PARA USA is a tough company to love.

Being infatuated with a PARA pistol is a lot like being in love with a beautiful but flighty woman. You desire everything about her, and her beauty and perfection astounds you.

Then she flits off in that breezy uncaring way you find so fascinating, and breaks your heart all over again.

It takes a lot for me to buy a new pistol. In fact, since revolvers are far more suited for training beginning shooters, I own a heck of a lot more revolvers than I do semi-automatic pistols.

And there is that little thing about boggling the senses with an abundance of good things - exactly WHAT semi-auto do you want when a manufacturer's recommended sale price on a good one can easily break $1000. There are so many different models, choosing one over the other is akin to making a lifetime choice in a mate. This is going to be expensive, and it's going to last a long time - you'd better make sure it's something you want to live with.

But there was this one - it entered my senses a long time ago, and like a long-lost love, it became the standard against which all other newcomers were measured.

The PARA Companion.

A medium-sized 1911-style handgun designed like the popular Colt Commander, it features PARA's now famous Light Double Action trigger, the only successful double-action trigger built into John M. Browning's iconic design, which has been immortalized forever as the "1911."

And it is a true 1911-style pistol with the full beaver-tail grip safety, which must be compressed or the trigger will not fire the gun.

Likewise, it has an over-sized thumb safety on the left of the slide that locks the trigger, and is easily disengaged with a sweep of the thumb, bringing the gun into a fire-ready status.

One needs only pull back on the incredibly smooth "sweet" double-action trigger to watch the flat hammer move backward and then crisply break the sear, falling on the firing pin, pushing any choice of .45 slug down the 3.5-inch barrel with a ramped chamber.

Ramped barrels are an expensive option on many 1911 pistols, and are generally offered in the highest-end comp guns. Most PARAs have integral ramped match barrels and chambers, and the newly introduced Power Extractor - a huge improvement over the old-style 1911 extractor.

All guns designated with the PXT also have the ramped barrel and match chambers - and the accuracy tests prove it.

Having tested a number of single- and double-action pistols over the years, I kept coming back to the same thing. I always compared them to the PARA Companion I had tested years ago.

Knowing PARA USA's habit of introducing innovative models each year and dropping older versions with cold efficiency, I decided I'd better get what I really wanted, or what I really wanted might not be around any more.

I called PARA USA and told them I needed to order a PARA Companion, in the "Black Watch" configuration, for testing and purchase.

This is a handsome gun. It is Commander-sized, meaning a medium-sized 1911, easily concealed, but with enough heft and size to make target shooting a pleasure.

This piece has a highly polished black slide, an Army-green steel frame in their "Para-Kote" finish, which protects the stainless frame in those sweaty areas where the hands grip, and reddish-brown checkered wood grips embossed with the famous Para gold "P" medallion.

I was informed the Black Watch had been discontinued, but the Companion would be made in a special run for 2009 in Covert Black finish.

My heart sank. Here I had set my greatest longings on a particular model, and PARA was changing the model lineup once more.

That flighty girlfriend syndrome, all over again.

I could almost hear the grin in the voice of the marketing rep after he let me suffer a few seconds: "But they're still in inventory. And I just happen to have one here that was used in an ad campaign. It can't be sold for new. Do you want it?"

Like all PARAs, it came in a lockable molded plastic box, with the hated Clinton trigger-lock, an instruction manual and two magazines that held 7 rounds each.

I've now put over 400 rounds of varying types of .45 ACP through this gun, with only two malfunctions - failure to extract.

Both were in the same magazine after I started shooting the gun unlubricated, right out of the box. This is a match-grade chamber, and I attributed these to dry conditions and dirt.

Once I wiped out the chamber and gave the gun a quick once-over, I have experienced no problems with feeding, extraction or any malfunction whatsoever.

At 10 yards, I can still see the target and the sights crisply. Get past that distance, and the target, which is supposed to be a mild blur, becomes a mass whose edge is impossible to determine.

But at 10 yards … Ahhh …

These guns have a cone-shaped barrel at the muzzle enhancing lock-up on the slide without the usual locking muzzle ring. Naturally, a tight fit between barrel and slide improves accuracy, and this one came through.

Over sandbags, I produced several six-shot groups that fell inside 1.5 inches, and I am sure better eyes would produce much better than this. Like all PARAs, this one shoots really well.

The added bonus to all this is the envy.

Like bringing a beautiful woman to a party, any time I pull the PARA out during a shooting session, activity stops while everyone has to admire the gun. And of course, everyone has to try the double-action trigger.

I was proudly showing off my newest most-beloved one day when my associate instructor carped loudly, "I swear, if someone could have sex with a gun, that PARA would be

Gordon Hutchinson's newest book, written with Todd Masson, is The Great New Orleans Gun Grab, a searing expose' of the scandal of gun confiscations in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is available at

The Quest and the Quarry, Hutchinson's novel, is a coming-of-age tale of a line of trophy bucks and the youth of a Mississippi farm family that hunts them. It is available at

Both books have been chosen Outdoor Books of the Year by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, and are available from the publisher at (800) 538-4355.