Gun Review: Para Ordnance GI Expert

The Para GI Expert is a well made entry level 1911. Nothing fancy here this is a working gun. It has all the desirable features to get the job done and that’s the most important consideration.

There are more and more of these entry level pistols being offered from the major players in the 1911 market. Part of the reason is prices for the full featured 1911’s are increasing putting them out of reach for many shooters. Another reason is the import of such brands as Rock Island Armory and MetroArms to name a couple. These brands offer a lot of bang for the buck. People are buying them in quantities that have gotten the attention of American gun makers. This is really a good thing since it offers the consumer more options to choose from and still own a great pistol for concealed carry or just an afternoon at the range. With the Para GI you have an economically priced pistol, which is American made.

One thing I don’t care for in a 1911 is a fully supported barrel. In my experience they just don’t have the functional reliability the standard barrel provides. Para is known for a good number of pistols having this type of ramped barrel but the GI is not one of them. The barrel is made of stainless steel of standard design. A nice touch is the 11 degree muzzle crown. This protects the end of the barrel from damage should the pistol be dropped etc.. A small rectangular cut is made at the rear of the barrel hood to serve as a loaded chamber indicator.

Something this model doesn’t have is a full length guide rod which I can take or leave. Outside of adding a little extra weight to the front of the pistol it really serves no useful purpose. Some may disagree and that’s fine—– this is just my opinion. If you like them it’s an easy add-on. Instead the GI model has the short GI plug that does simplify takedown.

Mine is the base version with a flat mainspring housing and flat GI grip safety. The trigger is mid length. The front strap has an undercut at the bottom of the trigger guard, which allows a higher grip. This is something that is not all that common but should be it really helps maintain a secure grip.

The GI is available in stainless or “Para Kote”. This is a baked on matte black finish with Teflon added. This finish is not only durable but with the addition of Teflon to the mix it makes the working parts very slick and acts as a lubricant. It’s also very easy to clean with most powder residue wiped off with a cloth before using any cleaner. It certainly looks better than a parkerized finish. After a few months mine shows only a very faint bit of holster wear at the front of the slides left side. It hasn’t worn off just a little lighter in color.

Slide to frame fit is very well done and moves smoothly through the firing cycle or when cycling by hand. The pistol does have the series 80 type safety system. This makes getting a very good trigger pull a bit harder to obtain which is why I prefer a series 70. I have to say Para did a good job in spite of the series 80 system. The trigger pull measured right at 5 pounds. For a general purpose pistol this is fine since the trigger pull is crisp and has very little slack.

A second model is available for a reasonable increase in price. This is the GI Expert ESP. The ESP differs in having a beavertail grip safety, full length trigger and front fiber optic sight. For me the fiber optic front sight is worth the money in itself. These eyes aren’t getting any younger and I like fiber optic sights. The rods are interchangeable so you pick the color of your choice. This is handy because you can choose the best color for the background you’re shooting. The rear sight is the same standard two dot as the base model.

GI Expert Specifications:
Model Name: GI Expert™
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 5 inches, stainless steel
Twist: 1 in 16 inches, left-hand
Action: Single-action, Semi-automatic
Sights: Dovetail Fixed, 3-White Dot
Receiver: Carbon Steel
Trigger: Medium length
Hammer: Skeletonized Spur
Magazine: 8-round with removable base pad
Overall Length: 8.5 inches
Height: 5.75 inches
Weight: 39 ounces
Finish: Covert Black Para Kote™
Stocks: Checkered Polymer
Safeties: Slide Lock, Internal Firing Block, Grip
Additional Features: Lowered and flared ejection port, beveled magazine well, flat mainspring housing, grip safety contoured for spur hammer
Product Code: GI45

One of the very first things I check on any 1911 is the way the sear spring is adjusted to operate in concert with the grip and thumb safety. When I bring the pistol up to the firing position I rest my thumb on top of the safety with my palm depressing the grip safety. If these two parts are not adjusted properly you won’t be able to fire the pistol. The grip safety will still be engaged. This is not acceptable under any circumstances. If you’re like me and rest your thumb on top of the thumb safety when firing you should check this when shopping for a 1911. I can tell you this Para operates just fine using my grip. I have had no problems whatsoever with the grip safety failing to disengage. If you don’t use this kind of grip and place your thumb under the safety this adjustment isn’t a big consideration for you unless others in your family use the same pistol with a different grip.

