Para Ordnance P12-45

A black P12 with the barrel pointed up and to the left on a light gray-to-white background.

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.

A black P12 with the barrel pointed up and to the left on a light gray-to-white background.
The fit, finish and features of the Para Ordnance P12 are good.

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

A black P12 with focus on the grip on a white-to-gray background
The grip is thicker than a standard 1911 but useful. Be certain of hand fit before deploying this handgun.

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.

Black P12 in a Black OWB holster, barrel pointed downward on a white background
The author found the Para P12 brilliantly fast from the K Rounds OWB holster.

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 (, the pistol may be fast into action.

Gray haired man in red shirt, sunglasses and ear protection practices with the P12; trees in the background.
The P12 is controllable and fast on target in practiced hands.
  1. Shoot the elbow to the rear.
  2. Scoop the gun from the holster.
  3. 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.

Accuracy Results

Fired in 5-shot groups at 15 yards from a solid bench-rest firing position.

Load Group
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.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (39)

  1. I have a P12 I got new 20 years ago this month (1997) . It shoots about everything, even inceptor arx 118 grain frangables. My problem its point of impact is way low. At 25 yards its3 to 9 inches low and at 6 yards, 2 inches low. Where can I get sights for it? Thanks

    1. You can have a gunsmith shave the front sight, or you can do it yourself with a file, which will bring up the muzzle when you aim. The front sight is soldered in place and is not an easy change for the average shooter.

  2. I love my P-12. It is an older one , made in Canada. I do not find it hard to shoot and a self defense ranges I shoot it as accurately as I do my Gold Cup.

  3. I love my little para. Had it since 2012. Very accurate, few to none malfunctionions since I’ve owned it, and I do believe mostly load related. I own one a few serials #s down from the one he tested in this article.Just noticed looking through the pics. Cool stuff.

  4. I have owned my P12 since 1998. It has been a very reliable gun. I use it for everyday carry. There is nothing more comforting than having 13 rounds of 45 cal waiting to be used. It is also very comfortable in my hand and I can get on target very quickly. I have shot multitudes of different brands through this gun. I have only had problems with some reloads that were low on powder. Specifically using Winchester 231 at the starting load which is 4.3 grains. I have found that 4.9 grains has the force required to rack the slide properly and not cause a slack wrist type scenario.
    Another note to the person who has the P14 and said it doesn’t shoot reliably. Is it a newer P14? Because there are Para-Ordnance pistols that were made in Canada that are the real deal, and then there are the Para-USA models that have been plagued with problems from 2003 to 2012. Then newer ones beyond 2012 are getting better from Para-USA.

    Hope this helps Cause I love my Para-Ordnance P12

  5. I owned a Para Ordnance P-12 from 1999 to 2004 (and now wish I hadn’t sold it)

    It did have ejection problems when it was brand new, jamming approximately once out of every 50 trigger pulls — a MAJOR problem, as far as I was concerned. However, a local gunsmith cured the problem by replacing my magazine springs with Wolf springs and the added force from the stiffer spring fixed the shell ejection/jam problem immediately. Thereafter, the P-12 was a pleasure to fire. One other thing: Back in those days the P-12 was available with 10+1 and 13+1 magazines; I had two 13-round magazines and just the one 10-round magazine that was included standard when purchased brand new…I paid $750 for it, used (about 1-year old with 400 rounds through it) and sold it for $1,000 five years later to help with the purchase of a Ruger Mini-30.

  6. I have owned a P12 for about 15 years I have tried many different brands and types of ammo. All functioned reliabily but my best accuracy comes from 230 grain Winchester FMJ white box.

  7. A friend and I both have full size Para P-14s. Neither of them are reliable. Both are very accurate but I could never trust them except as range only guns.

  8. I have the Kimber Crimson Ultra Carry II. It’s not only accurate and dependable, but a work if art. The laser sights were spot on out of the box. The only change it needed was night sights. So I bought the Kimber Meprolight sights and had them installed by a gunsmith. Actually it did not “need” these sights. …I WANTED them. I bought mine from I could not drop the $ 1,200+ all at once so I used their lay away program. Worth the money! BTW Buds also has special offers and pricing for LEOs and military. You just have to provide proof of eligibility. Always great service.

