VZ Grips Operators II™ for Para P14.45
Reviewed for M1911.ORG by Harwood Loomis
I have owned at least one Para-Ordnance (now Para USA) double stack 1911 pistol since approximately 2000. One of the curious things about Para double stacks is that, although the overall thickness of the grip frame with stocks in place is about the same as that of a single stack Colt 1911 with standard, factory stocks, the circumference of the grip frame is greater because of the more squared-off shape. As a result, some 1911 shooters have no trouble adapting to shooting Para double stack pistols, while others simply consider the Para double stacks to be “too big” to shoot comfortably. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground between these two opposing perceptions.
In designing their double stack frames, Para founder Ted Szabo chose to enlarge the portion of the grip frame that actually contains the magazine, but he retained the same thickness as single stack 1911s for the rear-most portion of the grip frame, the part that contains the mainspring housing and grip safety, and for the upper portion where the hammer and thumb safety are fitted. Because the double stack frame is inherently much thicker (wider) than a single stack 1911, Szabo wanted to keep the overall thickness (width) as small as possible, and that meant he couldn’t use “standard” 1911 stocks (grips) because they would have added too much to the already oversized frame. Instead, he developed extremely thin grip panels, that wrap around the back of the extra-wide magazine well to blend into the frame at the very rear, where the cut is made for the grip safety and mainspring housing.
It’s a good solution, but it has a drawback: standard (single stack) 1911 grips do not fit double stack Para pistols, and aftermarket support in the way of grips for the big doubles is nowhere near as varied as it is for the single stack 1911s. A few grip makers have offered a few options for the Para pistols over the years, but not a wide variety.
Recently, VZ Grips sent The M1911 Pistols Organization a pair of their Operator II™ grips for the Para P14.45 and they asked us to try them out. With grip options for the Para pistols being as rare as they are, we were more than happy to oblige.
What are they?
VZ grips has been in the business of making specialty grips for handguns since 2003. Among their specialties is grips made from Micarta, G10, and carbon fiber in addition to good, old-fashioned wood. Micarta, G10 and carbon fiber all offer enhanced properties and dimensional stability compared to wood. That’s “a good thing.” For the Para P14 pistols (unfortunately, at this time VZ Grips does not offer grips for any of Para’s other double stack models), VZ grips offers only two series, the Tactical Diamonds, and the Operators II™. Both series are made from G10.
What is G10? Basically, it’s “fiberglass” (or, more properly, glass fiber reinforced plastic). G10 is a composite material comprised of a glass fabric embedded in a synthetic resin. However, where the typical material we think of as “fiberglass” is laid up with sheets of glass fiber fabric and liquid organic or epoxy resin and allowed to cure at ambient temperature, G10 composite sheets are laid up and then cured under heat and pressure. The resulting composite material is light in weight, dense, and extremely strong. Because of the glass fibers, it is also hazardous to work with, and it is only thanks to modern, enclosed machining centers and high-efficiency, filtered exhaust systems that it has become practical to work with on small items such as handgun grips.
The Operators II™ series grips are described in VZ Grips’ web site as “very aggressive.” And they are, providing a very secure grip that nonetheless manages to avoid being a cheese grater texture that would leave the shooter’s hands bleeding after a long session at the range or in competition. The pattern isn’t any variation of traditional checkering. Instead, the forward third of each panel uses a small ball cutter to create a “gold ball” pattern. From there around to the rear, the cutter carves a continuous, shallow groove at a slight downward angle. On the rear-most third, intersection vertical cuts are added. For visual appeal, a small area toward the top of each panel is left smooth.
VZ Grips’ Operators II™ stocks
The Operators II™ grips are available in three colors: Black; Black Gray; and Hyena Brown. Our sample set appear to be the Black Gray, which is a good choice for our black sample pistol, although Black would be closer to an OEM look. The author thinks that the Black Gray would also look well on a stainless pistol; to be honest, we can’t think of any reason or application for the Hyena Brown color, but different folks have differing tastes, and we’re sure someone will think they are just perfect.
The Operators II™ grips fit our P14.45 perfectly. For those not familiar with Para’s double stack pistols, the trigger stirrup obviously has to be wide enough to fit around the double column magazine, and this makes the stirrup wider than a standard 1911 frame – which also happens to be the width of the rear portion of the Para frame where the grip safety and mainspring housing are fitted. The back of the magazine well is cut out on both sides at the trigger to allow insertion of the trigger stirrup. This cut is filled in by small tabs molded into the grips. The Operators II™ grips include the tabs, and they fit perfectly.
Para’s double stack pistols also do not use conventional 1911 grip screw bushings. Instead, the grip screws are threaded directly into the walls of the magazine well. The screw holes on the VZ Grips were properly located and correctly sized, making for an easy and uneventful installation.
The Para P14.45 with factory grips
The Para P14.45 with the VZ Grips Operators II™ grips
View showing just the grip
Detail showing the texture of the VZ Grips Operators II™ grips
As commented above, factory Para grip panels are extremely thin. Measured just above the lower grip screw, the overall thickness of our sample pistol with the factory grips installed was 1.332 inches. The factory grips are relieved to accept an ambidextrous thumb safety, although the sample pistol is not so equipped. By comparison, the overall thickness with the VZ Grips Operators II™ grips installed was 1.352 inches, an increase of only 0.02 inches. The author’s micrometer hands could not detect the difference in thickness … although the difference in texture and “grippiness” was instantly apparent.
We like them. Not that we don’t like the factory grips that came on the P14, but we have found that in competition, perspiration can adversely affect the grip. The factory grips are checkered, but not deeply nor aggressively. Further, the factory grips are plastic. The author has not managed to break a Para-Ordnance grip but, given the lack of thickness and the non-reinforced plastic construction, it’s not that difficult to do so. The Operators II™ grips are made of a reinforced material that should be considerably more durable than the OEM grips as well as providing a much more secure hold on the pistol.
The VZ Grips Operators II™ list for $75 per pair in any color.
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