On the range:

This time out I took a variety of brands which included 230 grn ball from PMC, Winchester and the steel cased polymer coated TulAmmo which is made in Russia. I shot 50 rounds of each brand.

Shooting was done from 7, 10 and 15 yards standing unsupported. I used the 5 inch Birchwood Casey targets which as most of you know are high visibility adhesive targets.

Groups using PMC ball gave the best results at all distances. These are the groups listed. From 7 yards six groups of 8 rounds averaged 1 1/2 inches. From 10 yards I repeated the same number of groups and rounds fired. The average group was 1 5/8th inches. At 15 yards the groups averaged 2 ¾ inches.

Over the course of the last few months I’ve shot a total of 565 rounds through this pistol. Yes I keep track of rounds fired. These included a majority of 230 grn ball. I have fired a good number of hollowpoints from Remington, Hornady, Magtech and Cor-Bon. Out of all of these rounds fired I had a total number of three failures to feed. All three rounds were 185 grn +P’s. When the pistol jammed I checked the bullets and found all three had the bullet recessed into the case from roughly 1/8th inch to 3/8th of an inch!!! I’m certainly glad they failed to feed. I can only imagine what the pressure would have been and what would have happened to the pistol and myself should they have fired. At first I thought the pistol was at fault but that was not the case. I sent the box of ammo back to the factory where they found the bullets were not crimped with enough pressure which caused them to recess into the case during feeding. These things do happen but rarely. The reason for this rather lengthy explanation is to make the point that you should check all factors and not immediately blame the gun.


There were some problems when Para first moved the facility from Canada to the US. I imagine that’s not an unusual occurrence when you’re hiring and training new employees. I would think the CNC machines and other tooling was moved as well but would need to be readjusted after installation in the new plant. These problems with feeding etc. didn’t last long but they did hurt the company until guns started leaving the plant that were correctly assembled. Mine has been very reliable and from speaking with gun shop owners they have told me there are no further problems with Paras of any type.

The Para GI Expert is a fine example of a 1911. Here in Missouri they can be a bit difficult to find but should you be in the market for a reasonably priced 1911 they can be found online at Buds Gun Shop. I would choose the ESP over the base model for the reasons I spoke of. The GI Expert is reliable, accurate and would serve well for just about any purpose. The price is certainly good when you take into account the features, quality and lifetime warranty!

Phil White

Retired police officer with 30 years of service. Firearms instructor and SRU team member. I still instruct with local agencies. My daily carry pistol is the tried and true 1911. I’m the Associate Editor and moderator at TFB. I really enjoy answering readers questions and comments. We can all learn from each other about our favorite hobby!


  • Darkness

    Great gun, still have mine, never had one problem with it. Accurate as hell too

    • Phil White


      That’s good to hear and my experience has been the same. The price is sure good as well.

      • Joker

        Was a Cop for 32 years. Owned my share of Colt 1911’s and most had to be tuned to work right. Most would jam on feeding or extracting. Did the Wolf spring thing , throated and ramps polished and bought different mags to make them totally reliable and duty carry pistols. Loved them and competed in pistol tournaments as I a believe the .45 ACP is a great round. Recently bought a Para 1911 Expert and it works out of the box. I have fired FMJ, JHP and everything else I can afford being retired out of it and have not had a single malfunction. This pistol is more reliable than the Colts I purchased in the 70’s. I believe that the way one grips a pistol has a lot to due with malfunctions. Hell a Glock will jam if not held right. I own Glocks, Sigs, S &W KAHRS, Rugers and even an old Colt Peacemaker Thumb Buster. Handgun reliability has a lot to do with proper lubrication and owner knowledge of how to properly hold the weapon. Some ammo just does not work well in certain firearms too. I have no reason to recommend a Para to anyone . I am just stating I like mine and would buy another for myself and have total confidence in it.

