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EAA Witeness Elite Limited Review


photog
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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 impressions

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.

INTERNALS.jpg

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.

SLIDE.jpg

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.

TRIGGER-1.jpg

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?

BASEPADS.jpg

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.

FOLLOWERPIC.jpg

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The Controls

The Witness is a race gun, and is designed as such. The front and backstraps are checkered. The checkering is 21 lines per inch, and is comfortable yet provides great slip resistance. The high beavertail prevents any chance of hammer bite with even the highest of grips. The wood checkered grips provide a very positive grasp on the gun. Its heavy, it’s a real handful, but feels great in the hand. To me it feels better than a 2011. It’s well balanced with the full-length dust cover countering the all steel frame. Its balance point is directly under the trigger pin.

MAGWELL.jpg

The ambidextrous safety, while not reversible works great for the right-hander that occasionally shoots weak handed. It would not be a great left handed safety, as the large paddle on the left side of the gun would be a nuisance to a left handed shooter. But it could be ground off for the lefty, just a shame to grind away such a nice part. The safety provides a large rest for the right thumb during shooting.

The mag release is completely reversible. I cut one coil off the mag release spring, making the mags a touch easier to drop. The release button is extended as far as the factory dared, without it being too easy to hit accidentally. My normal sized hands can almost drop mags without shifting any part of my hand on the gun. It’s pretty unrealistic to think that on a double stack .40 one should be able to maintain a perfect shooting grip on the gun during mag changes.

MAGRELEASE.jpg

The hammer is skeletonized for low mass, making it very quick. The slide release is not as extended as is fashionable in some circles, but for IPSC use its just fine. Most competitors learn to change mags before they run dry, when they have time or while moving, and use the slide release very little in competition.

The cocking serrations, while short are effective. The slide is actually much shorter than a 1911, as the frame extends higher up and the rails are higher also. The front ones are what most will use in a competitions, as it makes the transition back to the two handed grip quicker by keeping the weak hand closer to and in front of the grip.

One really nice feature is the drilled and tapped frame, allowing for the easy attachment of a scope mount. The squared trigger guard provides a massive finger hole, and positive clicking in popular holsters that clamp onto the front of the trigger guard. The frame is nicely radiused for the second finger under the trigger guard. The finish, while lending nothing to the overall function of the gun, is really nice. The factory magwell is nicely fitted to the frame. The overall fit and finish is excellent. While I can find a couple areas that are not perfect, they are areas that do not show. The machine work on the inside of the gun is of average quality. One annoying thing is the mandated warning that is engraved into the frame. At least the safety covers up some of it. The engraving is superb on the frame, and the proof marks are inconspicuous. The etchings on the slide are lighter, shallower and not quite as nice as the frame markings, but then again, it doesn’t detract from the gun either.

The rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. I have yet to need to change anything yet though. The gun shoots spot on for myself and another friend. The front sight is all black, and there is a replacement dot sight that is included with the gun and provides a full 7” of sight radius.

So who would want this gun? The real reason for this pistol is for Limited Division in USPSA. The person buying this gun will probably already have some shooting experience and will be drawn to the one’off nature of this gun. The person who buys this will appreciate the adjustable trigger, the heft of a steel frame and adjustable sights and huge thumb rest safety. Going in, you are thinking of extending the mags and at least adding the aluminum base plates. You will be expected to clean the gun upon receipt and assemble the magazines with your preferred modifications. This will also go nicely in a CR Speed holster setup. A complete setup could look something like this:

Pistol $1000

4 extra mags@ $30 each = 120

4 extended base plates/springs/followers@ $50 each =200

CR Speed WSMII rig $300

Total of $1620, or roughly the price of a base model 2011 pistol with no accessories.

Stay tuned for a range report. So far I have 140 rounds of function testing ammo. The ammo was 165 and 180 grain Rainer plated hand loads, using 1x fired RP nickel brass, Winchester Small Pistol primers and American Select powder. The gun functioned with four different loads, with the stock recoil spring. Once I can crank out some more ammo, I’ll try an accuracy test and reliability test.

