Tanfoglio. European American Armory
. Chances are that you never have heard of either this gun maker or this firearms importer. In reality, Tanfoglio has been making quality firearms in Italy since the end of World War II. Its line of semi-auto pistols is imported by European American Armory under the model name Witness.
The Witness is based on the popular Czech CZ-75 design, one that hand-gunning expert Colonel Jeff Cooper has emphasized as a superior pistol system. A hardcore group of enthusiasts think the Tanfoglio EAA Witness is the best handgun available.
The dual-action triggers on the high capacity “Wonder Nines” of the 1980s and 1990s proved to be far from ideal during tactical operations. Today, some law enforcement and military specialty units have turned to the Colt Model 1911-style pistol with its Single Action Only trigger system. In fact, the resurgence of the single-action pistol is so great, it seems everyone builds a version today. Colt started it all, but Smith & Wesson and most every other gun maker builds a Model 1911-style pistol. SigArms has even gone so far as to make a Single Action Only version of its venerable double-action P220!Unique Action
The Witness is a true double-action pistol. However, it can also be carried cocked and locked just like a Model 1911. Let’s start there, placing our Witness in a holster on our hip. A good thumb break holster puts leather between the cocked hammer and the firing pin. It also covers the trigger and the thumb safety. The pistol is safe and secure in its holster.
When drawn, the shooter’s thumb sweeps off the safety catch in a natural downward motion and the gun is ready to fire in single-action mode. Each pull of the trigger is the same. However, if a round does not go off while firing, the Witness allows you the option of pulling the double-action trigger again to overcome a hard primer. Model 1911s would require you to cock the hammer again with one of your thumbs. Some others would require ejecting the round while racking the slide manually.
Another great feature the Witness has is that you can press check the chamber without taking off the thumb safety. Model 1911-style guns require you to take the safety off if you want to pull the slide slightly back and check to be sure that a round is chambered. This also means the Witness can chamber a round or unload a round, all while leaving the thumb safety on. Leaving the safety on when loading or unloading is clearly the smart and safe way.Shooting Impressions
The Witness reviewed for this article was originally chambered .38 Super. The .38 Super fires the same bullet as the 9mm but pushes it 100 to 200 fps faster. The 38 Super is essentially a 9mm +P+. The .38 Super magazine holds 18 rounds, the same as the 9mm version. With a double-magazine pouch on a duty belt and one round in the chamber, that totals to 55 rounds of ammo!
The CZ-75 grip design allows the Witness to sit high in your hand, which helps manage recoil. The long grip tang prevents any hammer bite. Ergonomically, this gun fit my hand better than any other high-capacity handgun, some of which feel like chunks of 2x4 wood. The factory rubber grips are dovetailed into the frame for a slim fit.
The excellent factory sights (fixed front, rear drift adjustable) are big and have the three-dot set up. The single-action trigger pull is fantastic with no over travel and a trigger break at 4 pounds of finger pressure. The double-action was long and required much more pressure. However, this firearm is designed for carry in single-action mode, leaving the harder trigger pull for hitting a primer a second time.
The Witness auto pistol proved to be one of the most accurate guns I’ve ever fired. Groups were right in the middle of the black bullseye when using a center hold, the way a fixed sight combat gun should be. At 7 yards, offhand, 10 rounds grouped into 2 inches. Design contributes to accuracy, as the slide rails are on the inside of the frame instead of the outside. More than 600 rounds of .38 Super ammo were fired without any malfunctions.Caliber Conversions
Another feature that makes the Witness so attractive is the caliber conversions. It is available in six different calibers: .22 Long Rifle, 9mm Luger, .38 Super, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto and .45 ACP. Each of these caliber conversion kits includes a slide, barrel, and recoil spring/full-length guide rod unit. The caliber conversion kit is simply swapped using normal field cleaning disassembly.
Two-dot impressions exist near the rear of the gun on its left side, one on the frame and one on the slide. Pulling back the slide and lining them up allows the slide release to be pushed from right to left. Once the slide release is removed, the slide goes forward and off the frame. Calibers can be changed in less than 20 seconds.
The .40 S&W conversion uses a 15-round magazine capacity. Again, all of these rounds found the center of the target with ease. A .22 Long Rifle conversion would certainly make practice quite a bit cheaper.
A 10mm auto conversion would pretty much make the Witness into a modern day Dornhaus and Dixon Bren Ten, the pistol endorsed by Jeff Cooper. This ill-fated handgun was supposed to be the “be all, end all” pistol for police and self-defense. However, the full-power 10mm never caught on. While it has outstanding power, to some, the recoil was too stiff, and most 10mm shooters opted for Medium Velocity 10mm ammo. The Med-Vel 10mm, in turn, became the .40 S&W caliber.
The Witness auto pistol line consists of the full-size, all-steel pistol tested for this article, a compact version and a carry version, which has the full-size grip with a shorter barrel/slide. Each of these three models is available in either a matte blue or silver “Wonder” finish. The Witness is also available with a polymer frame with a built in light rail, again in full, carry or compact versions.
Low profile “Novak Style” rear sights are available, and so is an ambidextrous thumb safety. For extreme shooting, there are Witness Hunter, Match, Stock, Limited and Gold Team versions with adjustable sights, scope mounts, giant magazine wells, oversize magazine releases, Single Action Only triggers, compensators and grip checkering.
The Witness line runs deep for EAA. A Web search came up with a few versions not even listed in the 2006 catalog. It appears that Tanfoglio occasionally makes special or limited runs. One that caught my eye was the “Tactical II” pistol, which is a steel, carry-sized, .40 S&W pistol in Wonder finish and with a ported barrel and slide.Holsters
I had a custom high ride paddle holster made by www.MernickleHolsters.com and a gorgeous set of Birds-eye Maple grips made by Sam at www.czgrips.us. The grips are held on by just one screw as they actually dovetail into the frame, again another sign of quality design. El Paso Saddlery (www.epsaddlery.com) made a pancake-style thumb break leather holster, and Fobus makes its polymer line for the Witness.
The Tanfoglio EAA Witness is an auto pistol that improves on the basic Model 1911 design, with the acclaimed ergonomics of the CZ-75 and has both excellent combat accuracy and cycle reliability. In addition, the Witness has a wide variety of caliber conversions and numerous options such as frame size and material, sights and finish.
The last amazing attribute of the Witness is the price. Despite a suggested retail price of $459, the Witness pistols on www.GunBroker.com sell for $400 or less. And I bought mine from www.cdnninvestments.com in Texas for just $269. Caliber conversions are available for $199. Yes, the Tanfoglio EAA Witness truly is the best gun you have never heard of.Steve Tracy is an 18-year police veteran with 16 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He also is an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force less-than-lethal force and scenario based training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.