Para Ordnance P12-45

A black P12 with the barrel pointed up and to the left on a light gray-to-white background.

I have often mentioned that the 1911 is flat, although long and heavy. It is no secret that comfort and concealment are not the same thing.

It is possible to conceal a service-size handgun; it just is not comfortable. The 1911 pistol first was downsized to the Commander, then to the Officer’s Model and some even shorter and lighter than the Officer’s Model.

A black P12 with the barrel pointed up and to the left on a light gray-to-white background.
The fit, finish and features of the Para Ordnance P12 are good.

The Para Ordnance P12 is a particularly interesting handgun. The 1911 is immensely popular. Those who like the 1911 are seldom happy to own one or two. However, they fire most of those on the range. Some may keep a Government Model for home defense, although not for 24-hour carry by any except the most dedicated. The lightweight .45 is an answer to a real need for a concealed carry handgun. If we could find a way to up the 1911’s lightweight frame capacity, so much the better.

The current Para Ordnance P12 is a credible handgun for personal defense. My example may lack some of the modern improvements, but it is a credible handgun. The first consideration is hand fit. If a pistol does not fit your hand, then you need to go with the standard Officer’s Model frame, which offers six or seven rounds in the magazine, which is not a bad place to be. On the other hand, the P12 grip is easier to handle than many of the polymer-frame, double-column-magazine pistols, so the stretch is not too bad.

Advantages of the P12

A black P12 with focus on the grip on a white-to-gray background
The grip is thicker than a standard 1911 but useful. Be certain of hand fit before deploying this handgun.

The P12 has several advantages.

  • It features a Series 80-type firing pin block or drop safety.
  • The trigger action is usually pretty good, and my example breaks at a clean 6 pounds.
  • It features a ramped barrel, which eliminates the two-piece feed ramp of the original 1911 design. While the original worked just fine, when modifying the 1911 for use with an aluminum frame, the bullet nose tends to take a bite out of the frame. Many aluminum-frame handguns have been ruined by ham-handed use of a Dremel tool. The ramped barrel solves that problem.
  • The sights are good examples of combat sights, with the popular three-dot system.
  • The pistol weighs 26 ounces unloaded. When fully loaded, there is a difference in heft. The piece weighs about 36 ounces fully loaded, which is still less than an empty Government Model .45.

All told, the dimensions are well suited for personal defense. The 3.5-inch barrel does not always burn powder completely, which results in less velocity than we would expect from a 5-inch barrel .45. The .45 gets its wound potential from bullet mass and diameter, not velocity. There are specialty loads, such as the Speer 230-grain Gold Dot Short Barrel, that provide exceptional performance from the light, short platform. The Para Ordnance P12’s grip frame is larger than the standard 1911, although not so much larger that the grip frame stretches most hand sizes. It is short, squat and comfortable. By spreading recoil in a wider area, the result is a handgun that is comfortable to fire.

It is interesting that there are several theories about reliability and the short .45. One sanctions only the 230-grain FMJ or JHP loads, which is the bullet weight for which the 1911 was designed. 230-grain loads, such as the Federal HST, will run about 780 fps from the Para Ordnance P12’s 3.5-inch barrel. That is enough for personal defense, and the bullet expands per my testing. Function is good. Slightly lighter loads, including my handloads using Alliant Bullseye powder and Speer 230 grain TMJ for 770 fps, also work well.

Black P12 in a Black OWB holster, barrel pointed downward on a white background
The author found the Para P12 brilliantly fast from the K Rounds OWB holster.

The other theory concerns magazine-spring function. The short slide of the Officer’s Model 1911 recoils faster than a Government Model. The lighter slide receives the same kick from firing and, of course, that kick accelerates the slide faster because it is lighter than a full-size gun. However, the recoil spring is heavier, and that usually handles things well. The slide’s higher velocity may outstrip the magazine’s ability to feed. So, a column of lighter bullets may be easier on the magazine springs.

I am not certain I adhere to that, yet I have fired the Para Ordnance P12 with the powerful COR®BON 185-grain JHP +P. Recoil was there, and the piece functions perfectly. My personal profile is that the pistol must feed with any reasonable full-power commercial loading. Otherwise, I do not trust it with my life.

When carrying the short 1911, a pancake holster is appealing. With the proper rig (, the pistol may be fast into action.

Gray haired man in red shirt, sunglasses and ear protection practices with the P12; trees in the background.
The P12 is controllable and fast on target in practiced hands.
  1. Shoot the elbow to the rear.
  2. Scoop the gun from the holster.
  3. Move seamlessly to the target.

