World renowned for his many outstanding small arms designs, John M. Browning achieved immortality in his timeless .45 ACP caliber Model of 1911 pistol. Now close to being a century old, the pistol that is Browning’s finest hour is more popular than ever before. However, as great as Browning’s first 1911 was, it is the many refinements since made to the pistol that have kept it so popular.
Although relatively new in the world of 1911-style pistols, one of the foremost advocates and cutting edge developers of the system continues to be Para USA, formerly Para-Ordnance. Well known for its major design advancement of the 1911, in 1986 Para pioneered the high-capacity magazine system for this pistol that no one else had even thought of attempting. Most important, it worked!
Using state-of-the-art production methods, Para created not only a high-capacity magazine but also a slim-line frame to house it. The result was a 14-shot 19ll-style pistol only a fraction of an inch wider than John Browning’s original design. Called the P-14, Para’s original pistol is not merely a high-capacity version of the Model of 1911, but it incorporates a number of improvements over Browning’s original gun. Not the least of these is the proven Series 80 Firing Pin Safety System developed by Colt and used in the Colt Government Model.
In the wake of Para’s Government Model-size P-14, the company introduced more compact versions such as the P-13, P12 and extreme compact P-10, as well as a number of custom-grade models. However, high-capacity 1911 pistols are not the only thing Para is known for, as their line of single-column magazine pistols is equally impressive. The latest of these may be one of the best ideas Para USA has ever had. It is called the GI Expert.
To sum up, the 1911 Match pistol would be handy, but it could never do the gun justice without first taking a look at the niche it was intended to fill, as well as all the things it has to offer. One of them is service. Having gone through my first 250 Basic Class at the American Pistol Institute (now Gunsite Academy) in 1981, I was exposed, or shall I say indoctrinated, to a number of Colonel Jeff Cooper’s philosophies, one of which was a “basic” 1911 pistol. This was the antithesis of the “full-house” custom Model of 1911 filled with “bells and whistles” to please the most discriminating pistolero.
What Colonel Cooper advocated was a fairly Spartan 1911 with only the most bare utilitarian necessities, or “utils,” as he referred to them. These included the following improvements over and above an “issue” 1911 pistol:
• Semi-fixed sights that were easier to use, with the rear sight drift adjustable for windage.
• Standard recoil spring system for ease of field stripping.
• No-bite hammer.
• Factory thumb and grip safeties.
• Slightly modified ejection port for uniform ejection.
• Trigger job with a crisp let-off of four pounds.
• Beveled magazine-well mouth.
Several years after my first 250 class, Jeff Cooper actually had such a pistol produced and marketed it through API’s Pro-Shop. The gun was called the Gunsite Service Pistol (GSP). I tested and evaluated a GSP in about 1983. One could say it was a precursor to the Para USA GI Expert.
Based on the 1911A1 pistol, the GI Expert goes well beyond that famous pistol in several areas. Like the 1911A1, the new Para USA has a conventional recoil spring system and what appears to be a semi-match barrel. That is, the premium stainless steel barrel is enlarged at the muzzle for a superior fit, but does not require a bushing wrench to disassemble. The front sight, instead of being staked, is dovetailed into the slide. It is also wider and of the combat ramp design with a white dot.
Unlike on any issue 1911A1, the ejection port of the GI Expert is both lowered and flared, both of which features assist with ejecting empty casings and not denting them. Looking much like a 1911A1 rear sight from the side, that on the GI Expert has a wider notch and two white dots. The pistol’s thumb safety is of the standard factory type with
an angled, but not extended, thumb piece. This, in my opinion, is probably the best of all worlds, and I have seriously considered replacing the extended thumb safeties on all my 1911 pistols with standard thumb safeties. From this point the GI Expert becomes obviously different from the 1911A1 at first glance.
Totally unlike the hammer on a 1911A1, that of the GI Expert is a hollowed, rounded speed hammer which, when carried cocked and locked, will greatly reduce snagging. To accommodate this round hammer spur, the top rear of the grip safety is slightly concaved. The mainspring housing on the GI Expert is flat checkered polymer instead of
rounded checkered or grooved steel, and there is no lanyard loop on the bottom. The mouth of the magazine well is beveled and the grips are black checkered plastic with the Para logo. The pistol comes with two stainless steel magazines with extended polymer bases. The three-hole trigger is of medium length and is a lightweight type. Rather than being Parkerized, GI Expert is finished in satin black Para Coat. This tough finish is durable, very smooth and even slippery.
Field stripping the Para USA GI Expert is the same as for any standard 1911 pistol, but read the manual first. After removing the magazine and ensuring the chamber is empty (as trainer, Ron Avery says, “nothing in its mouth and nothing to feed it”), depress the recoil spring plug enough to rotate the bushing clockwise as far as it will go in order to free the plug. I like to cock the hammer and put the safety ON while doing this in order to lock the slide. While a bushing wrench may not be necessary, you may want to use one, as the recoil spring is quite stiff and the bushing may be slightly tight when new. Either way, take care that the plug is under pressure, and wear eye protection.
As an alternate method, you may want to remove the entire slide group as a unit. This is done by “milking” back the slide with your right hand until the disassembly notch in the slide lines up with the lip of the slide stop, and then pushing out the slide stop from right to left. The slide group, including the compressed recoil spring and guide, can then be removed off the front, but the spring will still want to jump out from the rear, so hold onto the entire slide group until you lay the frame down. Then you can control the spring with both hands.
