Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sweet Carryin’ 9s Part II -- Para Ordnance PDA

I had been waiting for a PDA (Personal Defense Assistant) to arrive since it was announced in the press last fall. I emailed Para Ordnance and was told to expect their arrival in March but did not see one until mid-June. I was hoping it would be a double action only version of Springfield’s micro-sized EMP and it pretty much fills that bill. It is scaled down and designed around the 9mm cartridge and while it might not be quite as accurate as the EMP, it is still very accurate in its own right. The PDA easily provides practical accuracy out to the end of the local indoor range (25 yards), perhaps the best accuracy of the pistols being reviewed in this series. There were some bumps along the way, but we’ll get to them in a few minutes.

First, here are the specs:
· Caliber: 9mm
· Rounds: 8+1
· Barrel: 3"
· Weight: 24 oz.
· Length: 6.4"
· Height: 4.75"
· Hammer: Spurless
· Sights: Night Sights
· Receiver: Alloy
· Finish: Duo-Tone
Bumps In The Road

As I mentioned earlier, there were some early problems with the PDA. As I began firing at my first session with the PDA, the extractor sheared off at round number 35. I was rather shocked; the large and heavy duty Para Ordnance “Power Extractor” is one of the firm’s main selling points. How could this be? Well I can’t still answer that question but everyone jumped on it right away. The range sent the pistol back to Para Ordnance and Para repaired and returned it within a week and a half. I still can’t believe that the extractor broke off, but kudos to Para Ordnance for the quick and no hassle warrantee work. I don't necessarily feel that this issue is an indictment of Para's quality per se; I have had two SIGs that needed a vacation in New Hampshire due to problems that arose during their first work-out and nobody questions the quality of a SIG.
After getting her back from the factory I settled down to give her a thorough test. Accuracy was great but reliability was terrible, chocked full of feed problems. I am embarrassed to report however that the reliability issues were operator error. Upon browsing the Para Ordnance website I found that, despite the fact that nine cartridges would easily fit into magazine, it is designed to hold eight. For whatever reason, once I moved to only 8 bullets into the magazine the pistol functioned flawlessly.
The TriggerThe trigger pull is 7.13 pounds and seems lighter due to it being very smooth. I have fired Para Ordnance LDA double action pistols before with no trouble. However, over the last year I have become very cognizant of my trigger control and working the trigger reset to get off faster and more accurate follow-up shots. This occurred when a firearms instructor for a local Sheriff’s department was at the range one day watching me shoot and said “Oh, so you like to slap the trigger?” I was shooting an Ed Brown 1911 and was shocked that I could have been slapping the trigger of such a finely tuned single action pistol. He explained that after each shot I was completely relieving the pressure from my trigger finger and allowing the trigger to push all the way out to the end of its reach and then slapping (OK, let’s be realistic, slapping is a bit of an exaggeration but I understood what he was getting at) the trigger back for the follow-up shot. The Deputy quickly taught me how, when letting the trigger out, to feel the let-off point where the sear releases the trigger. At that point, he explained, the trigger is ready to fire again without having to allow it to travel to the end of its cycle. This can save up to a second off of your follow-up shot and reduce the amount of trigger travel on the reset anywhere between 5/32s and half an inch depending on the trigger travel for your individual pistol. Less movement by your trigger and finger means less muzzle movement and a more accurate follow-up shot.
Working the trigger on the PDA is different, but not difficult. The sear release is a two stage process. If you pull the trigger after the first release, the pistol will not fire. I had built up a lot of muscle memory to subconsciously press the trigger after feeling the sear release so two stage release took some getting used to. This, like most issues, rectifies itself with practice.
The Grips
While the PDA is a little large for pants pocket carry, it is perfect for belt carry with a slide width of just .95 inches and a grip width of 1.1 inches. The grips are very slender, but I am not a fan of their aesthetics. I do not like the large block PDA letters running down the grip and I do not care for their cheesy geometric honeycomb pattern. Alas, at this time I am unable to find any replacement grips for a micro 1911 platform pistol.
I was surprised that the PDA did not have a checkered front strap. The back was so adorned, but the front was not. There is not an extreme amount of recoil with the PDA but I would still prefer to have some checkering p front.
The Sights
The sights on the PDA are very sturdy and provide an excellent sight picture. I am extremely happy that night sights are included in this package as I feel that they are indispensable for a defensive pistol that might be fired in low light scenarios.
Despite the short sight radius on this 3 inch barreled pistol it provides excellent accuracy part of which might be due to the fact that the barrel is marked “Match”. I do not know if there are any industry standards for giving a barrel a “Match” designation (I asked this question on The High Road Forum and the consensus of opinion by a very well educated group of respondents was that there was no generally accepted industry standard) or what makes this Para Ordnance barrel different from any other; however I know that I like this pistol quite a bit.
Let’s see the targets.

All distance targets shot with 115 grain Full Metal Jacket Ammunition:
21 feet

31 feet

50 feet

75 feet

All defensive ammo fired from a range of 21 feet:
Speer 124 grain Gold Dot Hollow Point ammo

Federal 124 grain Hydra Shok Hollow Point ammo

Magtech Guardian Gold 114 grain Jacketed Hollow Point + P ammo

Remington Golden Sabre 124 grain Jacked Hollow Point + P ammo

Corbon 115 grain Jacked Hollow Point + P ammo

The Para Ordnance PDA is everything I hoped it be. It is the most expensive pistol in the quartet being reviewed, but function and accuracy is great...and what else do you ask for?