The European American Armory (EAA) Witness Pavona Compact can serve both male and female shooters alike depending upon how much panache one likes in their handguns. The test gun I received was the second most subdued in appearance of all the color variations available, with a silver slide and charcoal-black polymer grip frame.
All of the Witness Pavona polymer frames have injected metal flake accents (this is integral with the polymer material, not something that is added to the exterior, so it is part of the frame). With the silver slide over a charcoal-black polymer frame, the flakes look like embedded metal shavings, not at all a bad look and the most subtle in the lineup aside from the blued slide and a black polymer frame option.
Beyond that, frame colors ramp up from Sapphire with a blued slide, to Imperial (a dark purple) with a blued slide, and the very eye-catching Fandango (violet) with a blued slide. The brighter the frame color the more the metal flakes show. The point is that EAA isn’t patronizing its female audience with a man’s gun in a pink finish, but rather a gun that offers some unique color options, easier handling, and a couple of subtle yet distinctive traditional colors in the gray-black palette.
If you know your European handgun designs, you can tell at a glance that under the glitter is a CZ 75-based semi-automatic, one of the best double-action/single-actions (DA/SA) ever designed. This version of the Witness Pavona, manufactured in Italy by Tanfoglio, is a unique model built around concepts gathered from potential female consumers through focus groups headed by European American Armory’s Sales and Marketing Manager Sharon Lacy, who also had a hand in the gun’s final design and color options.
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Tanfoglio has made its own history in the arms-making industry over the last 20 years with a variety of semi-auto designs, including CZ 75-based steel- and polymer-framed models. The Witness Pavona, by design, was engineered entirely with women in mind as the end user. This is reflected in changes to the gun’s handling to make it more manageable and easier to operate. It’s not simplified, it’s just been fine-tuned to allow smoother function and given some added pizzazz from the color wheel.
The platform is a variation of the locked-breech CZ 75 design using a lightweight polymer frame, CZ’s internal slide rails, a DA/SA trigger system, an external hammer and an ergonomic grip design with an extended rear tang to protect the web of the shooter’s hand. A lot of this also applies to competition handgun designs, making the Witness Pavona inherently accurate with its compact 3.6 inch barrel.
The contoured polymer grip has engrained rough checkering on the backstrap and the front of the grip, as well as raised surfaces on the side panels for a secure grasp. It is more tactile than many grip frames, allowing smaller hands to get a firmer hold. Despite this, the texture is not overly coarse. The use of the traditional CZ 75 external hammer also provides the option to cock the action (which depresses the hammer spring, allowing the slide to move easier) and then set the safety before racking the slide to chamber the first round. This also ensures that the gun is in “safe” condition as the first round is loaded.
Additionally, the rear of the slide has three deep grooves for a more secure grasp. It is still by no means a lightweight slide to operate, but every effort has been made to lessen the effort as much as possible without compromising function. Another traditional CZ 75 feature that makes the Witness Pavona easier to fire is the large, crescent-shaped trigger, which is designed to allow more surface area and leverage for the trigger finger. Internally, the hammer and recoil spring have been adjusted to allow for smoother operation and reduce resistance, and the guns also use a double recoil spring.
While the EAA Witness Pavona is a compact design, it is not a small handgun. However, it is light enough at 30.4 ounces (empty) not to be an albatross around your waist. EAA also offers a full line of women’s handbags designed for carrying the Witness Pavona. The pistol’s overall length is 7.3 inches, its height is 5 inches and its width is 1.4 inches. Not a small handgun. With the steel slide and polymer frame it feels a little top heavy, but it balances out nicely with 14 rounds on board. That puts the Witness Pavona into the high-capacity category (10+1 is standard capacity), and for a personal defense handgun 13+1 is a good number. The Witness Pavona is also available in .380 ACP and .40 S&W calibers with 13+1 and 9+1 capacities, respectively.
The EAA Witness Pavona Compact’s slide has a fixed red-dot front sight and a windage-adjustable, combat-style, white-dot rear sight. The smooth edges of the combat-style rear make it less apt to catch on clothing, and its rounded edges can’t cut hands, as occasionally happens when racking the slides on pistols with squared-off rear sights. The white-on-red sight combination also makes target acquisition easier under more varied lighting conditions.
