EAA Witness Elite Stock: Range Report!


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Grayrider
July 2, 2005, 08:52 PM
Gang,

I posted previously on here about some major changes underway at EAA, both in terms of operations and product offerings. The new products take advantage of the expiration of the assault weapons ban, to offer a line of competition ready pistols with higher magazine capacities than previously available. This new line of pistols is called the Witness Elite series. After talking at length about them with Mark Galli (the new Director of Sales and Marketing at EAA), I ordered one of the Witness Elite Stock pistols in 40 S&W. They arrived in country a week later as promised, and Mark called to let me know it would be out the next day. Jeff of C-Rums LLC in Rogersville, Missouri, handled the transfer for me and called a few days later to let me know it had arrived. Family obligations delayed a range trip for a few more days (my son is playing T-ball), but I finally made it out to the pistol range of the Springfield Benchrest Rifle Club to put it through its paces. Below is my review, first of the features/quality of the pistol and then of its performance. I hope to follow with some pictures in a few days when I get back to my web server at work.

The Stock model is the beginning of the Elite series, intended for use in production class competition. Above it are the Limited and Gold Team models, with more extensive customization. There will also soon be some Match model pistols in this line, featuring single action triggers and long slides. The Stock features many differences from the base EAA Witness, and I will endeavor to detail those here. I will start with the cosmetic. The first thing to catch my attention on the Stock was the finish. It is hard chromed and done in a two-tone effect, with polished flats and a matte finish on curved surfaces. The result is a very attractive gun, complemented by black controls and finely checkered wood grips. These are quite thin, and the result is a very slim pistol for a gun holding 15 rounds of 40 S&W. I held the gun next to my CZ SP-01, and was surprised to find its dimensions almost identical. If anything the Stock is a bit thinner, despite having a much larger magazine well.

Enhancing the gripping surface is a very fine checkering on the front and back straps. The lines are pretty well done, although there are some minor imperfections in the front checkering. It appears to have been done by hand or at least touched up by hand. Jeff commented that checkering the front strap of a Tanfoglio is tricky due to the angles above and below that point on the frame. The slide features wide cocking serrations front and back. I prefer those to the fine ones that Tanfoglio used in the past. These are deeper and make for a much firmer grip. I think CZ pattern guns benefit from these due to the fact that the slide riding inside the frame leaves less surface area to grasp for cocking or press checking. Inscription on the pistol is minimal. It has a cursive “Stock” laser engraved on the left side of the slide. Remaining markings are the usual EAA identification on the frame, caliber on frame and barrel hood, and Italian proof marks.

The sights are quite good in my opinion. I have had Witnesses with their “Super Sight” in the past. They were nice, but the ones on the Stock are considerably improved. The front sight is dovetailed in from the front like a CZ, but secured by set screw from the top of its base rather than cross pinned like Czech guns. The blade is wide and flat, with no slope. The rear sight is adjustable with a fairly tall, angled blade. It has some horizontal serrations across the back for contrast. The sight picture is excellent, and free of any dots or outlines. I prefer sights to be flat black on a pistol intended for competition. Fiber front blades are okay, but I don’t want any dots or lines. The mechanism of the rear sight sits quite low and out of the way of the blade, lending a sleek look despite being adjustable. It takes a firm turn of a screwdriver to adjust them, but each click is positive. I had no trouble dialing them in. It started off a bit low and to the right. I suspect the sights were simply installed and not adjusted at the factory.

The magazine release is extended but not excessively. It should not snag on anything. The safety is the wider design with a broad, flat shelf. I much prefer this to the safeties on the base Witness and CZ guns (including the CZ SP-01) as it allows the shooter to rest his thumb comfortably on the lever when shooting. The Stock has an extended beavertail, so with thumb on safety one can get a very high grip. This makes the gun point superbly. Coupled with the excellent sights, it comes right to target with minimal effort. I have always thought the Witness pistols were some of the best handling and pointing guns made. The ergonomics are great—at least to my hands. Again I am impressed that they made a large-frame gun so comfortable. It simply does not feel bigger than a regular Witness or CZ.

At the base of the grip the magazine well is somewhat enlarged for easy seating of magazines, with a slight bevel. The Stock is based on the large-frame Witness platform, previously used only for 38 Super, 45 ACP, and 10mm calibers. By moving 9mm and 40 to the large frame, EAA has increased magazine capacity and made all guns caliber convertible. My Stock came with 15 round magazines, which are easily loaded and seem well made. They look quite similar to the 15 round 10mm magazines, but I don’t have any to compare directly. They are marked 40S&W on the bodies. I will be getting 18 round magazines with the 9mm Stock I have on order, and can compare those to my 38 Super magazines. It is worth noting that there are existing extended base pads available for these magazines that would bring the capacity up to 17 and 21 respectively. Arredondo also makes follower and spring sets that are supposed to add +2, but in mine are only adding +1. Their follower lacks the shelf for the slide stop to catch on, but I suspect one could dremel that in with little effort.

