Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ParaUSA LTC 9 after-action report.


In 1950, Colt introduced a version of their Government Model with an alloy frame and a shortened, 4.25” barrel. Dubbed the “Commander”, it became a favorite of many who toted a pistol concealed on their day-to-day rounds, both for its more compact dimensions as well as the eleven or so ounces that the aluminum construction shaved off the avoirdupois of its bigger forebear. Many also swore that it balanced and pointed better in the hand, and some even claimed that the shorter tube made for a faster draw, although the latter rationale is dubious at best.

As relentless mismanagement drove Colt into an ever-decreasing market share, the two biggest players in the 1911 market, Kimber and Springfield Armory, introduced their own variations on the Commander. Although generally aping the original Colt product, the Kimber “Pro” and Springfield “Champion” used barrels an even four inches long, which caused grumbling among the purists. A quarter inch may not sound like much, but it did alter the lines of the gun, and not for the better; a Commander can be told from its early imitators at a glance.

Shortly after Para Ordnance made a splash by announcing that they were entering the single-stack 1911 market a few years back, they made an even bigger splash by announcing that they, too, were entering the Commander look-alike field with a new entry. To the delight of purists everywhere, and in a not-so-subtle dig at the aforementioned Kimber and Springfield, Para’s gun was dubbed the “LTC”. LTC is, of course, Armyspeak for “Lieutenant Colonel”, officer pay grade O-5, the equivalent rank to a Navy Commander: Para’s gun sported a “true Commander” 4.25” barrel length. It had the classic lines.

My friend Marko got one of the early LTC’s and played with it for a while, having a generally positive ownership experience and no complaints over feeding or function. He took a bit of ribbing from our gunsmith over the bake-on finish (Painted Ordnance), but as both my heavy rotation CCW 1911s at the time sported paint jobs, I couldn’t exactly tease him over it.

The original Colt Commander was available in 9mm, in addition to the more traditional .45ACP and .38 Super, and this year the newly renamed ParaUSA is releasing their LTC in the popular 9x19mm caliber as well. In a world where metals prices have .45ACP ammo boxes coming with attached credit apps, this is a good and practical thing. However…

Compared to the traditional calibers, 9mm Commanders did not have a stellar reputation for reliability, and so when Para announced that one of their choices for the upcoming blogger weekend was the LTC 9, I cynically picked it. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think that I would have plenty of opportunity to practice malfunction drills at Blackwater. When I found we were to be using frangible ammo, my heart sank even more. To my gun snob mindset, 9mm Para Commander + Frangible Ammo = One Long Weekend of Suck.

Boy, was I wrong.

On the first drills, my gun didn’t lock back on the empty mag. Although not a super-critical thing and one I’ve seen on tight new guns from every manufacturer under the sun, I mentioned this to our host, and he handed me a second one. After that? Not. One. Hiccup. By day two, the gun was so filthy that you could have planted crops on the feed ramp and was drier than a Temperance convention and still it kept gobbling up frangible ammo and spitting it out like the well-oiled machine it no longer was.

Para's nine uses their "PXT" Power Extractor. Similar in concept to the Aftec unit, it replaces the single piece, self-sprung conventional 1911 extractor with a multi-part internal pivoting extractor. Unlike the Aftec, the PXT uses a large extractor tunnel, which means that not only can the parts be made beefier, but it can use an extractor claw that is noticeably larger than the standard 1911 unit, which should provide better extraction. Also, Paras use a plunger tube that is integral to the frame, preventing the possibility of a badly-staked plunger tube from ruining your day. This fault is not as common as the intarw3bz and gun counter gossip could lead you to believe, but it's just not possible on a Para.

Quibbles? Sure; I’m a gun snob and no machine is perfect. The trigger was heavier than I like, but of my three 1911-type pistols, my Springer Pro has the heaviest trigger at 4.5#. I didn’t have weights with me, but I’d guess the “Gun Blog 9” LTC they handed me probably broke somewhere closer to six than four. Nothing I couldn’t fix with thirty minutes and a stone, and saying that the trigger isn’t as good as my heavily-massaged custom guns is praising with faint damns.