        • tardevil

          Bought a Para Expert 2 months ago. Love it, not a single problem thru about 400 rounds.

  • That finish looks pretty clean. I got to handle one of their “Light Double Action” pistols at a gunstore some time ago, fantastic trigger!

    • Phil White


      While I don’t have an LDA I would like to add one to my collection. I was like you when I first tried the trigger on one it just surprised me big time.I thought it was very smooth and as good as any revolver if not better.
      This finish is good and also a tough finish. By now I expected to have more wear showing around the end of the slide.

  • Joe Hooker

    I have one of the older SSP 1911s. Fine gun but the Paracote has been a disappointment — the gun now has a freckled appearance from where it has rubber or gotten knocked off, and this with just normal range handling. Give me the parkerized version any day.

    • Phil White


      Freckled like in small round spots that are gone with the metal showing? I tell you if I were you I’d contact Para and ask that it be re-finished. They do have that lifetime warranty and I imagine it covers a defective finish which is outside normal wear.

  • M

    I bought a ‘special edition’ Para .45 that was offered for Canadian Forces folks and it was so poorly built I sold it before shooting a single round. The finish chipped from simple handling, the rail was so badly engineered I couldn’t fit my Surefire laser/light (it was sitting crooked in a sad way) and I just couldn’t fathon how this thing left the factory like it did.

    I do hope they sorted their issues but that gun was a brutal POS.

    Sorry, not a Para hater… really.

    • Phil White


      I do understand I’d be more than a little ticked off about that. By chance was this about the time they moved the company to the US? I read they had some QC issues a few months prior to the move when long time employees left.

      Anyway, they did have problems before moving to the US and for awhile after moving here but things seem to be sorted out now. I’ve looked at several others in the last year and they appeared to be fine with a good looking finish as well as all the obvious parts fitting as they should.Slide to frame fit, sight cuts even, beavertail evenly cut into the frame etc.

      • M


        The gun was manufactured with a bizarre ‘Made in Canada’ stamp on the underside of the receiver as well as a Para Ordnance North Carolina stamp on the side. Wierd.

        According to the date, this was most likely built in the USA (NC). The most annoying thing was the Para Kote finish, as it really would flake off if you scratched the gun. Actually, I lie… looking at the muzzle with the Streamlight X400 mounted and seeing it tilt to one side…that was the most annoying thing ever. Too bad as it was a cool looking gunwith special engravings and Trijicon sights. I bought a stainless Kimber with the sale $ and felt very happy with that purchase.


        • Phil White


          Hey thanks for getting back to me. That sure explains a lot. That is one of the last frames made in Canada then shipped to NC and set aside as stock for making a new pistol after they moved. So the frame is made in Canada while the pistol was assembled and finished in NC. That’s certainly the time they were having problems.

          The finish problems and the crooked frame is not an uncommon complaint when things first started up in NC. I guess some employees in Canada weren’t happy about losing their jobs and slacked off toward the end —– possibly. Mixed parts left over from Canada and new parts with new employees made in NC. That’s a recipe for some problems.

          I wish it had been otherwise because it sounds like it was a very nice looking special edition.

          You made a good choice in the Kimber though. My full size and compact daily carry guns are both Kimbers.

      • M

        Excuse my error, it was a Surefire X400 NOT a Streamlight. Thanks.

        • Phil White


          Gotcha–I thought that’s what you meant. It’s hard to keep up with all those numbers on products these days:-)

    • Esh325

      I know how upsetting it is to get a dud firearm as I’ve had plenty of them, but you can’t really judge them all to be garbage when you had one bad firearm.

      • Phil White


        I think most of us have had at least one problem gun if we’ve been around guns a good deal. I had one bad S&W 3913 but I sure didn’t write S&W off!

  • CJ

    No. This was my first pistol and it was utter and complete garbage. Bought brand new, I owned it for less than a year. I initially attributed the huge number of failure to feed/ ejects to a break-in period. Then I passed the 500rd count, still having at least 1 failure of some sort on each mag. I tried various brands of ammo, all gave similar results.

