As there is little info about the Witness Limited, I just had to try one out. I learned long ago that I prefer to test the underdog, to own something completely different than the rest of the herd. Well the Witness Limited is just that, different from the herd, at least in the US. In other parts of the world, it is a respected competition gun. But the poor job of the importer and factory have made the pistol an unknown quantity on this side of the pond. The EAA Witness Elite Limited available in a variety of calibers 9mm, 40S&W, .45acp, 10mm, and .38super. Depending on what you plan to do with the gun will dictate what caliber you choose. This is no generic self-defense pistol that you just pick which caliber you like, this is a custom shop race gun and you should have a definite use intended for the gun. Otherwise there are plenty of other guns out there that will do exactly the same thing for much less headache. It’s not a carry gun; the safety is too snag prone and is not positive enough for reliable daily carry. It only has the thumb safety. It’s also just too big and wide to make me want to carry it. Also, I can find no holsters that would conceal this gun currently on the market. It’s a race gun, period. If you want a carry gun that can double as a competition gun, I would look at a Production or Single Stack gun, as those divisions are made (particularly Production) specifically for duty/carry guns. Limited and Open divisions are not competitive with your average duty/carry/self defense pistol. It will not fit in the IDPA max size box, it’s too long and too wide.
First thing, when I ordered the pistol, the manufacturer (or dealer or importer) put a 10mm in a .40S&W marked box. That means that manifests all over are wrong. So it was shipped back to the dealer, Reeds Ammo Research in Oklahoma, to get the correct pistol. It can happen to anyone, but one would think that at least SOMEONE would check the serial number along the way. As this is a dedicated competition gun, getting the right caliber was of utmost importance. USPSA Limited division is dominated by high capacity .40 calibers for a good reason, one needs a minimum of .40 to qualify for major, and the fewer mag changes the better. The Witness can carry up to 21 rounds in the mag with a special base pad, making it just as competitive as any other .40 out there. While one could compete with a 9mm or .38 super, you are scored lower for anything other than an “A” hit. That alone can cost you a match. But in theory a 9mm would get back on target quicker, giving an advantage. I pondered the Limited Minor gun for a while, but realized in the end that if it was a better way to go, that more people would do it. And they don’t, so I’m learning from others on this one.
The Witness comes in a really nice locking hard case. Of course it’s not big enough for a trip to the range, so its essentially wasted on a competitive shooter. Great, now I have another case that won’t be used. My pistols go from the safe to the range bag, and spend zero time in their factory cases. A heavy cardboard box would appeal to competitive shooters more than a nice Italian hard case that will never be used.
In the case is the pistol, a cleaning kit, a replacement front sight, 2-1.5mm allen keys (one for the trigger screws and one for the front sight) a trigger lock, 2 replacement recoil springs, and 1 magazine. It’s a nice mag, chrome plated with a custom base pad, but ONLY ONE. More on this problem later.
Out of the box, the Witness is lightly oiled in a special plastic bag. Boy it’s a pretty gun. The trigger feels long but decent, and the action a bit stiff. A quick disassembly reveals a bunch of shavings left in the locking lugs. Also are a few burrs on the bottom of the barrel. This is one gun that will require a good cleaning before use, and the burrs mean that it will need some attention with a buffing wheel too. Good thing Henningshootsguns.com has disassembly and reassembly videos on his website. You must download his videos and watch them a few times before attempting anything beyond the meager instruction manual. While the pistol is actually quite easy to completely disassemble, seeing it done first makes the job completely doable for the EAA neophyte.
The pistol comes apart easily, revealing some rubbed areas on the trigger bar. Also where the trigger bar hits the frame is a little rough. I broke out the Dremel with a buffing pad and some rubbing compound, and got to work. The trigger bar has wear points on the sides, and underneath where it rides on the plunger head. I rubbed all these areas, not to a mirror finish, but just enough to smooth them out. The trigger bar has a black coating and I kept most of the coating on the bar.
The plunger head was already sort of polished from the factory, or it at least looked that way. I hit it with the Dremel too, making it even smoother.
The barrel slides on the frame, and that area was woefully rough, for such an important wear spot. The buffing wheel took care of that. I also lightly buffed the slide’s rails; making the slide, well, slide a lot better. Again, I was going for a smoother surface, not a complete polishing job.
The trigger is shipped in a pretty slack state. In the box is a little card telling the new owner to adjust and then Locktite the trigger screws before using the gun. A few issues arise when adjusting the pre-travel and over-travel screws.