The special pistol was outfitted with Para’s adjustable rear sights of a BoMar pattern (fauxMars, if you will,) and a fiber optic front. These give a phenomenal, fast-to-acquire sight picture, but their sharp, sure-snag corners make as much sense on an alloy-frame 4.25” carry gun as a kickstand on a tank. Again, a couple minutes with a stone and some Aluma-Black will fix the most annoying part of this.

Lastly, the gun had a full-length guide rod. I cordially detest the FLGR as an abomination before God and John Moses Browning (pbuh). If God had wanted us to have full-length guide rods, we would have evolved opposable bushing wrenches on our right hands with which to disassemble our firearms.

But these are minor complaints, and mostly stylistic. The gun ran like Jesse Owens and shot like a house afire, and if you can think of another thing you need a gun to do, your world is more complicated than mine.

The acid test? Well, if I have to sell a kidney or get a paper route to do it, I am buying this gun. I may be a starving artist, but even a starving artist knows the value of a dead reliable, deadeye accurate pistol when she sees one.

43 comments:

J.R.Shirley said...

I'm really glad it was good for you. :-)

I'll let you play with my commander sometime. It's been breathed on by Virgil Tripp.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

cool...

Adam said...

Whoever at Para came up with the idea of a Blogger Shoot is a genius. With all of you shooting guns that weren't yours, no one has complained about them.

I'm sold, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

I NEVER would've thought about buying a thousand dollar pistol, but I think the glowing reviews this one has gotten by people I trust. I just happen to be in the market for a new carry pistol, too.

pdb said...

Or, for half the price, you could get a ...

Aw hell, I don't have the heart. That's one purty shooter. If I could afford one, I'd probably end up with one to give the more mundane nines in my safe something to aspire to.

jimbob86 said...

I already have my 9mm 1911 slot covered....

Carteach0 said...

I'm extremely fond of my Colt Combat Commander, and would have no problem at all adding another of like it to the stable. After your report... a Para would top the list.

Nice write up Tam.

D.W. Drang said...

"If God had wanted us to have full-length guide rods, we would have evolved opposable bushing wrenches on our right hands with which to disassemble our firearms."

This should be on a tee shirt.

Along with "They Skinned Pinky!"

TJH said...

Great piece, Tam. Wish I could rate this post.

Sooty is the way a gun should be. Carbon is a great lubricant.

Personally, I don't buy safe queens, so it's good to know which guns will take a beating.

Ted said...

Adam beat me to the punch, but this is one of the best uses of a marketing budget I've seen in some time. Great writeup for a wonderfully focused target market.

Next time, they should put you on commission. ;-)

OrangeNeckInNY said...

I finally brought home my Kimber 1911 Eclipse Custom II pistol in 10mm tonight from my gun shop. It took 4 months of payments, but I got the gun I wanted and I am extremely happy. Now if only I had ammo. Gun shop was out.

My next pistol is going to be the Walther P22.

Tam, how much does the Para nine cost?

Mike W. said...

~$950 I believe.

And damnit Tam, you and Caleb have both written rave reviews of the Para 9 and I've been wanting a 9mm 1911 for a while now.

Sadly I cannot justify spending a grand on a gun right now.

This whole thing was great for Para. Not one blogger had a negative view of their pistols.

Reno Sepulveda said...

That's what I'm looking for for my daughter a 9mm Commander and yeah I like the 4.25" barrel better too.

Charles Pergiel said...

"praising with faint damns"

You do know how to turn a phrase. Got a real chuckle from this one.

Earl said...

Thanks, Tam, when and if I get young enough to need another pistol I will investigate, but I thinks I must slide on to military rifle, M1 Garand and shoot better'n most I have before, now if I could just get a job that would buy the ammunition - oops, had one once didn't I?

Carteach0 said...

Hmmm...... this post kind of reminds me of an 'Arms Room' post.... that old blog from long ago. I recall it well... it's the one that got me interested in blogging in the first place. Wonder what ever happened to it?

Dr. StrangeGun said...

"My next pistol is going to be the Walther P22."

Oh GOD, don't do it!

The only reason I still have mine is on principle (I've never sold a gun, and damned is a P22 will be first)

OrangeNeckInNY said...

DrStrangeGun,

Really? The Walther P22 is no good? What would you recommend for a .22 cal. pistol then?

Tam said...

Browning Buckmark.

