I’ve never really been all that fond of Para Ordinance for various reasons. However Para Ordinance became PARA USA, moved from Canada to the US, and have been working hard to forge their spot in the American Gun Culture. Some years ago at a Media Range Day at SHOT Show, I browsed the offerings at PARA’s booth and was impressed with what I saw. The gun was a very basic 1911 for Wild Bunch competition. Nothing fancy, just very “GI” style. Simple. And good. It was very good. I shot several other 1911’s from other makers, but the one that stuck in my mind, even the one I liked the best, was the Para. During SHOT I went to the PARA booth and looked at the pistol again. It wasn’t a fluke… I really did like the gun. It was at that moment when I realized that PARA USA is a company to take seriously.
Now it’s about 4 years later and PARA USA has continued to improve their guns. They’ve made huge strides to the point that PARA USA is now one of my TOP 1911 Makers. They are making some 1911’s I want to buy. Not their whole product line… but close. They can do a few simple things to really hit it out of the Ballpark. Let’s take a look at PARA USA’s line up.
Let’s start at the top of their own roster and work down. The Executive Carry. The gun looks good, with a nice finish, nice grips, and that awesome bobtail. But it has a 3″ barrel. This is basically a full length grip, bobtailed, and an ultra compact barrel. If this was a revolver, this would be the equivalent of S&W Magnum Grips on a Snub-Nose. It makes no sense to me. The grip frame is the hard part to conceal, not the barrel. Bobtailing it is a nice touch, but if you are going to have an ultra compact barrel, give it an ultra compact grip frame as well. At least an Officer’s length grip frame. Bobtail that. This gun is just a bit off because of the short snout. Because of that, I wouldn’t buy this one. However, if it was sporting a Commander length slide and barrel – I would. A nice clean Lightweight Commander on a Bobtail frame is missing from PARA’s line up and it should fit right here in the EXECUTIVE category. That’s 1 missing gun.
The other missing gun from the EXECUTIVE Category is the CCO configuration. A Commander Length barrel and slide on an Officer’s frame. Basically just the opposite of the PARA Executive they have right now. Colt’s CCO was a breakthrough for concealed carry 1911’s. SIG followed that pattern and hit a home run with it in the C3 and RCS models. Smaller frame for easier concealment, and a nice length barrel that doesn’t give up much on ballistics and sight radius. It NAILS it. PARA doesn’t have a CCO type 1911, and they should.
Here’s one more gun to add to the Executive roster. The LDA Officer… But with a standard 1911 trigger mechanism. Not everyone likes an LDA Trigger in their 1911, but the Officer platform is a good one, and should be reflected in the Executive, Elite and Expert lines. One thing that the LDA has that I’d like in the Executive line is that front strap checkering. That Lightweight Commander Bobtail – I’d like some fine checkering on the front strap.
I’m not going to comment on the Competition guns, because I think PARA nailed those as offerings and every competitive shooter I know would change things anyway to their own liking and everyone has a difference of opinion so you’ll never make everyone happy there. But it’s a solid line as it is.
Now, for the Tactical side of things. The Black Ops line. Sharp. I could buy one of these. Wait a second here… How come the Black Ops 1911 Single Stack doesn’t have the Checkering like the Double Stack? If this is to be a full featured combat oriented line, let’s not skimp on it. Also, the Recon, your Commander length tactical gun. Where’s the Single Stack version of the Recon?
While we’re talking Tactical, not all Tactical ops are Black Ops. I’d like to see Tactical versions in OD Green and FDE (Flat Dark Earth). Same guns, just not blacked out. I know you’ve had them before, I sold them. FDE the slide and frame, and use the regular black parts and grips for a nice contrast. Would look very sharp.
