President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Philippine Insurrection to be put down and ended on July 4, 1902. The police action, designed to retain United States sovereignty over the Philippine Islands, had begun with Filipino rebels in 1899 after cessation of the island chain and the island of Guam by Spain after the Spanish-American War. The Treaty of Paris in 1898 awarded those Spanish holdings to the United States, and granted independence to Cuba, where the war was fought and won.

But President Roosevelt did not take into account the Moros, a Muslim tribe on the island of Mindanao, whom the Spanish had never been able to subjugate. The Moro uprising in 1902 was not completely put down for two years.

Guerrilla warfare, which had plagued the U.S. forces throughout the war, was second nature to these fierce warriors who would attack entrenched regular U.S. troops. High on blood-lust, adrenaline and opium, the Moros would charge U.S. positions swinging a local machete-like knife with a thick and wide blade known as a bolo.

Army troops rapidly became disenchanted with the issue .38-caliber revolvers they carried when they would empty them into wild-eyed Moro tribesmen, only to have them continue the attack, swinging their bolo knives as they clambered over the parapets and embankments of the U.S. positions, attacking and chopping at the U.S. troops. The .30-06 1903 Springfield rifles filled the bill amply, but the .38 revolvers wouldn't stop a wild Moro tribesman intent on bloody murder.

After the insurrection of the Moro tribesmen was finally put down, the Army began casting about for a new sidearm for its troops. It was felt a heavier, more effective cartridge was needed to effectively stop attacking enemy soldiers, the issue .38 caliber having proven itself to be woefully inadequate.

An ordnance board, headed by Col. John T. Thompson (the inventor of the "Trench Broom," the Thompson .45-caliber submachine gun) and Col. Louis A. La Garde, eventually selected the John M. Browning-designed .45-caliber autoloader pistol, which was designated the model of 1911. It remained the primary sidearm of U.S. military forces until the 1980s, when it was replaced by the Beretta 9mm pistol.

It can be stated with little fear of contradiction that when he designed the Model 1911 caliber .45 pistol, Browning invented one of the most wildly popular handguns of all time. One need only look at the manufacturing history of the pistol to see that it has been offered by numerous different firms for both the civilian and military market since its acceptance and introduction into the Army in 1911 to the present day.

Few other pistols have had such a profound effect on the design and manufacture of handguns like Browning's invention, and it is the rare pistol aficionado — be he collector, competitor or just shooting enthusiast — who hasn't owned at least one.

My first 1911-style pistol was a Colt Commander, a shortened, lightened version of the "Ol' Slabsides" that carried a standard 5-inch barrel. The Commander more fit my needs and desires, offering more concealability while still retaining what has been described as the most ergonomically perfect fit of handgun to hand ever designed by man — the doggone 1911 just seems to flow into the hand of the shooter, offering a feeling of extension that is generally rivaled only by one other autoloader, Browning's 9mm Hi-Power.

But the 1911 and the Hi-Power have one idiosyncrasy that limits their acceptance in certain circles — they are almost always single-action semi-automatics. That is, their open hammer must be manually cocked before the pistol can be fired the first time. After the first shot, of course, the pistol self-loads and self-cocks in a double-action mode. But for the pistol to be instantly ready for action, it must be carried "cocked-and-locked" with the hammer back, and the thumb safety up and on.

While a completely safe carry, "cocked-and-locked" portrays the carrier in some eyes as aggressive, eager for action, even a sort of cowboy — a derogatory term when applied to law-enforcement persons. And the action requires regular training to remain familiar with its idiosyncrasies.

It is for these reasons and more, few law enforcement agencies offer 1911-style handguns as issue weapons for their officers. Police chiefs and sheriffs fear lawsuits and culpability, and thus favor double-action weapons with uniform trigger mechanisms that carry the hammer down.

About a year ago, I wrote in these pages about the newest, most innovative design in the model 1911 family of guns anyone had ever seen. Para Ordnance, a Canadian manufacturer of 1911-style pistols, had brought to the market a new double-action trigger that was quickly becoming the toast of the pistol world.

Dubbed the LDA, for "Light Double Action," the trigger featured a smooth, steady pull that culminated in a crisp, controllable break as the sear released the hammer. Aimed at least partially at the law-enforcement market, the action allowed for a hammer-down carry of the Browning design, and one of the most amazing "feels" of any trigger mechanism on the market.

Introduced commercially several years ago, the LDA-series of .45 pistols became so popular, it was difficult to find a handgun magazine that didn't have either an article touting the incredibly smooth action of the LDA, or an ad on the same. Frequently, there were both. Many gun magazines have named the LDA series their "Gun of the Year" several years running.

Jim Mayer, a friend and handgun enthusiast, bought a Para Companion LDA, the C7-45 — which meant it carried seven rounds of .45 in the magazine, and was the size and configuration of my old favorite, the Colt Commander. After dry-firing the gun a few times, I borrowed it from Mayer, and took it to the range for a workout. I became so enamored of the gun, I kept it several more days, and made another trip to the range to shoot it. Several friends tried it, and were equally enthusiastic about the trigger and the gun.

One of the most important shooting fundamentals is trigger control. There are those instructors, some of world-class caliber, who train mostly with trigger emphasis. It is their contention all the other things will follow if the shooter can control the trigger. With the LDA, the shooter has one of the easiest triggers to master ever issued straight out of a box. From the factory, the LDA equals the finest, most highly tuned of custom triggers.

