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EAA Witness Pistol Review
By Dick Metcalf, Technical Editor, Shooting Times.

From the EAA Witness pistol review: "...I know for a fact that the basic Witness/CZ design is capable of 1.5-inch accuracy at 50 yards when properly tuned."

SPECS
EAA Witness Standard Full Size
.40 S&W DA Auto Pistol
Distributor ..........................European
American Armory Corp.
Box 1299
Sharpes, FL 32959
Model ........Witness Standard Full Size
Operation ..................Recoil operated
Caliber ................................. .40 S&W
Barrel length .....................4.5 inches
Overall length ...................8.1 inches
Weight, empty ..................33 ounces
Safety ..........Manual sear-block safety;
self-engaging inertial
firing pin block
Sights ..Three-dot drift-adjustable rear;
semi-Patridge blade front
Sight radius ....................5.25 inches
Rifling ............6 grooves, 1:10 RH twist
Stocks .............Pebbled black polymer
Magazine capacity ..........10 rounds
Finish .....................Blued carbon steel
Price ...........................................$351

uropean American Armory (EAA) of Sharpes, Florida, has been providing American shooters with quality, economically priced imported handguns and long guns for most of the past quarter-century. In addition to its well-known Italian-made Witness series of large-frame double-action auto pistols from Tanfoglio, the current EAA catalog includes such varied products as the German-made Weihrauch Windicator .357 Magnum and .38 Special revolvers, Bounty Hunter rimfire and centerfire frontier-style single-action revolvers, and HW660 .22 LR match rifles. Newly prominent in the line for 1999 is the Russian-made Baikal line of pump and break-open sport shotguns (nine models, including a new Franchi-like MP-151 12-gauge autoloader), a Saiga AK-design semiauto shotgun with upper receiver gas system, seven different models of sport and competition air pistols and air rifles, and three model variations of the Baikal Bounty Hunter series of side-by-side Old West-style shotguns — exposed hammer or internal hammer, available in a full list of gauges with the option of centerfire rifle-barrel inserts in chamberings from .222 Remington through .45-70. The Witness pistols, however, remain the EAA flagship series and are currently the largest selling family of CZ design-type handguns in the world (EAA also imports Tanfoglio’s pocket-size European Model .380 Autos).

The 1999 EAA catalog lists eight individual model configurations in the Witness line, including three Standard Pistol versions—the baseline 4.5-inch Witness Full Size, the smaller-profile 3.6-inch Witness Compact, and the Witness Carry-Comp (which has a Full-Size profile with a 4.25-inch compensated barrel). Plus there are three Witness Competition Pistols—the high-end 5.25-inch Witness Gold Team and Witness Silver Team fully accessorized and compensated pistols for Unlimited class USPSA/IPSC competition and the fully tuned 4.75-inch Witness Limited Class guns for the more semi-stock categories of USPSA and IPSC matches. The most recent addition to the Witness line is the P-Series polymer-frame guns, which are also available in Full Size and Compact models in a variety of colors.

Witness pistol calibers, depending on the particular model chosen, include 9mm Luger, 9x21mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto, .45 ACP, and a new .22 LR conversion kit for the Standard models. All models except for the P-Series polymer-frame pistols are all-steel frame/slide construction with choice of matte blue, satin hard chrome, or Tanfoglio’s proprietary stainless-appearing, heat-treat Wonder finish, depending on specific variation.

The company also offers an extensive list of Witness optional features and accessories available for all models. Most interesting, EAA offers a choice of traditional double-action trigger or finely tuned single-action trigger for every variation, including the standard-configuration duty-grade models. Available sights range from high-profile dovetail-drift plain “fixed” versions through three-dot tritium night sights to fully adjustable low-profile heavy-duty SuperSight competition types. There is a full line of optical sight mount bases, competition-style magazine accessories, a variety of grip-panel materials and styles, and a long list of “drop-in” customizing parts including oversized and ambidextrous safeties, slide releases, match-grade adjustable triggers, skeletonized competition hammers, high-visibility magazine followers, and even complete replacement multi-caliber compensated slide/barrel assemblies.

According to EAA, “The key to the Witness pistols’ long history of success is the fact that a customer can start with a basic factory model Witness pistol and create a highly customized personal firearm—even a full-house competition pistol—using a spectacular selection of drop-in replacement parts....no other firearm on the market offers that kind of versatility and ease of modification.” On the basis of the features presented, it’s hard to argue that point.