Now on to the Elite Series. The PARA Elite is a wide range of 1911’s that we can probably say is PARA’s main line. Or at least it should be. My only hang up with the Elite Series is that they are using Fiber Optic Front Sight Posts on all but the Elite Pro. The Elite Pro is one of my very favorite guns from PARA’s line up. It hits all the right buttons. Now, where is the Elite Pro Commander? There’s another gun that’s missing from PARA’s line. Another one is an Elite Bobtail Commander. Again with Bobtail Commanders? I know. But still, my point is valid. Ask Dan Wesson.
The ELITE LS HUNTER. This gun is one that I’ve been waiting for… a 10mm Long Slide – I must have this. Thank you for making this one! Now, if you could just add 10mm options to a couple other Elite or Tactical guns, thank you. And to keep up with STI – mayhaps a double stack version as well?
Reverse Two Tone. I want to see more Two Toned guns, specifically in the “Reverse” scheme. Light on bottom, dark on top. Make a lightweight bobtail commander in 10mm, in reverse two tone – and you’ll have my order by the end of Oct. Seriously. I’ll order it through Blackstone Shooting Sports in Charlotte. I’m not kidding. I will.
The Expert line. I’m giving you some Golf Claps over here. Bravo… You have it nailed here. Simple lines, no frills, and “No Gills”. None of those forward slide serrations that ruin the lines of a handsome Government model. THIS is the 1911 that I want the OTHER companies to make! And PARA USA made it. This makes me quite happy that I am moving to the town that makes it! Can I get a black slide on that Stainless frame? In a Commander?
The Warthog is listed under the Expert category… and that’s fine. But remember what I said about the CCO? A CCO Warthog…. Call it the “A-10″ model, as in “A-10 Warthog“, the Infantryman’s favorite jet plane. It would be the Goldilocks for concealed carry double stacked 1911’s. The regular Warthog is just a bit too short in the snout for me. I know it’s been popular, but trust me… a 4″ version would be even more so. I could have sold twice as many, because that is what the most common remark about it was. Springfield found this out when they made 4″ versions of the XDS, as did SIG with the C3 and RCS. That’s the configuration that is IDEAL for concealed carry.
That’s about it for PARA USA. They are doing a really great job and I’m happy to see it. They’ve come a long way and are now a great 1911 company! Well done, PARA USA!!! *Standing Ovation Here*
My current picks for the best production 1911’s you can buy. I’m going to roll with some specific guns and give some more details. But following the recent AR-15 article pattern, I’m going to stick with regular production 1911’s and not touch on Custom and Semi-Custom. Otherwise this list would be all about Nighthawk, Ed Brown, Les Baer, and Wilson Combat.
1. Springfield Armory: I’m putting Springfield as a top choice because their guns are consistently well above par, and their customer service just might be The Best in the entire gun industry. Their policy is that they want you to be happy with your gun. So you can buy a Springfield without hesitation. Any complaints I have heard about Springfield usually involved the person having some extreme form of Unrealistic Expectations. “I had a problem with my GI Model so I think Springfield should give me a TRP! With a 3 day turn around!” That kind of thing.
Picking 3 guns out of their line up, the TRP, the MC Operator, and the Champion LW Operator. (Champion being Springfield lingo for “Commander”) I would really like to see Springfield do a “CCO” type pistol, and Loaded LW Commander, er… Champion.
As some do not know, MARSOC was buying and using the Springfield MC Operators for years and years before Colt snagged the contract. Considering Colt’s new CEO is a former Marine General… Hmmm… I’m sure that contract award was completely legit.
2. SIG. SIG really hit the ground running making just what could be best overall 1911’s you can buy. Problem with them though, is that they departed from tradition with a sharp turn. Non traditional external dimensions/profiles, with external extractors. Then they came out with their “Tradition” series – which does look like a regular 1911, but still has that exterior extractor. However, these guns are so good… I just love them. Very much so. Their C3 and RCS are amazing CCW guns. And this gun here…. It hits all the right buttons. Make this a Commander sized, SIG. Please. You can’t go wrong with a SIG 1911.
