Para Ordnance GI Expert 1911 (45 ACP) Review

‘The Para Ordnance brand made its bones with double stack 1911s. At one time a 1911 that holds 14 rounds of 45 ACP was a rarity, and Para Ordnance was one of the few manufacturers to do so.

Over time, Para Ordnance started to expand their line up and included the GI Expert model, which is a simple, entry-level 1911 made to Para’s standards. There are some entry-level 1911s out there that come from Turkey, the Philippines, and Para Ordnance offers one built in the USA. Para was originally a Canadian firm, but are now located in North Carolina.

The Para Ordnance GI Expert is a high quality 1911 that’s simple and reliable. It’s not just an old school 1911, and it does feature some modern touches that allows it to keep up with modern guns. At its core, it is still a 1911. The GI Expert now comes in 9mm as well as 45 ACP and in blued, stainless, and two-tone finishes. My model is a sweet two-tone handgun that is chambered in 45 ACP.

Para Ordnance Overview

What is the purpose of a 1911? It’s an old gun, and the design is over a hundred and seven years old. It’s out of date by most standards, and other 45 ACP guns offer a higher capacity and more modern features and can still be carried in a holster. The gun is still used routinely for concealed carry due to its thin design. The gun is a fan favorite for a variety of purposes, and the Para Ordnance GI Expert can serve a few different roles.

In my opinion, every gun collection needs a 1911 just for the historical perspective. The Para Ordnance GI Expert is an affordable and fun gun if you want to add a 1911 to your collection. It’s a fun plinker and target gun as well as a casual competition gun. The GI Expert is also a great starting point for making a custom gun.

Specifications

Barrel Length – 5 inches
Overall Length – 8.5 inches
Width – 1.28 inches
Height – 5.75 inches
Weight – 39 ounces
Capacity – 8 rounds

The 1911 is a big all-metal gun, made at a time when all guns were big and made of metal. It has a low capacity compared to modern pistols with an 8 round single stack magazine. That being said, you can purchase extended magazines, including the famed Chip McCormick 10 round magazines which are reliable and functional.

The GI Expert has a very simple design and doesn’t do anything to change the 1911’s design. It simply improves upon the classic design with a few modern touches. Luckily this doesn’t take away from the 1911 experience, it merely makes it more comfortable and safer overall.

Features

Para Ordnance packed the GI Expert with features you won’t see in many stock 1911s. The barrel uses a strong and durable stainless steel and has an 11-degree muzzle crown. This helps protect the barrel should it, unfortunately, fall muzzle first. The chamber itself is highly polished to increase reliability and is a standard 1911 barrel and chamber. This does use the series 80 design which incorporates a superior safety system at the cost of a harder to tune trigger.

The chamber does have a small cut out that acts as a viewing window to allow the user o see if the chamber is loaded. This is a small feature but a handy one at that. The hammer is also trimmed a bit, not bobbed, but trimmed. This prevents the hammer from coming rearward and striking the web of the palm. This allows the built-in beavertail and safety to keep the hammer from striking your hand.

The sights are a simple full size three dot sights that are easy to use and quick to get on target. The trigger guard has a slight undercut that allows you to get a higher grip on the gun and exercise more control over the gun when firing. It makes shooting the gun more comfortable compared to a bone stock 1911. The trigger itself is skeletonized and very comfortable with its slight texturing. The safety is only on one side but is extended and the perfect shelf for resting your thumb. The grip safety has a little extended grip safety that disengages with ease.

Fit and Finish

The stainless steel and two-tone look are quite attractive. It looks great. The weapon has a consistent finish, and the stainless portions have a slight shine to them. However, over the ten years, I’ve owned this gun the finish has taken a beating. It has plenty of scratches and gouges in the design. It’s a good finish, but I’ve also brutalized this gun quite a bit. When I was young and poor this was the only handgun I had, and I shot it as much and as often as I could afford to do so.

The gun sports roll marks on both sides that slightly vain, and you expect vanity from a 1911 design. One side reads Para 1911 and the other as GI Expert. It’s not massive or distracting, but large enough to catch your eye. Thankfully the font isn’t ugly or terrible. The pistol grips uses standard checkered plastic and nothing fancy, but it does match the black finish of the frame.

Ergonomics

The 1911 has brilliant ergonomics, and no one can take that away from the design. The grips are thin and comfortable in hand and allow for aftermarket customization. The beavertail and undercut under the trigger make it very easy to grip the gun high and tight. Both of these ergonomic features add to your ability to control the gun as well. The slightly bobbed hammer is a great feature for ergos and all-metal, and the textured trigger is very comfortable against the finger.

The gun wears only rear serrations, and they are very fine serrations. They make it easy to grip the slide and ready the weapon. The slide feels like it is gliding on ball bearings and goes back extremely easily and smoothly. It’s almost therapeutic to rack this weapon. Whatever Para did to the frame to slide fit should be standard on 1911s.