Turk Turon said...

Oh, great!

Now I've gotta go out and get another job to pay for one of these.

But I'm gonna do it.

OrangeNeckInNY said...

Dr.StrangeGun,
I went to your blog and tried to send you an email, but Firefox didn't know what to do with your email link. Think you can shoot me an email at orangeneckinny@gmail.com? I want to discuss the P22 further. I read the reviews on this pistol and it seems the first generation version of it was having a lot of issues. The second generation one is getting rave reviews. So I think I'll stick to my original plan and get me one later, with the 5" barrel.

Tam said...

The main problem with the P22 (of any generation) is its flimsy construction. You can hand a Ruger Mk.II or Browning Buckmark down to your grandkids. You can shoot a P22 to death in a year or two. It all depends on what you use it for.

Given its cast zamak and injection-molded construction, I'd wholeheartedly endorse it if it were $150 as a disposable plinker uniquely suited to teaching kids and small-handed adults due to its size.

Ask anyone who has seen both in a rental case over an extended period of time. Between '04 and '07 we went through at least three rental P22s (including a cracked slide.) In that time, I think the Buckmark needed a missing grip screw replaced...

Weer'd Beard said...

Personally I'm a HUGE fan of my S&W1911Sc Commander...I haven't done a damn thing to it...the trigger probably breaks around 5# which I don't mind as its pretty darn clean break, I'm thinking about dropping a set of carry grips on it, and the FLGR does indeed suck ass, and that'll be going some point soon.


Also I dig that the scandium frame is about as light as aluminum, but tougher. Also the price was damn good from the used rack!

Arrrr

Tam said...

The sCommander is a fine pistol as well. S&W makes a good 1911; better, on average, than the boys from Yonkers.

Anonymous said...

"The recoil-spring guide-rod may be likened to the progressive income tax. It has been around for most of the Twentieth Century but no one has ever been able to explain why." -- Jeff Cooper, 1986

:), Art

Mike W. said...

The P22 has a MIM Zinc alloy slide. As Tam said, not exactly the most robust construction.

BryanP said...

Damn but that's tempting. I need to keep telling myself that I'm perfectly happy with my Hi Power and if I'm going to spend money it should be to upgrade existing guns. Say it enough times and I'll believe it.

TJH said...

So basically the P22 has a pot metal slide. Good to know. I'll stick with my Buckmark. It's a very easy gun to maintain.

Don Gwinn said...

So that was a full-length guide rod? Huh.

Matt G said...

"Really? The Walther P22 is no good? What would you recommend for a .22 cal. pistol then?"

Seriously-- the Browning Buckmark is a true classic, that is tough, reliable, stone-easy to shoot, and ALWAYS brings a smile to the faces of everyone I hand mine to. If someone's having a bad shooting session at the range, I hand them my Buckmark and a couple of magazines, and tell 'em to go to town. It is salve for the ego, because of the magnets that it places in your target, which of course attract your bullets.


Tamara, you've sold me that the Para LTC could be a good thing. Steve Camp has sold me that with modern ammo, the 9mm can be a viable caliber. But I've got questions:

1. Other than the extractor, are the parts at all universal? Meaning, can I put a standard-length guide rod* and bushing into it, from a Colt parts box?

2. What about magazines? Proprietary, or no?

Oh. Actually, I just had the two questions. :)

_____________________________
* My disdain for the FLGR is on record.

Tam said...

Except for the extractor, it's all straight-up 1911 stuff.

I'm sure mine will eventually wind up with a Greider or Wilson Bulletproof slide stop, stubby guide rod (don't forget to use a Commander length!), and probably C&S lockwork eventually. Because machined-from-billet parts make me smile. :)

I don't see why Metalform or Wilson 9mm sticks wouldn't work.

OrangeNeckInNY said...

Browning Buckmark, eh? Hmm....let me go do a little research...

Thanks.

OrangeNeckInNY said...

Ok, to hell with it. My next gun is going to be the S&W 627 in .357 Magnum, 8-rd cylinder. I'll get a .22 next year.

Ben said...

Enjoyed the review. If I ever get the chance to dance with one of the Paras I expect I'll enjoy it. But don't think I'll trade my Commander on one just yet.