    Then there’s the god awful coating on this pistol. Due to my job at the time I could not carry concealed very often. Even so, with less than a year of light use in a galco leather holster, the finish started flaking off around the rub areas. It got to the point where I could scrape it off with my fingernail.

    Also, because I think it’s worth mentioning, this pistol has significantly more recoil than other 1911’s I’ve shot.

    Thankfully, I got rid of it and now own an M&P45. Never looking back. I would not recommend this pistol to anyone, ever.

    • Phil White


      I understand you had a very bad experience. You have one fine pistol as a replacement and one I’d trust 100%. I’d just encourage owners to send them back to Para for these problems and if they dont fix it then get rid of it after letting the new owner or gunshop know it has problems. I know trading like that will cost you money but ——-

      As far as more recoil the recoil spring needs to be changed to an 18 or 18.5 pound spring. It sounds like your Para had a 16 pound spring or was defective as well. A weak spring will allow the slide to really slam into the frame causing more felt recoil.

  • Bret

    I owned an lda compact .40 para several years ago. It never fed properly even after a trip to the factory and a gunsmith and the nickel finish on the barrel bushing flaked off within the first 50 rounds. Another friend in the same time period had a para that malfunctioned. Later another friend sent his full sized para 45 to the gunsmith 3 times and it never could be fixed. The gunsmith, who has worked on my stuff for over 20 years and is a leading expert on weapons, stated that the inside of a para looked like the surface of the moon. the fit and finish was terrible. I will never own one and will not recommend them to anyone even if they have now fixed their issues. I am a firearms instructor and 26 year law enforcement veteran and would not wish the problems I had with a VERY EXPENSIVE para piece of junk on anyone.

    • Phil White


      I understand how you feel but I wouldn’t write them all off. Like I mentioned that time period of less than stellar pistols hurt their reputation both with owners and those shooters the owners talked with about it.

  • RocketScientist

    I have been seriously looking at getting my first 1911 for a few months now. I’m looking for an entry-level/moderate priced gun, and the GI Expert was near the top of my list for awhile… looked to have a good balance of price and features, and from the (extensive) online research I did, the majority of reviews were very favorable. There were of course a few people who had nightmare experiences with theirs and a few who had never owned/shot/seen one but would tell you at great length what a terrible gun it was (just as with any firearm apparently), but I got a good impression about these guns. That being said, I think I’ve decided to go with a Springfield Range Officer instead. It’s a little pricier, but from what I’ve heard, and the half dozen or so I’ve fondled at the LGS and various shows, it’s a nicer quality and better fit/finish. Supposedly it has all the hand-fitting that goes into their higher-end models, and as a bonus its one of the few Springfield models that can actually be called Made in the USA. Plus I like the target sights on it (it’s gonna be a range queen, I already have a carry gun I love, my Kahr .40). For someone looking for something a little cheaper and less target/competition oriented though, this GI Expert seems a good deal from what I can tell. In fact I convinced my buddy to get one as HIS first 1911, so in a week or two when we meet up for murder practice I’ll be able to tell you firsthand.

    • Phil White


      Sounds good and I’d like to hear how he likes his. He shouldn’t have any problems with them now. Your choice of the Range Officer was a good one especially for range use when you’ll most likely be shooting various loads requiring sight adjustments. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them.

  • kris

    I had a para warthog, it was awful. feed issues, wouldn’t lock back, it had tolerance issues all over the place. George tried to help at first but after it had been sitting at Para for 12 months I couldn’t take it anymore. My dealer gave me a full refund and demanded a credit. Not sure if he got it.

    In my opinion from talking to, and reading many posts from that time frame Para was more concerned about shipping guns as fast as possible into the Obama accelerated demand than actually QC’ing the firearms or fixing them.

    I will never again buy from them. Any company that does this should never be supported. What if it a customers only firearm? Completely unacceptable.

    I recommend you stay far, far away and go with a proven weapon from a stand up company.

    • Phil White


      I’m glad you had a good dealer that took care of you!

