Para’s entry-level Expert 1911 in .45 ACP features several enhancements, including a match-grade barrel, high-visibility sights and more, for an affordable price that should appeal to many shooters.
The Expert 1911 features checkered polymer grip panels and a left-side-mounted safety.
Para equips the Expert with a match-grade stainless steel barrel and a green fiber-optic front sight.
The author ran several types of ammo through the Expert without a hiccup.
The extended beavertail helps prevent slide “bite.” Also note the rear sight.
“…the Expert possesses more than adequate accuracy for defense and competition use! I was downright impressed with this economy-priced pistol’s precision.”
If you’ve ever wanted a 1911 to try your hand at action pistol sports but were turned off by the high price and the need for customization, Para USA’s new Expert may we may be your perfect solution. Designed as an entry-level gun for the new shooter, the Para Expert is a great choice for someone who may use it for defensive carry as well as competition. It possesses a number of custom features that will allow the shooter to compete with it straight from the box, and it can also be upgraded as the shooter develops new skills. But perhaps the Expert’s most notable feature is its $663 suggested retail price.
Meet The Expert
I first got my hands on the pistol at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona, where I shot a number of drills with it and put 20 to 30 magazines of ammo through the gun. What impressed me immediately was its fluorescent green front sight, which glows in daylight and is extremely easy to pick up. The rear sight possesses a wide notch for a quick and unimpeded sight picture. It also has an extended thumb safety, a beavertail grip safety and a crisp trigger. All of these features are absolute “must haves” for someone who wishes to compete with a 1911.
Para Ordnance produced its guns in Canada for years before moving its manufacturing facility to North Carolina a few years ago and renaming the company Para USA. Two years ago, the Freedom Group, an American firearms manufacturing consortium that also owns DPMS, Bushmaster, Remington, Marlin and a number of other gun companies, bought Para USA. This past year has been spent identifying problems with the product line and developing solutions.
The Freedom Group has made an investment in new machinery to improve consistency of parts and reduce or eliminate costly hand fitting. New quality control inspections have been implemented and key personnel with critical expertise have also been hired. More parts are now being made in-house, where material and quality control can be more stringently exercised. This commitment to excellence is evidenced in my new Expert.
The Expert features a forged stainless steel slide and a cast carbon steel frame. Both parts have a flat black nitride finish. Looking at the inside of the frame and slide, it was nearly impossible to find a machine mark. Even the frame’s recoil spring tunnel exhibited absolutely no machine marks! Frame rails, the disconnector rail and breech face all were perfectly smooth. There is very little discernible play between the frame and slide.
If you do a lot of shooting with a 1911 you’ll need a beavertail grip safety. It protects the web of the hand to protect it from “hammer bite” and spreads the recoil over a wider area. Para USA includes this part as standard on this pistol. For competition and defensive use, an extended thumb safety is also needed. My test sample disengages crisply and easily. A lightweight polymer trigger, adjustable for overtravel, is used in the Expert in conjunction with an elongated Commander-style hammer. My test Para Expert 1911’s trigger broke crisply at about 4.75 pounds.
To prevent the Expert from firing if dropped on its muzzle, Para USA uses a Series 80-style firing pin safety that mechanically blocks the firing pin from contacting the primer unless purposeful pressure is placed on the trigger.
The Expert’s slide features a lowered and flared ejection port. This allows empties to exit the gun unimpeded, and since most competitors are also reloaders, it also ensures that the empty cases are not damaged or dented as they exit the gun. A standard internal, or original style, extractor is fit to the Expert, and the frame uses an extended ejector. The front sight is dovetailed in place and has a fluorescent green optic rod. In sunlight, these types of sights glow bright and help the shooter pick up the front sight. Its rear sight is also dovetailed into the slide and is drift adjustable for windage. Para cuts the rear sight notch wide and square so there is plenty of daylight on both sides of the front sight for quick alignment.
