September 2001:

P13-45 Enhanced .45 ACP Pistol
Para-Ordnance P13-45 Stainless
P13-45, Stainless Steel
Type:  Recoil Operated Single Action Self Loading Pistol
Caliber:  .45 ACP
Capacity:  13 (10)  round detachable box magazine
Sights, front:  Dovetailed blade
Sights, rear:  Low Profile Notch
Length: 7.75"  Height: 5.25" 
Barrel length:  4.25"
Weight (unloaded):  36 ounces
Suggested Retail Price:  $700
by  Adam C. Firestone,

It all started with simple spatial analysis.  After a three years of binge-buying FAL rifle variants, I realized that I was running out of space in my rifle racks.  Worse, there were still rifles I wanted to own.  There was only one thing to do, and that was to turn one of the FAL's into something smaller (and preferably capable of being deposited into the "gun fund" account).  A few days after advertising the rifle, an interesting offer was proffered.  In exchange for the rifle, I was offered a Para-Ordnance P13-45 Stainless that had been fired less than 100 times, a fair amount of brand name jacketed hollow point ammunition, four high capacity magazines, a Galco holster, and a check for additional money to sweeten the deal.

A quandary presented itself.  On one hand, I wasn't much interested in 1911 style pistols.  They were, as far as I was concerned, technological dinosaurs that had been obviated by newer, better designs for many years.  I wasn't sold on the .45 ACP being a divine gift to handgunners either.  As far as I could tell it offered the same muzzle energy as the 9mm Parabellum with the added "benefits" of enhanced recoil, lower penetration and more expensive practice ammunition.  On the other hand, I could probably sell the package at some point for more than the "traded value."  In the end mercenary urges won out and I agreed to the trade.  Besides, maybe I'd lug it about for a bit, shoot it a bit . . . might be fun, right?

To make a long story short, that turned out to be my undoing.  The gun not only felt good in my hand, and on my hip, but shot everything I could put through it without balking.  I was also favorably impressed with the gun's accuracy:  Even with my poor ability I was able to put fifty rounds into a fist sized grouping at fifty feet.  About the only thing that marred my impression of the P13 was the gun's sharp recoil sensation, but the addition of a Wolff twenty-two pound recoil spring solved the problem immediately.  Reliability was impressive as well; over the course of a month I fired some thousand rounds with no cleaning or lubrication and experienced no failures to feed, fire, extract or eject.

This was not good for my frame of mind.  Much to my chagrin, I was hooked on a 1911 style pistol.  (To this day P13-45 remains my concealed carry gun.)  Much as it galled me (I hate being wrong. . .) I had to give credit where credit was due - the folks at Para-Ordnance had built a darn fine gun.  And so, after swallowing a healthy dose of crow, I phoned Para-Ordnance and related the tale of my "conversion."  As can be expected, they were rather pleased to hear it, and offered to send CRUFFLER.COM one of the new enhanced P13-45's for us to compare to my standard version.  Far be it from us to turn down a chance to shoot yet more and different guns. . .

Para-Ordnance is a Canadian company based in Scarborough, Ontario that, since 1988 has been bringing critically acclaimed high capacity 1911 pistol variants to consumers, law enforcement and military users world wide.  US operations are coordinated through the company's offices in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Para-Ordnance pistols are loosely based on the Series 80 Colt design, incorporating a passive firing pin safety consisting of a firing pin block in the slide and a trigger operated actuating lever on the frame.  The design is almost entirely faithful to the original, the only departures being those necessary to accommodate a high capacity double stack magazine.  The most evident of these is the blown out grip frame forward of the mainspring housing and grip safety.  The Para-Ordnance design has not only proven to be a commercial success, but has also proven to be extraordinarily versatile.  The company offers its pistols in three different frame materials (aluminum alloy, carbon steel and stainless steel), three different calibers (9x19mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP), four barrel lengths (3", 3.5", 4.25" and 5") and four different heights (4.5", 5", 5.25", and 5.75").

For all this diversity, there are signature traits found on most if not all Para-Ordnance pistols.  All P-O guns feature a fully ramped barrel.  The ramp seats in a cut out portion of the frame when the slide is fully out of battery, and is wide broad and smooth, contributing to the pistols' reliability.  The guns also have checkered plastic mainspring housings, and plastic magazine catches.  The grooved plastic triggers are longer than standard.

Not content to rest upon its laurels, Para-Ordnance continues to offer both new and innovative products based on the 1911 paradigm as well as evolutionary developments of existing products.   Reflective of this was the pistol sent for review.  The P13-45 SR is a product improved version of the basic stainless steel P13-45 that incorporates many of the most popular aftermarket features.