3. PARA USA. It’s not a secret that I’ve just never really cared for Para’s guns. But ever since Para Ordinance became Para USA, they have been making huge strides. Their LDA trigger system, I still don’t care for. If you like it, that’s fine. I just don’t. However their regular 1911’s… They have evolved into guns that are just excellent. Their new Black Ops 1911 is unquestionably a fine 1911 handguns by any measure. But it’s their Elite series that I really dig. Simple, no front slide serrations… and this one is almost perfect. Just please, get rid of that fiber optic FSP. I’ll take a regular tritium FSP, thank you. I’ve talked with some of the guys from PARA USA, and they are taking their guns very seriously. They want to be the best. And you know what? They keep on this road, they sure will be. I’m liking where they are going.
4. Remington’s 1911 R1. This comes as a surprise to me… but Remington’s R1 family of 1911’s are just flat out excellent. All of Remington’s problems do not exist in or effect their 1911’s. And they are offering these well built and solid 1911’s at extremely reasonable prices. They make one that I would be very tempted to add to my own collection. Tell me that isn’t just gorgeous. Remington is using a very good steel alloy, and are sporting very nice finishes.
Now if they could just put this attention to detail into the Marlin Lever Actions – I’d be a happy happy Ogre.
5. STI. Specifically, STI’s Lawman 4.0, and the Nitro 10. I favor the Single Stacks, and I favor the guns that use the bushings… but that Nitro 10 is just too cool, so I can forgo the bushing requirement.
6. Dan Wesson. Because Dan Wesson. Their Bobtail Commanders are probable the most FLAWLESS 1911’s I’ve ever seen that didn’t cost more than a good used car. Their 10mm Razorback is just too damn good. But the ones to really look hard at, are the Valor Black and the CCO. Perfection. Where is the Valor Black Commander though? Oh, and hey, CZ USA – Make these in 10mm as well. I don’t really dig the Titan 10, because I don’t hunt Vampires, professionally, so I don’t need all the race-gun hints. I want a clean and simple 1911, in 10mm… that’s not stainless.
Here’s what I look for in a 1911: Simplicity and understated elegance. I don’t like bushingless bull barrels. I don’t like full length guide rods. I really don’t even particularly care for ambi-safeties. And the one thing I really don’t like – but they are almost universal… The Novak style ramped rear sights. But I can live with it. I will also stay away from anything that even resembles a “Series 80″. I prefer Commander length barrels. The 4″ to 4.25″ barrel lengths. They balance just right to me. I do prefer if I can get it, the light weight frames, but will take solid steel happily. I also do not like extended slide releases and safety levers. The “Tear Drop” style safety lever is my favorite. I do prefer a bobbed hammer or commander style hammer, followed up with a nice wide high ride beaver-tail. Those work for me.
One to keep an eye on: Rock Island Armory is getting better and better, not every year, but every day. They are like the Kia Motors of 1911’s… they used to be cheap and laughable, but now they will make you turn your head, “What is that? THAT’s a Kia?!?” RIA is having that same effect. While not one of my top choices now, they could be at some point in the future sooner than anyone could expect.
I know my Glock 23. I trust my Glock 23. I’ve put thousands and thousands of rounds through my Glock 23. I’m pretty dang accurate with my Glock 23. It really and truly is the optimum balance of Size, Weight, and Firepower in a package that makes it the ultimate Jack of All Trades.
To me, saying “1911” is like saying “Pickup Truck”. There are many Makes and Models out there, all different, all with different purposes. But they are all 1911’s so they are pretty good and should all pretty much run the same way. But one configuration of 1911 that always makes me drool…
A Lightweight Commander. Specifically a two tone LW Commander. As far as pistols go – these are my Redheads. My Kryponite. My weakness.