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Another plus with a CZ 75-based design is that the thumb safety can be set with the hammer cocked, down or at half-cock. This blocks the hammer from any movement as well as the sear, thus the trigger is also inoperable with the safety engaged. There is also an internal firing pin block that only releases when the trigger is pulled all the way to the rear. And last, there is no magazine disconnect, so the gun will fire a chambered round with the magazine removed. One other big advantage is that, unlike most semi-autos where engaging the thumb safety prevents the slide from moving, with the hammer cocked, the Witness Pavona’s slide can still be operated to check chamber status, clear the gun or chamber a round.
Although this is a gun intended for smaller hands, larger hands will have no trouble finding and activating the slide release and thumb safety; both are blackened steel, oversized and easy to operate. The magazine release is also easy to push and the empty drops out with ease for a quick reload. The cut of the magazine’s floorplate is integrated into the polymer grip contour, and the magazine adds a 0.25-inch-deep lip that continues the shape of the grips by extending the leading edge and depth for a full, hands-on grasp.
If you like CZ 75 compact models, it’s hard not to like the Witness Pavona, no matter what color it is. But with all of the “adjustments” to make this a gun better suited to women, you might wonder how, or if, it affects shooting. The answer, quite simply, is not at all.
Over the years, I have tested and owned a number of CZ 75 and CZ 75-based guns, like the Baby Desert Eagle, and there has never been a CZ 75 I didn’t like. The Witness Pavona falls into that category for the most part, as it handles about the same but is easier overall to operate due to the modifications to the hammer, recoil and mainspring.
With the slide running inside the frame rails rather than over them, you have a little less slide surface to grasp when chambering the first round or clearing the gun, but the latest, deeply-grooved cuts in the new Witness Pavona models make that task a lot easier. The gun is very easy to load and get into action, and it is designed to be carried cocked and locked, unless you manually decock it and set the safety.
Firing the first round in DA results in an average trigger pull of 10.3 pounds. There is a good deal of stacking all the way through the pull, even when the hammer reaches half-cock position, which is readily heard and felt in the trigger pull though the resistance does not change. On the plus side, the pistol’s trigger pull is nothing if not consistent and one becomes easily accustomed to it with range practice.
The heavy pull is yet another reason you will like the large, crescent-shaped trigger—your finger rides inside of it and stays put. With time to cock the hammer for a first shot (if not carried cocked and locked), trigger effort is reduced to a modest 5.6-pound average, and, of course, after the first round every shot is single-action. The SA trigger pull is smooth with almost instantaneous reset. Firing double-action is something most users will not do until they have to, so practicing DA and SA firing with the Witness Pavona is important.
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For the range test, I decided to stay with 115-grain ammunition only, which included Federal American Eagle FMJ, new Sig Sauer Elite Performance FMJ and, for hollow points (HP), Speer Gold Dot GDHP. No +P ammo or high-velocity rounds were tested as it is not recommended for the Witness Pavona.
The highest velocity to come from the Witness Pavona’s 3.6-inch barrel was achieved by Speer Gold Dot, which cleared the chronograph traps at an average of 1,189 fps. Not far behind was Sig Sauer’s new Elite Performance FMJ clocking 1,168 fps. Federal American Eagle flew at 1,150 fps.
As for accuracy, this is a gun that shoots pretty much to point of aim at 50 feet. For the purposes of our concealed-carry test, the range was shortened to 7 yards and most groups were under 2 inches. However, if you take a best three, average groups measured 1 inch or less. The Witness Pavona showed a definite preference for Speer’s Gold Dot ammo, placing four rounds into 0.625 inches. I dropped the fifth an inch below. The American Eagle ammo placed five rounds into 1.5 inches. And Sig Sauer delivered a best five-shot group of 2 inches with a best three at 1.25 inches.
The Pavona is a gun that can easily shoot sub-1-inch groups at 7 yards and 2-inch groups at 15 yards.
The EAA Witness Pavona Compact is intended as a self-defense sidearm. At 7 to 15 yards, if a gun can place rounds on target under 2 inches consistently, and the individual shooting it can maintain that level of accuracy or better, you have a good carry gun, and the Pavona Compact is certainly that. It is easy to handle, quick to get into action, accurate and extremely well built. It is a CZ 75 at its core, and it’s hard to beat that.
For more information, visit http://www.eaacorp.com or call 321-639-4842.