After 500 repetitions, the work becomes smooth, and you develop a smooth, rapid presentation; anything else just is not acceptable.

The Para Ordnance P12 .45 is one option for those concerned with personal defense. With a spare magazine, you may deploy 22 rounds of ammunition on your person, which is a considerable reserve.

In the end, the 1911 is a good choice for those who practice, and the Para Ordnance P12 .45 is a sensible choice for those who are concerned with capacity and the ability to take control of a situation and survive.

Accuracy Results

Fired in 5-shot groups at 15 yards from a solid bench-rest firing position.

Load Group
Federal American Eagle 230-Grain FMJ 2.5 inches
Speer 230-Grain Gold Dot Short Barrel 2.0 inches
COR®BON 185-Grain JHP +P 2.4 inches



Have you taken the P12 to the range? Used it in the field? Share your experiences in the comments section.


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Comments (39)

  1. I have a P12 I got new 20 years ago this month (1997) . It shoots about everything, even inceptor arx 118 grain frangables. My problem its point of impact is way low. At 25 yards its3 to 9 inches low and at 6 yards, 2 inches low. Where can I get sights for it? Thanks

    1. You can have a gunsmith shave the front sight, or you can do it yourself with a file, which will bring up the muzzle when you aim. The front sight is soldered in place and is not an easy change for the average shooter.

  2. I love my P-12. It is an older one , made in Canada. I do not find it hard to shoot and a self defense ranges I shoot it as accurately as I do my Gold Cup.

  3. I love my little para. Had it since 2012. Very accurate, few to none malfunctionions since I’ve owned it, and I do believe mostly load related. I own one a few serials #s down from the one he tested in this article.Just noticed looking through the pics. Cool stuff.

  4. I have owned my P12 since 1998. It has been a very reliable gun. I use it for everyday carry. There is nothing more comforting than having 13 rounds of 45 cal waiting to be used. It is also very comfortable in my hand and I can get on target very quickly. I have shot multitudes of different brands through this gun. I have only had problems with some reloads that were low on powder. Specifically using Winchester 231 at the starting load which is 4.3 grains. I have found that 4.9 grains has the force required to rack the slide properly and not cause a slack wrist type scenario.
    Another note to the person who has the P14 and said it doesn’t shoot reliably. Is it a newer P14? Because there are Para-Ordnance pistols that were made in Canada that are the real deal, and then there are the Para-USA models that have been plagued with problems from 2003 to 2012. Then newer ones beyond 2012 are getting better from Para-USA.

    Hope this helps Cause I love my Para-Ordnance P12

  5. I owned a Para Ordnance P-12 from 1999 to 2004 (and now wish I hadn’t sold it)

    It did have ejection problems when it was brand new, jamming approximately once out of every 50 trigger pulls — a MAJOR problem, as far as I was concerned. However, a local gunsmith cured the problem by replacing my magazine springs with Wolf springs and the added force from the stiffer spring fixed the shell ejection/jam problem immediately. Thereafter, the P-12 was a pleasure to fire. One other thing: Back in those days the P-12 was available with 10+1 and 13+1 magazines; I had two 13-round magazines and just the one 10-round magazine that was included standard when purchased brand new…I paid $750 for it, used (about 1-year old with 400 rounds through it) and sold it for $1,000 five years later to help with the purchase of a Ruger Mini-30.

  6. I have owned a P12 for about 15 years I have tried many different brands and types of ammo. All functioned reliabily but my best accuracy comes from 230 grain Winchester FMJ white box.

  7. A friend and I both have full size Para P-14s. Neither of them are reliable. Both are very accurate but I could never trust them except as range only guns.

  8. I have the Kimber Crimson Ultra Carry II. It’s not only accurate and dependable, but a work if art. The laser sights were spot on out of the box. The only change it needed was night sights. So I bought the Kimber Meprolight sights and had them installed by a gunsmith. Actually it did not “need” these sights. …I WANTED them. I bought mine from I could not drop the $ 1,200+ all at once so I used their lay away program. Worth the money! BTW Buds also has special offers and pricing for LEOs and military. You just have to provide proof of eligibility. Always great service.

  9. I have the Kimber Crimson Ultra Carry II. It’s not only accurate and dependable, but a work if art. The laser sights were spot on out of the box. The only change it needed was night sights. So I bought the Kimber Meprolight sights and had them installed by a gunsmith. Actually it did not “need” these sights. …I WANTED them. I bought mine from I could not drop the $ 1,200+ all at once so I used their lay away program. Worth the money!

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