This one is very nice… Subdued colors. A big visible dot on the front sight… Very nice indeed. I’m not a huge fan of the ramped rear sight, but I can deal with that. On this gun the higher end red wood grips are a little dressy on the flat finished gun.
This one is nice too… Subdued colors again, but with a set of black grip panels. I like that a bit better due to the fact that it’s more in keeping with the motif. The first one is like having White Wall tires on a Mustang GT. I guess that would be fine if that’s your thing… it’s just not my thing. And if it is your thing… and you like that… Well, “America”. Bully for you!
Here’s one that’s very good. Micarta grips, brushed stainless and a moderate polish on the slide… Not Subdued, but more natural. I really like that. I also like the Bobtail… a lot. But it’s not necessary… Just really really nice. Like Navigation or a Back Up Camera, or XM Radio.
Oh man… Here we go. This is the higher end. We have a high polish on that blued slide and burled walnut grips. This one is so nice that it’s almost too nice. We call guns like this “BBQ Guns”, but it’s what you wear to a BBQ at your friends place… your nicest gun in a nice leather holster. Not something I’d EDC, but wear to special occasions. It would be like having a date with a Super Model… You are not going to take her out on the rounds of your usual haunts, but to some place special. (Unless she asked to go to the regular haunts mind you) So for me, that last one there, the more natural one, that’s the one I’d pick.
What do all these Commanders have in common? Two Tone Finishes, with Dark on top of Light. The current Vogue due to the advent of stainless slides on polymer frames is to have a light colored slide on a dark frame. This I don’t care for. It makes all manner of sense though, sure. It’s PRACTICAL. A stainless slide will show less wear than a blued slide. And frames will typically show less wear than slides… So putting a stainless slide on that black frame makes Reason and Logic smile. But it doesn’t make me necessarily smile, no, just the opposite is true. And let me tell you why.
Growing up reading every gun magazine I could get my hands on as a kid, I stared with wide eyes and great wonder at the custom 1911’s made by true master level gunsmiths… and all of them were two tones with stainless frames and high polished blued slides. That LOOK defined “Custom” for me then and it does so now. So the stainless slides on black frames just look “off” to me. So my ultimate has to have a black slide on light frame. That just visually tastes right to me.
I know I’ve been packing a Glock 23 for years… but lately I’ve been doing that less and less. Really it’s been relegated to Car Gun Status now, so I always have it close when I’m out and about. But what I carry on my person – that’s changed.
More and more my Go To pistol has been my Beretta 92FS, and I’ve been carrying my 1911 a LOT more. As I type this post, it’s the 1911 that’s sitting by my left hand. Don’t laugh at my desk… I know it’s cluttered, but then again, so is my mind. So it all works out. That’s my beloved GI… which had a light issue with cracking grip panels. That was the worst thing that could have happened, because dang it… now I’m thinking about changing other parts. Like a Beaver Tail and a Commander style hammer… and if I am doing that – I might as well change the sear and trigger… You guys know the drill. The grips were the lid to a bloody Pandora’s Box of tweaks. Why? Why the hell did I do that? I could have got some double diamond checkered wood grips and have been fine. But no… I asked my friends for some regular old black plastics… thought I’d cheap out… not thinking about how they fecking changed the whole dynamic of the pistol and it’s in my head that I could change other things.
And now I’m looking at the Beretta 92FS and thinking… “You know, Wilson Combat is now making Beretta parts.” They have a slick short reach trigger… No… NO!
No… I’m not going to mess with my Beretta. That’s become the Go To Gun. My Almost EDC. I’m not doing that.
But the 1911… Well… that’s different.
I’m thinking why not have some fun with it? I can detail strip it blindfolded, and that sentimental GI memento cherry has been popped with the black grips. Why not?
Deep polished blued levers and safety, but the slide and frame – Color Cased. That is just sexy to me. I don’t know.
What do you guys think?
The 1911. It’s a fantastic shooting platform. I had gotten away from it for some years and now I’m back to it for the time being. As an instructor I’ve made many observations on the guns and the shooters and I think I’ve come up with some conclusions.
