Para-Ordnance 7.45 Companion Takes Browning Design to DAO
by Phil W. Johnston
You'd think that after nearly 100 years, Browning's old 1911 would be out-classed by some new semi-auto design. Designed by John Browning so long ago and featuring a barrel that sometimes doesn't point in the same place as the sights, you'd think that something better would come along. While a 1911 can indeed be massaged to perform well, the design itself remains pretty much as Browning laid it out. Even Para-Ordnance's new 1911s rely on the same proven design.
The Para-Ordnance story started in the middle 1980s when Attila (Ted) Szabo teamed up with Thanos Polyzos, on Canadian soil, after leaving Greece. Their initial efforts resulted in the Model 85 paintball machinegun but they soon redirected things in another direction, aiming instead to take the Browning design into the next century.
The second venture under the new Para-Ordnance banner resulted in a new receiver that would take a high-capacity, double column magazine, upping the capacity of the 1911 .45 to 13 rounds. While the noteworthy effort met approval in some circles, the large grip frame is also simply too large for some hands. Para's high capacity receiver would take most 1911 "Colt"-style slide/barrel/recoil systems and it was offered as a conversion only. Today Para-Ordnance has evolved into a full-fledged gun company, producing quality semi-autos in a new, state-of-the-art production facility in Ontario, Canada, not far from Toronto.
Early last year Para-Ordnance stepped up to the plate at the SHOT Show with another new line dubbed the LDA. The LDA nomenclature refers to a neat double-action-only (DOA) trigger that indeed takes the 1911 into new ground.
Before we look at one of the nicest .45s we've had in our hands, it might be a good idea to look at theory for a couple of minutes. We've heard some question the need for a different trigger action on the old war horse. After all, if it works, why mess with it. There's little question that the 1911 works just fine, as is.
The idea hinges on the continuing desire to carry a 1911 in Condition One (a round up the pipe-hammer cocked, safety engaged). Individuals not familiar with Browning's design sometimes get a chill when they see someone toting a 1911 "cocked and locked" as we love to say. Those of us who understand the pistol have no problem with Condition One, but there aren't enough of us around to quell this fear it seems.
Enter "Condition Two"-hammer down on a loaded chamber. This works great as long as the hammer is easy to grab-in a hurry. If there's a smooth, non-snagging hammer on the rig, the problem escalates and the smoother and smaller the hammer gets, the bigger the problem-should one have to put the pistol immediately into action.
What about a fresh, new trigger system that features a smooth 5-pound, 3-ounce double action pull-all the time-first shot to last? Para's new LDA trigger is quite simply one of the best improvements we've seen on any 1911. The fact that it's combined with a compact, stainless steel 8-shot .45 ACP 1911 doesn't hurt either!
Featuring a 3-1/2-inch barrel, the Para Companion is indeed one of the slickest little .45s we've had in our hands.
With the exception of the slick, smooth DA trigger, the Para Companion is pretty much a nicely-finished 1911. Featuring a sharply checkered, flat mainspring housing and attractive rosewood grips, this 1911 feels simply great. All the controls are in the right places and all of them work pretty much as they do on any Browning/Colt 1911.
Operationally, the Para Companion differs from any other 1911 only because it relies on a full-length, two-piece recoil spring guide rod, and takedown is a bit different in that regard. The Companion is taken down (when it's unloaded!!!) by removing the magazine first. Then one uses the provided Allen wrench to remove the front portion of the recoil spring guide.
Next, one removes the barrel bushing with the nylon wrench
(also provided). From there on, it's pretty normal. Push the slide
toward the rear until the small notch on the left side of the
slide is above the back of the slide stop and then push the slide
stop pin out from the right side. Then the slide/barrel/recoil
spring group can be slid forward off of the receiver while one
uses the spare hand to hold the recoil spring so it doesn't end
up in the other room. Things are reversed to put it all back together,
The Companion is graced with good, semi-fixed, non-snagging sights. Featuring the typical three white dots, the system works under varying light conditions. We'd like to see Tritium night sights there, but they would add to the cost. Both sights are held in place by dovetails and one or both can be drifted side-to-side to correct windage. Out of the box, the pistol shot a bit right but elevation was right on out to 25 yards.
Using +P Loads
Because the Companion is designed as a carry gun, we decided it prudent to clamp it in our vintage Ransom Rest and blast away with modern +P loads that are designed to up the ante of the old cartridge. We had six high pressure loads on hand-four of them featuring a 230-grain JHP slug that leaves a 5-inch barrel at 950 feet-per-second (fps) or so, measured at the muzzle, of course. In addition, we had Remington's Golden Saber 185-grain brass-jacketed HP load that causes a bunch of disturbance when one of 'em is touched off. The muzzle blast and flash should do the trick if over 400 foot-pounds of energy (fpe) doesn't.
We also had a few of MagSafe's old 96-grain Defender frangible loads lying around. While the guys at MagSafe have come out with a new Defender .45 ACP load that provides better accuracy than this older offering, the velocity of both new and old load are exactly the same. MagSafe's load is legendary to be sure-leaving even this 3°-inch barrel at very nearly 1,700 fps, accounting for over 600 fpe, as well. This load is even more impressive in ballistic gelatin-penetrating 10 inches and leaving a devastating permanent cavity as well.
This or MagSafe's SWAT load (plastic bullet core-2,200 fps) would be a perfect choice for our new sky marshals or pilots if any of 'em read these pages. While all of the shooting data is provided in the chart, it should be made clear that through it all the sample Companion just kept punching holes in the target, 25 yards downrange. While the rig isn't intended for target work, this arm provided exceptional accuracy with Hornady's 230-grain +P load. This load took "group-of-the-day" honors accounting for one great .83-inch, 5-shot group.
It isn't often that one sees a one-hole group from such a rig regardless of the load. It appears that Hornady is loading some very good ammunition. This isn't the first time we've seen their ammo take top honors. Generating 387 fpe, we'd gladly stuff the Companion with this JHP load for serious carry work.
Carrying a suggested retail price of $899 and available at dealers throughout the United States and Canada, we'd have to call this one of the best serious pistols in the business. We've never hidden our fondness for the 1911 and a stubby; stainless steel rig that sports a consistent, good DA trigger may indeed offer the best of both worlds. The fact that it's a .45 doesn't hurt. For more information about the Companion or the rest of the Para-Ordnance line, hit 'em on the Internet at: www.paraord.com, or you can drop 'em a note at: Para-Ordnance, 980 Tapscott Rd., Dept. GWK, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, M1X 1C3.
@ 15 Feet
@ 15 Feet
@ 25 YDS
@ 25 YDS
@ 25 YDS
|Cor-Bon +P 230-grain JHP||857/93/21 fps||375.0 fpe||1.92"||5.88"||3.92"|
|Hornady +P 230-grain JHP||871/60/18 fps||387.4 fpe||.83"||4.61"||2.32"|
|MagSafe Defender 96-grain +P||1,695/48/13 fps||612.3 fpe||1.62"||8.12"||5.92"|
|Triton QS +P 230-grain JHP||873/65/14 fps||388.3 fpe||2.42"||4.34"||3.10"|
|Remington Golden Saber 185-grain +P JHP||1,021/56/13 fps||428.1 fpe||1.93"||3.32"||2.68"|
|Winchester Ranger+P 230-grain JHP||852/43/11 fps||370.7 fpe||2.13"||3.53"||2.88"|
Average of All Ammunition
Action: DA only semi-automatic
Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 7 + 1
Barrel Length: 3° inches
Overall Length: 6° inches
Weight empty: 32 ounces
Grips: Checkered Rosewood
MSRP: $899 (US)