May 4, 2013

Para-Ordnance P12-45 .45 ACP

Small semiautos that match the physical dimensions of pistols we tested recently—such as Para-Ordnance’s $740 P12-45—are usually referred to as compacts or sub-compact. But when pistols of this size class are miniaturized 1911s, the tag of “Officer’s models” is hung on to them, even though they may not exactly fit the mold of the original Colt’s Officer’s model.

Manufacturers are taking a fresh look at the Officer’s model for a number of reasons. For one, the 1911 pistol has legions of fans inside both competitive shooting and law-enforcement circles. Also, many military and ex-military personnel recognize the .45 ACP’s superiority over the 9mm Parabellum, a cartridge choice often perceived as NATO’s intrusion into American affairs. Once the United States government set a capacity limit for civilian handguns, the trend has been toward larger-caliber rounds, even when this means lower total capacity. Traditionally the Officer’s model offered a six-round magazine, like the 945’s. However, the Para Ordnance P12 integrates a double-stack or staggered-round magazine that in civilian trim will hold the full ten-round legal limit.

The P12 has been around a while and is essentially bug free. It fits the hand surprisingly well and points easily. Function was 100 percent despite warnings from some gunsmiths who seem weary of semiautos fitted with short slides. The P12 action also includes a Series 80–style firing pin block. This mechanism is not a favorite with 1911 purists, and some gunsmiths have a difficult time refining the action with this feature in place. But the P12 did not suffer any malfunctions because of it.

Our only complaints were the trigger. It was smooth but heavy, and this, coupled with a front sight blade that was too tall (approximately 0.153 inch) made for hits that printed low. We felt that having to hold the muzzle up when firing offhand was also having a negative effect on trigger feel, but each of these complaints should be easily remedied.

Courtesy Gun Tests

Courtesy Gun Tests

Our first pick in this test, the P12 is all business -- plenty of rounds, a good grip, 1911-style operation. It's also half the cost of the 945.

A coupon for one legally obtainable 12-round magazine from the factory is included along with one 10-round magazine. The supplied magazine comes with a base pad that offers a small forward lip that does add control without getting in the way of concealment. The aforementioned sights are a three-dot design, highly visible with the rear unit in the configuration of the (Richard) Heinie Slant-Pro. This means the face of the unit is slanted forward to offer better concealment. To ward off glare, the surface that faces the shooter is lined, and its profile is rounded for snag-free handling.

Another feature that only a short time ago was a custom part is the Ed Brown Memory Groove grip safety. This raises the area so that contact and compression is sure to deactivate the grip safety and enable the gun to fire.

Unlike the Smith & Wesson 945, the P12 was the only gun in the test that did not require special attention to placement of the web of the hand to make the gun go bang. The plastic grip panels are extremely thin and give the receiver a solid look and feel, but from there on no attempt was made to make the P12 look fancy. For example, Para Ordnance could easily charge more for the P12 if only it had a skeletonized trigger and enlarged the hole in the hammer tang, even if such modifications did nothing to enhance performance. Slide serrations are rearward only, which in our opinion is just as well given its small size. Using any other method other than the pinch technique to rack the slide or check the chamber would likely place the hand over the ejection port or in front of the muzzle. Checkering on the front strap might be a worthwhile addition.

At the bench our P12 turned out to be an old-fashioned 1911, meaning it favored the venerable 230-grain roundnose ammunition. While it did turn in a very good 2.1-inch average firing the 185-grain FMJ round, the combination of the P12 and Winchester’s 230-grain FMJ brought us groups ranging from 0.8 inch to only 1.1 inches for an average of 0.9 inch at 15 yards. This was very reassuring. Results when firing the 185-grain SilverTip rounds were low on everyone’s scorecard, but the P12 handled them as well as the Smith Wesson pistol with average group sizes right at 3.3 inches. The P12 produced more velocity than its competitors, as much as 862 fps when firing the 185-grain Winchester Silvertips. This results in the production of 305 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Comparing our Officers models to the full-sized pistols we evaluated in our May issue, subtracting about 1 inch of barrel length did little to handicap velocity or power. Firing this same round, velocity ranged from 867-897 fps in the big guns, compared to a range of 836-862 fps in our Officer’s pistols. It would seem that after 3 inches of barrel length, each additional inch of barrel length produces roughly 30 fps.

Courtesy, Gun Tests

Courtesy, Gun Tests

On the backstrap, the Ed Brown Memory Groove grip safety ensures that contact and compression deactivates the grip safety and enables the gun to fire.

Lockup on the P12 was solid, with only a hint of play achieved with the use of a conical barrel matched to a bushing. The guide rod is a full-length two-piece affair. Would trigger work have improved our results? Possibly. But we would have to say that the biggest gain after action work would be seen from the standing position rather than from a sandbag rest. The standard trigger was more of a detriment to offhand shooting, where we found it more difficult hold the gun steady while controlling the trigger. Besides a weighty 8-pound pull, the standard trigger has a little up-and-down slop that just adds one more item to deal with.

One item that should not be overlooked is how much a pistol weighs when loaded. Naturally, a standard alloy Officer’s model with only 6+1 rounds aboard will be lighter than a pistol that accepts ten in the magazine. With ten rounds of 230-grain FMJ, the P12 weighs 36 ounces. Contrast these numbers to an all-steel model we have in house. A Springfield V-10 with an extra-capacity single-column seven-round magazine from Wilson Combat ([800] 955-4586) stoked with the 230 FMJs weighs more than 40 ounces. The P12 may be hard to beat.