All The Basics & More
I’ve been familiar with the Witness pistol lineup for a long time. I own a factory-spec Witness Limited Class package with .38 Super/9x23 Winchester and 9mm Luger barrels, also fitted for an interchangeable slide/barrel Silver Team compensated setup in .38 Super/9x23 Winchester. I’ve used it frequently (but never written about it) for USPSA matches in both Unlimited and Limited class competition. And a half-dozen years ago I submitted a full-size 9mm Standard Witness model to a Shooting Times 10,000-round endurance review, which it passed with flying colors. That particular 9mm pistol was from the last production run prior to a series of design modifications introduced across the Witness line beginning in 1993, so when I recently had the opportunity to work out with a current-production Witness in .40 S&W chambering, I thought I’d give it—and the Witness Limited Class/Silver Team packages—a brief review here.

The review sample provided was a plain-Jane, basic-factory-issue .40 S&W Witness Standard Full Size. Like all steel-frame Witness pistols made after 1993, it carries a redesigned and enlarged glove-compatible oval trigger guard and an extended competition-style solid beavertail extension of the frame to eliminate hammer bite on the web of the shooter’s hand. Magazine capacity for the .40 S&W Witness Full Size is 10 rounds; that’s the same capacity as other Witness calibers except 9mm—for which pre-ban 16-round magazines are still available and will be shipped standard with new 9mm Witness pistols for as long as supplies last. The drift-adjustable, high-profile, combat-type sights have three large white dots for visibility. One particular feature I have always greatly appreciated about the Witness configuration is slide-grasp serrations both at the rear and the front of the slide for manually clearing or checking the action. At 33 ounces, it is a full-weight, solid-feel serious duty package, priced well below most competing pistols of similar configuration and chambering (manufacturer’s recommended full-retail price is $351).

The review sample .40 S&W pistol was in all ways a classic CZ-type tool, with all the particular features that have always made the CZ design a classic—most notably, of course, the solid full-length interface between slide and frame, wherein the frame encloses the slide (on all Browning-derived designs, it’s the opposite). Also diagnostic is the frame-mounted manual safety system, which allows this double-action gun to be carried in 1911-style cocked-and-locked condition with hammer back and ready and also locks the sear and freezes the trigger from rearward movement when engaged while the hammer is down (the pistol also features an internal self-engaging firing pin block). I have always believed (as do millions of CZ users worldwide) that this is an excellent safety setup for any double-action autoloader as it allows the gun to be used in completely conventional mode in both the DA and SA styles of shooting. It remains beyond my comprehension why other manufacturers insist on offering DA autos with safety systems that will only drop the hammer when engaged while cocked. Why deny choice to the user?

The times are the times, though, and the widespread popularity of auto pistol decock systems is demonstrated by the fact that EAA this year is introducing an optional Decocker version of the Full Size, Compact, and Carry-Comp Witness pistols, all chamberings. From fullcock a press downward on an oversize but conventionally located safety lever will drop the hammer safely onto a resting block, while the self-engaging firing pin block remains in effect. Of course, you lose cocked-and-locked carry capability. Myself, I’ll stick with the classic system.

Gauged on my computerized Dvorak TriggerScan instrument the Standard Witness’ long-pull trigger weight was 13.168 pounds with a 5.3-millisecond locktime, and its trigger pull from the cocked position was a relatively heavy (albeit smooth) 5.401 pounds with a 5.8-millisecond locktime; these figures are not surprising in view of the gun’s overall duty-grade configuration (locktime is faster in the DA mode because the hammer doesn’t have as far to fall as when fully cocked). By comparison, the tuned and refined adjustable single-action trigger on my Limited Class frame package breaks crisp at 3.142 pounds with zero overtravel and a 5.4-millisecond locktime, which indicates how capably the basic Witness mechanism may be tuned (the quick locktime here is due to the lightweight, skeletonized competition-grade hammer). Other special refinements on the factory-custom Witness Limited Class setup include 24-lines-per-inch checkered frame (predrilled for Witness scope mount), nonglare matte blue finish, slim-profile walnut grip panels, extended thumb safety, extended oval magazine release, match-grade barrel, skeletonized serrated hammer, beveled magazine well, 4.75-inch barrel, and fully adjustable SuperSight. The interchangeable Silver Team slide/barrel assembly consists of a 5.25-inch barrel with 1.75-inch dual port compensator plus SuperSight. EAA’s current recommended retail price for a spec-package Limited Class pistol is $950; for a Silver team pistol it’s also $950. Special configurations, additional features, and interchangeability packages are available by special order.

