Rob; it sounds like the slide release pin was not going through the bbl. link when you had it assembled.
One other thing; you complain about having to fight the spring pressure while inserting the slide release. This is not necessarily the case. Even if you disassemble in the 'bullseye' fashion, by removing the slide release under spring tension, then removing the slide and recoil spring as a unit, it doesn't mean you have to put them back together that way. Just fit the slide back on, with the recoil spring slid onto the recoil spring guide, and the spring sticking out the place where the recoil spring plug usually is. Then fit the slide to the frame, line up the bbl. link, and insert the slide release. After doing that, place the recoil spring plug over the recoil spring, and compress it, and rotate the bbl. bushing in the usual way to hold the recoil spring plug in place.
Any suspicion that the bbl. lugs are not correctly fitted to the slide release pin is grounds for taking it to a smith. Walt
[This message has been edited by Walt Welch (edited March 09, 1999).]