The trigger pre-travel screw adjusts the amount take up of the trigger before the trigger trips the sear. This screw was very difficult to turn, even after being hit with carb cleaner. The 1.5mm wrench was nearly ineffective at turning it, and stripping the head is very easy. I suggest taking the trigger out and adjusting the screw while the trigger is out of the gun, so you can get better leverage on the key, or use a socket tool and some oil. Of course that oil will contaminate the Locktite. What can also happen is the trigger return spring will interfere with the screw adjustment and make it tough to turn the screw. Since the factory decided that they wanted my setscrew in a particular place, they Locktited and then filed the face flat, making any further adjustment a real bear. When I tried to adjust mine, the 1.5 mm head stripped. But having worked with little metric parts for so long, I remembered that I could force a 1/16” hex key in the socket head to remove the offending screw. I replaced the original screw with the trigger over-travel screw. Read more for how I customized the over-travel screw.
The over-travel screw limits the rearward travel of the trigger after the trigger trips the sear. The factory adjustment screw is too short to make a complete adjustment, and will need to be replaced with a longer one. It’s about 3 mm too short. Why bother allowing the customer to adjust the trigger when you can’t even supply the parts to take advantage of the design? The stock one moves easily and is easy to adjust while the trigger is assembled in the gun. A hardware store run was in order for the Locktite and a longer set screw. Of course, the hardware store had every size but the M3 that I needed, so I looked around for a substitute. What I found that also works really well is an M3x5mm button top screw, but it makes the adjustment while assembled a bit more difficult. I used the sharp edge of a micro screwdriver to turn the side of the cap of the screw after coating the threads with Locktite. While it may come out of adjustment, the cap screw can never fall out.
The whole gun needs a through flushing with carb cleaner or similar cleaner. I prefer carb cleaner over brake cleaner because it will not harm plastics or remove finishes, like the hotter brake cleaners will. White Lightning also make a great parts cleaner, but costs way more. At a buck a can, carb cleaner is the best all around cleaner for easily degreasing guns that I have found. Pay close attention to getting all the tiny little shavings out of the sear, locking lugs and off the slide. Whatever you do, make sure the gun is cleaned before you shoot it. Those little shavings can wreak havoc on the finely fitted slide and barrel.
After reassembling the pistol, and lightly oiling the trigger and sear with Boeshield T9, the trigger feels much better that before. I was careful to only lightly buff the trigger parts, slide and frame. But the difference was quite noticeable. Adjusting the trigger travel screws also makes big difference in how the trigger feels. Out of the box, it’s long with lots of over travel. Once adjusted, it is much shorter with a much quicker reset. While I don’t have a pull gauge, I would estimate that out of the box it’s around 6lbs, before the minor polishing and spring tweak. While not a super trigger, it felt decent. Now it’s smooth, short and breaks cleanly at about 3lbs. The pull weight was reduced by buffing the trigger bar, plunger and frame surfaces, and by tweaking the trigger spring. I will probably change the main spring and spend more time polishing parts in the future, but I feel a good break in is in order before doing this level of work to any pistol. And in any case it feels really nice, so no more work may really be necessary. With the over-travel, pre-travel set and the trigger spring tweaked a little, the trigger is noticeable lighter and travel is at a minimum; the bottom of the trigger moves just over 1/8”, and it breaks cleanly. And the best part is the pull weight went down to about 3lbs, or just a little more than the weight of the gun.
The ambi safety is a nice touch, but it had an issue too. The underside of the safety on the right side of the gun would rub ever so lightly on the frame. I got out the big stone and flattened it out. The safety felt mushy out of the box, but improved markedly after a good cleaning. It now snaps up and down with minimal effort. What is really neat is that the safety can be applied and released from the same thumb position. While this is great for a race gun, I would never carry this in condition 1 (loaded, cocked, safety on) in any kind of a concealment holster, as the safety is easily disengaged.
The magazine debacle.
As I stated earlier, this pistol comes with only one mag, so I ordered 4 extra at the time of purchase. Due to the shipping error, the dealer threw in 2 more mags for free. They are 16 round mags and cost 20-25 each. Not bad for a nice Italian factory mag. But here’s the kicker, they don’t work in the gun. This has to be the only gun in the world that you cannot buy a factory mag for. One must buy a mag and a separate base pad that works in the magwell. The profile for the base pad is modified for the factory magwell, and the factory mags will not lock up in the gun. This is super stupid, and the importer will not sell you the correct complete magazine. Luckily, you can call up Henning and order the correct base pads or his own extended base pads and replacement spring kits. This adds considerable cost to your outfit. Figure an extra $50 per mag to make it comp ready. Yes, one can buy the factory aluminum base pad, but what’s the point if its just $15 more to extend the capacity to 21 rounds?
And if that’s not bad enough, Tanfoglio has 2 different magazines that are labeled .40S&W and share the same part number. One has a rib down the front inside of the tube and a notched follower that rides on that rib. The other style has no rib, and this is the only one that fits the Grams Engineering follower that is sold with Henning’s mag kits. I got 4 of the ribbed, and 2 of the non-ribbed. My advice is to send your mags to Henning, and he will assemble them with the new base pad of your choice; or buy complete mags from his website.