When John M. Browning put the final period on the design of the original 1911 series pistol, he must surely have sat back and smiled. Its elegant simplicity, power, and performance raised the bar on auto pistol design. For a turn-of-the-century gunsmith, the development of the 1911 auto pistol was the equivalent of today's aeronautical engineers inventing warp drive.
Suddenly, other makers were scrambling as Colt began to build the big pistol. World War II showed the 1911 to be as tough as Browning said it was and the rest is, well...history.
It's doubtful Browning realized the impact his design was to have as he filed that last part on that first 1911. Since then, "Old Slabsides" has become the darling of American shooters. Just as Americans love to customize their cars, the 1911 is often the basic platform-the Model A Ford, if you will-of the handgunner. From custom sights to wildcat cartridges, the 1911 reigns supreme as the most versatile auto pistol in history.
Except One Thing
Time passed and the double-action auto pistol began to see the light of day. This begat an unwarranted knee-jerk fear of the "scary" single action, cocked-and-locked carry mode of the 1911. In the 1970s, Larry Seecamp developed a double-action conversion for the 1911, but the design never caught hold.
Enter a bold, Canadian company called Para-Ordnance. Established as a paintball gun manufacturer, it introduced a wide-body frame conversion for the 1911 pistol. Using an existing "upper" slide assembly, a shooter could convert a 1911 into a 15-shot .45 ACP. This was big news.
Much Ado, Indeed
Soon, Para's frames ruled the competition circuit, but company owner Ted Szabo was unhappy with some of the results of his frame being mated with sub-par uppers. In 1988 Para-Ordnance brought out its first complete pistol to the welcoming arms of the shooting and law enforcement fraternity.
Some early teething problems were overcome and Para continued to update products to meet the demands of the market. Then, in 1999, the company introduced its Light Double Action (LDA) series.
This abruptly brought the 1911 into the 21st Century and litigation-sensitive law enforcement administrators seemed more open to the idea of a 1911, if it had the LDA feature.
The first LDAs were high-capacity frames. Recently, when Para opted to build a single column frame, it surprised everyone by delivering one with an LDA action.
The Same Only Different
Our test gun, a stainless 7.45 LDA in .45 ACP, looks like a classic 1911 design, but with a twist. The trigger guard is standard-sized but the trigger is a top-pivoting, smooth-faced part that causes the eye to stop there and wonder what's up. Other parts look right at home, though, from the thumb and grip safety to the slide release.
The hammer on the LDA is skeletonized and is part of the secret of the design. Unlike some double-action-only (DAO) guns, the slide must be cycled for the double action to "pre-cock" and be ready for firing.
The trigger pull (a measured 6-pound average on our test gun) was smooth and amazingly light, with a distinct second-stage just prior to let-off. This enabled staged double-action shots where the shooter could pause just prior to the sear tripping, allowing accurate shooting.
Apparently, a "pre-loaded" hammer-device is hidden within the frame, just below the external, classic hammer. As the trigger is pulled, the hammer is moved to the rear, having only to overcome the resistance of a light hammer-return spring. This accounts for the light pull.
As the hammer reaches full stop, it engages the lower, pre-cocked piece and then, as the sear trips, is engaged and falls smartly home, firing the gun. Look on it like you would a pneumatic hammer. Pulling the trigger releases a pre-charged burst of energy that actually does the work. Very cool, indeed.
The thumb safety works as usual-up is safe, down is off. The hammer is always at rest and the grip safety not only prevents the gun from firing unless it's held correctly, it also locks the slide closed unless depressed fully.
The arched mainspring housing is black plastic and the rest of the gun appears to be constructed of a stainless alloy. The sights are classic three-dot designs, nicely shaped and highly visible.