Enhanced P13-45

The traded-for P13-45 is one of the best "working pistols" I've had the pleasure to carry and shoot.  Slide to frame fit was excellent, sight regulation very good, and the trigger pull crisp and light.  The safety engaged and disengaged positively with no binding.  As someone who's suffered hammer bites from just about every 1911 style pistol I've shot (and has the scar to prove it), the grip safety is a thing of beauty.  At first the tang looks like an afterthought, 
Para-Ordnance P13-45 Pistols
Para-Ordnance P13-45 Pistols - Standard (above), Enhanced (below)
abbreviated and truncated.  It's only after shooting and carrying the gun for  a while that the true genius behind the grip safety's design becomes apparent.  While the tang is short, it's more than ample enough to protect the web of the shooting hand while.  As importantly, it doesn't dig into one's side like the longer beavertails.  And the gun's reliability and accuracy spoke for itself.  This is all a roundabout way of saying that the enhanced P13-45 had some pretty large shoes to fill.


External Inspection
The P13-45 was packaged in Para-Ordnance's signature black and white hinged box, with the pistol itself being wrapped inside a Cortec moisture resistant bag.  Included with the pistol was one ten-round magazine, a coupon to allow the purchaser to buy high capacity magazines, barrel bushing wrench, allen key for rear sight adjustment, security lock, fired cartridge case, and Para-Ordnance catalog.

It was hard not to be immediately struck by the gun's fit and finish.  As with my older P13-45, there was no slide to frame play, and all moving parts functioned smoothly without any trace of binding.  The frame is finished in an attractive matte satin as is the top of the slide and the lower portion of the slide forward of the dustcover.  The sides of the slide and hammer, as well as the barrel, are all polished bright, providing an attractive contrast to the frame.  Grips, trigger, and mainspring housing are all black plastic.  The total aesthetic effect is symphonic, with each color and shade highlighting and setting off the others in a manner that is pleasing without becoming garish or overdone.
Enhanced Grip Safety
Enhanced Grip Safety
Standard Grip Safety
Standard Grip Safety
Low Profile Rear Sight
Enhanced Rear Sight
Standard Rear Sight
Standard Rear Sight
Enhancements to the basic P13-45 include a Novak style contoured low profile rear sight, a dovetailed front blade, a full length recoil spring guide rod, an extended safety lever, and a full beavertail grip safety with a "memory swell" on the bottom.  While these features are very popular with 1911 shooters, and added to the tactical "look" of the pistol, it is debatable as to whether they add much in the way of usable functionality.
Full Length Guide Rod
 Enhanced Full Length Guide Rod
Standard Barrel Bushing and Recoil Spring Plug
Standard Recoil Spring  Plug
Extended Safety Lever
Enhanced Thumb Safety
Standard Rear Sight
Standard Safety

Of all the improvements, we most appreciated the low profile rear sights.   Of the three-dot variety, they were much easier to acquire than the standard u-notch sights, came readily to the eye, and were much more comfortable for concealed carry.  We were less enthusiastic about the beavertail grip safety, which dug into the sides of three different testers when carried in an inside the waistband holster, and the full length guide rod which caused the pistol to require a tool for disassembly.

Shooting the Enhanced P13-45
Based on our experience with the earlier P13-45, we had high expectations of the enhanced gun.  Range bags were packed, and off the intrepid test team went to the NRA range in Fairfax, Virginia.

We brought along several types of ammunition with which to test the P13-45.  The selection included:

South African PMP 220 grain FMJ
Winchester USA 230 grain FMJ
Federal Hydra-Shok 230 grain JHP
CCI-Speer 200 grain JHP
MagTech 200 grain SWC
Remington Golden Saber 185 grain JHP

The test target that came with the P13-45 (not a standard item) indicated that a 1.1" group had been fired at 15 yards.  Using this as a benchmark, we fired all our groups at the same distance.  Targets were both 3" black centers and 1" orange dots.  Accuracy, as one might expect, was very good, with five shot center to center group sizes ranging from between .65" and 2".  Accuracy results are indicated below:

Group Size
South African PMP 220 grain FMJ 1.4"
Winchester USA 230 grain FMJ 1.3"
Federal Hydra-Shok 230 grain JHP .65"
CCI-Speer 200 grain JHP .90"
MagTech 200 grain SWC 2.0"
Remington Golden Saber 185 grain JHP 1.8"

Given that none of the testing staff are match shooters, we were quite impressed with these results.

Recoil and Ergonomics
Ahh, now this was the big question.  When first shooting the traded-for P13-45, the felt recoil had what can best be described as a harsh "slapping" sensation that made the gun distinctly unpleasant to fire.  Consultation with gunsmiths and competition shooters yielded a pair of options:  We could install a heavier weight recoil spring or we could install a heavier hammer spring and a lighter recoil spring.  The former option had the advantage of ease and simplicity, the latter would make for more rapid follow up shots.  Not being competitive shooters, we opted to install the heavier recoil spring.  In the event, we replaced the factory spring with a 22# spring from Wolff Gunsprings, and the recoil problem disappeared.

