Guns & Patriots

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.

Something different

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.

The cartridge

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.

Conclusion

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.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TZFU2AVRDE3QEQJBET2EBCVZ4A Wayne

    I have glock 20, 10MM. I carry it everywhere, not hard to conceal and it’s a full frame. I don’t leave home without.

  • justmac

    I have the full size witness 10mm and find it to be a wonderful gun, with a couple of caveats…a wolff spring kit is a necessity…it allows tuning for different rounds, mitigates the frame battering with heavy loads(Buffalo Bore, etc), and it keeps the empties within recoverable distance instead of the next county!

  • Waffle1

    I have a couple of friends who carry the 10mm with them bear hunting. The 10mm is a great round. The EAA may need some work, but there are other gun makers out there who have chambered the 10mm. I don’t remember what brand and model my friends 10mm’s are. Another caliber to consider, and along with the 10mm has become quiet and dusty, is the .40 Corbon. I have a friend who carries an AMT in .40 Corbon. Very hot round not meant for the faint of heart. I also don’t care for the .40 S&W. If I was going to carry something in the .40 range it would be the 10mm or .40 Corbon.
    Personally I like the unusual calibers. I carry my .32NAA everywhere, it just fits for my line of work and carry needs. I’d like to carry something bigger, but environment and required clothing doesn’t permit. My .32NAA is small enough I can move it from pocket to pocket or any other place I need it without drawing attention. And for it’s size I’m most likely not going to find anything with more punch.

    I do also have a 9×18 Makarov, CZ-52, .38 and a .22 revolver. Sometimes I carry the 9×18 .38 or CZ. All depends on what I’m doing, type of clothes and environment. Our personal situation dictates to each of us what we need.

  • justmac

    An addition to my previous post…holsters are hard to come by…the only folks I have found that will make one is Mernicle holsters. I also have a S&W 4″ model 610…I like the 10mm.

  • Kbuzz

    I believe that if you start with the round, the gun will follow. The bigger is best theory certainly is applicable, but I have yet to find a 50 caliber handgun that I can reasonably carry. A Federal.45 HST round has sold me as the round of choice for in-close self defense. After that, its just a matter of what type of concealed carry you are comfortable and confident with.
    BTW thats a sweet little “baby 1911″ – might be fun to shoot if they fix the bugs

  • scaatylobo

    I get a laugh out of the “caliber snobs” and you KNOW you are one if you post YOUR caliber and that is THE only one to carry.
    I was LEO and saw a ‘few’ shootings and none of the dead cared that they were shot and killed with a smaller round than a .45.
    SHOT PLACEMENT is the only thing that will stop a perp from taking you out.
    get over your sillyness about caliber.
    I own all handgun calibers and carry either a .40 S&W or a 9 MM.
    btw – if you do shoot during a lethal confrontation and you only fire one round = your either very brave or totally untrained.

  • grantsdeal

    Well, I had 2 Witness full size steel! Long story, but just sold one. Then I bought a Witness 10mm polymer “Carry” model. It’s lighter, has a full grip and a cone lock barrel/slide lock, which is only offered on the company’s competition models. Maybe this model will be reviewed some day soon…I think it addresses most of the issues presented in the review of the Compact model. I really like the 10mm! And with a mag of 15 10mm? A lot of fire power I’d say! Also DA/SA which I love……

  • tcyr

    [Edit] I have to take a half-step back from my original post…I did some more digging on the 10MM versus 40S&W timing. It turns out the 40S&W did come first, but only in concept in the lab (not commercial). Then due to the problems with the 10MM trials S&W saw the opportunity to cash in and tweaked the 40S&W spec’s based on the 10MM feedback, which ultimately resulted in the commercial version we have today.

    But effectively the 10MM is still the +P version of the 40S&W. The main difference is the length of the cartridge in order to fit more powder, plus some minor changes to the rim and thickness of the cartridge wall to handle the increased pressure. But generally speaking the changes were brought about by the poor performance of previous loads like the 38 and the 9MM (yes, I know there are people who swear by the 9mm, but it has a tendency to “punch through” targets instead of causing max damage which makes it a poor duty weapon, not to mention the liability issues raised due to over-penetration).

    Also, you most certainly can NOT load a 10MM into a 45! Maybe your comment was meant to say that a 10MM can use the same FRAME as a 45, which is true because a 10MM can not fit into a smaller 9MM style frame. However, since the dimensions are almost identical to the 40S&W what you end up with is the performance of a 45 in the intermediate frame size of a 40S&W. In fact you can reliably fire 40S&W in a firearm chambered for 10MM, although the reverse is not true because a weapon chambered for 40S&W can not handle the slightly longer 10MM cartridge length (0.85in versus 0.99in).

    My understanding is that the 10MM was a flop for one main reason, because it was such a powerful load that was shoe-horned into too small a frame the slides would CRACK after repeated use! Seriously. I’m not kidding. (There are dozens of sites that will come up if you Google “10MM crack slide”.) Obviously this brings up all kinds of safety and reliability issues, none of which are good for duty weapons (I think there may have been one reported case of someone getting a slide in the face and breaking their jaw!). So your statement that it was removed from service because it had “too much recoil” is actually correct, but NOT for the reason you were thinking (not one LEO I have ever heard of was too “wimpy” for it! In fact they all loved it). As you mentioned yourself it only kicks about as much as a 45, but the problem seems to ultimately be with the base frame, not the cartridge. So why didn’t they just use the heavier Redhawk or Desert Eagle type frame? I don’t know, you tell me (maybe it became too bulky for a duty weapon).

