is down (again, resting safely on the FPS). If it's up, I've somehow bumped the safety off. This has happened twice, and it was a simple and equally quick touch that brought the hammer forward (over my shirt), raising and engaging the thumb safety in the process, and rendering the weapon completely and as totally safe as one can be. I can do these things even while talking to someone who doesn't know I'm carrying, and it's such as 'innocent' and quick motion that it isn't noticed. (On my other 1911 that doesn't have the SFS nor an ambi safety, the only thing I could do that quickly was touch the hammer, which would tell me if it was up and locked, and that's it-I didn't know whether the thumb safety was still engaged unless I could find a private space to reach under and check (etc.) ) This is a valuable and unexpected bonus feature for me.
In the thousands of cycles I've subjected it to, the SFS shows no sign of any issue and continues to perform flawlessly. I have no reason to suspect that it will be any different either going forward-it's an uncomplicated system made up of good steel. While I'm still not happy with the polymer side of the safety, it works well, and doesn't seem like it is going to fail either. I did contact C&S about it, asking if a an all-steel version was available, or even if a non-ambi all-steel was available-they politely (and quickly) responded that no there was no plans to have those, but did inform me they have replacements if mine happened come loose somehow, and informed me that "If you would like to eliminate the ambi portion of the safety, you can file or grind off the stub that the wing attaches to", or that they would do so for a nominal fee. That's service, and a darned good suggestion. (I think that my last couple of thumb safety deactivations while carrying have come from somehow bumping into the right side of the ambi safety, and would not have happened otherwise if a normal one was in place as that's protected place in my Comp-Tac C-Tac...so I'm not sold on the ambi-safety concept quite yet.)
-Uncomplicated system, and made of good gun-grade steel (save for the polymer piece...I removed this side like they suggested).
-Ability to carry a round in the chamber with the hammer down safely, yet still cocked and locked and ready for instant one-handed employment.
-Adds a firing pin safety, with no negative trigger connotations ala a Series 80 FPS that some folks believe prevents a decent trigger.
-A truly improved trigger pull of the likes of which I think some folks pay money for alone.
-It looks good doing all that: I've come to like the look of the hammer, and the extended slide side stop looks and works very well too.
-No real manual-of-arms changes: all safeties work in the same fashion as any other 1911.
-The weapon remains single action.
-No cutting into the frame to add things and no additional legions of small parts either.
-Polymer right side of thumb safety, disguised well enough to visually pass for it's metal brother on the left. This was rather a cheap and unnecessary move methinks. it should have been all steel to begin with, and the price increase from manufacturing to retail would have been negligible (everything else is very high quality-why not do the whole thing that way?). Mine shows no sign of failing though, nor have a come across any who's did. (I later removed this and the extended slide lock it came with.)
-A design logo on the thumb safety flat.
-It's not free and can't order pizza for me.
There is some truth to the calling of the SFS system a "solution looking for a problem". Does adding the SFS to a 1911 make it safer?
The addition of a firing pin safety makes this answer a technical yes when installed in a series 70, not that carrying with the hammer down on a loaded chamber is standard fare. It does nothing for Series 80 and other FPS-equippped 1911's to that end, and of course legions of people have or do carry a standard 1911 C&L without incident (myself included). Do I feel any safer with the system?
This is a tougher one to answer. It provides me with the ability of carrying a round in the chamber in total safety *and* be able to frequently check the status of the weapon easily and quickly, so my bottom line answer is yes, but with a little "y". It's icing on the cake that the trigger has noticeably been improved in the process, and I gained an extended slide release. matching thumb safety, and interesting looking hammer as well. I also trust it enough to carry it in defense of me and my loved ones.
What I'm not doing is advocating that the SFS system as being a natural progression of the 1911 design, as that implies inevitability and more importantly, implies somehow a weakness that needs correcting, despite in the same breath wondering what Mr. Browning would do today if he could. However, I do believe that the SFS system is an interesting and useful 1911 design fork
, one that stays true to the it's heart in adding a robust option
for the 1911 in an ingeniously-designed, easy-to-install package.