The Witness Limited Class Model .45...and Others...


by R.K. Campbell

photography by R.K. Campbell

February 19th, 2007




Over the past twenty five years European American Armory has weathered the ups and downs of not only business cycles but restrictive legislation that seemed certain to put a dent in the market for high capacity semi-auto pistols.  They have managed not only to survive but flourish marketing full size pistols.  The only explanation is the merits of the gun.  The Italian made Witness pistols have proven good performers for the money,  often giving good service and providing an entry level center fire auto for the interested shooter.  The Witness is  basically a highly evolved CZ 75 type pistol.  The profile is unmistakable, but the Witness line differs in several regards.  The Witness may be carried cocked and locked or hammer down, safety on,  while the CZ offers the option of safety on carry only in the cocked and locked mode.  There are several versions of the Witness pistol.  The standard model is the 9mm CZ type,  with the distinctive elongated grip frame that forms a comfortable beavertail.  Many prefer this grip frame to the original CZ.  It is familiar in profile to the many 1911 shooters who mount custom beavertails on their 1911s.  These handguns are available in 9mm and .40 S&W in full size and compact versions.  The large frame pistols are available in .45 ACP,  10mm  and .38 Super.  The .38 Super version is fairly rare, but sometimes encountered.   It is not a big seller for EAA but this may change with the sunset of the assault weapons bill.  In its original configuration the .38 Super Witness was capable of carrying eighteen rounds of .38 Super in its spacious magazine.  That is much more exciting than an eighteen shot 9mm,  understanding the Super as I do. 

EAA offers a complete line of accessories and even gunsmith services,  but best contact them for information.  I suspect much that is new and interesting is coming your way in the near future!  An important aspect of the Witness pistols success is that while it works fine as issued,  the pistol can be modified to suit the individual.  It is not exactly the "Mr. Potato Head" that the 1911 can be, but is quite versatile.  While all offer the choice of single action fire and cocked and locked carry,  there are quite a few factory versions available that are manufactured as single action pistols without the double action option.  These pistols are designed for competition use and fit that niche well.  

The pistol reviewed is the Witness Limited Class.  This pistol sports a 4.75 inch barrel,  a large squared trigger guard compatible with gloved hand use,  a single action trigger,  an enlarged safety,  a rather wild frame extension equivalent to a beavertail as found on 1911 pistols,  a high grade adjustable rear sight,  an enlarged magazine funnel,   and twenty line per inch checkering of the trigger guard and grip strap.   This is a very decent gun in fit and finish,  with certain notable design features that enhance accuracy. The slide is enclosed by the frame,  offering a full length interface between the long bearing surfaces of the pistol.  This is the opposite of the Colt 1911 or Browning  High Power design. The frame mounted safety is far more rapid in manipulation than the slide mounted safety found on most pistols of the double action type.  The Witness safety not only locks the hammer,  the sear is frozen when the safety is applied.  The Witness also features a positive firing pin block or drop safety. 

I have enjoyed good service with previous Witness pistols, and expected excellent accuracy and handling from this example.  I would not be disappointed. A minor difficulty was experienced in finding a holster to wear at the range. The standard Witness will fit some 1911 holsters,  as well as a number molded for the Beretta 92.  No such luck with the target version.  I was able to make use of the full size Uncle Mikes Nylon holster.  This holster was adequate for range use and offered an inexpensive scabbard for informal range testing.  As for ammunition,  I decided to go for the gold and use ammunition that had proven accurate in a number of .45 autos.  This included a number of handloads in Starline Brass.  Starline is of high quality and very consistent, an important consideration in working up top accuracy loads.  I often begin with fresh Starline brass in order to remove all room for error.   The bullet of choice for top accuracy is the Sierra 230 grain FMJ, MATCH.  This bullet has proven gilt edged accurate in several 1911s and good results were predicted.  The powder used for the most part was Hodgdon Titegroup,  a clean burning powder that has given good results in practically every pistol caliber in my experience.  I also chose a number of factory loads that had proven accurate in other pistols,  including  the Black Hills 230 grain RNL.  This is quite an accurate load, even in the bargain blue box  remanufactured line.   I also hand on hand a number of partial boxes of various jacketed hollow point factory loads left over from previous test programs.  Some performed well, others did not.

Before beginning the range tests,  I disassembled the Witness and lubricated the pistol with Birchwood Casey gun oil.  The long bearing surfaces were liberally doused as well as the barrel where it met the end of the slide,  and the rear of the slide where it cocked the hammer.  Thus prepared,  I began range testing.  I always fire the handgun off hand a few times to familiarize myself with the function,  trigger, and handling of the pistol.  The first few ten round magazines were filled with Black Hills 230 grain RNL loads.   I fired a number of rounds into a silhouette target at ten yards.  With the weight of the gun,  the well defined front post seemed to hang on the target.  Control was excellent.  In firing five ten round magazines,  I experienced no discomfort at all. The pistol is very pleasant to fire and use.  I did experience a handful of failures to fully close the slide,   not unusual in a tightly fitted pistol.  These failures to close disappeared  within the first one hundred rounds.  Many pistols demand a break in period,  and the Witness is no exception. 