  • 6677

    CNC readjustment occurs regularly anyway, even without facility moving. I did some work experience at a firm with 15 CNC mills (mostly 3 axis, some 4 and 5 axis too aswell as 3 bar feeders and 2 3 axis water jets). Their machines where run through the full recalibration routine once per month and a shortened routine once every 3 days, if the shortened routine fails or a part batch comes back faulty then the machine gets another full calibration. These machines where making very small car parts for track cars, most of which would be under very high load and needed to be uber precisely made. I would have thought firearms would have to be just as rigorous.

    • Phil White


      It may very well be that way. In fact I would think you’re right. Maybe they didn’t calibrate them or somebody may not have known what they were doing?

      • 6677

        It is possible but it would be a huge oversight for a plant manufacturing high precision parts to not train staff to calibrate the machinery and give them guidelines on when the machinery does need calibrating.

        • Phil White


          I certainly agree with that. I’ve heard this was the case from some of those in the industry. Now whether this is the case I can’t say first hand. It does seem like the only plausible reason for the early problems.
          The only other possible reason I can think of is the Canadian parts were made on different machine type than those in NC. That still shouldn’t be a factor but I can think of no other reason for the lapse in quality during the transition.
          It wouldn’t be the first time I’v e heard of pressure to get products out trumping a commitment to quality.

  • W

    The problems I have encountered with para 1911s were typical of other mass produced 1911s using MIM and CNC machining. There is a inconsistent degree of quality between two handguns sold on the market, ranging from excellent to poor. I would rather spend my dollar on expertly crafted 1911s than a mass produced one that is going to be a pain in the butt to get up and running.

    • Phil White


      I guess a lot has to do with employee training along with good machinery that’s well taken care of. I’d love to have a Les Bauer, Ed brown etc but they are a bit rich for my blood.

    • JMD

      Or move into the new century, and stop relying on firearms that will never work right unless they’re built by hand by an expert.

      shitstorm in 3…2…1…

      • W

        youre absolutely correct.

        I love the 1911 platform, but most of the problem is the owners; most of the time, many dont fire enough rounds downrange to know if its reliable or not and second, many think they can treat them like a glock and theyll work just fine.

        The 1911 is a experts gun and is strongly not recommended by a first time gun buyer. Like what Larry Vickers said, “the 1911 is a pain in the ass”. He means that in the most endearing way but recognizes true fact.

        The fact is that Ive tried main stream 1911s: the Springfields, the Paras, the Kimbers, and other brands and havent been impressed by them worth a damn. Ive broke magazine releases, experienced bad and out of tune extractors, loose sights, broken safeties, and a myriad of other problems associated with MIM parts (in a handgun designed to use machine forged parts). There is nothing wrong with MIM, its just not the best choice for a 1911 in my opinion.

        • Phil White


          True MIM parts are better than they used to be but I still prefer bar stock parts. Many times(depending on brand) I order bar stock parts when I order the 1911. The most common thing I see is the extractor adjustment. Not that they don’t work alright but the brass goes everywhere.
          The best extractors I’ve seen in the last couple of years are Sig 1911’s. Several have dropped the brass in a nice 2 foot circle at about 4 o’clock.

      • W

        MIM has made giant leaps and bounds too. That is without a doubt. For every other modern gun besides the old 1911 that has been engineered for recoil (especially the HK USP), MIM works fine.

        For a good nights sleep, however, I prefer forged tool steel parts, even if they are more expensive.

        and I havent had good experiences with the SIG external 1911 extractor. Most companies stick with the internal one because externals are a pain in the ass and finicky. I think it was either Colt or Kimber that stopped selling external extractor 1911s because they had issues with them. In fact, the only external I have seen that did its job reliably was a Dan Wesson. I think the farther away you get from the original design (especially in the case of those piss poor 3″ shorties), the less predictable that platform behaves. The same goes for venturing outside human craftsmen and milled parts.

        • Phil White


          It was Kimber that dropped the external extractor. They even exchanged slides for a little while for customers who had the external models.

  • I’ve been looking at the new 1911 and I think they are a vast improvement over any competition.

    • Phil White


      They are making a much better product these days:-)

  • Trev

    It’s hard to say bad things about a gun that you are testing for free from the manufacturer.

    Gun rags are about as honest and informed as

    Come back to us when you buy the kit yourself.

