|Home - Volume 1 (2006) - Issue 2 (Fall '06) - Pistol Review: Para Ordnance PX745S SSP-SS|
Para-Ordnance PX745S SSP-SS .45ACP
The Canadian manufacturer introduces a stainless steel 1911 that has the traditional appeal of a John Browning design, with a few extras that make it a Para-Ordnance!
A Gun Test by Steve Clark (Rio Vista Slim, )
Para-Ordnance has always broken new ground by listening to the marketplace. Whether it is a Hi-Cap 1911, the superb line of LDA pistols, or the new breed of compact pistols that have become so popular in Para's line-up the last several years, this company has consistently been on the cutting edge of new development. It was no wonder that when George Wedge made contact with M1911.ORG. , and offered to let us test the brand new stainless steel PX745S SSP-SS 1911, we literally jumped at the chance! The SSP-SS is a 5" barreled, Government-sized semi-automatic pistol in .45ACP caliber.
The PX745S arrived at GREAT GUNS in Burleson, Texas, and owner James Belz immediately let me know about it, so that I could come in and pick up the pistol.
The olive green plastic box contains the pistol (wrapped in a blue plastic bag), a spare magazine, a target from the factory, the instruction manual, a factory inspection sheet, the obligatory cable lock, and a small plastic bag containing a bushing wrench and three small hex wrenches. (More on those hex wrenches, later in the test.)
Removing the pistol from the box, James and I got our first surprise! Working the slide to make sure of the gun's unloaded status, we almost couldn't pull the slide back to slide-lock. Then, we almost didn't get it to return to battery! Admittedly, I'm a person of small stature, but James is over 6' tall, with a muscular build. This pistol is TIGHT!
Appearance-wise, the PX754S's frame is matte stainless steel. The thumb safety is serrated and has an extended shelf. It engages positively in both positions. The slide release is likewise serrated, with its shelf being slightly longer than standard. The beaver-tail grip safety is positive in its engagement, and nicely shaped for a comfortable hold. The flat mainspring housing is checkered, and constructed of a black, nylon-based material.
The trigger appears to be constructed of the same material as the MSH, but it is probably aluminum. This unit is curved and serrated, and also has three cut-outs. The trigger is also equipped with an over-travel screw. (The first of the three hex wrenches.) Included with the enclosed paperwork is a small printed form that advises against making any adjustments to this over-travel screw. Examination of the frame reveals an under-cut below the trigger guard, as well as a slight under-cut beneath the beaver-tail on the grip safety. As a result, I am better able to grasp the PX745S in such a way that recoil doesn't alter my grip.
The PX745S has Para's version of the Series 80 firing pin safety. That system uses the act of squeezing the trigger to disengage the firing pin block. The hammer is the popular rounded style. A full length guide rod is mated with a reverse spring plug that requires the use of a bushing wrench to disassemble. While I'm hardly a fan of FLGR, I have owned pistols with this feature. I prefer the standard size guide rod and spring plug arrangement for the ease of disassembly. I have noted no difference in performance between the two types.
The left side of the slide has the "PARA PXT 1911" roll mark on a polished flat, while the right side is roll marked "SSP". The top of the slide and the recoil spring tunnel are matte finished. Six cocking serrations are present on each side of the rear of the slide (in the Para fashion), with no forward serrations present. This is one feature that endeared me to this gun, as I have no particular use for forward serrations. Although I know how, I've never "press-checked" a 1911 in 41 years of shooting that type of handgun.
The PX745S SSP-SS utilizes an internal extractor, which I find to be an aesthetically pleasing feature of this gun. The fit of the slide to the frame is quite good. No lateral movement can be detected. This pistol doesn't rattle at all, even when shaken aggressively.
Para-Ordnance uses a Clark/Para integral ramped, stainless steel barrel in the SSP-SS. Lock-up is positive, with no vertical play detectable, when the pistol is in battery.
The rear sight is a black, dove-tailed, Novak-style fixed sight. This sight differs from those used by other gun makers, in its use of rounded corners at the back of the sight, and a hex shaped set screw in the top of the sight. (The second hex wrench.) This rear unit also has horizontal serrations cut into back side of the sight. The front sight is dove-tailed into its position on the slide. The combination of the rear sight, with its two white dots, and the front sight with its one dot, is ideal for quick acquisition of your target.
