Compact handguns may be popular, but there are many shooters who prefer a full-size pistol for target shooting and home defense. Manufactured by Tanfoglio in Italy and imported by European American Armory Corp. (EAA), the 9 mm Luger Witness is a full-size, steel-frame gun based on the classic CZ-75 design suited for such purposes.
Many American shooters are familiar with the Czech-designed CZ-75, either through first-hand experience, or at least by reputation. It was the first double-action/single-action, recoil-operated, semi-automatic pistol to allow for cocked-and-locked carry in the manner of single-actions such the M1911 or Browning Hi Power. The CZ-75, like the Browning, uses a linkless locking system. It wasn’t the first of the so-called “wonder nines,” but at the time, many shooters considered it the best.
No less authority than the late Jeff Cooper endorsed the CZ-75 design at least partly because of its M1911-like qualities. The gun was made behind the Iron Curtain and was difficult to acquire in the United States during the Cold War. Its lack of availability only added to its mystique. Original Czech-made examples from the Cold War era are still difficult to find, but fortunately Tanfoglio makes an improved version that is widely available.
One of the Witness’ most distinctive features is the way the slide rides inside the frame, giving the slide a short top-to-bottom profile. Full-length rails on the frame mate tightly with the slide rails—a level of tolerance that lends itself to improved accuracy.
The pistol features a long beavertail to protect the web of the shooter’s hand from hammer bite, which can happen with a high grip on some pistols. The rounded Commander-style hammer is blackened steel. There is no decocker, however, and caution should be used when setting the pistol back into double-action mode.
The low-profile sights feature a white-dot front sight and a windage- and elevation-adjustable rear sight. All controls are left-side-mounted for right-handed shooters, and the safety can be activated with the hammer cocked or down. The safety locks the hammer from any movement when activated, and the hammer has a half-cock setting. Both the safety and slide stop/release are blackened steel, enlarged and easily activated. Other blackened steel parts include the sights, the magazine release and the trigger, whose colors are pleasantly offset against the flat nickel-plated finish, or “Wonder Finish,” according to EAA.
The pistol also includes a firing pin block safety that stops any forward movement of the firing pin unless the trigger is completely depressed. This helps prevent an unintended discharge if, for example, the pistol were dropped. Purists, tired of polymer pistols, will be pleased by the all-steel construction; the only non-steel parts are the magazine follower, floorplate and rubber stocks, which feature a pebbled texture to provide a firm grip. With a heavy, stainless steel barrel as well, the pistol is indeed no lightweight, especially when loaded with a full magazine of 17 rounds of 9 mm Luger ammunition.
Fit and function on the pistol were excellent. Additional features include an integral Picatinny accessory rail on the dust cover for mounting lights, lasers or other accessories. Disassembly requires no tools. Simply line up the takedown marks on the left rear of the slide and frame, then push out the slide stop pin.
On the range the Witness exhibited no malfunctions with a variety of ammunition. Its weight helped minimize recoil, even when using heavy and +P loads. Sights were factory-set for point of aim at 25 yards, and accuracy results were good with the best five-shot group from the bench measuring just more than 1.5 inches.
Trigger pull in the double-action mode was manageable at 13 pounds, but it seemed long at an inch in travel and exhibited some stacking toward the end. In the single-action mode, the trigger pull was a more consistent 5 pounds, 8 ounces and exhibited no overtravel; however, there was still a slight amount of takeup and some noticeable creep.
The Witness pistol from EAA and Tanfoglio not only brings back a proven and reliable classic, but it reminds us of the features sometimes lost on modern compact handguns. The all-steel design and adjustable rear sights on a full size duty pistol meet the needs of target shooters and those who practice personal protection. Other Witness models are available in .38 Super, .40 S&W, 10 mm Auto and .45 ACP.