Firearms Instruction Research and Education
Para Ordnance LDA
Review: Para Ordnance LDA Pistol
Colonel Chuck Santose
15 June 2004
Recommendation: The Para Ordnance LDA pistol is recommended as a primary sidearm only when a double action trigger is mandatory.
This review will address neither cosmetics nor sights.
This review is based on 5 months of shooting this pistol culminating with a three-day FIRE Institute training exercise, 5-7 June 2004, where approximately 800 rounds were expended.
Other LDA models are available. Most comments apply to all LDA pistols.
The pistol is a reliable stainless steel pistol optimized in several respects for concealed carry. 4.25” Commander length barrel. Officer height frame. Any Officer or Government model magazine may be used. 2004 models differ slightly from this 2003 model.
The CCW frame is significantly thinner than a standard M1911 and the use of very thin grips secured with O-ringed stainless Allen screws keeps the overall width to that of the slide.
The pistol fits in “Commander” holsters.
The grip safety and frame in that area have been significantly rounded and shortened (bobbed) and there is no beavertail. Since there is no hammer, other than a thin flat vestige, a beavertail is not necessary to prevent hammer bite.
Standard modern small-pad M1911 thumb safety on the left side of the pistol only.
Large ejection port with the front lower corner additionally radiused for reliable ejection of unfired cartridges.
Colt-licensed Series 80 firing pin disconnect in the slide.
Pistol has daylight 3-dot sights. Night sights are a $100 upgrade from Para.
Full-length recoil spring guide rod is standard and was immediately discarded. All this does is add weight. The pistol is heavy enough out of the box.
Light Double Action Trigger (LDA):
The LDA is the best DA trigger I have ever experienced on a pistol. The LDA trigger has the same approximate 3.5-pound weight and length of pull for every shot. Internal mechanical function (but not mechanism) is similar in concept to the Glock but in this case the pistol is fully, not half-cocked by the retraction and return of the slide. The trigger pulls a minimal weight hammer, the mass of which contributes nothing to primer-strike; it’s all in the springs. The hammer strikes and drives the firing pin, but is almost a decoration and a means to indicate the pistol is cocked. LDA models with full hammers can be manually cocked, but damage can occur unless the grip safety is depressed and Para Ordnance frowns on hand cocking. LDA is “single strike.” Failure to fire requires cycling the slide.
LDA vs. DA/SA or other DA Systems:
While not specifically addressed during this range weekend, previous experience with several issue (M9 and M11), and commercial (Beretta, HK, SIG, Taurus, Ruger, S&W, Walther, et al) DA/SA and DA-only pistols had revealed that the first shot from any of these pistols in the very heavy, long DA mode was either very slow to aim or a throwaway in a draw and shoot scenario. Slow either way. Subsequent shots with the now short reset SA trigger have an entirely different trigger pull. The LDA trigger is consistent for all shots. Other pure DA triggers have a consistent but much heavier pull, and many lack the nicely defined break point of the LDA.
Reliable. During the course of 800+ rounds over the weekend of 5-7 June 2004 there were no stoppages shooting Winchester 230gr FMJ. Previous tests had determined no problems with 4 or 5 different 230gr JHP cartridges. The pistol was fired 600 rounds before cursory cleaning by glugged-on CLP wiped off with rags.
Trigger pull is wonderful in slow, aimed fire! The sear trip is the proverbial “glass rod break” and the sear trip point is easy to feel. Trigger reset, however, takes significant release of the trigger, almost to the front of the trigger guard. There are two felt clicks during reset.
Any M1911 magazine I put in the pistol worked, a major benefit. Magazines ranged from the factory pair of Officer length flush bottom magazines to a pair of Wilson’s with bump pads, to several other commercial types, to USGI M1911 magazines I found in pockets of my range bag.
The pistol is very accurate and would routinely shoot one-hole groups if I did my part with the sights.
The pistol was easy to draw and aim from holster because of the familiar M1911 shape, sights, and controls. The thumb safety released and locked firmly. The grip safety was easy to depress. The stocks were checkered just enough to afford a secure grip without being grabby.
Despite standard M1911 appearance major controls work differently from the M1911. These may be “bad” if you’re used to or want to transition back and forth between the LDA and a M1911. Just be aware they’re different.
