Letter Re: Para Ord Pistols and Serpa Holsters, by G.N.

I’m writing to contribute my first hand experience to the recent review of the Para USA P14.  After desiring one for 20 years, I became the very disappointed owner of a US-made model nine months ago.

First,  P14s for the last few years have the Power Extractor (PXT), which is a non-standard 1911 extractor. This means you’re stuck with it. You can’t readily replace it with off the shelf 1911 extractors and you can’t tune it.  Mine broke at under 200 rounds.  Although Pat summarily dismisses this as mere ‘Internet lore’, where there is smoke, there’s fire – and there is a lot of smoke on the Power Extractor.  I have even spoken with a former Para USA gunsmith that admitted they see a large number of broken extractors. They have dropped the Power Extractor and added a fiber optic front site and called it a “classic” (which Pat didn’t mention).  I’ll be curious (and pleased) to see if Para phases out their remaining PXT models.

Second, I’m shocked to hear of Para shipping Mec-Gar magazines and curious if that is normal.  My US made P14 shipped with US magazines that work flawlessly.  I purchased four additional factory magazines and the ones that showed up were Canadian. They fail early and fail often.  All four of them.  I ended up parting with them recently and replacing them with Mec-Gar magazines that seem to work well so far (a few hundred rounds). [JWR Adds: Mec-Gar is the dedicated subcontractor for several pistol makers, including Beretta. When you buy “factory replacement” magazines, they often are actually made by Mec-Gar. They have a very good reputation for quality despite their very large production volume. So pleased don’t be “shocked” that any pistol comes from the factory with Mec-Gar magazines.]

Third, on the theme of smoke and fire, Internet Model 1911 boards are too frequently seeing postings from disappointed new Para USA owners with a variety of quality problems.  Most seem to stem from the use of metal injection molding (MIM) parts (such as the Power Extractor) that fail early on.

Fourth, Para Kote finish is known for wearing off quite easily from light normal use – and I can back that up. Mine’s only seen a holster on a few occasions and has around 1,000 rounds through it and the finish is starting to go.

Other than reliability (is there an “other than reliability when it comes to defensive firearms?”), the P14 has certainly performed well in the accuracy department and it’s a very fun pistol to shoot.  It’s unfortunate that Para USA continues to use critical parts made out of MIM to save money. It would seem like they’d be better off buying steel tool parts and considering it an investment in public relations.  If I were to look to purchase another double stack 1911 then I think I would give the Springfield XD a try on the low end  of the price range and an STI 2011 on the high end and steer clear of the Para, or at worst make absolutely certain I didn’t get stuck with a pistol equipped with a PXT extractor.

Finally, on a related note, I think a warning is in order with regards to the Blackhawk Serpa holsters. There have been a disproportional number of negligent discharges with people using these holsters due to the positioning of the trigger finger [to release the retention latch] in relation to the trigger.  I owned several of these and never had a problem, but they have now been banned from several well known firearms training schools and there have been several very public negligent discharges by well-trained individuals in addition to newbies.  Since SurvivalBlog isn’t catering only to experts, I think I would shy away from these holsters and instead recommend something like the Safariland ALS. That is what I replaced my Serpas with.  They seem to be of a bit higher quality and use the thumb instead of the index finger to release the retention mechanism.