And sounds like a great time overall other than looking like a tall, blonde lobster now.

OrangeNeckInNY said...

"The sCommander is a fine pistol as well. S&W makes a good 1911; better, on average, than the boys from Yonkers."

Sorry Tam, would have to disagree with you there. A stock Kimber 1911 is better than a fully reworked S&W 1911. I played with both at the gun shop and there was so much slack in the S&W's trigger that I swore it felt like a 2-stage trigger with an overly long first stage. The Kimber's first stage was barely there and lended itself to a nice easy trigger pull. Tolerance on the Kimber was also a lot tighter than on the S&W. And my Kimber comes with tritium 3-dot sights for both daylight and low-light shooting fun.

I'm planning on taking it to the range this Sunday and have a go at it. Let's see what this baby can do. I'll probably take some pictures of my target afterwards. I'll email them to you if you'd like.

I don't know how many rounds I'm going to have to put through it before it starts settling down and grouping better.

Oh, did I mention that my 1911 is chambered in 10mm? :)

Tam said...

orangeneckinny,

"Sorry Tam, would have to disagree with you there. A stock Kimber 1911 is better than a fully reworked S&W 1911. I played with both at the gun shop..."

I've owned probably a half dozen Kimbers and shot probably a hundred more. I've never owned a S&W, but I've shot a dozen or so. I've handled hundreds and hundreds of both. Taken them apart, examined the internals, looked at fire control parts under a loupe.

I'm sure your Kimber is a fine pistol and that it's even better than the S&W you looked at, but in my experience, the Springfield, MA guns are, like I said, on average better than the Yonkers, NY ones. :)

ExistingThing said...

Wow. What a review. I've been thinking about a 9mm 1911 for a while now, though I might wait until it comes down in price. (or I have more scratch burning holes in my pockets :)

I'm 6 days from my Buckmark, and my first 22 pistol, so I was happy to see it meet your approval.

OrangeNeckInNY said...

You're right, Tam. This is the first 1911 I've owned and I shouldn't be slagging on S&W's version of it. I just recently pieced together that you used to work at a gun shop (correct me if my assumption is wrong). Forgive me for not being as gun literate as you, for I had lived in NYC for over 28 years, and you have an idea how hard it is for one to own a gun there. It wasn't until I moved out that my interest in them was piqued, due in part to the availability and the ease of getting one (provided you don't have a criminal record).

The only other 1911 I've shot was my friend's Colt Delta Elite in the same chambering as the one I just bought. I went by what my gun shop guy told me; the reviews I read; the research I did, etc. I looked at the Dan Wesson (CZ-USA) version and read bad reviews about it, so I passed on that one. Mind you, this was only for 1911s in the 10mm chambering. The S&W in 10mm was not in production at the time I researched my gun, nor did my gun guy have any in his shop. So, it was either the Colt Delta Elite at the cost of $1600+ or my Kimber @ $1100.

So anyway, I'm looking at a S&W 627 chambered in .357 Magnum. What can you tell me about it?

Tam said...

Well, for starters, I love my PC627... :)

8 rounds of .357 Magnum? Who needs an autochucker? :D

OrangeNeckInNY said...

Yeah...8 rounds of .357 Magnum. I can't find the PC627 on S&W's website. I see my Model 627 Pro with the 5" barrel, but I don't see yours.

Matt G said...

Tam, what's the projected ballpark cost for a LTC set up like the one you used in class?

My boy Ambo Driver is thinking about going 9mm for daily carry, and we got to talking about single stack, quality, and of course price. He's looking pretty hard at G17s, which makes me die a little bit inside. ;)

Tam said...

orangeneckinny,

My PC627 is a 3" V-Comp; a very limited production Performance Center gun dating from '02 or '03.


Matt,

Figure a street price somewhere in the ~$800 range, plus the CTC grips.

Anonymous said...

Tam...I don't know if this is the spot to ask this question but do you have experience with the Sig 239 and if so, how would you compare it to the LTC for general range, home and carry use?

Thanks,

Alan

Tam said...

The P-239 is noticeably smaller than the LTC9, and probably easier for most people to carry. The LTC has the better trigger and longer sight radius, and most folks will probably shoot more accurately with it. I think either would be a good choice as a general CCW & casual range use kind of pistol.