What happens when you cross Italian engineering with one of the world’s most tested and proven designs? Car fans would say the new Lamborghini Aventador, but savvy competition shooters might say that the answer is the EAA Witness Elite Stock II. Available in 9mm, .40 S&W, .38 Super, .45 ACP or 10mm, the Stock II is the latest Italian import from European American Armory (EAA) that brings the best of Europe’s purpose-built competition pistols to the United States.
The Witness line covers a wide range of pistols, all originally made by Tanfoglio, an Italian firearms manufacturer that specializes in pistols for competition shooters. The Witness design is based on the legendary and proven CZ 75 pistol, but Tanfoglio has taken that design and added their own touches, making it available in a multitude of calibers, as compared to the CZ’s 9mm or .40 chamberings. The Tanfoglio guns are then imported to the U.S. by EAA, which offers the entire rage of pistols under the “Witness” name.
EAA breaks the Witness line under three different categories: Steel, Polymer and Elite. The Steel and Polymer types are subdivided into full-size and compact models, representing their roles primarily as defensive and carry firearms. The Elite series is broken down into several competition designations: Gold Team, for IPSC/USPSA Open; Limited, for USPSA Limited or IPSC Standard; Limited Pro, for IPSC/USPSA Production; Match, for IDPA ESP or CDP; Stock I, with fixed sight and ready for IPSC Production; and Stock II, for IPSC Production. The EAA Witness Elite Stock II closely resembles a hybrid of the Limited Pro and the Limited, keeping the double-action trigger pull of the Limited Pro but adding the full-length steel dust cover of the Limited pistols.
The Stock II comes standard with adjustable Bo-Mar-style sights with a black adjustable rear, a black, fixed front post sight, an ambidextrous thumb safety, a large magazine release, a trigger overtravel stop and a stainless steel finish. The test gun was chambered in .38 Super and came from the factory with one 17-round magazine. The first thing to discuss is the .38 Super chambering. The Tanfoglio designs were initially adapted for .38 Super and other cartridges with longer overall lengths, like .45 ACP or 10mm. These guns feed very reliably with these chamberings. While its popularity has waned in the U.S., the .38 Super cartridge is still tremendously popular in many European countries due to restrictions on owning “military” ammo such as 9mm.
With an MSRP $1,100, the Stock II is closer to a custom gun than many offered at the same price. Along with the aforementioned sights, the pistol comes with hardwood grips that match its satin stainless steel finish—so not only does it shoot well, but it turns heads in the process. One of the best features of the Stock II is something you’d expect on a custom-house 1911: the slide-to-frame fit. Because the Stock II uses full-length rails on the slide and frame, the two parts fit together perfectly. This also increases accuracy, as the slide travels the exact same path with each shot, unlike some polymer pistols, which have a considerable amount of flex in the frame. Because of the tight slide-to-frame fit, the barrel and slide lock-up is exceptionally tight—another high-performance touch.
Competition shooters should also appreciate the large thumb safety. The Stock II is normally shot in DA/SA mode, eliminating the need for a safety from a mechanical standpoint. What the ambidextrous safety does provide is the perfect ergonomic point for the strong-hand thumb to rest when using the thumbs-forward grip favored by competition shooters.
Remember, the Stock II is designed with the IPSC Production division in mind. Unlike the USPSA in America, IPSC rules specify that a gun in the Production division must have an initial trigger pull of over 5.5 pounds. This has led to a rise in DA/SA guns that have a first pull of over 5.5 pounds and subsequent single-action pulls of 2 to 4 pounds. The Stock II tested had an initial trigger pull of 10 pounds with minimal stacking at the end of the pull. The single-action trigger pull was nothing short of amazing, breaking at 3.6 pounds on a digital scale with no creep. The trigger stop makes sure there’s no overtravel in the pull, aiding in fast reset for follow-up shots.
