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Reviews : Arsenal

Para-Ordnance Black Watch Companion Pistol

This compact LDA 1911 is a solid option for concealed, backup, and off-duty carry.

May 01, 2005  |  by Mike Detty - Also by this author

If you like the idea of carrying a semi-auto pistol chambered for the mighty .45 ACP but are not comfortable carrying a gun with the hammer cocked and locked, Para Ordnance might have the perfect off-duty alternative for you.

Para's Black Watch Companion is a new compact (3.5-inch barrel) .45 that boasts a number of features that make it perfect for concealed carry. Chief among these is the company's patented Light Double Action (LDA) trigger.

Rethinking the 1911

Para Ordnance's Ted Szabo first unveiled the LDA system in 1999. Szabo's ingenious design uses a drawbar to connect the trigger to the hammer mechanism. When the slide cycles, it preloads the two-piece hammer and mainspring. Pulling the trigger causes the drawbar to cam the hammer back and then releases it, allowing it to snap forward and strike the firing pin. Because the hammer and its spring are preloaded, the trigger pull is amazingly light. For those that are uncomfortable carrying a 1911 pistol in condition one (hammer cocked and thumb safety engaged) but want to carry a 1911, the LDA system is a viable option.

If you're familiar and comfortable with the 1911 and have dismissed the LDA guns as just another double-action auto like the Smith & Wessons and Berettas, you're absolutely wrong. And I was once like you.

It wasn't until I tried the LDA system that I had any interest in shooting one of the Para models outfitted with the LDA trigger. I was really impressed. It is not like any other double-action trigger that I have tried.

After about a half inch of very light take-up, the trigger breaks crisply at about 4.5 pounds. Not just for the first shot but for every shot. Because the hammer does not stay cocked after the first shot-it follows the slide home-each trigger pull is exactly the same from first to last.

This system makes Para's LDA models a joy to shoot. During rapid fire exercises, I have found that it is easy to bring the trigger back to its breaking point, quickly check the sights for alignment, and then add the extra pressure necessary to break the shot.

Added Safety

Szabo went to great lengths to make his LDA guns as safe as possible. The thumb safety is in the usual 1911 location, and Para uses an extended version that I like because I let my thumb ride atop it while shooting.

The safety is different on the LDA system than it is on standard 1911s. Rather than being a mechanical block to the sear, the LDA safety disconnects the trigger's drawbar when it is engaged. This means the trigger can be pulled, but the hammer won't move and the pistol won't fire. It also means that users will want to carry their LDAs loaded with a round in the chamber and the thumb safety engaged.

Para's beavertail grip safety, while in the same location as any ordinary 1911, performs the same function, in effect, but in a different way. On the Black Watch Companion, the beavertail locks the hammer, trigger, and slide. It's impossible to either pull the trigger and fire the gun or retract the slide to chamber a round unless the user depresses the grip safety.

All of the safety features on the Black Watch Companion are well considered. For example, an inertia firing pin and Series 80-style firing pin block are included on the Black Watch Companion to prevent an accidental discharge. Both features prevent the firing pin from making contact with the cartridge's primer in the event that the pistol is dropped on its muzzle.

Fit and Finish

What is really amazing is that Szabo was able to incorporate his new LDA trigger system plus the added safety features without making the pistol any wider or taller than a comparable 1911. And Para's designers didn't rest after building a gun with a different fire-control system; they also took great effort to make the Black Watch Companion an easy gun to carry.

For starters, all of the sharp edges on the gun have been lightly broken to prevent cutting of clothes, skin, or expensive holsters. The muzzle end of the slide is also heavily beveled, making it easier to re-holster the pistol.

The frame's front strap has 9 Griptor flutes designed to provide the shooter with a secure firing hold. Aiding in a comfortable grip are the ultra-thin stock panels that make the gun feel even more compact. Besides their functionality, the cocobolo wood used for the grips also adds a splash of color to the gun. Para cuts the cocking serrations on the slide to match the flutes on the frontstrap. It's an aesthetically pleasing touch, but it's also functional.

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