    • Phil White


      Buy them all myself—that’s realistic——-

  • FourString

    Wow I really like the undercut under the trigger guard.The only other company that does that is STI and they tend to cost a pretty penny for one with a nice enough finish

    • FourString

      *EDIT: only other company that does that
      lol need edit buttonz >.<

      • Phil White


        I got it for you. Just call me the edit button 🙂

    • Phil White


      I’ve seen some with a small cut but this one is actually deep enough to help.

  • Nicks87

    1911, it’s the same tired old gun it has been for the last 20 years or so.

    “When the pistol jammed I checked the bullets and found all three had the bullet recessed into the case from roughly 1/8th inch to 3/8th of an inch!!!”

    Phil, how do you know it wasnt the failure to feed that pushed the bullet into the case? It’s happend to me before. Good job on the creative writing.

    By the way I’m done arguing with pro-1911 people on these forums so here’s someone with more credibility who will do it for me.

    • Phil White


      No I actually sent the bullets that were left back to the company and they said they were defective (crimping) and sent a couple of boxes of a different type as replacements. They called after they tested them and apologized telling me new rounds would be sent and what kind did I want. Pretty straightforward really.

      Ok, well they are welcome here as well.

    • Nicks87

      That’s just damn good customer service. Who was the manufacturer if you wouldnt mind saying?

      • Phil White


        It starts with an “H”. That’s about as far as I want to go.

    • Czed75

      “I’m done arguing with pro-1911 people on these forums.”

      Yet you keep commenting every time there a new 1911 article pops up here. Masochist. 😛

      • Phil White


        Yea well he’s a good guy.I do wonder about him sometimes:-)

    • Phil White

      Him, more credibility–Nope! I trust you opinion more!

  • I purchased a GI Expert about 2 yrs ago. I was looking for a 1911, but couldn’t afford to spend upwards of $1000 on a pistol. At this point in time, I’ve got well over 1000 rounds downrange, and the only problem I’ve had was with an aftermarket magazine that didn’t feed. I remedied that problem by purchasing a quality magazine. This pistol works well for me, is easy to conceal (I’m a fairly large framed guy, 6′ and around 275 lbs.).

  • Dave

    Does Spring Direction matter?

  • caebryn

    Can you tell me ,, I have a P18-9 Para , Is it possible to convert to a .45cal from the 9mm,, by just a new .45 barrel, and changing the mag

    • Anonymous

      To swap back and forth between .45 ACP and 9mm on a 1911 requires:

      new barrel, caliber specific, and depending upon the outside diameter of the replacement barrel at the muzzle, a new bushing
      new ejector, caliber specific
      new extractor, caliber specific
      new magazine, caliber specific
      new recoil spring (16-18 1/2 pounds for .45, 10-12 pounds for 9mm)

  • Firefighter033

    Excellent report. I went today to look at 1911’s. I narrowed my search down to the Remington 1911 R1 and the Para GI Expert. The para is an 8+1 gun currently has a rebate and offers a lifetime warranty. Im going to but the GI tomorrow. Thanks!

  • Cherryriver

    “Problems”? Breaking slides every 5000 rounds struck me as serious. I personally had two break and have seen plenty others on the USPSA/IDPA/Steel ranges.
    Hopefully they got this corrected but a couple of the larger dealers around here covertly tell their counter-people not to sell Paras (along with Tauruses).
    It’ll be a long time before I go near a Para.
    To the other commenter 1911 shopping: Even though I have no affection for Springfield, the guys who handle warranty returns at the larger dealers we instruct at sell Springers first. Then Colts, then Sigs (to non-traditionalists), then STIs when they have them. They avoid Kimbers almost as much as Paras.
    Just sayin’.

  • techols

    I recently acquired a GI expert and I love it. It’s accurate, feels food and so far had never jammed or failed to fire. I am a freak about keeping my guns my gun clean and lubricated. My buddy however bought a pare elite and the front site fell out while firing it. I told him to send it back to para or just go ahead and replace with night sights but if the slot the front sight is milled wrong it will fall out as well. Can anyone give me a address on where to send it? Other than that his shoots extremely well also.

  • John

    1911 the best!