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Needless to say, the 1911 is a classically American gun, popular with American shooters. When the Colt Model 1911 was introduced 103 years ago, it was the most powerful semi-automatic pistol in the world, and for the next 74 years it remained this country’s standard issue military sidearm (and is still in use today by elite U.S. Special Forces and USMC special operations teams). The 1911 also became a consummate competitor’s gun at Camp Perry and, with the National Match model (introduced in 1932), a true target pistol. Colt saw even more promise in the 1911 after two world wars and an increasing demand from both military, law enforcement and the civilian market for a smaller 1911. Thus began a quest to downsize the greatest semi-auto in American history, and it has been an ongoing race ever since Colt introduced the Commander back in 1950 with a 4.25-inch barrel, the later Officer’s Models with 3.5-inch barrels, the lightweight Commander frame and the six-shot (later seven-shot) magazine. That was the standard for the time. Today, specialist manufacturers like Para USA have surpassed this by shortening barrel length to as little as 3 inches while increasing standard (single-stack) magazine capacity to eight rounds.

Para USA is among a handful of America’s leading custom builders of 1911 platforms, and the guns that come from the company’s North Carolina factory are all handcrafted and designed for specific end-user requirements. Because of this, there are numerous short-barrel/short-slide variations in the Para USA line, with one of the most recent being the uniquely styled Executive Carry. Combining a very short 3-inch, Match Grade, ramped, stainless steel bull barrel and a slide length of just 5.125 inches, with a full-length 1911 grip frame packing an eight-round magazine, the Executive Carry is a somewhat oddly shaped 1911 that looks like a capital “L” if you turn it upside down.

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Simply described by Para as “the baddest concealed carry 1911 on the planet,” the Executive Carry is hand built to combine all of the company’s best full-size 1911 operating features into a smaller gun. Its uncanny proportions are further accentuated by an Ed Brown Bobtail mainspring housing, a trim palm swell grip safety and an upswept beavertail. As an ideal close-quarters battle pistol designed specifically for concealed carry, the gun is fitted with Trijicon night sights and a skeletonized Match Grade trigger. In addition, the pistol has a non-reflective, durable Ionbond anodized finish on the slide and a lightweight aluminum alloy frame. The gun fills your hand but not your holster.

RELATED: Para Ordnance Executive Carry 1911 .45 ACP | VIDEO

The first thing you notice about the Executive Carry is the uncanny sense of balance. The leggy 1911 grip frame, fitted with machined VZ grips matched to the angle of the Ed Brown Bobtail mainspring housing, sits firmly in the hand. The lower profile of the rounded palm swell grip safety also melds smoothly into your grasp, and the Para points naturally. Even with the very short sight radius, the ramped Trijicon night sights are easy to acquire under all lighting conditions and were right at point of aim (POA) at the range test distance of 15 yards. The Executive Carry’s heavy duty recoil system and guide rod design make recoil more manageable, but the slide demands greater effort to cycle when chambering the first round or clearing the gun. It’s a fair trade-off as this proved to be one sweet .45 ACP to shoot.

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For the Para Executive Carry test, three leading defensive brands of ammunition were used: heavy-hitting Federal Premium 230-grain Hydra-Shok JHP, Hornady Critical Defense 185-grain FTX and Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection 185-grain GDHP. All three functioned flawlessly in the Para, which also has an oversized, flared ejection port on the shortened slide. Recoil/muzzle lift was fairly even across the board with all rounds striking very close to POA. There was a prevailing wind averaging 11 mph, bright sun and an average temperature of 52 degrees. Sighting in took only a few rounds as the gun proved very consistent regardless of ammo.

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With the 3-inch barrel, the 230-grain Hydra-Shok traveled downrange at an average of 777 feet per second (fps), 185-grain Hornady at 880 fps and Speer cleared the chronograph’s traps at an average of 860 fps. All of the velocities were commensurate with the shorter barrel length. With a 5-inch barrel, factory velocities are 900 fps, 1,000 fps and 890 fps, respectively.

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All shots were fired in five-round strings at 1-second intervals using a Weaver stance and a two-handed hold. Shooting off-hand with a 3-inch barrel and .45 ACP ammo lowers one’s expectations, but the Para is a surprisingly accurate and predictable gun with a precise trigger pull that averaged 3.8 pounds and broke cleanly from shot to shot with a mere 0.125 inches of travel. The factory-adjusted skeletonized match-grade trigger had zero overtravel and almost instantaneous reset. If this were a 5-inch target model, you wouldn’t complain about that trigger. For a close-quarters battle pistol, this is a definitely a pro’s gun. As for accuracy, the best five-round group measured 1.4 inches with Speer 185-grain, Federal averaged 1.75 inches, and Hornady punched five rounds into the 10 and X with an even 2 inches.

When it comes to offering impressive power in compact packages, Para USA knows its stuff. This is a company that knows how to pack big-bore 1911 power into a concealable package.

To learn more about the Executive Carry or any other of the company’s impressive offerings, visit http://www.para-usa.com or call 888-999-9386.

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