Internally the Stock has a few notable differences from the basic model. Tanfoglio describes the barrel as having a tapered cone lockup. It bells out from about an inch in front of the lugs, becoming massive at the muzzle. The slide is concave to allow for this, with the two mating tightly. One slides the barrel out the front of the slide after removing a bushing designed to retain the recoil spring. A full length metal guide rod is present, which is cut much like the gas piston on an AK-47. It is fatter at the front, then thins, then widens back out towards the back. It sits in the familiar groove on the barrel under-lug as with all these pistols. As this is a 40S&W I checked for case support. It is full with no visible case wall. Of course the barrel is ramped, and has a pretty good polish. Not as mirrored as I would prefer, but it fed 100%. Lockup is tight barrel-to-slide, and slightly less so slide-to-frame. The slide is quite heavy as well, lending the gun a substantial mass in the hand. I find it is a bit front heavy, and this helps tame muzzle flip. It actually feels more front heavy than my SP-01, despite that guns full-length dust cover.

I wish that I were qualified to comment as to whether the remaining internals are different than a stock Witness, but I will leave that to Jeff at C-Rums after he works over the trigger. So far that is my only complaint with the gun. The DA trigger is very heavy (albeit smooth), and far too stiff for a competition gun that might be used in production class. Moving to half-cock is better, but still a bit heavy. It has the familiar short DA stroke from that position that I have found on all Tanfoglios. One can put the safety on in that position, and that is how I would carry it. Cocking all the way finds an SA trigger that is quite good, and would be quite suitable for use from a cocked-and-locked position. The extended, skeletonized hammer is easy to grasp for cocking and looks good. The safety also locks positively lending to that form of carry. I still plan to have the DA pull tuned up as I prefer not to carry guns C&L that lack grip safeties. Despite the DA pull weight, the cut of the trigger makes it manageable enough. It is wide and smooth, with a good curve helping to get a good, even stroke. I found it easy to reach in both DA and SA position. Mark Galli mentioned that they will stock optional parts for these pistols, such as the single-action only trigger. This would make the gun much more like the Limited of Match models. He hopes to provide base guns that are more suitable to customization so that a person could buy that cheaply and have a gunsmith modify it up to the Stock or Limited level.

It is worth mentioning that the Stock comes packaged in a large Tanfoglio marked carrying case with combination lock and push button latches. It is silver metal with red felt interior, with ample space for the pistol, extra mags, and cleaning supplies. This is a nice touch adding to the feel that this is not your basic Witness. It also has the usual Tanfoglio cleaning brushes and lock. One mag is included, and EAA will sell extras to customers at a reduced rate if you buy two or more. Mark assured me they have plenty of the new capacity large frame magazines in stock. One never knows when legislators will find themselves with too much time on their hands and we gun owners with too many rounds in our guns. I tend to buy plenty of extras just in case.

Having said all this about how it looks and handles, how about something on how it shoots? I ran out to the range one evening after work. The sun was headed down so I had little time, and a thundershower made it hotter rather than cooler. I really need to look into that dry heat concept you Southwesterners keep talking about. We don’t have that here in the Ozarks. In any event, I had to make it short. I had 100 rounds of WWB with me. These are the sharply truncated 165gr FMJs that Winchester claims run around 1060 muzzle velocity. Out of the Stock they were quite tame. Despite the flat bullet profile it ran 100% with only one shooter induced failure to fully chamber. Tapping the slide on the back closed it. I had gotten distracted by sweat and steam fogging my lenses, and was thinking more about how miserable I was than properly gripping the gun. I refocused and proceeded to dial in the sights. A little to the left, a little up, and the rounds all went monotonously through my orange spot making one ragged hole at 15yds. I ran some double-taps as well, and found it very controllable. The mass of the gun makes for easy shooting. It points well, and the sights are great. This is one nice shooting gun.

I will get back to the range again soon and put it through some practice stages. Of course 100 rounds is not proof of perfection, so I will post results as I run it harder. Mark called me yesterday to see how I liked the 40, and I could not resist ordering one in 9mm. I like heavy guns in that caliber just because they are so pleasant to shoot. Much like my P18 and SP-01, the Witness Stock should feel more like a .22 than a 9mm. Mark told me all the incoming 10mms are spoken for. I love that caliber, but was a bit relieved he was out of them otherwise I might have ended up with three! Some of you 10mm fans will understand when I tell you that this gun will take care of the Miami Vice fix we are all seeking. It looks as close to a Bren 10 as most of us will likely ever get, with the stainless looking hard chrome and the two-tone affect of the various parts. He did say he had a few 40s and 45s left as of yesterday. Give him a call if you want one and tell him I sent you.