The thumb safety does not lock the trigger. Coupled with the long double action trigger take up this can result in a surprise failure to fire if the safety is not depressed all the way. A standard M1911 won’t fire either, but you’ll find out sooner because the M1911 trigger barely moves. I did three or four immediate action failure to fire drills during the weekend and suspect the safety may have been on. Regardless, I just went into immediate action drill and put a fresh cartridge down range. Analyzation is what happens at lunch or the next day. The thumb safety is small and sharp. I wore a blister in my thumb keeping it depressed. Easily fixed and not unique to this pistol.
The grip safety locks the slide shut. This means the grip safety has to be fully depressed to cycle the slide during immediate action drills or tactile (by feel) make-ready checks. Unless the pistol is held properly the slide won’t move.
The CCW grip safety length is optimized for concealed carry. Holding the pistol in the position necessary to keep the thumb safety depressed allowed the slide cut my thumb knuckle as well as the three layers of adhesive tape I had over the cuts. Only happened a couple of times. Easily fixed and not unique to this pistol. Although this version of the LDA pistol is just about hammerless, a longer grip safety would protect against more than just hammer bite. For a 15 round street engagement this is not an issue, however it makes practice difficult. A pistol that draws blood can make you gun-shy.
Trigger speed is slower and is measurably longer with the LDA vs. standard M1911 SA trigger. I was unable to match the shooting times of the best M1911 and Glock shooters. Fast follow-up second and third shots are possible but there’s a lot of busy trigger movement going on and there’s much more mental concentration required to get trigger reset on the LDA vs. a standard SA. If you’re limited to DA you’ll have to work thru this. I had the only DA on the range and was able to win a couple of the two and five target shoot offs, but not consistently. A close second place was not a comfort. It will take much more practice than I have time available to get the multiple LDA hit times down to the best SA level. My best time for hitting 5 of 5 Pepper popper targets at 30 yards was a second and a half slower than the best M1911 time. That my best time in this exercise was in the middle of the pack was no consolation.
The pistol is heavy. Empty it weighs more than my olde Colt’s Commander with 8 rounds on board. The LDA mechanism requires much of the right frame rail to be removed. An alloy frame may never be perfected.
I cannot properly maintain the pistol myself. While the pistol slide disassembles exactly like the Series 80 M1911 and there are excellent field stripping instructions in the manual, the disassembly of the frame and associated parts is considered proprietary. It’s secret. Para Ordnance will not release the instructions to anyone who has not attended their armorer’s course.
I have personally addressed this with Para Ordnance management and they’re adamant about non-disclosure. While it’s unlikely I’ll have to maintain a pistol under combat field conditions again in this lifetime I still want that capability. Army field manuals cover the detailed disassembly of the M1911. Private soldiers and even field grade officers have been doing it for darn near a century without NCO supervision. The LDA has several internal small parts and springs which are no doubt easy to lose. I have no idea what crud is inside the frame of this pistol after firing well over 1000 admittedly trouble free rounds.
If you must have a double action trigger I recommend the LDA pistol system. The size of the Para CCW may be smaller or larger than some folks prefer, but there are several choices in the LDA line including high capacity models. This specific example has been utterly reliable.
Most of the “bad” has workarounds or replacement parts. The thumb and grip safeties have replacement parts that can be easily fitted and these parts are standard on other LDA models.
The “ugly” maintenance issue has no current solution. You’ll have to get it professionally cleaned until Para declassifies the procedures.
I can shoot this system better than any DA/SA system I’ve fired.
If a double action trigger is not mandatory I recommend remaining with tried and proven M1911 or Glock systems, the other pistols I shot with for 3 days. KISS.
My requirement for a DA trigger was imaginary, not real: The LDA trigger is not safer than a SA trigger; there were no accidental discharges on the range.
I sold this five-month-old Para CCW pistol three days after the exercise. If I’d not used this pistol for three intensive shooting days I’d be unaware of several of the problems.
Reproduction of this article other than in its complete, unabridged form is forbidden.
Comments welcome to:
Chuck Santose (LTC, Armor, AUS)
Copyright 2004. LTC Chuck Santose. All rights reserved.