I worked the Stock II through a few different tests: a fairly standard accuracy evaluation by shooting groups at 25 yards, a shootability test with several drills, and finally as a primary handgun in the 2012 NRA Bianchi Cup match. For ammo, I used Winchester 130-grain FMJs, PMC 130-grain FMJs and Atlanta Arms & Ammo’s amazing 115-grain JHP match load. The Winchester and the PMC are both “blasting ammo”—great for range use and target practice, but not loaded to the exacting standards of the Atlanta Arms’ .38 Super match rounds. The Atlanta Arms .38 Super, which uses a Hornady 115-grain XTP bullet loaded in Starline brass over Federal primers, was amazingly accurate out of the Stock II. From 25 yards away, the Winchester ammo averaged groups of 1.86 inches from a rest. The PMC opened the groups up a little bit to 2.3 inches. However, the Atlanta Arms match ammo blew both rounds away, with an average group size of 1.08 inches at 25 yards.
The Stock II is a very easy gun to shoot well. Like all DA/SA Tanfoglio pistols, it can be carried and shot in single-action-only mode by engaging the ambidextrous thumb safety when the gun is cocked. Doing this completely eliminates the heavier DA trigger pull, which is the most difficult part of shooting the gun, and allows for a consistent 3.5-pound trigger pull every time the gun is fired. Even so, shooting it with the DA first shot is relatively easy once you’ve spent some time practicing. On the standard Dot Torture drill, the gun was able to shoot clean 50/50 scores at 3, 5 and 7 yards with all the aforementioned ammo.
The real test of the EAA Witness Elite Stock II came at the 2012 NRA Bianchi Cup. This annual match is considered one of the toughest tests of practical pistol accuracy in the world. During the three days of competition, shooters engage 8-inch steel plates as far away as 25 yards, hit a moving 4-inch circle at 25 yards and go prone to hit a target 50 yards away, all with a handgun. There is a tremendous emphasis on accuracy at this match, and top shooters all agree that the best tool is a light-recoiling handgun that shoots 1-inch groups at 25 yards—sounds just like the Stock II.
As a result of training for and competing in the Bianchi Cup, I fired a total of 2,896 rounds through the pistol. It was cleaned once after 500 rounds, and then not cleaned again until after the match. During the match, the Stock II was fired in blowing dust and rain, and even worn by a guy in a kilt. Despite all indignities heaped upon it, the pistol functioned with 100 percent reliability. In fact, it only experienced one malfunction during its entire 3,000-round test: a failure to feed early on, which did not repeat organically and could not be reproduced mechanically. And keep in mind that a 1-in-3,000 rate of malfunction exceeds military and industry standards for handgun reliability.
Are there any drawbacks to the Stock II? The first consideration has to be its weight. Unloaded, it tipped the scales at 33 ounces. A polymer gun is almost half that weight—you probably won’t see the Stock II being used as a concealed carry gun any time soon. Also, out of the box, the adjustable sights were nowhere near on target and required a considerable amount of movement to get dialed in. The factory wooden grips aren’t fitted quite right and can move around a little bit, and parts are hard to find. But, of course, all of those things could be leveled at a Maserati Gran Turismo or a Lamborghini Aventador as well. Yet you don’t see people comparing those cars to a Toyota Camry. A Lamborghini is a performance-driven supercar designed for a specific purpose: going fast. It delivers on that. A Toyota Camry, on the other hand, is just a car. It’s reliable, economical, safe and pretty boring. In comparison, the EAA Witness Elite Stock II is the firearms equivalent of an Italian supercar. It’s built for performance, to do one thing very well: win matches.
So there you have it. What’s the EAA Witness Elite Stock II in .38 Super all about? Performance—ridiculous, insane performance in one of the finest competition handguns available on the market today. It’s not for everyone. If all you want from a gun is a concealable 9mm handgun, then a gun like the Stock II isn’t for you. But if you want more—if you put hot sauce on your pizza, drive too fast around corners, have a Maserati sitting in your garage or just want an incredible competition handgun—then it’s time you took a look at another great import from Italy. For more information, visit eaacorporation.com or call 321-639-4842.