1. The 1911 demands loyalty. You can’t cheat on it and have it be faithful back to you. If you are going to carry a 1911, you need to marry it. Here’s why… In most every class I’ve taught that had a 1911 shooter in it, I’ll catch a guy draw his weapon, push out from the high compressed position, and then crush his trigger to no effect because he forgot to sweep the safety off. Most of the guys that do that, do so because their other guns are not 1911’s. They are Glocks or XD’s or M&P’s or something altogether not 1911’s. Don’t cheat on the 1911. Because that’s going to lead some issues.
2. Don’t go shorter than 4 inches. 1911’s that are shorter than a “Commander” start to give up reliability. You give up other things as well to the point that you are detracting from the fantastic qualities that make the 1911 the 1911 in the first place. The long sight radius, the accuracy, the pointability… These things make a 1911 what it is. Chopping them down to 3 inches… you’ve ruined it. You no longer have the pointing, the accuracy, the very things we love the 1911 for. And I’ve never seen a compact 1911 of any sort complete one of my handgun courses without turning into a hot mess of problems. The Commander is 4.25 inches. Many 1911 makers are doing a 4″ version, and they seem to be running just about as well as any good full sized 5″ “Government” model. Shorter than 4, it’s effecting the geometry and the timing and it’s just not worth the risk in reliability for the perception of greater concealment.
3. The 1911 needs to be well lubricated. Some guys like oil, some grease, and others a combo of both in different places. However you like it – that’s fine. As long as you oil it. Most every 1911 I’ve seen with issues that wasn’t shorter than 4″, was a pistol that was bone dry. Just like an AR-15, it can be hot, and dirty… but it can’t be dry. The 1911 likes to be wet.
4. The 1911 is a traditional type of pistol so it needs a traditional type of holsters – leather. Good leather. Most 1911’s are north of $1,000 dollars, so don’t even think about it letting it ride in a cheap rig. And remember what I said about marrying the 1911? That means showing it the respect that it deserves… let it ride in something nice. Let it know you care. Here’s the other reason… The 1911 is not for the Duffers. It’s a pistol for the experts. It’s for the experienced shooters. It should show some miles on it. Let it get some holster wear, let that holster break in… And you do that by #5…
5. You Must Train with it. Practice your draw. Practice your re-holstering. Practice getting that one thing that the 1911 excels at – that fast and precise first round heavy hit. All gunfights have one thing in common. That first shot. Make it count.
Before I roll forward with Armchair Quarterbacking Detonics, I want the readers here to know my long history with the Combat Master, and my affections for it. I wrote two articles about the Combat Master for Concealed Carry Magazine. Both articles were rather glowing of the guns overall. You can read them both here. The second article has photos here.
“This is like Scarlett Johanson winning an Ultimate Fighter Championship.”
I considered Jerry Ahern a friend. We had many great conversations about Detonics and about the Combat Master. When Jerry passed away, I was greatly saddened. But what saddened me the most was the new iteration of Detonics and the all new version of the Combat Master.
One of the things we had talked about was the use of a regular dovetailed front sight with Tritium and moving the rear sight back to the normal 1911 position and using a regular Commander style hammer and a Beavertail. Make it more like a regular 1911 that people are familiar with instead of having the Combat Master occupy the Uncanny Valley. We had even discussed me buying one in this configuration from Detonics USA, and Jerry had said “Don’t worry about it, George. We’ll send you a prototype.” This was being discussed while I was writing the second Combat Master review. But before I could return the review pistol to Detonics, the company had closed its doors and Jerry was removed from his office. And what we had discussed went with him.
