Notice anything odd about this compact .45? Yeah, you’re right. It is kinda’ weird.
Having escaped the Washington Arms Collector’s show in Puyallup without buying any new guns- only just, mind you- we were feeling rather smug and stopped by Ben’s Loans in Renton. One of our top-two favorite gun stores, and since I have a birthday inbound in a couple of weeks we were just going to have a peek at what was new. We looked at a bit of this and that, then Linda said, “Hey, have a look at this Para-Ordinance.”
The first thing that I noticed was that it was a sub-compact. The next things were the trigger, spurless hammer and complete lack of a tail on the grip safety. It’s double-action only… except it isn’t. I tried the trigger-pull and it was remarkably light and broke like snapping a glass rod. If that wasn’t weird enough the hammer only seemed to move back about an eighth of an inch before dropping. I thought it was broken- there was no way that wussy little strike would hit the firing-pin hard enough! Further examination showed that I wasn’t seeing everything that was happening because it was too fast for the naked eye. When the trigger breaks the hammer actually moves back another three-eighths of an inch or so before snapping forward, and while the hammer is very light it moves really fast.
OK, the notion of a double-action 1911 is weird and a double-action-only 1911 is even weirder, but this seemed like witchcraft. I don’t have a trigger-gauge but at an educated guess the force required is 3-1/2 to 5 lbs. It doesn’t feel like any double-action pull I’ve ever felt. In fact in their marketing Para Ordinance says it’s ‘Exactly like nothing you’ve ever felt’ and that sums it up pretty well.
Some research revealed what is actually happening. In a Glock the striker is brought to half-cock when the slide operates, leaving you with a light semi-double-action trigger pull. In this system the slide’s movement brings the gun to full-cock, then the hammer disengages and drops to a safe position. When you pull the trigger all you are doing is returning the hammer against very light spring pressure to a point where it re-engages then releases the sear. So it’s kinda’ not double-action, but it kinda’ is. What it is like is, well, nothing you’ve ever experienced.
These guns have been around since the early 2000s, but have remained largely obscure. partly because they were not cheap and partly because, uh, reasons. Certainly a DAO 1911 is anathema to the diehard 1911 cultists; I found the idea bizarre myself right up t when I tried it. In a lot of ways it’s an answer to a question nobody was asking. Trigger travel and reset are long but it works, especially on something designed as a carry gun. At 24 ounces it’s no lightweight, but with a proper holster it will be a doddle to carry.
Field-stripping is very much standard 1911- or at least sub-compact 1911. Pull the slide back to the take-down notch, pop out the slide stop and it goes pretty familiarly from there. Yeh, it’s a bull-barrel, has a captured dual-stage recoil spring and the recoil plug comes out the back instead of the front but it’s nothing an old 1911 hand can’t suss out.
I was warned not to take it past field-stripping; much past that and it starts vomiting parts whose place and function is not intuitive. I watched a video about dismantling the fire-control group, and I will not be doing so any time soon!
The grip safety is functional, and it has a license-built Series 80 firing pin safety as well as a conventional thumb-safety, which is not ambidextrous. Without a beavertail in the way it is very fast and easy to access the safety when holding the gun in the left hand. The flat plastic grips and ridged front-strap provide a very secure grip. The lack of a beavertail isn’t really an issue, as the hammer doesn’t travel far enough to bite. Like most 1911s in this size range the stock magazine holds 6+1, but of course for reloads you can use full-length magazines.
So, how does it shoot? In a word- fantastic. Stubby .45s benefit from the short slides low reciprocating weight and the duration of the recoil is shorter; there is more muzzle-whip but the gun comes back down faster and there really isn’t much difference in felt recoil between this and a full-sized gun. Even my notoriously recoil-sensitive wife had a ball shooting it. The 3-inch match-grade bull-barrel delivers quite adequate accuracy at SD distances. While you might think a die-hard 1911 guy like myself would find the trigger hard to adapt to in practice I stopped noticing it very quickly, and double-taps come easily after a very little shooting.
The gun was perfectly reliable for the couple boxes of ammunition we fed it. The only thing that I noted was that it does not like to feed the first round from the magazine by using the slide-stop to drop the slide. But if you grab the slide, pull to the rear and release it feeds every time.
If you fancy a wee 1911 but are nervous about carrying ‘cocked-and-locked’ this might be just what you have been looking for. Be prepared to pay for the privilege though- these guns seem to often go for $700-$900* on the used market and the upcoming new version will start at $1025.
It’s early days yet, but I love the hell out of this gun! It may be the answer to a question no one was asking, but it’s a good answer. I foresee a bright future as an EDC, and it’s safe to say you’ll be seeing a lot of it in future Range Reports.
*not that we paid anywhere near that!
Michael Tinker Pearce, 03May17
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