EAA’s 10mm Witness P Match Joins The
Pantheon Of Perfect Packin’ Pistols
By John Taffin
Photos: Takashi Sato
It always warms my shooting spirit to see things turn out the way they are supposed to. The good news is the 10mm has seen a real rejuvenation of interest and now just off the top of my head I can name six manufacturers producing semi-automatic 10mm pistols not the least of which is Tanfoglio whose new Polymer Witness P Match 10mm now joins the steel-framed one offered by EAA (European American Armory).
The 10mm cartridge first arrived in Dornaus & Dixon’s Bren Ten. For various reasons the company producing this excellent pistol did not survive. The pistol was gone, and the cartridge almost dead. That could very easily have been the end of a superb semi-automatic cartridge. However, soon the 10mm was chambered in other pistols and even adopted by the FBI, but it proved too powerful for LEO use and very short-lived, but like the Phoenix, the 10mm kept rising from the ashes, and the latest is EAA’s Polymer Witness.
The Witness was formerly known as the TZ-75 tailored after the Czech-manufactured CZ-75 which many, including Col. Cooper, said was the finest 9mm semi-automatic pistol ever produced. EAA goes back to 1990 when European American Armory survived out of the ashes of FIE. When FIE disappeared, former employees banded together and offered the shooting public some things missing from FIE. At the time, Keith Bernkrant of EAA shared with me his suppliers and the importers had come together with new goals and ideas, the most significant of which was the customer is really number one. Along with this EAA was committed to offering quality products at reasonable prices. At the same time EAA set up a custom shop to offer all the extras shooters wanted.
EAA’s 10mm Witness P Match is a single-action pistol and carried cocked and locked.
Thoroughly Modern Tanfoglio
In 1991 I was invited to travel to Italy and see the production of the early EAA pistols firsthand. Tanfoglio (pronounced tan-fo-lio) was founded by Giuseppe Tanfoglio and at the time I visited Italy was being managed by the second generation consisting of Massimo, Lino and Mary Tanfoglio. I found them to be exceptionally friendly and gracious and thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I had expected to see a small operation and was pleasantly surprised to find a totally modern plant with 70 employees and a dedication to doing things right.
They had just recently installed a new CNC machine at the cost of $1.5 million to do frame operations formerly done by hand. The new machine accepted 23 pallets with each pallet holding eight frames. The computerized machine read the frame, determined what operation was to be done, installed the proper tool head, and then performed the operation. The frames, which started as castings, were frequently checked both visually and with gauges to ensure quality control. All finished guns were test-fired with a full magazine and also run through a stress machine that simulated 500 rounds through the gun. I can only imagine what progressive steps have been taken since this was over 25 years ago. I left Italy thoroughly impressed with the operation and the people.
Also at this time several of the top shooters were using Tanfoglio pistols for competition. These names, which most competitive shooters will recognize, included Rob Leatham, Jerry Barnhart, Arnt Magne Myhre, and a then very young Doug Koenig. Koenig had begun to set the high bar for IPSC competition using a Springfield Armory P-9 produced by Tanfoglio and customized by my friend and neighbor George Hoenig. While I was in Italy I went to an IPSC competitive match with 150 shooters and was able to visit with three of them who took 1st, 6th and 15th in the match with all of them using Tanfoglio TZ-75/Witness pistols. The young lady who took 15th using a Tanfoglio beat out 135 men.
Now let’s look at the EAA Polymer Witness. A number of unique features can be found on this pistol. The slide rails fit inside the frame rather than the traditional semi-auto slide over frame with the result being the slide-to-frame fit has no perceptible play. Instead of the usual awkward-to-disengage slide mounted safety found on most double-action semi-autos, the Witness has a Browning-style frame-mounted safety—a feature endearing itself to lovers of the standard Government Model.
Controls are on the left side only, leaving the right side clean and smooth.
The EAA Witness P Match takes down easily into three components for cleaning.
