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!