The use of a saturable absorber as a passive mode locker in a solid-state laser can introduce a tendency for Q-switched mode-locked operation. We have investigated the transition between the regimes of cw mode locking and Q-switched mode locking. Experimental data from Nd:YLF lasers in the picosecond domain and soliton mode-locked Nd:glass lasers in the femtosecond domain, both passively mode locked with semiconductor saturable absorber mirrors, were compared with predictions from an analytical model. The observed stability limits for the picosecond lasers agree well with a previously described model, while for soliton mode-locked femtosecond lasers we have developed an extended theory that takes into account nonlinear soliton-shaping effects and gain filtering.


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