The Witness target configuration is not intended for use as a defensive handgun but a big burly .45 with an eleven round capacity certainly could do the business. This pistol swings readily between targets and control is excellent.  The grip is a bit larger than the 1911,  but control is enhanced by the pistols  excellent 24 lines per inch checkering.  As a control test,  I loaded a full magazine with Black Hills 230 grain JHP +P.  This load is usually very accurate and exits most .45s at around 950 fps.  I was able  to fire an acceptable off hand group at a long twenty five yards.  The pistol simply came back on target quickly each time I drug the front sight into the rear notch,  and the smooth trigger compression was a joy to use.  Recoil was there, but the Witness could obviously be more than a target gun.  I did not miss a double action feature when  firing this pistol, and double action shooting at 25 yards is problematical with any handgun.

I settled down to perform the obligatory bench rest firing session.  After all, this is a highly touted target piece and while action shooting places a premium on handling under speed,  the pistol needs to be accurate. The well defined sight picture was a definite aid in firing the pistol well.  I loaded the first magazine with five rounds of Black Hills 230 grain RNL and settled in for the routine.  With due care in sight alignment and maintaining a good sight picture,  I squeezed off the first round.  Follow-through was not difficult with this weight gun.  I followed with four more rounds.  After making the walk to the target,  I was rewarded with a nicely spaced two and one half inch group.  Four of these were inside of two inches, common with semi auto handguns- one round was spaced apart from the others.

Next,  I attempted to fire a few rounds of  PMC Starfire.  A friend asked me to evaluate these rounds in the Witness.  The first round fed as I dropped the slide but the second refused to feed and tied up on the feed ramp.  Looking closely, it was obvious that the bullet had been driven into the cartridge case.  This is unacceptable.  Even when the round will not feed,  the bullet should maintain sufficient case mouth fit to maintain the overall cartridge length.  I suffered two failure to feed malfunctions with the Starfire.  The three rounds I managed to fire settled into about three inches. Obviously, the Witness does not like some wide mouth JHP bullets.

Next,  I fired five rounds of  Black Hills 230 grain JHP off the bench.  Recoil was brisk,  but not quite as abrupt as the +P version.  Feed was flawless.  The five bullets settled into  two inches - with four of these in an inch and a quarter!  Function was perfect.  While not a +P rated loading,  the Black Hills 230 grain JHP is quite fast at 880 fps. The +P variant breaks 950 fps. 

I had on hand a small supply of Quality Cartridge 155 grain SWC loads. These little bullets are fast and kick little.  I was curious concerning the accuracy potential of a bullet with such moderate bearing surface.  I should not have been.  Five bullets fed, chambered, fired and ejected perfectly, falling into two and one quarter inches,   about three inches below the point of aim.  This is an interesting loading, sure to please those who appreciate light recoil. 

I also fired a magazine of Quality Cartridge 240 grain JHP,  using the Sierra bullet.  This is an overlooked bullet that gives real accuracy at about 850 fps. This load demonstrated more muzzle flip than any other,  as may be expected.  Accuracy was in the two inch range.  This load showed a very clean burn,  with little muzzle signature, a sure sign of quality control.  I do not think we will see much expansion if any in this bullet at its modest velocity as it is designed for the .45 Colt, but whatever is struck by a 240 grain .45 will be impressed! 

The final factory load fired was Black Hills 230 grain JHP +P.  I had set up the Competition Electronics chronograph and sure enough, this load blasted over the screens at 965 fps- that is screaming for a 230 grain pumpkin ball!  Moreover, the standard deviation (velocity spread between shots) between shots was a mere 23 fps. This is a well put together loading.  Accuracy was just over two inches, again,  but four of the five shots went into 1  13/16 inch.  I am willing to attribute the larger group to shooter error.

I took a break,  rubbed my wrists,  and broke out the handloads for a final session.  I realized that mixing lead and copper jacketed bullets in a new bore was not the model for accuracy testing,  as some bullets are more accurate after the groove in.  Just the same,  I was encouraged by the good results I had enjoyed.   I  had on hand a number of  loads using the 230 grain flat point from National Bullet Company.  This is an economical bullet,  well suited to competition shooting.  It also packs a good slap upon meeting a target.     I had loaded a batch up with my old favorite,  HP 38.  Velocity was 792 fps,  about ideal for this weight bullet.  Five rounds clustered into two and three quarter inches,  more than adequate for most needsfrom a dirt cheap loading!