On top of that, the LDA series retains the incredible accuracy for which Para Ordnance has become acclaimed. Right out of the box, Paras just shoot exceptionally accurately.

I really wanted one, and badly. Accordingly, I contacted Kerby Smith, marketing director for Para. There ensued a period of e-mails and phone tags that resulted in my receiving the latest model of many versions of LDA pistols, the Para Companion Carry Option. Smith had it shipped to me from the factory for "T&E" — testing and evaluation.

After weeks of waiting, I finally received a call from The Range in Baker that the gun had arrived. I wasted no time getting up there.

Like the Para Companion, and every other Para Ordnance I've seen, the gun came packed in a hard-plastic case, replete with the accursed and useless "Clinton" trigger lock, now found with new handgun purchases, an instruction manual, allen wrenches and a barrel bushing wrench, a fired test case, a quality control check list from the factory, and a fine-looking stainless semi-automatic condensed-version 1911 with stunning Coco Bolo wood grips embossed with a gold Para Ordnance medallion.

In every meaning of the word, these are truly beautiful pistols. The red mahogany of the Coco Bolo wood is offset by the gold medallion and brushed steel color of the stainless frame and slide. Perhaps beautiful is a bit too frilly for such a piece. "Handsome" may be more acceptable. But everyone that sees it exclaims over its cosmetics.

The Para Companion Carry Option is the Para Companion refined even further down for true comfortable concealed carry. It retains the 3 1/2-inch barrel of the Para Companion, but has a spurless hammer, shaved-down thumb safety on the left side of the slide, and most obviously, a shortened, bobbed grip safety, or "beavertail." One of the most noticeable features of 1911-style pistols is the beavertail — the grip safety mechanism that arches out and over the web of the palm, giving the gun its distinct "feel" peculiar to the design.

This is a secondary safety designed by Browning that backs up the slide safety. Unless the grip safety is firmly compressed, the trigger will not move to fire the gun. This grip safety, along with Browning's perfectly designed grip angle are what make the 1911 feel so natural and right in the hand. Para has retained the feel, but bobbed the length of the beavertail to reduce weight and make it less likely to snag when pulled from a concealed carry.

Some other innovations of Para are the indentation at the front of the ejection port — a semi-circular cutout of the lower portion that eases ejection of a live round from the chamber — and the scalloped portion at the rear of the ejection port that allows smoother ejection, with less brass cases striking the edge of the port, throwing it in odd directions and beating up perfectly good, reloadable brass.

Another Para design is the belled muzzle, which locks up tightly into the barrel bushing. Tight barrel fit equals accuracy out of the box — I've tested three different compact Paras now, and they all shot under 2-inch groups off a sandbag at 15 yards. One tested out with 2-inch groups at 20 yards. I feel sure, with the right ammo, the other two would have done equally as well.

So it's a handsome gun, pleasing to the eye, pleasing to hold and a pleasure to shoot. What about carry? I found a well-made leather holster by Old World after some searching of the ample collection at Baton Rouge Police Supply. They just don't have a lot of call for holsters for 1911-style compacts. Not a lot of law enforcement agencies are carrying such, remember. But we found one that worked well, and I started packing.

Para makes no concessions, and no excuses. The .45 is a big, powerful cartridge. I found the gun comfortable to shoot because it is made completely of stainless steel (no plastic guide rods here, thank you). It is slightly on the heavy side, but that makes it more controllable, and gives it a solid feel that adds to shooter confidence when pulling on the incredibly smooth, sweet trigger of the LDA.

The sights are Novak-style — bold, coarse and easily obtained in rapid-fire sequence. They have tritium dots for night-shooting capability, and stand out like cat's eyes, glowing when the lights go out. The gun carries and hides well, but offers a comfortable fit for someone with a larger hand, like me. I've just never been able to appreciate the micro-carry semis on the market. If the bottom of the grip won't extend past the lower part of my palm, well, let someone else carry it; I never seem to have a feeling of complete control of these little guns when I shoot them.

Is the new Para Companion Carry Option for you? Or would you prefer the same thing with a 4.25-inch barrel, known as the Para Companion CCW? Or would you like it smaller, with a 3-inch barrel, and 6-round magazine capacity — the mini-compact Para Carry?

Or if you prefer even larger, heck, you can get the LDA trigger now in the full-size guns with 10-round magazines. There's even a 14-rounder made — Para Ordnance's first real claim to fame when in 1988, the company's president, Ted Szabo, introduced the first high-cap 14-shot .45. That behemoth is available now in the LDA series. Of course, Clinton limited us to purchasing 10-round magazines. But the high-cap magazines are still available in the after market. New manufactures above 10 rounds can be sold to law enforcement only.

Para Ordnance manufactures a bewildering array of 1911-style pistols, a huge selection of them with the LDA trigger. There are even .40 and 9mm calibers now offered. Unlike many manufacturers who think "one size fits all," Para has gone to the other extreme. If you can't find a size and caliber pistol to suit your own personal likes and needs, friend, you can't be pleased.

I think David Cohen, another law enforcement firearms instructor who assists me in my concealed carry training classes, stated it best: "We just need to buy the damn thing and make it a class gun. Everyone who picks it up shoots it well."

And he's right. Which just re-proves the adage about the importance of trigger pull — when the trigger is easy to control, everything else about accuracy is easy to learn. And be forewarned: To pick up a Para LDA-series pistol is like falling in love the first time. You wonder where it's been all your shooting life.

 

For more information on the complete line of Para Ordnance pistols, go to www.paraord.com.