I am not licensed to carry a concealed hand gun – yet – and hardly a defensive strategy expert, yet I am not real comfortable with a lot of things going on in our society lately and feel the need to be prepared to defend myself and/or my family should the need arise. A full-size 1911 style pistol is a bit large for a concealed carry gun, yet I prefer the operation of this pistol and the manual and grip safeties. The answer seemed to me to be simple – find a concealable 1911? The only problem was the price of such pistols. Most “Commander” models from name manufacturers are fairly expensive. Springfield Arms seems to have targeted this market with their EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol) offerings, but in price these smaller 1911’s cost more than the same company’s large, full-featured 1911’s.
I finally decided to give the Para Expert Carry model a try, and I’m glad I did. Like most compact 1911’s, the grip and magazine section are basically the same as on a full size 1911, but the barrel and slide are shorter – 3″ in this case – which greatly improves concealment qualities. Because the Para has a stainless steel barrel and slide mated to an aluminum frame, it is much lighter than a full-grown 1911 – without having to be built of plastic.
Para also makes an “Executive Carry”, which seems to be the same pistol with night sights and a rounded Ed Brown “bobtail” mainspring housing. It also carries a list price almost twice that of the Expert Carry. The company website lists “recoil reduction enhancements”, of which the stout recoil spring is one. The spring is also helpful to operation in a 1911 with such a short barrel and slide.
From the factory, it comes with a fiber optic front sight and a good 2 dot (white) rear sight, a “match” grade barrel, a beavertail grip safety, and the best trigger pull I have felt on a factory fresh semi-auto. The trigger is skeletonized as well as the hammer, and the grip backstrap is checkered. Since it will take any 1911 single stack magazine, I can use my Wilson Combat 10 round mag as a “reload” for more firepower.
I wondered about the recoil of a .45 ACP in a pistol so light with a 3″ barrel, but when I shot it the first time it did not seem any different from firing a full sized, all steel frame 1911. The factory sights are good ones, and were easy to pick up on a cloudy day. MY very first shot at around 15 yards hit the bullseye, and although the following shots meandered from that point, that might not have been the pistol’s doing.
As to concealment, I can put this pistol in the pocket of my favorite winter jacket without it “printing”, and it fits fairly well in a front pants pocket – or the back pocket of my blue jeans. In line with the Glock lovers’ mantra of keeping your backup or concealed pistol the same type as your main carry gun, this Para operates exactly like my full sized 1911 as far as safety and “controls” and will fire the same caliber from the same magazines. It also fits in my 1911 holsters, although a smaller IWB holster will likely prove easier to conceal. Speaking of safeties, it has the standard 1911 manual and grip safeties, which is a very important point for me.
So, what do I like about the Para Expect Carry model 1911? First, the trigger, then probably the sights. Recoil in .45ACP is mild, and the pistol “feels” good, like it should, since it is after all a 1911.
What do I not especially like? The grip safety is VERY light. This does help in that there is no need to “climb” the grip with your hand until the safety disengages – just touch it anywhere and it is “off”. On the other hand, this makes it a bit less of a safety, in my opinion. It is so “loose”, in fact, that simply moving the pistol around makes the grip safety rattle in and out. It does work, and the pistol will not fire unless the grip safety is depressed, however I will likely have a stronger spring installed eventually, but with the 1911 manual thumb safety, the grip safety is sort of redundant. Many 1911 users in the military and law enforcement tied their grip safeties down, and even Jeff Cooper thought it was unnecessary.
So far, I have had one jam both times I have shot this pistol, once with FMJ ammo, once with a hollow point. I suspect this problem might go away just by shooting it more, but if it does not, I’ll try a Wilson Combat magazine before I try to polish the feed ramp. To update the test firing, I fed a magazine of FMJ rounds from the Wilson 10 round mag through the Para, and there were no jams or problems of any kind. It seems that as I have often read, better magazines are the easiest fix to jamming in a 1911.
UPDATE: feeding this pistol from a Wilson Combat 10 round mag was flawless, also from a Taurus 8 round mag, so I purchased two new Wilson 8 rounders and will put the Para mags in storage.
Although I have said I liked the sights, for a defensive pistol I wanted night sights, so I ordered a set from Meprolight that were supposed to be cut for this pistol. When they arrived, they did say they would fit several Para models – just not the Expert. Hoping all Para models would have the dovetails cut the same was a mistake. I have changed and installed sights on 2 other 1911’s and a Glock in recent months, with no problems, but this one was a project. I had to do a whole lot more filing than would seem reasonably necessary, and I ended up using both my sight pusher tool and a punch. Also, I do not really feel Para needed to attach the sights to the slide with Red Locktite. Now that the new night sights are finally mounted, however, I admit I like them so far. Test firing with the new sights saw the pistol shooting a bit low at 10 yards – but putting 10 rounds into one ragged hole of 2″ or so. Experimenting with sight picture will probably have all the shots going where I want them.
Many years ago I bought a lightly used Z28 Camero as a sort of “mid-life crisis” vehicle. A friend who was more of a car nut than I was recommended I take a day off to wash and wax it, get floor mats I liked, and generally “make it mine”. I tend to do that with firearms, so I ordered a set of RAASCO grips to replace the black plastic grips Para supplied. Under those grips will be a set of Pearce rubber grips with front finger grooves. I have been using these of my other 1911’s for some time, and really like them.
I was not aware this pistol had no barrel bushing, as the manual that came with it says it does – yet there is no bushing at the end of the belled barrel. Probably not a problem, I just was not expecting it, and am more accustomed to the bushing with a 1911.
The black nitride finish is not very thickly applied, and scratches easily, leading me to speculate on how the stainless slide would look with the finish removed? Maybe bead blasted or Ceracoated?
Summary – a good pistol for the money, in a good caliber and size for a self defense selection. Speaking of the price, when I bought mine Para had a $100 rebate offer, which helps a lot on the initial purchase.
The Para fits perfectly in a Kydex “slide” holster that originally came with my Springfield Mil Spec 1911, which is a good carry combo under a draping shirt or jacket.