Para USA Bought By Freedom Group
Rumors of the Freedom Group looking to buy a handgun maker have been bantered about by industry insiders ever since the holding company (owned by Cerberus Capital) began gobbling up gun and ammunition companies several years ago. The buzz centered on European handgun makers, specifically GLOCK or HK, however, the card has finally dropped and Freedom Group now owns Canadian-owned, but U.S.-based Para USA Inc.
The sale of Para USA is not entirely a surprise to the Insider. Originally known as Para-Ordnance of Toronto, Canada, the company was formed in 1985 by Thanos Polyzos, an entertainment lawyer, and Ted Szabo, an engineer. Lifelong friends and business partners, Polyzos and Szabo were a classic odd couple: one scholarly, urbane and sophisticated, the other hard-charging, blunt-spoken and churlish. Szabo died in 2007, leaving Polyzos and his wife Katherine to step into the breach.
Meanwhile, the company had relocated from Canada to North Carolina. Polyzos, a longtime friend of the insider, confided that the move was far more taxing than he had expected in terms of setting up a manufacturing plant, and the local labor pool was a major problem. With Szabo’s tragic passing, the onus of getting the new factory running fell squarely on Polyzos. The sale comes not as a surprise, then.
According to a Freedom Group press release, “Para has built a solid and enviable reputation for innovation, performance and reliability. Firearms enthusiasts, serious shooting competitors and law enforcement agencies choose with confidence from a wide and growing variety of Para pistols.
“Para’s revolutionary high capacity frame and light double action (LDA™) trigger systems, are part of the innovation that Para has brought to the world famous 1911 design.”
And now for the rest of the story.
In 1995, Para-Ordnance sued Spanish gunmaker Llama and SGS Importers for violating its U.S. Patent for a high-capacity 1911 frame. Shockingly, the Canadian manufacturer lost on the grounds of “obviousness,” therefore invalidating their patent. Para appealed, but also lost the appeal.
Another big black eye came when Para’s P14 was adopted by the FBI HRT unit with disastrous results. The gun jammed epidemically, giving rise to a scathing indictment from HRT Commander Scott Warren.
When high capacity magazines were outlawed under the Clinton Administration, Para stockpiled a vast cache of “pre-ban” magazines that enabled the company to weather the storm. Still, the pendulum swung back to single-stack 1911s and Para was forced by the market to adapt. Then, the unthinkable happened when the company introduced its own single-stack 1911.
Finally, a succession of brilliant solutions to nonexistent problems followed: A different type of extractor for a pistol known for reliable extraction; a double-action trigger mechanism for a pistol known for its superb single-action trigger. Para was trying to overcome being out-marketed by Kimber and Springfield Armory by “innovating” things like a Power Extractor and the Limited Double Action.
Most recently, Para brought to market the LR-300 developed by Alan Zitta. After several years of lackluster sales, Para dropped the gun. It was their only attempt at the tactical gun market.
Going back to the Freedom Group’s press release for the final word:
"We welcome Para into the Freedom Group Family of Companies,” stated. E. Scott Blackwell, chief sales and marketing officer of Freedom Group Inc. “Para USA is a leader in handgun technology and their fine products exemplify quality, innovation and performance. Para is a perfect complement to our industry-leading family of brands, and our success in 2011 with the Remington R1-1911. We look forward to deploying both human and financial resources to continue to develop and supply current and future handguns for consumers and our channel partners. We also wish to thank all its employees for their continued dedication that has made Para a success.”