The PX745S stocks are very attractive rosewood, with gold Para inserts, and each is held to the frame by stainless steel hex screws. (The third hex wrench.) Two eight round stainless steel magazines are supplied with the SSP-SS. The followers are black polymer, as are the base plates. Magazine insertion is easy and positive, and the magazines drop freely, when released. Another aesthetic quality that can be appreciated by 1911 aficionados is the excellent balance of this weapon. Most every 1911 owner has held a gun that just didn't feel "right". That is not the case with the SSP-SS. The pistol comes naturally to point when a target is addressed.
Shooting the PX745S SSP-SS
A cold front and the accompanying rain prevented me from firing the Para SSP-SS for a couple of days. I live in the country, and have my own firing range. This provides a definite advantage over having to use a public or private range, because I can take notes, do my photography work, and re-supply targets at my own pace. Para-Ordnance has a break-in schedule in the owner's manual that suggests at least 250 rounds, in 50 round strings, before the initial cleaning of the weapon. They suggest alternating between the two supplied magazines, keeping track of any malfunctions. They also suggest repeating this procedure until 500 rounds have been expended.
The target that Para included with the pistol was shot by Juan on October 18, 2006. He fired from a distance of 10 yards, hand-held, using Winchester 230gr. FMJ ammunition. It looks like a five-shot group, and his spread measured 1.25" (31.75mm).
I decided to deviate, a little, from Para's recommended break-in. I initially fired two 8 round strings at a NRA 25 yard target from 10 yards, to get a feel for the pistol.
I then loaded up the two magazines supplied with the pistol, 3 Wilson magazines, 3 McCormick magazines, and 3 of my Colt magazines, with Winchester 230gr. FMJ ammo, and fired from 10 yards as quickly as I could fire and change magazines. I then repeated this exercise two more times. The results were gratifying, if somewhat less than spectacular. I was shooting for function and reliability. I was not disappointed! The only malfunction, in over 150 rounds fired, was a failure to go into battery, caused by an acknowledged weak spring in one of the Wilsons.
During this extended firing session, I also shot hollow points from Remington, two different loadings of Federal's Hydra-Shok cartridge, and some 185 gr. Winchester Silvertips. Once again, there were no malfunctions of any kind. The pistol, which had become quite dirty, shooting the Wally-World load, remained relatively clean while firing this more costly ammunition.
My next exercise was to set up the chronograph (graciously donated to M1911.ORG. by the folks at Competitive Edge Dynamics) to see exactly what the ammo I've been using is capable of achieving. I primarily practice with Wally-World Winchester 230 gr. FMJ and Federal American Eagle 230 gr. FMJ. I also practice with whatever hollow point ammunition I've decided to carry that week/month. Since I had several boxes of various brands, I decided to test a couple of new ones that I have not had much experience with. One of these is Hornadys 200 gr. TAP FPD +P round. Para-Ordnance (like most gun manufacturers) does not recommend constant use of +P rounds in their pistols, as these hot loads can cause premature wear on certain parts of the weapons. However, I was not going to shoot more than the number of rounds needed to get a good average velocity on the CED chronograph.
WOW! The small table below will give you some relative velocities of the rounds that I tested. The TAP round is on the bottom of the table.
I had never worked with a chronograph before, so it took me a little while to figure out the protocol, but once that hurdle was cleared, it was an easy chore to take the readings, and do the math. I was going to test all of the rounds pictured above, but it was getting late, and I still had my accuracy testing to do.
I have been shooting handguns since I was ten years old. Thanks to my Dad, I was fortunate enough to get a good education in safety, correct gun handling, and proper technique from a man who cared about his sons, and constantly showed it. I've had good days and bad days on the range and most of the bad ones can be attributed to my own sloppiness in maintaining good shooting habits. I do most of my shooting at combat distances, these days, and rarely set up a bench to do accuracy work. If the pistol that I buy hits consistently at ten yards, then I work on other areas where I might be getting weak.
Today, I set up the bench at 25 yards (75 feet) and set up some suitable padding to cushion my arms, as well as the firearm. I loaded up one of the Para magazines with 6 rounds of Federal American Eagle 230 gr. Full Metal Jacket, took aim, and squeezed off my first shot. I took my time and finished off the magazine. NEVER in my life have I shot a grouping like I did today! I was initially concerned about the sights on the SSP-SS, because they were different than what I'm use to. I wear tri-focal lenses, and haven't gotten around to getting a pair of shooting glasses with my prescription. I do put shooting glasses over my regular eye glasses, to protect them from being damaged. I was concerned about seeing the Para's sights clearly while looking through all of that plastic, but those concerns were unfounded.
