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.