Single Action Surprise
The Witness models normally have dual-carrying capability, that is they are selective-action semi-automatics which can be carried with the hammer down and fired with the first shot double-action and subsequent shots single action or it can be carried cocked-and-locked. This means it can be carried in single-action mode safely. For my use I would always opt to carry it cocked-and-locked simply because I find it difficult to reach the trigger in the double-action mode.
When the Polymer Witness P Match arrived I found something interesting while checking it out. First I measured the single-action pull with my Brownells’ Trigger Gauge and found it to be a very acceptable 4 pounds. The next step was to see how heavy the double-action pull was and I discovered something: there was no double-action mode. With the Polymer Witness Limited 10mm I do not have to choose. It looks like a double action but only operates in the single-action mode. I like this. And just as with John Browning’s High Power, there is no grip safety.
Working the slide I found an extremely tight fit with no perceptible movement whatsoever. My first thought was this gun should shoot. After the initial inspection the next step was to remove the slide and recoil spring and properly lubricate. A Q-Tip was used to coat the slide and frame rails with Hurley’s Gold also applied to the slightly cone-shaped bushing-less barrel at the front and on the locking lugs.
Continuing the examination of the matte-black-finished slide we find abbreviated cocking serrations below the rear sight, however, even with the stiff recoil spring I had no problem working the slide. Sights are excellent consisting of a fully adjustable rear matched with a post front, both of which are seated low. The rear sight is in a dovetail while the front sight enters from the front and is locked in place with an Allen screw. The first shot fired with a 200-grain full metal jacket hit dead center.
On the left side of the polymer frame below the slide we find two controls, a thumb safety and slide-stop. Below the rear sight there are two small marks, one in the slide and one in the frame and when these are lined up the slide-stop lever is easily removed and the slide is then able to move forward and off. The hammer is Commander-style and we have already mentioned the very good trigger pull. The magazine release is found in the normal place on the left side of the frame behind the trigger and when pressed the magazine releases very positively. This magazine holds 14 rounds. The grip frame is exceptionally aggressive with checkering on the front and back straps and also on both grip panels. There is no way the Witness is going to twist in the hand while firing and this is also comforting to have in a hunting situation especially in wet weather. The built-in beavertail definitely helps reduce felt recoil and, with its relatively light weight at just over 2 pounds, I expected more recoil than realized. The triggerguard is squared off in the front and the grip frame also has a beveled magazine well.
The slide runs on internal rails on the EAA Witness P Match
The Witness P Match has fully adjustable sights and is more easily adjusted to today’s
wide range of 10mm bullet weights and power.
The wide-body frame nestles comfortably in the hand for a gun with a payload of 15-shots.
As they say the proof is in the pudding. When it came time to test-fire this 10mm Witness I found exceptionally good pudding. This gun flat out shoots! I selected 17 factory loads from eight different brands ranging in bullet weights from 155 to 200 grains, both jacketed hollowpoint and full metal jacket types. The fastest load clocked out at 1,322 fps while the slowest sub-sonic load measured 943 fps. With all of these variables in play this excellent shooting pistol averaged groups just a shade over 1 inch. To me, and especially in my hands, that is exceptional performance.
All the results are in the accompanying chart, however I would like to point out a few examples. One-inch groups were acquired with the Federal 180-grain Hydra-Shok at 1,040 fps, Hornady’s 180 JHP Sub-Sonic, 1,046 fps, and the Hornady 200 XTP-JHP at 1,132 fps. The most accurate load — 3/4 inch — came from Federal’s 180 JHP Personal Defense load at 1,016 fps. Winchester’s 175-grain SilverTip HP was right behind it with a 7/8-inch group clocking out at just over 1,250 fps. There is no practical difference in accuracy between these five loads.
The Witness comes in a sturdy, bright red, lockable case. Included is a very clever compact takedown cleaning rod with sections and four tips packed in the handle. The only negative I can find is the fact it came with only one magazine. Every semi auto should come with two magazines. Three would be better.