In all, I fired over 400 rounds of various types of ammunition through the PX745S SSP-SS with only the one (non-pistol related) malfunction. I had to stop, several times, as the slide became too hot to touch after several magazine changes. Other than wiping the grunge off the slide, I didn't re-lube the pistol during my range session. When I finished, I field stripped and thoroughly cleaned the gun.
My initial impression of the Para-Ordnance PX745S SSP-SS 1911 was that it was an attractive, but exceedingly tight pistol. The fact that it has been exactly ten days since Juan (at Para) test fired the pistol, in Toronto, is not lost on me. The gun is tight because of the tolerances built into it in Canada. It is hard to hand-cycle because the springs are brand new, and for another reason that I didn't really notice until I field stripped the weapon for cleaning.
This PX745S has a slightly over-sized firing pin stop, similar to the one manufactured by Evolution Gun Works. The first photograph compares the Para-Ordnance firing pin stop (on the left) to a Colt firing pin stop (on the right). In this shot, only minor cosmetic differences are apparent.
In the second photograph, the slightly thicker portion, along with a different angle to the bottom of the stop can be seen, when comparing the Para part on the left, with the Colt part on the right.
The last photograph clearly shows a difference between the two stops, at the bottom of each part. The difference is so slight, that I thought I was mistaken about the relative sizes of the parts. However, to confirm my suspicions, I installed the Para-Ordnance firing pin stop in my Series 70 stainless Government Model, and the slide became a bit harder to hand cycle. Admittedly, this is a subjective observation, but I can report that a definite difference does exist. Part of the problem with hand cycling comes from the slide serrations. As I said early on in this review, I have never held a Para-Ordnance pistol before this week. I am unable to comfortably grasp the slide. Aesthetically speaking, I prefer the serrations on the classic Colt Government Model, but that is a personal issue, and is not meant as a "dig" at Para. We all have our peccadilloes, and I'm sure that others are quite comfortable with Para's arrangement.
The PX745S is easy to field strip, and just as easy to reassemble. Being familiar with the Series 80 firing pin safety, and the lever in the frame, is a plus with any pistol so equipped.
I would prefer a standard recoil spring plug with a short guide rod, but the FLGR functions well in this gun, and that is something that can be easily and cheaply changed, if the buyer so prefers.
The finish appears to be quite durable, and the stocks set off that stainless sheen in a way that compliments the overall appearance of the gun. I tried the PX745S SSP-SS in all of my leather holsters, for fit, and encountered no problems there either. I have owned a wide variety of 1911 type handguns over the last three and a half decades. In that time span, I have never shot a semi-automatic large caliber pistol as well as I shot the PX745S SSP-SS today. I believe that several factors contributed to the unusually small group that I shot in the accuracy portion of this test. The most important of these is the inherent accuracy built into the gun. Two others are the under-cuts below the trigger guard and at the bottom of the beaver-tail of the grip safety. If a gun feels good while you're firing it, that is a plus that cannot be ignored. Finally, I was having fun. That particular tangible can make up for a lot of mediocre ability.
George Wedge informed me that the PX745S SSP-SS 1911 will have a suggested retail price of approximately $1,000. In the real world marketplace, that price will be impacted by supply, demand, and availability. I like this pistol a great deal. It is an extremely accurate and well appointed 1911, and will be a valued addition to anyone's collection. If my hands weren't suffering the ravages of arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, I would seriously consider buying one. However, those bad hands are precisely why I couldn't. The fact that the pistol is so hard for ME to hand cycle is a personal problem, not to be confused or assumed as a condemnation of the SSP-SS. This is also the reason that I don't upgrade my own 1911s with the EGW firing pin stop.
I would like to thank James Belz of GREAT GUNS in Burleson, Texas, for his invaluable help in getting me set up for this test and review. Thanks also go out to our own Harwood Loomis (Hawkmoon) for his advice in determining the best way to obtain and utilize the information needed for this test. My sincere thanks also go out to Competitive Edge Dynamics for the use of their fine chronograph. With some practice, maybe I can get good enough to start evaluating hand loads. Finally, my profound thanks to Mr. George Wedge and the entire group of fine people at Para-Ordnance, who made this test possible. Thanks for the assistance George, and thank you for providing M1911.ORG. with such a fine example of Para-Ordnance's wares.
If you want to discuss or comment on this test, please use the following thread in our Forums Site:
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|Home - Volume 1 (2006) - Issue 2 (Fall '06) - Pistol Review: Para Ordnance PX745S SSP-SS|