I followed with a loading using the Sierra 230 grain JHP, a bullet of proven accuracy.  The Sierra is also a good choice for hunting game at moderate range, as it shows good expansion.  This bullet has a good bit of exposed lead and I suffered a failure to feed in two of the ten rounds I attempted to fire in the Witness.  However, I had sufficient case mouth tightness that the bullet was not driven into the case, but only dinged.  Obviously, if the Witness is to be used with a wide range of exotic bullet styles it will need a feed ramp polish.  Still, it  feeds the Black Hills JHP loads perfectly, and they are among the top defense loads in this caliber.  It also feeds the lead flat point bullets,  an economy loading.  In any case,  the Sierra JHP over enough HP 38 to generate 845 fps clustered five shots into two and one quarter inch.  The need to stop shooting and clear the failures to feed certainly played hob with our average.

I took time to wipe the gun down and inspect the bore before moving to the final accuracy test.  As expected,  there was little leading,  just a few smudges forward of the chamber.  There was little powder ash as well.  The final load used the Sierra 230 grain FMJ MATCH bullet over enough Titegroup to generate 820 fps.  I was not disappointed by the performance of the Witness with this load.  The average of a total of fifteen rounds in three five shot groups  was one and fifteen sixteenths inches.  That is fine performance that could probably be improved upon with careful experimentation. 

After the range test program,  I fired the Witness offhand at various targets at known and unknown ranges.  The pistol gives a high expectation of  hits,  and man sized targets at one hundred yards were in danger.  The sights and the trigger are probably the guns best features,  but the hand filling grip and fine checkering leave nothing to be desired.  Overall,  I like the Witness.  Here is a highly developed pistol available at a fraction of the cost of a full blown custom pistol.  The sights and trigger leave little to be desired.  I would polish the feed ramp with the Dremel tool if anything other than hardball were to be used.  I would also check and tune the extractor,  making certain the surface that  meets the cartridge rim is square and sharp.  The only real question is longevity in hard competition  but I understand quite a few Witness pistols have been used in competition for years with good results.  The finish,  like most modern matte finishes,  leaves something to be desired. It was showing wear before the end of the test  period, but this is not unusual in modern handguns.  True hot blue of the deep, rich type once common is practically a thing of the past.  If you are in the market for a practical shooting handgun with many good features,  the Witness version just may be the answer.  My example certainly performs well.

A Real Hot Shot Witness -

When firing the Target Model,  I could not help but compare the new pistol to two other pistols in my collection.  The double action first shot Witness is by no means an inferior performer, simply different.  As a general purpose handgun, the original pistol has much to recommend.    My standard handload for this pistol relies upon a proven recipe, Unique powder in a stout does to give 920 fps with the Speer 230 grain Gold Dot bullet.   I am most careful in loading this combination and it gives unfailing good results.   But the real news in this range trip was the powerful 10mm Witness.  The 10mm is a caliber that has a certain following much like the .41 Magnum revolver enthusiast. They dont  think anyone appreciates their favorite cartridge enough and they dont wish to push it on anyonethey simply enjoy it themselves!

The 10mm can be accurate and powerful in the right handgun.  I broke out the 10mm Witness to test the wares of a new ammunition company, Double Tap. Founded by a 10mm enthusiast, Double Tap specializes in 10mm ammunition. I tested two loads in the Witness, a 180 grain FMJ practice load at 1250 fps and a spectacular performer,  using the 165 grain Gold Dot at 1,400 fps!  The practice load was very accurate as some 10s are, cutting a ragged two inch 25 yard group.  The 165 grain load was acceptable, producing a three inch 25 yard group, about all this handgun has done with service ammunition. That is real power, trouncing the .40 S&W and quite a few other handgun cartridges.  Anyone who owns a 10mm should contact Double Tap ammunition and examine the interesting developments at their web site.   (1-866-357-10mm  or  

Overall, my results with the Witness handguns have been good.  The target version is not a new handgun in the line but a new version in my experience.  I like it very much.  It is accurate, could be more accurate with a little tweaking, and comes from the factory drilled for a scope mount.  Much of what we add to a pistol at great expense comes as part and parcel of the Witness.  These handguns are good performers and good buys.  Give them a hard look.

R.K. Campbell

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Handsome and well built, the Witness single action target version has many good features.



The Witness features a well designed safety and comes from the factory drilled for a scope mount.  It is an excellent entry level handgun on all counts, and can be upgraded for serious competition.



All Witness pistols feature a beveled magazine well, making for ease of  reloading.  The competition model shares this good feature.



Many of the Witness pistols feature forward cocking serrations, once an expensive custom option.



The standard version Witness .45, a big burly double action is quite a performer in its own right.



In rapid fire combat shooting the comfortable grip and excellent sights of the Witness make for good shooting.



Comfortable cocking serrations and excellent adjustable sights are among the features of this pistol.



An extended magazine release and front strap checkering are among the features of the Witness target model.



When loading handgun ammunition for a first class target gun, care and precision pay off big dividends.   Matthew Campbell carefully loads a few .45s for testing.



Alan Campbell got the measure of the Witness and found the 10mm version a good handgun with real power on tap.