Comments (14)

I bought this beauty when it firts came out the serial number is RK 18** in steel. When I picked it up they all said I was silly to not buy the alloy. After 30 years I carried others mostly sigs but for the last 10 years with a Kramer Holster and single mag pouch the only thing I would change is a 2 mag pouch and nice set of wood grips. AND I swear Never a failure to go bang NOT ONE TIME EVER. Its always on my right side. To be left to Chase my Grandson. A coat of a good car wax & she still looks Great.

Posted by: don8157 | September 1, 2013 12:15 AM    Report this comment

Well, since I made my original comments about my P12-45 on 7 May 2009 (above), I haven't changed my mind. In fact, the more I carry it, handle it, and shoot it, the more convinced I am that it is a pretty unbeatable piece of ordnance. I do own many, many other pistols and revolvers, and I enjoy them all. When the chips are down, however, I hope that I have my P12-45 on my strong side hip.

Posted by: canovack | July 13, 2010 7:51 PM    Report this comment

Very interesting site for a shooter and collector.

Posted by: NRA UR2 | July 13, 2010 1:15 PM    Report this comment

I just bought a Para-Ordnance P12-.45 from a friend. And I must say this is the best weapon in small arms I have fired in some time. It ether like magic or My shooting just got even better by 20%. Almost every hole on the target were touching each other at 20 yards. But heres the catch I make my own targets and there only 8.5 x 10 in white paper. SO that I hit them so close together on 6 differnt targets shows me This is one bad ass weapon.

Posted by: Chefranger | April 29, 2010 7:04 PM    Report this comment

I,ve carried it almost 20 years.I love it. The only problem was self-induced,it shaved lead off 130 grain reloads leading up the chamber causeing misfires,fixed by a good cleaning.

Posted by: BUCKMILD | February 4, 2010 6:56 PM    Report this comment

Have four P12s and they all function flawlessly. This has been my carry since 1999 and I've yet to find anything that I like more. And I've looked...

Posted by: MNCarry | November 19, 2009 1:04 PM    Report this comment

I own a P-12 as my daily carry gun and it has performed flawlessly. Easy to hold, point and shoot. It is a bit heavy when loaded, but then it is a .45. My son's are already fighting over it.

Posted by: Todddzilla | July 20, 2009 12:37 AM    Report this comment

I bought a stainless P-12, same configuration as the one pictured, a few years ago, sold it in favor of an alloy framed one, which I bought shortly afterward, both through Gunbroker.com. I'm in the process of replacing the hammer, trigger, mag. catch, and later, the sights. This model has the original grip tang as the Colt's 1911. I'm using the supplied grip safety, cutting off the dished out part, and leaving the last remaining part to show through underneath. The new hammer is from Caspian, a Cdr. type with (greatly) enlarged ROUND hole. By some miracle, I found, on Gunbroker, a P-12 magazine, marked Made in Canada, that was shortened just enough to fit EXACTLY flush, using an original Patented Applied For, sheet metal base. The mag. body had been hard chromed and the base left blued. It is a true flush fitting magazine. I showed it to Mr. Polyzos and other Para Ord. reps at the NRA show in Louisville, last year. And they had no knowledge of it being made by the factory. It holds one less round, but looks and functions great. Aside from the P13-45, it is my favorite compact pistol.

Posted by: CHARLES L | May 7, 2009 7:29 PM    Report this comment

I own a stainless P12 LDA and I highly recommend the gun. It carries easily on a strong hand belt slide and has one stove-pipe in 6,000 rounds which I think was an ammo problem.

When I picked up 2 12 round magazines at a gun show both of them failed to cause the slide to lock back when empty. I emailed Para and a week later had free replacement springs.

I paid $700 for it slightly used, and I agree Para could charge a lot more than it does for new ones.

Of 6 handguns, it is my favorite.

Posted by: DUANE H | May 7, 2009 1:40 PM    Report this comment

Very good...as usual. Now don't get a "big head!"

Posted by: Gordo | May 7, 2009 1:36 PM    Report this comment

I have owned a P12-45 for several years. Mine is done in stainless steel. It shoots well, and it is supremely reliable. Some of the custom features I have installed include over-sized tritium night sights, Hogue molded grips with finger grooves, and a full length double spring guide rod. After purchasing the extra magazine from Para Ordnance, I also found that the same magazines were available at a number of gun shows. I once had the same model with the "LDA.....light double action" feature, but I ended up trading that one off for the single action P12 that I now own. It is possible to carry the single action gun in the "cocked and locked" condition, but I just have an inbred problem with seeing that hammer all the way back, while the gun is in my holster. That said, with the firing pin block safety, I feel quite comfortable carrying mine with the hammer down with a round in the chamber. This is definitely a pistol that I will hang on to, without any plans to trade it for anything else.

Posted by: canovack | May 7, 2009 11:35 AM    Report this comment

I love the looks of this pistol. It reminds me of the pistol I carried in the Army in the late sixties.

Posted by: Ralph De La Huerta | May 7, 2009 10:58 AM    Report this comment

I have carried a P12-45 for almost 25 years. I have bought other pistols over the years, but I always go back to the P12-45. I have installed an ambidextrous safety and Hogue grips. Allen J H 5/7/09

Posted by: endbear | May 7, 2009 10:01 AM    Report this comment

I used to own this same pistol, and it is a great gun! I regret selling it.

Posted by: KURT L. H | May 7, 2009 8:35 AM    Report this comment

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