Some time after that all happened, Detonics had reopened. And they did come out with a new version of the Combat Master…. and this happened:
They did indeed use a regular sized front sight post… and they moved the rear sight back to where they normally go. And then they did that. I don’t even know what that is. No one else did either as this version of the Combat Master was killed off almost as fast as it had come out. Here is where it failed again. It’s still not like a 1911… It’s still almost familiar but wrong – dead nuts in the center of the Uncanny Valley zip code. Right where people look at it from a distance and say “hey, look at that” and then they get close enough to really see it and they are repelled. Instinct dictates the initial attraction and the subsequent revulsion. Because it’s not what they are familiar with it. A hexagon barrel with the front sight mounted to it is just fine… On a Webley. But on a 1911 pistol of any sort?
Detonics needs to bring back the Combat Master because that’s WHAT DETONICS IS. But they need to forget that strange polygonal barrel and make it more like a traditional 1911.
The scalloping of the ejection port on the older Combat Masters is both elegant and beautiful. That’s a nice touch that should come back. The Rear Sight should be in the normal 1911 position. But not a Novak ramp style. Something more like an ICE Claw rear sight. And give it a small Beavertail. For better accuracy, reliability, and ballistic punch, lengthen the barrel a bit.
The other problem with the Combat Master is the Magazine. They are shorter than the standard Officer’s model, which means you are Single Sourced for them. Lengthen the frame just a touch so that you can use regular Officer’s Magazines. The result is you will have a gun that fits people’s hands better and they can get a bunch of spare mags without having to sell a car to do it.
I’d even take this a step further and use a GI Guid rod and Bushing. Take a look at the Nighthawk T3. You know what, Detonics? There is a waiting list for those things. And those guns cost double your discontinued Combat Master. Do you see the difference here? You probably don’t. The difference is your gun was not just different – it was strange. While the T3 was a compact 1911 DONE WELL. That’s the difference. And that’s why people were waiting to pay double dollars for something that the Combat Master was competing with.
The 1911 should always feel like it’s familiar. You should never have to break out a Manual or look up a How To video on YouTube. The 1911 should be a 1911. Like Apple Pie and Baseball, it should be Classic and it should be reminding their owners of heroic days past… and it should be inspiring in its accuracy and reliability for future adventures. It it doesn’t do that, you’ve failed. I can’t explain this any better. If it’s not clear to you, well… Good luck.
The MTX pistol looks interesting. But you said a 3.5″ and a 5″ version will be available in 2013. Nothing looks worse than saying you are coming out with something and then you don’t. Unless it’s a double stacked 1911 with a 3.5″ barrel. Just don’t do that. It sounds good at first but is never a good thing once it’s in the hand. Just drop that, and concentrate on getting that 5″ version done… and maybe even do a 6″. Do a 10mm version in 6″ because that would be awesome and something that is just not available outside of STI. A 6″ 10mm MTX would have me drooling.
Bring back the Range Master and the Street Master. Make the Range Master a 5″ traditional 1911 with adjustable sights and the Street Master a 4.25″ with fixed sights. Make them like the originals, but better. Give them Match barrels and triggers and make them as accurate and as reliable as any other high end 1911, but do it at a competitive price. Look at Dan Wesson’s 1911’s. They are absolutely excellent. Do some extra touches that need to be done… Polish the rails and the locking lugs. Polish the trigger parts so the trigger feel is absolute perfection. And forget the gimmicks. The only options should be polished blue or stainless. The grips should be stunning woods with torques head screws so it looks clean. Double Diamonds. Traditional. Traditional done to Perfection. Make the guns live up to their names. It should make the person feel like he really and truly is holding something special and wonderful in their hands when they pick one up. Nothing about it should make one raise an eyebrow.
Caliber options for all guns should be 9mm, 10mm and .45 Auto.
If at this point, you can’t do a good traditional 1911, Detonics should be allowed to die with dignity. But for some people, the name still holds currency and we want it to succeed. You just need a man with some vision to take charge and make the name great again. You need another Jerry Ahern.
I’m available for contract negotiations at any time.