So far I am impressed with the new direction of EAA. Mark has a good understanding of the customer base. He appreciates what Tanfoglio fans want in their guns, and has good plans for future offerings. This includes the long-slide Match model, and an improved basic gun ready for customization for competition use. We discussed the need for better sights for those, and good triggers. I mentioned that it would be good to dovetail the front sight rather than cast it in the slide, as this would make changing sights much simpler. He was receptive to that and also followed up on my suggestion to get in touch with Eric Larsen at HBE Leatherworks about offering holsters for the new pistols. Mark is definitely taking the customer seriously. His goal is to offer a high quality alternative to the main pistol makers, at a slightly cheaper price, with more caliber choices, higher capacities, and some competition ready features that other guns would need additional work/cost to add. The Stock looks to me like it will do that easily. I look forward to getting mine back to the range as soon as its twin in 9mm comes in. Expect pictures early next week, hopefully to include some comparisons to other Tanfoglios, CZs, and my Baby Eagle (who’s position in my collection is in jeopardy as soon as Stock #2 arrives).

:)

GR

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Grayrider
July 3, 2005, 11:11 AM
Not my picture, but here is a visual aide:

http://www.tanfoglio.it/upload_dinamici/immaginid/pop-up/STOCK.jpg

armoredman
July 3, 2005, 01:41 PM
Nice. I always liked Tanfoglio - more pics, please?

Grayrider
July 3, 2005, 02:02 PM
I shot a bunch last night and just need to get them cropped, etc. Included are some nice comparisons with the SP-01 and IPSC ST. They should be up Tuesday if all goes well.

:D

GR

agtman
July 3, 2005, 03:49 PM
Grayrider, thanks for the range report.

Just curious on the mags: you said they were marked ".40S&W," but are these 15rd mags dual .40/10mm mags, or are there separately dedicated mags for the 10mm Elite Stock guns? (Did you see if a few 10mm rds would fit into your .40 mags?)

Grayrider
July 3, 2005, 05:11 PM
10mm fits fine, at least JHPs and TMJ profile rounds. I need to try something longer. I had suspected Tanfoglio would make the mags shorter front to back, avoiding the 40 nosing down. It sure is hard to tell without a 10mm mag on hand. I sold off mine recently and now I wish I had kept one for comparison.

GR

Ash
July 4, 2005, 09:18 PM
They sure look nice. Thanks for the info!

Ash

Mossyrock
July 5, 2005, 11:12 AM
Very interesting piece of work. From the looks of it, I would say it addresses most, if not all, of the issues I have with the standard Witness. I look forward to getting more info on the 10mm version.

Oh, GR? I have to say that I feel bad about you not having a 10mm on hand to check the .40 cal mags in..... If it makes you feel any better, I put two hundred rounds through your 10mm Witness this weekend and it is working great! :D Now if I could just keep the rear sight from wanting to part company with the slide..... :uhoh:

Grayrider
July 5, 2005, 12:14 PM
Oh no, the wandering sight issue rears its ugly head! Those 10mms are seeming prone to that. I mentioned this to Mark. They really need to do a stronger sight setup on the 10mm models. But glad you like it in any event. The 10mm is a nice fit in that platform.

GR

Mossyrock
July 5, 2005, 12:58 PM
I am either going to build a replacement for this sight or modify the existing one with a set screw. I have the steel and I have the files. Now all I have to do is take off anything that doesn't look like a rear sight. Simple, right? :uhoh:

agtman
July 6, 2005, 11:16 AM
Personally, after seeing GR's pics of his Wonder-finish .40 Witness Stock Elite, I'd like to know if Mark and/or Tanfoglio have considered/would consider using Novak-style FIXED rear sights on a run of these models.

That's sort of what DW did with the 10mm Razorbacks, IIRC. Some came with adjustable rear sights for the gun-game buyers (IDPA/IPSC shooters), while other Razorbacks could be had with fixed Novaks for those interested in the gun for CCW or duty use.

If nothing else, hopefully the fact that Tanfoglio is chambering the Stock Elite in 10mm should prompt CZ to accelerate its development of a 10mm 97B. :)

:cool:

Grayrider
July 6, 2005, 01:02 PM
The Novak style sights are a great idea. I suggested to Mark that Tanfoglio make their response to the SP-01. Basically take a Stock, add full length dust cover and rail, different sights (Novak style would be nice, or both options), and some custom finishes. The cammo from the Hunter would be neat, along with a black and OD green finish. On the sights, I would dovetail them to take CZ sights. This would expand the options for after market replacement (fiber, tritium, etc.). I am betting it would sell well in the US market, being all "tactical". We do seem to like our guns that way. Of course this would be in five calibers, giving options other makers don't.

I agree on the 97 in 10mm. In fact if I were CZ I would review making a similar gun to the Stock on the 97 platform in 9mm, 40, 45, and 10mm. It seems they have the potential there to produce something quite comparable, even using the same magazines. Both companies could gain in market share from the result, as I am sure each would have its fans. The more attention given to CZ pattern guns the better in my opinion, both for the makers and the shooters!

GR

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