I have often mentioned that the 1911 is flat, although long and heavy. It is no secret that comfort and concealment are not the same thing.
It is possible to conceal a service-size handgun; it just is not comfortable. The 1911 pistol first was downsized to the Commander, then to the Officer’s Model and some even shorter and lighter than the Officer’s Model.
The Para Ordnance P12 is a particularly interesting handgun. The 1911 is immensely popular. Those who like the 1911 are seldom happy to own one or two. However, they fire most of those on the range. Some may keep a Government Model for home defense, although not for 24-hour carry by any except the most dedicated. The lightweight .45 is an answer to a real need for a concealed carry handgun. If we could find a way to up the 1911’s lightweight frame capacity, so much the better.
The current Para Ordnance P12 is a credible handgun for personal defense. My example may lack some of the modern improvements, but it is a credible handgun. The first consideration is hand fit. If a pistol does not fit your hand, then you need to go with the standard Officer’s Model frame, which offers six or seven rounds in the magazine, which is not a bad place to be. On the other hand, the P12 grip is easier to handle than many of the polymer-frame, double-column-magazine pistols, so the stretch is not too bad.
Advantages of the P12
The P12 has several advantages.
- It features a Series 80-type firing pin block or drop safety.
- The trigger action is usually pretty good, and my example breaks at a clean 6 pounds.
- It features a ramped barrel, which eliminates the two-piece feed ramp of the original 1911 design. While the original worked just fine, when modifying the 1911 for use with an aluminum frame, the bullet nose tends to take a bite out of the frame. Many aluminum-frame handguns have been ruined by ham-handed use of a Dremel tool. The ramped barrel solves that problem.
- The sights are good examples of combat sights, with the popular three-dot system.
- The pistol weighs 26 ounces unloaded. When fully loaded, there is a difference in heft. The piece weighs about 36 ounces fully loaded, which is still less than an empty Government Model .45.
All told, the dimensions are well suited for personal defense. The 3.5-inch barrel does not always burn powder completely, which results in less velocity than we would expect from a 5-inch barrel .45. The .45 gets its wound potential from bullet mass and diameter, not velocity. There are specialty loads, such as the Speer 230-grain Gold Dot Short Barrel, that provide exceptional performance from the light, short platform. The Para Ordnance P12’s grip frame is larger than the standard 1911, although not so much larger that the grip frame stretches most hand sizes. It is short, squat and comfortable. By spreading recoil in a wider area, the result is a handgun that is comfortable to fire.
It is interesting that there are several theories about reliability and the short .45. One sanctions only the 230-grain FMJ or JHP loads, which is the bullet weight for which the 1911 was designed. 230-grain loads, such as the Federal HST, will run about 780 fps from the Para Ordnance P12’s 3.5-inch barrel. That is enough for personal defense, and the bullet expands per my testing. Function is good. Slightly lighter loads, including my handloads using Alliant Bullseye powder and Speer 230 grain TMJ for 770 fps, also work well.
The other theory concerns magazine-spring function. The short slide of the Officer’s Model 1911 recoils faster than a Government Model. The lighter slide receives the same kick from firing and, of course, that kick accelerates the slide faster because it is lighter than a full-size gun. However, the recoil spring is heavier, and that usually handles things well. The slide’s higher velocity may outstrip the magazine’s ability to feed. So, a column of lighter bullets may be easier on the magazine springs.
I am not certain I adhere to that, yet I have fired the Para Ordnance P12 with the powerful COR®BON 185-grain JHP +P. Recoil was there, and the piece functions perfectly. My personal profile is that the pistol must feed with any reasonable full-power commercial loading. Otherwise, I do not trust it with my life.
When carrying the short 1911, a pancake holster is appealing. With the proper rig (krounds.com), the pistol may be fast into action.
- Shoot the elbow to the rear.
- Scoop the gun from the holster.
- Move seamlessly to the target.
After 500 repetitions, the work becomes smooth, and you develop a smooth, rapid presentation; anything else just is not acceptable.
The Para Ordnance P12 .45 is one option for those concerned with personal defense. With a spare magazine, you may deploy 22 rounds of ammunition on your person, which is a considerable reserve.
In the end, the 1911 is a good choice for those who practice, and the Para Ordnance P12 .45 is a sensible choice for those who are concerned with capacity and the ability to take control of a situation and survive.
Fired in 5-shot groups at 15 yards from a solid bench-rest firing position.
|Federal American Eagle 230-Grain FMJ||2.5 inches|
|Speer 230-Grain Gold Dot Short Barrel||2.0 inches|
|COR®BON 185-Grain JHP +P||2.4 inches|
Have you taken the P12 to the range? Used it in the field? Share your experiences in the comments section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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