This week we are reviewing the Para Ordnance Elite Pro 1911.
1911 is the Best
Yeah, I’m prejudiced and freely admit it. When it comes to the finest combat handgun ever designed, I always fall back to the grand 1911 in some shape or form. I don’t think there is another handgun that is more famous than the 1911. It doesn’t matter which of its many guises or from any number of quality makers. John Browning knew what he was doing when he came up with the fighting pistol. There’s not a doubt in my mind. I know, I know. Send the arrows my way. But I’m entitled to my humble opinion on some things. Without a doubt, there are many more modern handguns out there. Many are manufactured out of polymer, and I own more than my share of them. I won’t argue that many of these newer handguns can get the job done when the chips are down.
The 1911 came out obviously in 1911. So, it’s been around more than a hundred years. And it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. More and more makers are producing the 1911. They’re making 1911s ranging from budget priced mil-spec samples to custom made numbers costing many thousands of dollars. Then, there’s everything in between. Also, we have the full-sized Government Model with the 5-inch barrel down to sub-compact models with a 3-inch barrel. Once again, there is everything in between and beyond. The different calibers offer another variation. The gun started out as a .45 ACP. But these days, it can be had in a number of different calibers.
I’m not sure where Para Ordnance is these days. They started out in Canada and moved to the USA. At some point, several years ago, they were purchased by Remington Arms. Well, at least, the conglomerate that owns Remington purchased them. At first, the game plan was to move the Para Ordnance factory to the Remington plant. It started out that way and some of the Para Ordnance employees also made the move. However, some stayed behind and were doing warranty repair work a the Para plant.
It is next to impossible to find someone who will give an answer, one way or the other about the future or demise of Para Ordnance/USA 1911s. Near as I can tell, there aren’t any new Para 1911s on the market place. The guns you see for sale are new guns, or at least they are from the leftover stock at Para. Remington Arms said they will do warranty work on Para 1911s. Like I said, it’s all very confusing.
When Para Ordnance moved to the USA, they changed their name to Para USA. Again, things get confusing. There were teething problems that came with the move. Mainly, I believe the problems occurred because many of the Canadian Para workers didn’t come to the USA. Para had to hire and train new workers. You don’t just “assemble” a good 1911. It has to be fitted. And, then there were problems with vendor supplied parts not fitting properly. It was a mess. However, Para USA rose to the top of the heap, and their 1911s are outstanding fighting handguns. Or they used to be. Or they are. It’s all very confusing.
Under review today is the Para USA Elite Pro, which is a full-sized Government Model with a 5-inch barrel. The barrel is ramped, which is very nice. A quick run down, if possible, is in order. The gun is all-steel– stainless steel. The steel lies under a charcoal gray finish on the slide and frame. The front strap is checkered 30-lines per inch. The mag well has an extended chut on it for faster mag changes. There are night sights, which are outstanding, and a beavertail grip safety. Let’s add in the ambidextrous safety that snicks on and off with authority and a full-length recoil spring. The grips are Grayish G10 and very tough stuff.
They actually have two different patterns on the grips. It has the golf ball dimples at the front of the grips panels and angled serrations on the back. These two patterns feel great in my hand. The gun weighs in at 39-oz, which is about the weight on many full-sized 1911s. The ejection port is lowered and flared, too, for positive ejection of empty brass and loaded rounds. Two 8-round magazines come with the gun. While there were zero feeding problems from the mags, they just didn’t thrill me. The mags seemed very cheaply made, but they worked.
I’ve had quite a bit of experience with 1911s over the years, and in particular, the Para line-up. What I’ve learned is that they, all of them, are very well fitted guns. There is no rational for this. But some of the guns needed a break-in period, and some ran 100% right out of the box. My Elite Pro needed a break-in period. Like magic, when I hit that 200-rd mark, the gun ran without any problems at all. Before that, I had many feeding problems. The rounds didn’t fully chamber for some reason, and it didn’t matter what kind or type of .45 ACP ammo I used. Then, the gun refused to have any problems after I hit 200 rounds.
I’ve told students who came to me for training over the years to try and run 100-200 rounds of ammo through their new guns, before they carry them for self defense. This Para was a fine example of that.
The Elite Pro was very nicely fitted. It was very tight. I lubed it well before I started shooting it, but it still wouldn’t feed 100% of the time until I reached that 200-round mark. Go figure. I’d rather have a tightly fit 1911 than a lose gun because everything works the same when the gun is fitted nicely. The slide ran smoothly, very smoothly, over the rails on the frame. The plastic match-grade trigger broke at five pounds even. This gun had the Series-80 firing pin safety that I could do without. However, the trigger pull really smoothed out during firing, so I can’t complain too much. With many 1911s with the Series-80 firing pin safety, there is often a little glitch in the git along. It’s a little bit gritty.
I love to tinker with 1911s. In my mind, I can improve on them or make them better for my tastes. I changed out the recoil spring that was a 16-lbs factory number. I installed an 18-lbs heavier recoil spring, mainly because I run a lot of +P ammo through my 1911s. Other than that, no other changes were needed. The recoil spring didn’t need to be changed. But I like to run a heavier recoil when I shoot a lot of +P ammo.
From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had a great selection of .45 ACP ammo. I had their 160-gr Barnes TAC-XP standard pressure all-copper hollow point, which is a great load for using in a house with low recoil and less penetration through walls. They provided their 185-gr FMJ FN standard pressure load and 255-gr Hard Cast FN Outdoorsman load that is +P rated and a great load in black bear country. I had their 160-gr Barnes TAC XP +P all-copper hollow point and the same in 185-gr. Lastly, I tested with Buffalo Bore’s 200-gr JHP +P –, which is really gaining favor with me for a carry/self-defense load.
From Black Hills Ammunition, I had their outstanding 200-gr Match Semi Wad Cutter load, which is always super accurate. I had their 230-gr FMJ, 230-gr FMJ, and their 230-gr JHP +P, which is a stout load. I also tested with their 185-gr Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point that is rated +P.
After the break-in period, the Elite Pro ran 100% with all of the above loads. The gun rode nicely in a Blackhawk Products SERPA hip holster. I used the belt attachment instead of the paddle. I don’t like paddle holster at all. With the proper covering garment, you can conceal a full-sized 1911 extremely well.
During the course of my testing, I ran 400-rounds through this gun, including the 200-rds during the break-in period. Accuracy testing was conducted at 25 yards with the gun rested over a rolled-up sleeping bag over the hood of my pickup. Para Ordnance, or Para US (whatever you call them), are famous for their match-grade ramped barrels. The Elite Pro didn’t let me down. If I did my part, I could keep all rounds around the 3-inch mark. Some were right there at 2 ¾ inches, again if I did my part. The overall winner was the Black Hills 200-gr Match SWC load. There is no surprise there. This load never disappoints. It would be great to use in a shooting match. I think with more shooting and better concentration, I can get those groups down to 2 ½ inches and maybe even less.
You can find new and used Para 1911s on the ‘net and in many gun shops. With Remington promising to take care of any warranty work, what’s not to like here? Plus, there are some real bargains out there. This Para Elite Pro was $789 at my local gun shop. That’s quite a steal-of-a-deal for a gun with so many custom features, if you ask me. This gun is ready for combat. Just make sure that you run enough ammo through it so you know it will go “bang” every time you pull the trigger.