PARA EXPERT “CARRY” 1911 AS A DEFENSIVE HANDGUN CHOICE

The Para Expert Carry model 1911 has features that make it an attractive defensive handgun.

The Para Expert Carry model 1911 has features that make it an attractive defensive handgun.

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.

My new Para Expert Carry fitted with Rassco custom grips on top of Pierce rubber grip enhancements and Metprolite night sights

My new Para Expert Carry fitted with Rassco custom grips on top of Pierce rubber grip enhancements and Metprolite night sights

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.

My Para Expert Carry 1911 fits perfect in the belt slide holster that came with my Springfield 1911, and "likes" Wilson Combat magazines much better than the factory Para mags it came with.

My Para Expert Carry 1911 fits perfect in the belt slide holster that came with my Springfield 1911, and “likes” Wilson Combat magazines much better than the factory Para mags it came with.

About MikeH

Texas hunter and fisherman for 50 years, published outdoor writer since 1979, licensed charter boat operator from 1982 to 2013. Past Member, Board of Directors, National Association of Charterboat Operators, current member Environmental Advisory Committee to the DOE and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Married to Dorothy since 2000, one son, Michael who is recently married and living in Nederland, Texas. My wife and I live in Oyster Creek, Texas, near Freeport, and have a hunting property outside of Brazoria, Texas.
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13 Responses to PARA EXPERT “CARRY” 1911 AS A DEFENSIVE HANDGUN CHOICE

  1. MikeH says:

    Thanks!

  2. MikeH says:

    Thank you for reading.

  3. MikeH says:

    If you put in the link, and give credit to my site, I suppose that will be OK. Can I ask what sort of context you would be using this information in?

  4. Mark says:

    Good post and the grips look nice I too have the same gun and had two failure to feed but I read the manual and it has a break in period for the gun after that I had no failures with this gun I loe this gun!!!

  5. MikeH says:

    Thanks for the kind comment. I also had a couple of FTF incidents with the magazines Para supplied, but I switched to Wilson Combat magazines and had no more problems. It isn’t a high level 1911, but I think it is a very good gun for the money – and I really like the trigger on mine, right out of the box. It has become my bedside night stand gun, and is also very handy to carry.

  6. Bert Lindsey says:

    Good article Sir- just purchased same gun, are you saying a 10 round mag from wilson will fit in place af para 8 round clip?

  7. MikeH says:

    Bert, yes. Pretty much any 1911 magazine will fit any 1911 pistol. The 10 round mags are only different in being longer. I use them in both my Para and my Taurus 1911, also used them in my Springfield Mil Spec 1911, even after I put the .460 Rowland barrel in that one. Of course, Wilson or Chip McCormick mags generally feed better and are more reliable than most factory mags, also. I put the original Para magazines in a storage drawer, only use Wilson mags in the gun now.

  8. Bert says:

    Fantastic! That’s why (obviously ) the metal is exposed at the grip base. When purchasing grips, holsters etc, this would be considered an ‘Officer’ model?

    Ran 100 plus rounds through mine at range for first time, one stovepipe I related to poor thumb placement, but otherwise smooth. Your article assisted me in this purchase. Many thanks Sir!

  9. MikeH says:

    Forgot to mention that – of course – a 10 round mag will not fit entirely inside the mag well, it will extend below a bit, due to the extra length. This sort of thing is why a lot of folks carry compact Glocks with high capacity mags intended for larger model Glocks. The high capacity mag is for backup or reloads, and is not carried in the pistol where it might hamper concealment. I really like my Para. Not long ago I successfully defended my wife an myself from a charging armadillo with mine!

  10. Morris Crow says:

    I was impressed with your site and write up. I like what I read about Para and your article was very helpful to me. I have called Para as well and wanted to ask you about replacing the recoil spring every 2000 rounds. That is what they recommend. I have put a down payment on the gun and will pay it out. Wonder if I put a stronger recoil spring in it to start if it would operate better and last longer?

  11. MikeH says:

    Don’t have anywhere near that many rounds fired through mine, might never get that high! The advice about the recoil spring is probably wise, though. My Para Expert with the 3″ barrel has a pretty strong recoil spring in it to begin with, which is one way Para keeps recoil manageable. The stiff spring makes it a bit difficult to rack the slide for the first shot, though, making the Slide Racker tool a worthwhile investment.

    I like my Para, it seems to have the best stock trigger of any “budget” 1911 I’ve tried.

    Mike

  12. HOWIE SNELL says:

    Slide racket tool ?? Where can I get one ??

  13. MikeH says:

    Slide RACKER tool. The add-on for the Ruger .22 is from Majestic Arms, the “universal” slide racker is in another post, with the manufacturer’s name and address.

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