June 2009

Affordable 45s: Para USA, CZ, and Beretta Shoot It Out

We thought the Para USA GI Expert was a 1911 with well-executed basics. A decocker on the CZ 97BD is a welcome addition, but Beretta’s PX4 Storm F needs a tweak to be right.

When it comes to 45 ACP semi-automatics, we’re always looking for ways to fill our holsters without emptying our bank accounts. There are many 45s that cost about $1200, and it’s not hard to find 45s that cost twice that or more. In this test we will look at three affordable 45s with suggested retail prices that are well under the $1000 mark. Aside from categorizing by price, both the $650 Beretta PX4 Storm F and the $874 CZ 97BD could also be categorized as traditional double action (TDA) guns. We compared these guns to a $600 single-action 1911, the new Para USA GI Expert.

We followed the same test procedure as our last evaluation of 45 ACP pistols published in the April 2009 issue. We fired five-shot groups from a bench at targets 15 yards downrange. Then, we put our guns through an action test of firing 10 three-shot strings standing offhand at an IPSC Metric target 7 yards away. Using a shot-activated electronic timer, we began with the pistol held chest high with both hands. Upon an audible start signal, we pushed the gun toward the target and attempted to land two hits inside the 5.9-inch-wide by 11.1-inch-high A-zone located at center mass, followed by a single shot to the B-zone, which delineated the head area of our target. This area was 6.4 inches by 6.9 inches. We’ve used this procedure many times before and think it offers valuable insight into what is required to bring the gun into action. We shot this test at the Impact Zone in Monaville, Texas (theimpactzonerange.com).

What proved more difficult than formulating a test procedure was finding ammunition. Supplies of popular calibers such as 45 ACP have all but dried up. If we hadn’t visited Top Gun in Houston (topgunrange.com), we may not have been able to find any reasonably priced ammunition at all. To test we purchased a supply of Hornady 200-grain XTP hollowpoints for about $22 per 20-round box. We handloaded two other test rounds. They consisted of cases topped with Zero brand 185-grain jacketed hollowpoints and 200-grain roundnosed lead bullets by Bushwacker. Each round was powered by Winchester 231 powder with charges about midway between the starting load and the maximum load, as per Hodgdon’s latest load data. We used Winchester large pistol primers, and the rounds were loaded on a Dillon Precision Super 1050. Both our handloads were previously developed for competition, so we knew our rounds would be safe and accurate. Throughout our tests, all three guns performed without malfunction, so we were able to concentrate on the handling and performance of each pistol. Here is what we found in our side-by-side evaluations:

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