The safety is large and easy to reach and use. It’s extra-large size makes it well suited to rest your thumb on while firing. The safety forms a good shelf to keep the safety down while firing and in a blink, the user can pout the safety back on and end their string of fire.

The additions from Para Ordnance to the classic 1911 design have only improved the classic design. It’s easier to handle, more enjoyable to shoot and is overall just a well-built gun.

On the Range

Shooting the Para Ordnance is just fun, I mean most guns are fun, but the GI Expert is entertaining for a 1911. The top-notch ergonomics make it easy to control and keeps the recoil and muzzle rise more than controllable. Compared to a stock GI style 1911 from Rock Island the GI Expert is so much more comfortable and pleasant to shoot. The recoil is more of a push than a snap. It gradually fills the hand instead of a sudden impact and application of force. It’s comfortable, but it lets you know it’s more substantial than a 9mm. The beavertail is wide and flat and doesn’t dig into your hand as the weapon is fired.

The Para Ordnance GI Expert comes with two well-polished 8 round magazines. They slide right out of the gun when you press the magazine release. The magazine release is solidworks crack standard 1911 fare and is easy to reach and use. The safety clicks in and out of place with ease and is quick to reach and access. The hammer is textured to make manually cocking easy and safe. It also seems wider than most 1911 hammers, but that could be my imagination.

The GI Expert is plenty accurate as well. It’s not hard to produce 1.5-inch groups at 10 yards with standard FMJ loads. It’s plenty accurate, and the trigger helps with that. The single-action trigger is very light and crisp. It breaks consistently with very little take-up and gives you that famously short and tactile 1911 reset. It’s a trigger company like Hudson try to reproduce with modern handguns. Most fail.

Reliability wise the gun is very ammo picky, something not unusual with 1911s. The GI Expert likes standard 230-grain hardball ammo. It’s the most common out there and the cheapest as well. It seems to dislike 185-grain JHPs. I’ve never made it through a magazine of these rounds. 230-grain JHPs are reliable, and I can’t remember any problems with those rounds in this platform in the near ten years I’ve owned it.

If you approach the GI Expert with the right ammo it’s a great gun, it functions well when filthy dirty, and after it’s been exposed to the elements it will still run… with the right ammo.

Para Ordnance: Rating Each Category

Looks: 5 out of 5

This two-tone model looks amazing in my opinion. I love it and the appearance. The 1911 itself has classic lines that are hard to beat. The gun is just plain sexy. Para did an amazing job with making this both a functional and good looking gun.

Ergonomics: 4 out of 5

The gun does well at adapting the 1911’s famed ergonomics and improving them. The little add-ons here and there make a big difference when it comes to how the gun handles and shoots. It’s tough to beat, and hard to hate. It does lose a point because it’s a 39-ounce gun that holds eight rounds. The only guns that should get away with that have Magnum calibers. This isn’t Para’s fault, its just an issue with a 107-year-old design.

Accuracy: 4 out of 5

The Para Ordnance GI Expert is about as accurate as a gun at this price range can get. It’s perfectly capable of defensive use and beyond that. The amazing trigger and great little sights make it very easy to see and hit a target at both distance and with speed. It’s second only to a dedicated competition pistol.

Reliability: 3 out of 5

This is a tough category to decide. With the right ammo, it seems to be reliable to a fault in the rain, sand, and dirt the gun guns. Even with cheap steel case ammo the weapon goes bang perfectly fine. The fact it won’t eat one of the more potent self-defense rounds bothers me though, so I had to give the gun a 3.

Customization: 5 out of 5

A 1911 is a 1911, and you can customize it to a ludicrous degree. You can add ambi safeties, threaded barrels mounts for red dots, new grips, triggers, and the list goes on and on. The 1911 has been around for over a century, so it’s easy to find parts and customize the gun to your liking. Anything less than a five would be a lie. The only change I made was the addition of my aluminum meme grips.

Price: 4 out of 5

I purchased mine for roughly 400 bucks back in the day and enjoyed it immensely since then. Para’s website still exists, but it seems like Remington has absorbed Para and finding their guns is a strictly used market scenario. They aren’t the cheapest 1911 on the market, but with the added features are well worth the price.

Parting Shots on the Para Ordnance GI Expert

The Para Ordnance GI Expert is a handy dandy little gun. It’s built to last and has lasted me for quite some time. The design is pure 1911 with some distinct features that set it apart in a crowded market. If you can find one, I wouldn’t hesitate to snatch it up if your collection is lacking a 1911.

If you want a defensive firearm, I’d suggest something more modern like the SIG P227 or the Glock 21. They offer numerous advanced features with a higher, and their price tags aren’t too high.

By

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd BN 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and works as a firearms writer.

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