  9. I have the Kimber Crimson Ultra Carry II. It’s not only accurate and dependable, but a work if art. The laser sights were spot on out of the box. The only change it needed was night sights. So I bought the Kimber Meprolight sights and had them installed by a gunsmith. Actually it did not “need” these sights. …I WANTED them. I bought mine from I could not drop the $ 1,200+ all at once so I used their lay away program. Worth the money!

  10. Concerning the article, very nice description of the firearm. I’m very interested in trying the P-12 for myself.
    Concerning “SGT” Shultz, such mentality is the exact reason one should not be a member of a SWAT team or even a LEO, let alone a police SGT!! If you are indeed a LEO and “practice what you preach”, you definitely need to seriously consider another carer!!! Such actions are not only illegal in almost every jurisdiction in the U.S., but would incite an international outrage even in a combat zone. If one of my team mates acted as you say you do, I would immediately DNF that operator and consider initiating a Court Marshall proceeding. This mentality dishonors your fellow LEO’s and Military Ops members. Please get help.

  11. Retrospectively, someone with the professed thought process as “Sgt Shultz ” whether an LEO or not he is someone who should not be carrying a weapon.

    This Gung Ho / Rambo view gives all of us responsible gun owners a bad reputation. Point in case George Zimmerman.

  12. My thoughts exactly. The overwhelming majority of our LEO’S are far more professional and safety conscious for the public.

    They don’t kick in doors and open fire on dogs and citizens. “Sgt Schultz ” is either an imposter/wannabe. Or a disgruntled former LEO who was discharged for incompetency, or worst case scenario. ..He is still a LEO who hasn’t been fired yet.

    His comments reflect someone who has watched to many episodes of Law and Order. In biker terms. ..he’s a “poser”

  13. I have a P-12 which is very reliable with every factory load I have tried including lightweight JHPs. However, the P-12 has an often overlooked design characteristic that can affect reliability with reloads. The slide travel on the P-12 is approximately 1/8 inch shorter than slide travel on a standard 1911, and I have to seat my 200 grain SWC bullets slightly deeper for the P-12. or I run into feeding problems. With proper reloads, my P-12 has been totally reliable,

  14. I must agree with the previous post. And please don’t shoot my labs…
    How is it that if a man kills an officer K-9 it’s murder, but if a man kills another man’s family K-9 it’s only destruction of property? Yes, there are most defenately instances where stopping a threat (whatever it may be) are essential to going home at the end of the day.

    I’m not a PETA nut or criminal, and I have the upmost of respect and appreciation for ALL men and women in uniform. Also, my cousin is in a small department special weapons and training team and he has a very similar attitude as the first post ( – the shooting of k-9’s). Must not forget to assess the threat. Yapping Pomeranian = no threat. A lab over zeliously greeting a visitor could easily be misconstrued as an aggressive threat, yet you’d likely have more to fear from the Pomeranian.

    Wow, I can see this quickly becoming a very hot discussion. Of course officer saftey is paramount, but one must also not forget the oath one takes when he/she first joins the force “to protect and serve”…

    I would suggest to the first poster that he/she takes it down a notch or two before his/her next no knock warrent. Dog bites are not to be taken lightly, though the resulting injuries may fade much faster than a potential lawsuit and the removal of one’s badge.

    And… oh yeah, long live the 1911. I WOULDN’T trade any of my 1911’s for a modern polymer frame any day, but a combo of the two would be intriguing.

    The only negative thing I could say about this nice little 1911 is the need for tools for disassembly, as the recoil spring plug requires a flathead screwdriver to remove. Also, I have heard about issues with the finish wearing quickly, but cannot atest to this personally. This looks like it would be a great option for warmer climates, where complete concealment is required. The added capacity would be a big plus as well, though it practically puts it in the same weight range of some full sized 1911’s.

