Transforming an Old Para P10 Pistol Into a New .45 ACP Workhorse
Back in 2004, I purchased a Para-Ordnance P10. The 1911 is my favorite pistol platform, and I naturally gravitate toward those with higher capacities because I want as much firepower as possible. Hell, I’d carry a rifle everywhere if it were practical. I’d started with a larger P14 Limited and was very satisfied with it until I really settled on Commander-sized pistols because of their speed, handling and balance. So, to round out my stable, I also wanted a compact, hence the Para P10.
Out of the box, the P10 delivered good combat accuracy, an acceptable trigger and ran reliably. However, I thought the cycling was a bit choppy with Federal’s 230-grain Hydra-Shok JHPs. I called Para and discussed this with one of the company’s gunsmiths. Then, I ended up sending it in to fix the cycling issues. It came back from the shop running as smoothly as I’d hoped.
In stock form, the P10 is a handy little 1911. It has a stainless-steel slide and frame, making it substantial enough to effectively grip while carrying 10+1 rounds of .45 ACP ammo. Despite that capacity; however, the gun has a relatively small footprint for concealment. All told, the P10 has a 3-inch barrel, an overall length of 6.5 inches, a height of 4.5 inches and an unloaded weight of 31.5 ounces. And if you’re wondering about the handling qualities of such a small, stubby pistol, I shared the same concerns — until I shot an IDPA match with the P10 after having shot the P14 consistently before that. Much to my surprise, I really couldn’t tell the difference in my shooting performance during the match. In my experience, the little P10 handles just fine.
One night, while perusing 1911s on an internet forum, I came across Mike Cyrus of Accurate Iron in Jones, Okla. After a bit of good-natured banter, Mike made a suggestion. He said, “You need to get your hands on an Accurate Iron pistol.”
Mike gave me his phone number, and we discussed a custom project. My candidate for customization was the little Para P10. I told him I wanted a checkered frontstrap, an action job and tuning for reliability. I left the rest up to him. So, I sent the gun away and waited a few weeks for it to return.
One thing that became apparent when I got the pistol back is that Mike is a master metal worker. The checkered frontstrap I’d requested was there; he’d cut out a small section and then TIG-welded a 20-lpi replacement into position before blending it flawlessly into the frame. In fact, it looks like a factory job. (Remember, this pistol was made long before Para started offering checkered frontstraps.) The beavertail grip safety was also re-fitted and blended into the frame. Also, grooves were added to the memory bump.
Mike flattened the top of the slide and gave it serrations to help reduce glare. Mike also gave the whole pistol a carry-bevel treatment with French cuts along the slide. The ejection port was also lowered and flared, and the old GI-style extractor was retained but tuned. Finally, Mike replaced the sights with a set of Dawson Precision fiber-optic units. The rear unit has a ledge for one-handed slide racking.
Mike polished the barrel and gave it a deep crown. He also modified the slide stop and installed an Ed Brown thumb safety. Additionally, he beveled the magazine release and re-cut the Smith & Alexander arched mainspring housing I’d added to make it flat. Then Mike tuned the pistol for reliability and installed a Cylinder & Slide Super Match trigger with a crisp break. Due to Para’s proprietary sear spring, the slot for the C&S spring was re-cut in the grip frame.
Mike cleaned up the exterior of the pistol, removing any casting and machining inconsistencies, before giving the entire Para P10 a black nitride finish. When I got the pistol back, I only made one more change: I had my brother, Greg, inlay a set of Para medallions into the grip panels.
Back In Action
When the P10 came back, it had improved aesthetics and the pistol’s feel had changed. This was mainly due to the checkered frontstrap, which provides an outstanding gripping surface. Another feature that became obvious while dry-firing was the vastly improved trigger. With about 0.13 inches of take-up before hitting the “wall,” and barely perceptible creep, the trigger breaks at a crisp 2.75 pounds. There’s also no discernable overtravel.
During my first range session, the pistol cycled smoothly with all of the ammunition I tried. Additionally, the improved grip made a noticeable difference in controlling muzzle flip. Whether firing slowly from a bench or rapidly during drills, I didn’t experience a single hitch in functioning. Firing from a benchrest at 25 yards, the pistol shot to the point of aim or slightly lower. Acquiring the fiber-optic sights in daylight was quick and natural.
Using Champion VisiColor targets to shoot five-shot groups, the top performers of the day were Winchester’s 230-grain Ranger JHPs and Black Hills’ 230-grain FMJs, which created groups measuring 1.38 and 1.75 inches, respectively. These were followed by CorBon’s 185-grain +P DPXs at 2.25 inches, Winchester’s 230-grain FMJs at 2.44 inches and Federal’s 165-grain Guard Dog FMJs at 2.5 inches.
A little work with pepper poppers and cardboard targets revealed that the pistol to deftly put rounds on target quickly and easily. And the Para P10 was a ton of fun to shoot. However, I would almost prefer an extended magazine release because operating the current one is a bit awkward for me due to my large hands and the pistol’s tiny grip area. But, then again, conventional wisdom is that larger magazine releases have drawbacks on defensive handguns. I still lean toward wanting one, perhaps with a very heavy spring to avoid unintentional activations.
It isn’t as easy to reload the P10 quickly thanks to its stubby grip frame, but the stock mag well has a cavernous opening that coupled with the truncated profile of the double-stack mags, facilitates relatively easy loading.
Speaking of unintentional activations (or deactivations, as it where), one of the things I’d requested of Mike is that the thumb safety be very positive in clicking “on” or “off.” Anyone who is a fan of cocked-and-locked carry knows how annoying it can be to find your thumb safety has worked its way to the disengaged position during carry. Thankfully, the new Ed Brown safety is just what I ordered; it locks into each position positively and stays there until deliberately switched.
One lesson learned in this experience is that you must be specific in what you want unless you truly don’t care. In fairness, all I told Mike is that I wanted a checkered frontstrap, an action job and reliability tuning, leaving the rest up to him. I like arched mainspring housings, as flat ones tend to point the pistol low for me. But Mike elected to transform the arched mainspring housing into a flat one. However, I will say this: He did an excellent job with it. It looks like it came from Smith & Alexander that way and was flawlessly blended into the frame.
The Para P10 is a very practical pistol for concealed carry. Its diminutive dimensions, large bore, 10+1 capacity, good handling characteristics and reliability all contribute to it being one of my favorite carry pieces. With Mike’s expert smithing, its features have been enhanced and refined.
Unfortunately, sometime after I got the P10 back into my hands, Mike shut down his operation. Only time will tell if this talented gunsmith will choose to get back into the game. I sure hope so, because this pistol is just one example of his skills.
Custom Para P10
- Caliber: .45 ACP
- Barrel: 3 “
- OA Length: 6.5 “
- Weight: 31.5 ozs. (empty)
- Grips: Polymer
- Sights: Fiber-optic
- Action: SA
- Finish: Black nitride
- Capacity: 10+1
- MSRP: N/A
For more information about the Para P10, please visit para-usa.com.
This article was originally published in Concealed Carry Handguns 2019. To order a copy, please visit outdoorgroupstore.com.
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