A stainless steel, match-grade barrel is used on the pistol. It is of standard configuration, not of the ramped or supported variety. Para throats the chamber mouth from ear to ear for optimum feeding reliability, and the frame’s feed ramp is equally well polished to this same end. During my evaluation I used a variety of defense loads, full metal jacket (FMJ) rounds as well as lead target loads and reloads, all with different overall lengths and bullet nose configurations, and the Expert digested them all without fail!
I set up my targets at 25 yards and fired five shots to a group. The results are listed below. As you can see, the Expert possesses more than adequate accuracy for defense and competition use! I was downright impressed with this economy-priced pistol’s precision.
The Expert’s sights and crisp trigger made it easy to shoot these small groups. Equally impressive is the fact that even Powder River’s lead, 200-grain semi-wadcutter (SWC) bullets fed, fired and extracted without a bobble. If the gun were to choke on any bullet it would have been the semi-wadcutter. By the way, these target loads possess enough velocity to “make major” for U.S. Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) competition.
My favorite practice handload consists of a 200-grain round nose Laser-Cast bullet and enough WW231 powder to achieve a velocity of 880 feet per second (fps). It is an amazingly accurate load that also makes “major,” but it is easy on the gun as well as the shooter. With my MGM steel targets set out at 15 yards, I practiced some draw-and-fire exercises. The BC-C Zone target is made from tough 500 brinell steel and has a hinge mechanism that allows the use of cheap and readily available 2x4s as uprights, allowing the target face to hang at a 30-degree angle. It is the same size as a standard IPSC target with the “D” zone removed and can withstand hits from a .308 Winchester rifle. I’ve had these targets for a number of years now and have shot them with tens of thousands of rounds, mostly from carbines, and haven’t yet needed to make even the most minor repair!
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While at Gunsite, I used Galco’s new Stryker holster. Made from rugged Kydex, the holster features twin adjustable tension screws to adjust the holster to the gun. It has a neutral cant, which is my preference, and can fit a belt 1.25 to 1.5 inches in width. There’s also a molded channel in the holster to prevent contact with the front sight. It is fast, secure and tough—everything you need for carry or competition. There are no locking mechanisms or safety straps to impede or slow your presentation. The Stryker has become my new favorite holster! I also learned that Galco will soon have spare magazine pouches constructed from the same Kydex material.
If I were going to use the Expert for competition there are some minor changes I would make. All of them involve no more than trading out factory-supplied parts. Even though the frame’s magazine chute possesses a modest bevel, I prefer a mag funnel to ensure speedy, bobble-free mag changes, even on my carry 1911 pistols.
My first choice is a Smith & Alexander mag guide. It replaces the issue mainspring housing and adds 0.25 inches of length to the grip. Because of this, you’ll need to use magazines with some sort of bumper pad to seat them fully. These magazine guides are available in blue or stainless finishes, as well as flat and arched configurations.
It’s also easier to do a quick mag change if you can engage the release easier, and for that reason I retrofit my competition guns with an Ed Brown oversize button. It is available in blue and stainless finishes and is a drop-in part.
While the Expert features an extended thumb safety, it is not ambidextrous, and that’s a handy item to have when shooting the 1911 with your weak hand. Wilson Combat is my pick for this part. From Wilson Combat’s Bullet-Proof line of products, the ambi thumb safety with wide levers will stand up to the thousands of rounds competition shooters run through their pistols. It also is available in blue or stainless finishes.
Black synthetic grips come standard on the Expert, but if you truly want to accessorize your gun, you can’t go wrong with VZ Grips. Made from paper, linen, canvas laminates as well as G10 composites, their weight-versus-strength ratio is unmatched. Once you use these no-slip grips you’ll not want anything else!
An Expert outfitted with these parts, or other comparable quality parts, would be able to take the right competitor to the highest levels of action pistol competitions. Therein lies the appeal of the Expert. Right out of the box it will serve a novice shooter well and has the ability to be easily upgraded as new skills are acquired. The Para Expert 1911 is also available with a stainless finish and can also be had chambered in 9mm.
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by Paul Scarlata / Jan 19, 2015