    My personal every day concealed carry is a full size Kimber Custom Covert II with a crossbreed iwb holster, and I have no problem carrying all day – every day. (And NO I am not associated nor profit from the sales of either of the mentioned manufactures)

  15. Heir Schultz,
    if you are so worried, then you are in the wrong line of work!!
    You and your family would not last long in Nevada, cops are great out here and know when to get tough, and are generally well balanced psychologically.
    I am a Disabled vet of 15 years of 2 services and 3 wars +, I strongly advise a mental health check and a new line of work for you, you sound like a danger to the public and other officers.

  16. SGT Schultz,
    Those are some pretty aggressive comments. A no knock warrant for trespassing or disorderly conduct seems a bit excessive. With some law enforcement experience I can appreciate officer safety being paramount but on the other hand I can appreciate how the average citizen would see you as a loose cannon Rambo type. I would recommend toning down the “Cop speak” in public forums. It’s not the impression we want the public to have. We have enough trouble with some of the public not trusting a d even hating cops without adding to the problem. Just a recommendation.

  17. JD’s first sentence is also my reaction. The moderators blew it on this one. A SWAT officer in a ‘small’ town? Really? And a judge signed a no-knock warrant for trespassing or disorderly conduct? I would like to know where that town is; the state AG would get a letter. Any family member is a threat? Is there an age limit, or do you just shoot everyone?
    So here is your chance to prove you are not just a troll: Give us a location, and name of your sheriff or police chief.

  18. Nothing but the .45 for me. CQC leaves no room for error. As a SWAT officer in a small town, when I am serving no-knock warrants for trespassing or disorderly conduct, I want the first shot to count. The family dog has been a known threat to Law Enforcement, but homeowners continually endanger our lives by owning them. And then become belligerent when I have “safed” the room. I want every shot to count, and not just the first shot. Firing twice is silly? Not for me. Any family member that is in that home is a threat and I am not leaving anything to chance. The .45 will always guarantee my right to to have the last word in a court of law, because I am the only one left standing. And yer damn straight I am going home to my family safely tonight. Thank you, John Browning, 100 years later!

    1. Are you kidding me? You’re going through the door for trespassing and disorderly conduct warrants ? Thank God I don’t live in your town. No wonder cops are getting such a bad rap! I wonder if your supervisor is on the same page as you and has such a gung ho! attitude. As for the rest of what you had to say, you need to seek some psychiatric help!! Soon!! Don’t walk, run, as fast as you can, and do us all a favor, get into another line of work. Last I heard, Hammas, Isis, Bokoharam, and all other terror organizations are all looking for help. Good luck Adolph!

    2. Thanks for the warning Mr Schultz. Come thru my door and threaten my family and my dog? You don’t stand a chance! You are cocky-stupid enough to step on a land mine. Good riddance ___hole…

    3. It’s a joke people. I’m sure this is not a actual LEO. Although some of them may actually think this way ether in whole or in part they would never post anything of the kind.

    4. fred…I wish I shared your certainty that Sgt. Shultz (yavol mein Kommandant) was spoofing. Some LEO’s carry that sicko mindset

    5. ” As a SWAT officer in a small town, when I am serving no-knock warrants for trespassing or disorderly conduct,” if you came into MY home the .45ACP would not do you much service because the first thing I would do is RAPIDLY fill your NAZI ass with 60 rounds of 5.56 62gn! Then I would ease over and piss in your eyes! p.s.; that .45 would definitely NOT guarantee that you would be “the only one left standing!” Adios, mofo!

    6. Ben (I will not even address you as sgt because there is not a snowballs chance in hell I believe you are a LEO) As a legitimate LEO I find your comments to be ridiculous and it is no wonder that the prevailing treatment towards LEO’s has taken a turn for the unthinkable. Between this administration vilifying us at every turn and then people attempting to pass themselves off as something they are not nor will they ever be we (real police) need to be better and more professional than ever. no knocks for dis con…SMH!!

  19. I carry the Kimber Ultra Carry Crimson II. It came with the laser grips and I replaced the stock sights with night sights. I could not be more pleased with this weapon. It has the knock down power you need in a self defense situation and is balanced such that target requisition is almost instantly. I have never had a ftf or fte with a.y ammo from cheap reloads to high end +p.