Summary

This gun is advertised as a “take out of box and compete” pistol. If all you needed was one mag, this could almost be true. The pistol requires a good cleaning, trigger adjustments, and magazine assembly. Other than that, yes it’s is a competitive gun right out of the box. Time will tell if it is as reliable and accurate as it is good looking. At this time, it only has 140 rounds through it; and first impressions regarding it’s shoot-ability are positive.

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In case you're interested,the mags with the rib are for .40 and the one's without the rib are actually for 10MM.Been there,done that.I sent all my ribbed mags back so I can use the same mags in both my guns.

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Excellent write up! Very fair and balanced. I've said before that EAA (the importer) leaves something to be desired when it comes to knowing the requirements of our sport; I agree w/ your advice to contact Henning for all things relating to use of these guns in USPSA.

PS - nice to see the 75s gaining some ground on the 2011s. Brand competition means we all win.

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I've been shooting the Limited 9 in matches for a year now, I bought a limited .40 and love it. It's my backup gun for my Brazo's SC .40, and my Limited 9. I did put the Henning x-long firing pin in them, and a 13# hammer spring. Gun has been very reliable and no issues with the mags. I did drill out the spacer in the .40 mags. The .40 will take long loaded bullets, I load 1.200, but the 9mm has to be loaded short. With MG 124's it hits the rifling at 1.129". 147 Precision coated hits at 1.088. Both are extremely accurate, I did remove the firing pin block, and did a trigger job to 2.5 lbs. The factory sears are soft and don't last so when you need a new one, get the one from EGW.

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  • 2 years later...

Tagged to keep this on my profile page for update to follow.

I'm not sure how this got into the 1911 forum, it was originally posted in the EAA/tanfoglio forum.

Edited by photog
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  • 2 years later...

Thank you very much for the write up, it helped me make my decision. I should be getting my Elite Limited .40 tomorrow or Thurs.

I have searched far and wide for info about Henning H-500 and if it will fit flush in the witness elite ltd. but cannot find anything to confirm this nor any pics. Can anyone confirm if it will?

  • Also, are there any pic's out there of the Elite Limited with Hennings 141 or 500?

Thanks in advance!

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  • 1 year later...
  • 2 months later...
  • 5 years later...

Thanks for this Epic Review of Massive  Proportion. I’ve been seriously thinking about adding another 10mm to pair with 1911 Colt Delta Elite Stainless that I went through throughly in similar fashion which literally made it a different experience. After reading all the meticulous steps taken on your “Race Gun” in need of a tune-up out of the box I was still ready to pull the trigger; HA , ha... not that funny after exploring CS issues concerning repairs. Any company that won’t cover shipping   and forces Customers to deliberate parts purchased VS RMA at Customer’s expense says volumes about reliability. I have a SigP938 that was returned for a broken ejector under warranty and not only did they replace the part they changed out the mag release spring, polished the feed ramp and upgraded the recoil spring. Free. Ruger replaced bolt assembly on my Mini 14 (tapered barrel) because spent casings were not clearing the action causing a FTF on the next round. Shipping and parts FREE. I’ll take another look at a Rock Island 10mm SAO. Thanks for the Warning 

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's good to see that "zombie" threads have a way of informing us historical changes. Good review, and I agree with... "I prefer to test the underdog, to own something completely different than the rest of the herd"

 

The Witness is very cost competitive and predictably reliable, its major shortcoming has and likely will continue to be EAA. That may be changing soon with IFG bringing in some Tanfo, but their support remains an unknown. I think it would be FAR easier for EAA to clean up their act.

 

Anyway, I have a Witness "Stock" .40 conversion kit which ships with one mag (marked K-40) and it has a spacer in the rear of the mag (at the primer) similar to the 1911 9mm mags that bring the nose of the round in the same relative location that a 10mm cartridge would. 

 

I have a number of older and new EAA 10mm mags but I do not trust them with .40 ammo as I've had a few "nose dives" using them that I do not have with the .40 specific mag. 

 

 

eaa_40_conversion_mag.jpg

Edited by gnappi
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