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Para Ordnance Elite Pro 1911, by Pat Cascio

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.

Para Ordnance

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. [1]

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. [2]

Elite Pro

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.

Break-in

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. [3]

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.

Customizations

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.

Ammunition [4]

From Buffalo Bore Ammunition [5], 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 [6], 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 [7]  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. [8]

Testing

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.

 

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#1 Comment By William B On May 15, 2017 @ 11:02 am

I worked at Para USA Pineville, NC in 2014,until they relocated to Huntsville, AL later that year, and I have been told that Remington Arms has decided to do away with the brand.

#2 Comment By Dario Monje On May 15, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

I had a genuine Colt back in the 1950s. It costed me that tremendous amount of $35! I wish I still had it, but, one day I needed some money and had to sell it. I think I made money on it, though. I think I got $50! Oh, well, I can dream, can’t I?

#3 Comment By Pete On May 15, 2017 @ 1:18 pm

I ordered a Para 45 acp in the 80s while living in Md. Had to report for duty in California. I waited about 3 months and it never arrived. had to cancel the order and surrender $25. ah, I coulda been a Para owner… I have a 1911 and a Sig 220. I carried a 220 on duty for about 23 years until it died. Bought a new 220 stainless elite recently. I compete and carry my glocks now. I have to admit, the 1911 for those who spend time training w/ them have many pros and not too many cons. IMHO The sig 220 falls into the same category. 1911 being more comfy on the hip, the sig is just outstanding.

#4 Comment By Krypteia On May 15, 2017 @ 5:36 pm

Having owned and carried for my self preservation a para lda I am a huge fan of all things Good 1911. So far my polymer tools of choice are the H&Ks. However when in competition or duty I holster up with my 1911s. All hail J.M.Browning. His design has saved my 6 more than once

#5 Comment By LT. Mike On May 15, 2017 @ 6:03 pm

100% right on Pat … couldn’t have said it better. I still carry the M-1911 as my personal weapon when on active duty regardless of the rest. It’s served me well for going on 50 years.

#6 Comment By frank On May 15, 2017 @ 9:54 pm

“Experts” can honk and blow all they want about the “ballistic superiority” of the 9 X 19 round. But the 9MM can’t and never will beat the .45ACP for one-shot knockdown power even with the old military 230-grain ball ammo. With modern JHP bullets it’s an even more effective anti-personnel round.

#7 Comment By Mountain Trekker On May 16, 2017 @ 7:55 am

Frank I agree, I have seen a few Grizzlies on the hoof but never had to face one down, but I’ll guarantee if you put one of those so-called Experts in the dark timber in Grizzly country and give them a choice between the 45 ACP or the 9MM you would soon find they won’t be so hot for the Big 9. Trekker Out.

#8 Comment By Signcutter On May 15, 2017 @ 11:40 pm

I had a Colt Series 70 way back when. It was okay and when Para first came out, all they made was the frame and double stack mags. I bought the frame and converted the Colt. Never had a lick of problems with it and carried on duty (with Customs down on the Rio Grande), until in their infinite wisdom they decided no more single action semi-autos.

Fast forward a few years and I was able to pick up a Commander size P-12, stainless. Never a hitch.

When my wife was getting her concealed carry license I bought her a Glock 19. I made the mistake of going shooting with her, to practice, and took the P-12. She wanted to shoot it…the end result was the P-12 is hers since that day.

So, what’s a man to do? I bought a Para Hicap. This one had some issues with shooting high and left. Sent it back to Para, in NC, and had it back shooting straight, in less than a week. Still carry that piece on long road trips or going to the larger cities.

#9 Comment By alex cocco On May 16, 2017 @ 12:09 am

took a 1911 armorers course at gunsite academy last week, built a 1911 from frame up in 4 days and took it to the range on the 5th, i had minimal knowledge of gusmithing before this. it was a very enjoyable class taught by experienced gunsmiths.

alex

#10 Comment By Mountain Trekker On May 16, 2017 @ 7:42 am

I have a Para Ordnance P14.45 which I also had issues with until I had shot it enough for it to get broke in, not sure after how many rounds, but I also found that most of my problems came with one particular magazine. I now carry this gun 7 days a week, and it is a very accurate and dependable weapon. I spend a lot of time in the mountains and we do have a large population of Grizzlies, I also have a S&W 629 in 44 mag. and I considered which one to carry for Bear defense, and decided to go with the Para, I figured 14 Rd.s of 45 ACP would be better than 6 Rd.s of 44 mag. Hope I don’t have to test that theory. Trekker Out. I Love My Para!

#11 Comment By Montana Rancher On May 16, 2017 @ 3:34 pm

I love the history of the 1911, and I love the .45 ACP round, its all I carry these days. I even carried a 1911 in the army, so I’m showing my age a bit, but I won’t carry one today…. ever.

1. Unloaded a 1911 weights more than my Glock 21 fully loaded with 14 rounds.
2. I have twice as many rounds in every magazine.
3. The 1911 isn’t ergonomic, I have big hands but there is no way to drop the magazine, or drop the slide without changing my hand position.
4. With a modern pistol I don’t have to shoot the gun 200 times before it works properly.
5. Oh, and modern polymer guns cost less than a 1911, be it a Sig 320, Glock 21, Springfield XD-M, all of which have more capacity, weight less and will work flawlessly from round one.

I love the history of the 1911, and I like reading Pat’s reviews, but in a survival situation, you are paying too much to bring an inferior gun to the battle.

#12 Comment By Jefe On May 17, 2017 @ 3:22 am

The thought that the polymer gun would would be lighter is obvious. My para sf1445 [80] weighs equal loaded down to my kimber super match [70]. My size 11 linesman hands operate all aspects perfectly (even one hand break down of slide). I’m glad for anyone who owns a gun, but if the 1911 was good enough for Patton…..

#13 Comment By Signcutter On May 16, 2017 @ 4:01 pm

But, with a Para Hicap, you don’t have that problem. You get 14 rounds of .45 in the mag and one in the pipe.

Not disparaging the other above mentioned weapons, just sayin’.

#14 Comment By Montana Rancher On May 18, 2017 @ 4:09 am

I just had to say something,

Actually Patton rarely if ever carried a 1911, he overwhelmingly carried revolvers, with ivory handles as I recall.

Just saying.

#15 Comment By Earnán On May 20, 2017 @ 10:58 pm

If you want a toy to play IPSC games, get a 1911.

If you want a weapon to protect yourself reliably under all conditions, get a Glock.

The 1911 is obsolete as a serious weapon. And for something that will be carried every day, in all weather, with no access to a skilled gunsmith? The last thing you want is a 1911 that requires hand-fitting of parts — something even the loose rattling GI M1911A1s often require.