    While I was in the military I carried both the My 1911 – A1 and the Beretta 92 series (M9& M9A1) when they changed over in the mid 80s. Both are fun at the range and score excellent with reliability with me but I’ll take the 1911 over M9 for a CCW.
    As the bumber sticker says. “.45 ACP Because firing twice is just silly”

  20. I have carried the P-12 since it first came on the market (and I semi-retired my Star PD’s!) I quickly installed a full length guide rod and reverse plug. The only other changes were to install Wolf extra-power springs in my magazines. Other than that the gun is stock – never felt the need for any more enhancements. The trigger breaks cleanly at 4.5 pounds box-stock. While I don’t have a large hand, I actually find the “double-stack” grip size to be comfortable. This gun will shoot 2″ or better 25 yard groups all day (if I do my part.) My preferred carry load is the 185 grain Corbon JHP. I handload for all other uses and the P12 performs nearly like a target setup with 200 grain lead semi-wadcutters. What more could you ask for an aluminum frame semi-auto handgun with a 3.5″ barrel?

    I personally recommend the Wolf extra-power mag springs, especially if you load to maximum capacity and leave the mags loaded for any length of time. Remember to rotate your magazines frequently and you shouldn’t have any problems. The high-cap double stack mags do seem more prone to spring fatigue than single stack mags, so this is an area where a little due diligence pays off.

    Do I like 1911’s? Do I like the P12? You betcha! Yes, I own plastic guns, too. Yes, I can hit the target with Glocks and such also, but I guess I’m just too old to part with the old 1911 style!

  21. Does anyone know of an affordable laser that can be installed on the P-12, and if it can still be holstered would be even better

  22. I have a Umarex CR350, with a 4 inch barrel it has some bad reviews, but I found that if you throw away the magazine that comes with it and buy some that are 20.00 and up they shoot very nice, good trigger and small. While I was frustrated at first now I am very pleased.

  23. I agree with the author. I own 3 P12s and a Carry 12 LDA. Awesome weapons. Now we just need to convince Para Ordnance to start manufacturing them again.

  24. I love my P12. First thing on the mod list should be a full length guide rod and reverse recoil plug. The factory setup works but is unreliable. Upgrading the trigger and firing pin should be on the list as well. Those three things take a nice firing weapon to a perfect daily carry nail driver. I have issues with my hand which makes the wider grip ideal. Anyone thinking of a carry 1911 should look into the P12.

  25. I carried the 1911 in VN – most other pilots I knew carried the 38 – mostly because of the lighter weight. I wanted to know that when I hit something it was going down and the 1911 assured me of that. I also carried tracers 0- which could signal a rescue plane for me if needed 9fortunately was not needed). I knew that under duress I would be shaky and nervous and the target would be “real” not paper. The idea that i could ‘walk’ my bullets into what i was shooting at gave me a great deal of confidence. I did not need to worry about concealed carry when i was there. I love my 1911 and knew that it would be my lifeline.

  26. I like my M1911 .45 as well. If I’m up, it’s on my person. I guess the comfort of carry depends on which holster you use. I prefer and use an IWB from Alien Gear. I like the fit and feel of a full size 1911 and I know it will deliver in the event that I need to use it for self defense.

  27. I own as M1911 I am as retired military Army 23yras. an I like the 45 cal. If I hit something it it’s going down. I carried different kinds of weapon, but the 45. my best for close work.

  28. Another topic for Glock Devotees to trumpet the advantages of their babies over “Old Slabsides” and its spin-off’s.
    I love 1911’s,have owned several,wish I could afford a Kimber(My patrol partner has one((SWEET)),and daily carry nothing but my Sig220 off duty, but must carry my dept issue G21 at work because they make me.
    That ought to be enough fodder for everybody to find something to opine about.
    Y’all enjoy!

    1. I LOVE my Glock 35. VERY accurate AND reliable and you can’t beat 16 (15+1) rounds of .40 S&W! I recently fired it in two Club IDPA matches firing a total of over 100 rounds without ANY bobbles.
      I ALSO have a Para Ordinance Stainless Steel PC12 which is the LDA version of the P12.
      My Colt Stainless Steel Mark IV Series 80 is a favorite as well.
      Both .45s are GREAT guns!

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