    Just one final question (more of a curiosity)…did your AE ammo happen to have steel cases instead of brass? I have the same problem with my Springfield XD not feeding reliably with steel because it creates too much friction on the feed lips (however my Glock works just fine).

  • timdgarry

    Have you tried Black Hills Leather out of Texas? They made a Miami Classic type holster for my HK Mark 23. It is awesome.

  • tcyr

    The 10MM *is* the +P version of the 40S&W. If you want to go one step further and create a 10MM+P then you basically have a 40 Corbon.
    [Post edited...I misquoted the Taurus Judge fired a 40 Long Colt, when it is actually a 45 Long Colt.]

    I also just found out there is apparently a 10MM MAG cartridge! Damn!

  • Ed Arnold

    Thanks for the update on the problems with the Bren Ten, obviously reliability issues due to the magazines would kill off a gun faster than anything else. I had heard rumors about metallurgy problems with the frames as well, but again rumors are just that.
    The comments about the Witness Carry needing a boost on the recoil spring indicate some of the problems that occur with a cartridge with a wide range of available bullet weights in an autoloader. The mass components (slide and barrel) have to be reliable with the lowest impulse loadings, while the recoil spring takes up the rest of the load.

  • roadapple66

    Thanks for the reply, Ed. The Bren 10 was made on a modified CZ-75 large frame. I believe the Witness is modeled from a CZ pistol as well. Jeff Cooper had a predominate say in what features the firearm would have; so it got a stainless frame and slide, good, easy to see, snag-proof sights, and a modified grip. If you find one (especially with the original, faulty, magazines) you have a collectors item. The Colt Delta Elite is sold for premium prices, and Kimber came out with one (I do not know if they still offer it). It’s not hard to convert a steel 1911 frame to 10mm. There are outfits that have barrel, bushings, and magazines. You just have to have a competent smith fit it all together (not hard if you know what your doing). While I really don’t care to own a Bren 10, I would like to have a copy of the Colt, Kimber, S&W 1066, 1076, and 1006, and Glock’s 29 and 20. I really like the 10mm. Any of these models will serve you well. There are more holsters made for these than the Bren 10, or the Witness.

    You are right on the cartridge being loaded for a wide range of loads, and therefore making it more difficult to set-up the pistol. If you stay with the real 10mm loads, and leave the lighter loads to the 40 S&W, it should not give you trouble. I liked Winchester’s 175 grain Silvertips. They were stout. PMC’s Starfire had an interesting bullet, but it was loaded like a 40 S&W. The Glock’s will handle the entire range of loads, with no problem. My S&W 1066 felt like it was made a lot better than the gun writers reported. It locked-up solid each time it cycled into battery. The only problem with it was the horrible, mushy, creepy, stacking trigger.

  • justsouth

    well boys i appreciate the fact that you younger guys carry the bigger calibers , but i am an aging viet nam vet with a little arthur in my hands although an expert marksman with all kinds of sniper rifles, machine guns and etc. i am carring a s&w 9ve with a 15 round clip it fits my hand perfect and is accurate or either i am, it’s light enough, i also have my my military issue s&w model 10 38 it still delivers a good punch although a little heavy to carry i feel pretty confident with the quick loaders i can still get off rounds pretty quick, my 6 shot maverick 12 ga. sits by my bed with 00 bucks, better knock before you come in, if not my m-60 can be found pretty easy, lets be safe and keep our gun rights what ever it takes, just wanted to stick my 2 cents in i enjoy reading all comments, rebel boy 64

  • tcyr

    DANGER ALERT…..I went back to the info I had previously looked at years ago about the 10MM cracked slides and looked closer at the details and it seems that all or at least the majority of the postings (from hundreds of people) were specifically related to the EAA Witness! Especially with the Wonder finish!

    I don’t know if the cracking problem stems from the Wonder finish somehow weakening the metal, or if the problems just stem from this one manufacturer using cheap steel or something. Either way, it would seem that people should avoid this gun!

    George – You may want to inspect your evaluation gun with a magnifying glass at the rear of the slide and the slide rails. Reports of cracks have been reported with as few as 20-30 rounds!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W2TNMTV34VAQUU6JC5LTAWR73Q Cowboy

    It was my understanding that the FBI developed a 10MM based on performance requirements that ended up being what the 40S&W is today. The FBI loads were “Downgraded” to launch the 180 grain round to achieve desired penetration and expansion. Smith and Wesson only said, hey we can do that in a shorter cartridge that is easier for people to get their hand around.

    I was a Wonder 9 fan and have one of the original Glock 17s that were sold. I moved to 40 after the FBI shootout but am looking back to the 9mm more favorably these days now that bullet technology is so much better.

    My question for George is “Why don’t you like the 40″? it is the all around generic multi-purpose round. Yet you like the 9 and the 45??

    My only issue with the Glock 40s is that for feed reliability there is a portion of the breach that is unsupported. If you reload you can have the case rupture resulting in a catastrophic failure that will disable the gun until Glock can fix it. As for performance in the real world, it has a very good record and comparable to the 45.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SLK4DTKKWEXGSFO2IX6G222J4M King

    With a 10mm round, you don’t need “follow up shots”. 

    Unless you’re a lousy shooter. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SLK4DTKKWEXGSFO2IX6G222J4M King

    …or better shot.

  • Jethro Clampett

    The politics advertised here frame everything you gas bag about as a laughable ignorance and bigotry. Go play your xbox and get hard imagining killilg your enemies.