Inside the Gun Locker: A Review of the EAA Witness
Sick of compromise?
The one thing that has always bothered me about concealed carry guns is that they are all about compromise. You give up power for smaller size. You give up accuracy for a shorter barrel. You give up everything you really want in a handgun for the ability to have it on you all the time. Maybe I’ve grown cranky. Maybe I’m just fed up. Whatever the source of my feelings, I’m tired of compromises. I’m tired of shooting tiny guns that only make small holes, or dent paper. I want some raw horse power. I want some excessive force. And I want it with some decent accuracy, control, and something that could get me through a knock down, drag out gun fight. A real gun. But it can’t be a 1911, and it can’t be a .45 or Tim Schmidt (USCCA President) would string me up with my own gun belt.
I was given the chance to “pick something” from the EAA catalog for review. Anything. Then shoot the heck out of it and see if it holds up. I’ve done 9mms, and I don’t like .40s all that much, and you are all sick of my gushing on about the .45 ACP. So I picked a Compact Witness in 10mm. This is an all-steel, double action, ten round, 10mm pistol with a four inch barrel, fixed three dot sights, and it’s coated with EAA’s “Wonder Finish.” The MSRP is only $450. That’s what it is, but it doesn’t really tell you guys what it really is.
The gun is rather heavy for its size. Being that it is in a caliber with such potency, that weight is not a downside. The gun is in an intermediate size for being called a compact. I guess it is smaller than the full sized gun, but it isn’t really all that compact. The gun is thick through the grip so you can really hold on to it, but the length is too short to get all your fingers aboard. Even with the magazine’s finger extension, you still can’t get your pinky to join the others on the gun. For you out there with knuckles that are not swollen from arthritis, this might not be an issue.
The Wonder Finish is attractive, and feels slick to the touch. It reminds me of NP3, for those who know what that is. As good looking as the finish is, the one thing I really like about it is that it is very easy to clean. After test firing, all I did was spray it down with a little Hoppe’s #9, rinse that off with a little Hornady One Shot, and then wipe it off. It looked clean as new, and was slick as ever. Some Hoppes and a bore snake cleaned the inside of the barrel, and I put a little Tetra Gun Oil on the rails and sear, and that was it. I was done cleaning in about two minutes.
This little beast is chambered for something most shooters are not familiar with. I showed it to a few guys, and they had never seen nor heard of 10mm before (I know I live in the sticks, but there are good people here.)
So let’s review a little history: The 10mm cartridge was introduced in 1983 in conjunction with the Bren Ten pistol by the well known firearms house of Dornaus & Dixon–we all know those guys, right? No, me neither. All I know about them was that they had this pistol that was an epic flop. The famous Jeff Cooper was a huge supporter of the Bren Ten, and the pistol was good. It just never caught on. I don’t know why. The cartridge is brilliant. It can be chambered in guns that you can chamber .45 in, meaning 1911 type guns. It offers a wide performance spectrum from target loads to deer hunting loads. You can go from 135 grain bullets at 1600 fps, to 200 grain bullets at 1200 fps. This gives you performance like no other auto cartridge. If you want this sort of versatility in a more common platform, you will have to go with a .357 magnum or a .41 magnum because the 10mm is right in between those two. That’s a lot of power and flexibility that you just don’t find in your normal automatic pistol, especially not an auto for concealed carry purposes.
In 1986 in Dade County Florida, the FBI got into a big shootout with a couple of baddies who, when they got shot by the good guys, didn’t fall over dead like they were supposed to. The agents hit them repeatedly, but the baddies kept fighting, and two agents got killed. The FBI reevaluated everything about their side arms. They examined the calibers, and the bullets, and they added it all up. The answer was the 10mm.
Unfortunately for all the lawyers and accountants the FBI hires, the 10mm was too much for them. Too much recoil. So they downloaded the cartridge to milder levels. S&W said that they could do that in a 9mm length cartridge and put it into a smaller gun. That’s how we got the .40 S&W cartridge, called the Short and Weak by those who had become used to the 10mm.
Looking back at this development, I can see that it was a good move, and now most handguns are chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP. The downside is that the 10mm just fell out of the public eye. Today, it’s almost invisible. The gun store that I work at doesn’t carry 10mm ammunition, and we don’t carry any 10mm guns either. I drove out to Salt Lake City, Utah and stopped by every gun store that I knew of. It took all day, but I hit nine shops. Only one of them stocked 10mm ammo, and none of them had a pistol. The one place that did have some ammo only had four boxes. Four boxes in a city of two million. I was discouraged. Fortunately, there is the internet, and I was able to order more ammo.