In the event, the results with the enhanced P13-45 proved to be anticlimactic, as the recoil experienced with the factory spring was similar to or less than that with the "up-sprung" standard gun.  As with all .45's, the shooter was definitely aware that he'd fired a large caliber handgun, but the sensation was more of a "shove" than a "slap" and not at all unpleasant.

The Novak style sights on the enhanced P13-45 are of the three-dot variety and are excellent, and are a significant improvement over the standard u-notch sights on the standard gun.  Easy to use, they help to focus the eye automatically on the front sight, and foster very rapid target acquisition.  Indeed, after about one hundred rounds became, the sights become instinctive, and one forgets that the rear sights are there; merely lining up the front dot on the target and squeezing the trigger.

The long Para-Ordnance trigger, found on both guns, deserves special mention.  It is an excellent study in what the proper balance in fire control components should be.  Long enough to afford superior feel and control to shooters with both large and small hands, the trigger pull was very crisp.  While light enough to enhance accuracy, it was not so light that safety in a "cocked and locked" carry gun would be adversely affected.

The only external feature we were unenthusiastic about was the full beavertail grip safety.  While it displays excellent workmanship with respect to fit and finish, it's too long and too sharp to be comfortable for concealed carry.  We had shooters of both sexes and several different body types carry both guns in two different concealment holsters and the comments were unanimous - the long beavertail would always become uncomfortable, digging into hips, backs and sides.

Barrel Lug
Para-Ordnance Barrel Standing Lug
Barrel Feed Ramp
Para-Ordnance Barrel Feed Ramp Design
Nothing we could do would get either of the P13-45's to malfunction.  They fed, fired, extracted and ejected every round of every type we could put through them.  Firing at angles, upside down, limp wristing - nothing affected reliability.  As mentioned earlier, we'd put a thousand rounds through the original P13-45 without cleaning or lubrication of any sort and experienced no malfunctions.  Five hundred round in short order through the enhanced gun yielded similar results.  Despite our best efforts, the P13-45 proved to be utterly reliable.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to compare two versions of the same gun.  Our key observations are noted below:
Standard P13-45
Enhanced P13-45
Recoil Unpleasant until recoil spring replaced with heavier, 22 pound spring. Manageable and not unpleasant out of the box.
Accuracy Best group at 15 yards, .75", Federal Hydra-Shok 230 grain JHP Best group at 15 yards, .65", Federal Hydra-Shok 230 grain JHP
Sights Perfectly usable U-notch, three dot sights.  Front blade not adjustable for windage.  Rear sight blade has tendency to catch on clothing and dig into flesh. Excellent rear sights, enhanced target acquisition, easier to use than U-notch type.  Rear sights do not catch on clothing or dig into flesh when carried concealed.  Front sight adjustable for windage.
Ergonomics Balance and pointing are excellent and natural.  While grip safety tang is aesthetically challenged, it protects the shooting hand adequately and does not dig into flesh when carrying concealed. Balance and pointing are excellent and natural.  While grip safety tang is extremely pleasing to the eye, it has a tendency to dig into flesh when carried concealed.
Disassembly Standard 1911 disassembly, no tools required. Full length guide rod requires use of bushing wrench for disassembly.   No noticeable increase in reliability or accuracy with use of full length guide rod.
Safety Standard thumb safety. Extended thumb safety, no more or less easy to engage/disengage than standard safety.

The truth of the matter is that there really aren't any problems with the enhanced P13-45; rather Para-Ordnance got the original P13-45 right the first time, and there really aren't many improvements that can be made.  However, if we had our 'druthers, we'd like to see a P13-45 offered with the low profile sights, standard guide rod assembly, standard grip safety, and dovetailed front sight blade.  Beyond this, the stainless P13-45 is (much as it galls me to say about an 1911 style gun) such a well made, reliable pistol that there really isn't much that can be done to enhance it.

The stainless steel Para-Ordnance P13-45's that we tested displayed excellent standards of manufacture, fit and finish.  They were accurate, reliable, and easy to shoot.  If there are any negatives about the enhanced P13-45, they are largely subjective and attributable to personal preference - not the result of any testing or evaluation.  That is to say while one shooter may like the sights and dislike the grip safety, another may like the grip safety and dislike the full length guide rod, and another may like the rod and dislike the sights.  It doesn't change the fact that this is an exceptional pistol.  Whether your use is competition, informal target shooting, or personal protection, the enhanced P13-45 is an excellent choice.

Para-Ordnance has a new promotion starting September 8th on the P12 and P13 Para 45s.  The new commercial airing on American Shooter on Saturday 8th of September will offer a free certificate for a free pre-ban high capacity magazine to anyone purchasing specific models of the the P12-45
and P13-45  (P12-45ER/RR/SR and P13-45ER/RR/SR) after September 8th.  The offer will be posted on the Para-Ordnance website this Friday as well.

And now, our Buy-O-Meter rating for the enhanced stainless steel P13-45 pistol from Para-Ordnance:


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