Once the recoil spring is no longer under pressure and the recoil plug is removed, rotate the barrel bushing counterclockwise and remove it from the front of the slide. With the slide off the frame, the recoil spring can be removed from the rear along with its guide. The barrel can then be removed out the front of the slide and the pistol can then be cleaned and lubricated as necessary. Reassembly is in reverse, but again, refer to the manual. With practice the procedure can be done in the dark if necessary.
Fit For Duty?
As the GI Expert comes, it’s almost fit for duty, in my opinion. The one thing I would replace is its grips. Because the pistol itself is so smooth, I would opt to give it more purchase with a set of better grips. An excellent, but not inexpensive choice would be LaserGrips from Crimson Trace, as these rubbery grips not only provide excellent gripping on both sides, but also with a wraparound piece on the front strap. In addition is the benefit of having a laser sight built right into the top of the right grip panel close to the bore centerline. Simply grip the pistol tightly and the laser comes on. Then bring the gun up to point-shoulder, put the dot on the target and press.
If I didn’t care about having a laser sight, I would opt for a pair of G-10 grips from MIL-TAC. These CNC-machined grips are not only totally functional but are also beautiful, with a number of color combinations and checkering patterns offered. If you want other options added to your GI Expert, the pistol lends itself perfectly to additional customizing.
For a duty holster, I would, of course, want a security rig such as the Tactical SERPA from BlackHawk or the new Model 6377 series from Safariland. Designed by holster Guru Bill Rogers, this new rig is one of the most secure designs I have ever used, while at the same time putting the pistol in YOUR hand almost instantly.
Sometimes you have to re-holster your pistol as quickly as you drew it. No problem with the 6377. Simply replace the pistol in the holster and it is automatically locked until you need it again. I won’t further describe how it works here, but take my word that you need to check this rig out in all its styles.
With deadline rapidly approaching, I wasn’t able to put hundreds of rounds through the Para USA GI Expert. But I have put a few thousand rounds through my other Para USA 1911s with the number of malfunctions I can count on the fingers of one hand.
With the GI Expert, I shot a number of drills along with the normal testing for accuracy. There were no malfunctions
and accuracy was very good, with five rounds of standard 230-grain FMG .45 ACP easily printing groups of less than three inches at 25 yards from the bench. I could also hit an 8-inch steel plate much of the time standing modified Weaver at 50 yards.
If you’re in the market for a basic 19ll pistol equipped with just about everything you’ll need in a defensive handgun, check out the new GI Expert at the amazing price of $599, no less! For information, contact Para USA, Inc., 10620 Southern Loop Blvd., Pineville, NC 28134-7381. Phone: 704-930-7600, fax: 704-930-7601. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , website: www.para-usa.com . To keep your Para USA and the rest of your guns, JOIN THE NRA and VOTE!
Specifications: ..............Para USA GI Expert
Caliber: .......................... .45 ACP.
Velocity:.......................... 900 fps.
Operation: ......................Browning short recoil, semi-automatic,
double action only.
Barrel Length: ................ 5”
Overall Length: ..............8.5”
Weight: .......................... 38 oz.
Feed Device:.................. 8-shot magazine (or any 1911 magazine).
Safety:............................Thumb safety, grip safety and firing pin
Sights: (front) ............Dovetailed combat blade with white dot.
(rear) .............................. “U” notch drift adjustable for windage.
Grips: ............................Checkered black polymer.
Finish: ............................ Black Para-Coat.
Five 5-Shot 25-Yard Groups Using ProChrono LE.
Elev: 7000’, Temp: 86°, Humid: 22%
.45 ACP Cartridge Velocity Small Group Large Group Avg.
Black Hills 230 gr. FMJ 857 fps 2.36” 2.74” 2.58”
CorBon 165 Pow’R Ball 1188 fps 2.48” 2.89” 2.71”
Federal 165 gr. JHP P.D. 1047 fps 2.39” 2.78” 2.62”
Wolf 230 gr. FMJ 823 fps 3.07” 3.23” 3.18”
BlackHawk Products Group
6160 Commando Pkwy., Dept. SOF
Norfolk, VA 23502
Crimson Trace LaserGrips
9870 SW Freeman Dr., Dept. SOF
Wilsonville, OR 97070
MIL-TAC Knives & Tools
PO Box 642, Dept. SOF
Wylie, TX 75098
3120 East Mission Blvd., Dept. SOF
Ontario, CA 91761
18300 Mt. Baldy Cir.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: Any content in this publication, including technical data, reports of any activities, information, events and circumstances under controlled situations and under supervised control have not been tested nor approved nor were under the control of Soldier of Fortune Magazine.
Reports are transmitted from independent sources to which SOF has neither supervision nor control. The data is transmitted for reporting events by the author. Soldier of Fortune Magazine, its agents, officers, consultants nor any other individual or entity reject any and all responsibility for any reporting in this publication. Any reports in this publication do not provide detail for comprehensive safety techniques, training techniques, training precautions that are absolutely essential for any covered or similar activity. The reader MUST not attempt any reported activity, technique or use of equipment based upon any reports in this publication. Comprehensive training, guidance and supervision is always necessary when engaging in any activity of which any report in this publication mentions or gives any reference to. The views of the authors do not represent the views of the Soldier of Fortune Magazine