Time to shoot
I didn’t want to shoot this gun alone. I wanted second opinions. Shooting Buddy Ben came with me one time, then The Travis came with me another time. We are all in agreement that the gun shoots very well, accuracy is more than acceptable, and the recoil isn’t just manageable, but enjoyable. Ben made a comment worth note, “The FBI couldn’t handle this? Sissies.” I agree. The 10mm round out of an all steel gun is really not much more kick than a .45, and I once taught a little Japanese lady who weighed less than two bags of dog food how to shoot a .45, and she did great with it.
Ben and I decided to shoot at steel. The base plate of an abandoned oven is made of sheet metal thicker than most desert-dwelling kitchen appliances. Ben had his trusty XD Tactical .45 that we used for comparison. The 5 inch barreled .45, shooting 230 grain FMJ Blazer Brass loads, did punch through the metal, but it pushed in a big dent before breaking through. The EAA Witness 10mm with its four inch tube blasted through the same metal so easily that it looked like we used a Dewalt power drill. The penetration is incredibly impressive. You don’t see this sort of power from a gun you hide on your person.
We did find an interesting problem with the gun. EAA only sent us one magazine for the pistol, so I can’t tell if it’s a magazine issue or an ammo issue. Every time, American Eagle 180 grain rounds would jam the gun on the second round from the last in the magazine. This was a failure to feed. The round would stand straight up in the magazine and the slide close on the cartridge. First thought was that this is obviously a magazine issue, but it only happened with AE 180 ammo. Norma, Buffalo Bore, Hornady, PMC, and Winchester did not jam.
The other thing that we all agreed upon was that the gun itself still needs a little work. The slide seemed to batter the frame pretty good, especially with the hotter Norma and Winchester loads. I think the spring is a bit too light from the factory, and it could be two to four pounds heavier. The gun has some sharp corners around the trigger guard and muzzle. The front sight post is formed with the slide instead of dovetailed in like it should be. This means you can’t install night sights, or different size posts to adjust the point of impact for different loadings.
The EAA Compact Witness is good as it is, especially for the money. It could easily be customized to be even better. On a scale of 1–10, you could take it from about a 7 to a solid
9. The gun falls in a unique category in that it is big enough to not be as easily concealable as a compact, yet too small to be a target type gun. It needs to be optimized for our concealment purposes. Here is what needs to be done:
First off, the sights. I know I always gripe about the sights on a pistol or hail them as needed. Sights and trigger are two critical things that can not be skimped on. EAA should have a guy in house to grind off the front sight post, cut in a dovetail, and put in Tritium night sights. That is a must for a gun to be taken seriously by me. Target guns and defense guns need two different kinds of sights because they are used for different purposes. This EAA Compact Witness is supposed to be a defensive gun.
The grips. The grip panels on the gun are good and… er… grippy. They help soak up the recoil a lot and they make shooting this 10mm a joy. Unfortunately, they are too thick, and the soft rubber allows fabric to cling, making the gun print too much. In my attempts to conceal this gun, I found that it printed too much under light shirts like I wear in warm weather. You would have to wear a sports coat over this thing to keep it hidden. I suggest replacing the grips with thin profile aluminum grips from Hogue. This would slim down the profile a great deal, and
make packing concealed much, much easier.
The finger rest on the magazine is another thing. The gun is too short for a three finger grip, and the finger rest doesn’t help me one bit. Go ahead and let the pinky swing free on this one, and let the gun be just that much shorter for concealment.
Now for the biggie. I’ve not tested a handgun that begs for a melt job more than this Witness. It has sharp edges on its sharp edges. The front of the gun has the full length rails that extend to the muzzle, all the way past any point of being useful, straight to being irritating. If this was taken to a belt sander for about a minute and a half — it would be brilliant. A custom gunsmith should be able to do this to your gun with very little effort, but with huge returns. Of course then he would have to refinish it and you would lose the Wonder Finish, which, incidentally, even EAA can’t tell me what it is.
One last thing. The gun needs a recoil spring about two pounds heavier. Wolff Gun Springs can fix that one with no problem.
Considering the price of a new EAA Witness, having this work done to it wouldn’t be out of the realm of reasonable when you take into account what you would then have in your hands: a concealed carry gun that makes no compromises.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to the United States Concealed Carry Association for providing this article to Guns & Patriots. If you would like their free concealed carry newsletter just click here.
Stay loaded my friends! ~Mike P.