Normally, you might not think of a 10mm pistol as a gun for target shooting. However, the EAA Polymer Witness P Match provides the accuracy needed for any target. Its main use would be for hunting and it is certainly powerful enough for relatively close-range shooting on deer-sized game and should be a superb feral pig gun. Combine the power of the 10mm with the accuracy of the Witness and we have a high quality combination. In case you haven’t gathered by now I like this power-packed Perfect Packin’ Pistol very much.
The EAA Witness P Match digested everything well, functioned flawlessly, and earned a
place in the Perfect Packin’ Pistol pantheon.
Federal ammunition shot very well in the test, and produced some spectacular groups.
Our Witness P Match shot very well with the Hornady 10mm 180-grain XTP JHP ammunition featured on our cover.
Let’s look at the 10mm cartridge. The 10mm began as a wildcat semi-auto cartridge using the 180-grain bullets of the old .38-40 or .38 WCF, which is actually .40 caliber. Whit Collins took his idea for a new cartridge to another gunsmith who is now also my neighbor, John French. They used the .224 Weatherby as a parent case to come up with the .40 G&A chambered in a Browning High Power. This was way back in 1971 and they reported 1,100 fps with a 180-grain bullet. Fast forward to 1977 and now the 180-grain bullet is up to 1,250 fps. This catches Col. Cooper’s attention who for the first time sees it’s possible there would actually be a semi-auto pistol round that could replace, or at least compete on equal footing with his .45 ACP.
Norma produced ammunition with 200-grain bullets at 1,200 fps and Dornaus & Dixon began producing an improved CZ-75 known as the Bren Ten. The project was doomed to failure. Production was slower than had been expected, the ammunition was too powerful causing problems with the gun, and magazines were not made in-house but produced in Europe and very difficult to get. Cooper liked the cartridge and the gun, however, production was short-lived and Dornaus & Dixon closed shop.
Our EAA Witness P Match 10mm is surrounded with (clockwise from top left) Honeywell Eye Pro W300
glasses, Hornady 180-grain STP JHP, Peltor Rangeguard Earmuffs, Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA flashlight
and Cold Steel Night Force knife.
D&D failed, but the cartridge survived. Barely. What it did accomplish was change the face of LEO armament. It proved to be too powerful for this application but it spawned the .40 S&W that is simply a shorter and less powerful 10mm. The .40 would dominate law enforcement and self-defense use for a quarter century.
When the 10mm first arrived I tested a Baker’s Dozen 10mm semi-auto pistols all of which except one eventually disappeared. However, the cartridge was too good to disappear and slowly over the ensuing decades began to gain a strong following. Also at the time (over 25-years ago) I tested more than 30 different factory loads for the 10mm. Today, the 10mm is the most powerful semi-auto cartridge available in a Perfect Packin’ Pistol. There have been and are now other more powerful cartridges available in semi-autos, however they are heavier and bulkier and definitely much harder to carry all day than pistols currently chambered in 10mm.
In the early days of the .44 Magnum both Alaskan brown bear and elephants were taken with this powerful sixgun cartridge. The 10mm is not as powerful as the .44 Magnum, however, it has been used to take several species of big game including Cape buffalo. Not only do major manufacturers offer various versions of the 10mm, some of the smaller companies offer tens specifically designed for big game hunting. Its future seems assured and being offered in the EAA/Tanfoglio Witness only strengthens it.
Polymer Witness P Match
Maker: Tanfoglio, Italy
Importer: European American Armory
1426 W. King St.
Cocoa, FL 32922
Action Type: Locked breech semi-auto, Caliber: 10mm, Capacity: 15
Barrel Length: 4-3/4 inches
Overall Length: 8-3/4 inches
Weight: 2 pounds, 2 ounces
Finish: Matte black
Sights: Fully adjustable
Grips: Integral polymer