A Top-Notch Performer
After checking the review sample .40 S&W Standard Witness for fit and basic function, I sat down at the benchrest and put it and my .38 Super/9x23mm Silver Team setup through a series of accuracy firings with a representative selection of commercial ammunition in their respective chamberings. The results are listed in the chart on page 18. Some readers are probably wondering why I have been referring to my Silver Team setup as a .38 Super/9x23mm package when in fact these are two different cartridges. Yes, they are. And yes, their case dimensions—while very close—are not identical. The difference is in the case rims: The more recent 9x23mm Winchester is a true rimless autoloader case; the older .38 Super is semi-rimmed (very slightly). The exterior case body dimensions are essentially the same. In practical terms this means most auto pistols technically chambered for the .38 Super also function and fire just fine with the 9x23mm Winchester (I’ve not yet found one that doesn’t); in many cases actually more reliably, in fact, since the rimless 9x23mm case design eliminates many of the nagging little magazine-function and feed-angle problems that have always followed from the inability of the semirimmed .38 Super to “stack” cleanly. The most important actual difference between a “true” .38 Super pistol and a “true” 9x23mm pistol is in the shape and dimension of the tip of the extractor hook, which should always fit as close as possible to the specific dimension of the case rim (or absence thereof) for totally reliable function. But the measurable shape and size differences between .38 Super and 9x23mm are extremely slight in the rim area. I’ve so far fired thousands of rounds of 9x23mm through dozens of pistols chambered for .38 Super and fitted with .38 Super extractors with no failures in function. That said, also understand most world-class competitive shooters who have adopted the 9x23mm for steady use in their original .38 Super pistols have taken the time to retrofit them with true-spec 9x23
extractors. If I were putting a world or national title on the line, I’d do the same.

The average group results in the chart show just how well a basic service-grade Standard Witness pistol will perform right from the box—well within the standard law enforcement and military performance threshold of 4.5-inch overall average group performance at 25 yards. The Silver Team’s performance shows just how precisely refined the basic Witness design can be made to be. And note that these groups were fired with iron sights. Give my tired old eyes the benefit of an optical sight on the match-grade Silver Team barrel and I judge they’d shrink by at least another half-inch.

EAA’s Witness pistols shoot well, and I’ve never had one quit. I’ve also seen and fired several highly customized Witness competition guns used at PASA Park in the USPSA National Championships by some of the world’s top shooters over the past dozen years, and I know for a fact that the basic Witness/CZ design is capable of 1.5-inch accuracy at 50 yards when properly tuned. As I’ve said regarding the Witness line before, it’s really just a matter of how accurate you want the gun to be and how much you’re willing to put into getting it there. The basics are built in.

 

EAA .40 S&W .38 Super/9x23 Win. Shooting Results

Factory Load

Velocity (fps)

Velocity Variation (fps)
25-Yard Accuracy (inches)
.40 S&W Standard Witness Full Size, 4.5-Inch Barrel
Federal 135-gr.
Personal Defens
e
1195
41
3.00
Master Cartridge
150-gr. JHP
1224
39
3.38
CCI/Blazer
155-gr. HP
1301
38
3.25
Federal 165-gr.
Hydra-Shok Subsonic
970
34
2.88
Remington 165-gr.
Golden Saber
1179
25
2.75
Black Hills
180-gr. HP/XTP
998
27
3.13
Winchester
180-gr. JHP
1002
42
3.13
Overall
average accuracy
3.07
.38 Super/9x23 Win. Silver Team Witness, 5.25-Inch Barrel
PMC 115-gr.
JHP (.38 Super)
1170
17
1.13
Winchester 125-gr.
Silvertip (.38 Super)
1182
42
1.38
PMC 130-gr.
FMJ (.38 Super)
1119
35
1.63
Winchester USA
130-gr. FMC (.38 Super)
1187
54
1.75
Winchester USA
124-gr. JSP (9x23mm Win.)
1523
42
1.50
Winchester 125-gr.
Silvertip (9x23mm Win.)
1482
11
1.13
Overall
average accuracy
1.40
NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five 10-shot groups fired from a
sandbag benchrest at 25 yards. Velocity is the average of 10 rounds
measured 10 feet from the muzzles.

This article was originally published in Shooting Times magazine in June, 1999.

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