Tanfoglio Witness 1911 BB pistol - Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
An announcement before I get to today's topic. On August 11, I told you about the Pro-Guide Spring Retainer System. They're now available from Pyramyd Air. You can have Pyramyd Air install one in your gun, or you can install it yourself. A mainspring compressor is needed for installation. Also, there are no instructions. No phone or email support is provided for installation.
The Tanfoglio 1911 BB pistol is something different in a universe of similar BB guns. When I first saw it, I thought it was an airsoft gun. The model, size and shape of the gun and even the way it works seem very reminiscent of an airsoft pistol. Indeed, Tanfoglio does make the Witness as an airsoft M1911A1, but it's both a springer and a replica of the M1911A1 single-stack Colt, where this CO2-powered BB pistol appears to be a double-stack variation.
What is single-stack and double-stack?
Those are terms that describe how the cartridges align inside the magazine. A single-stack magazine has each cartridge on top of the one below. The magazine can be made thinner and so can the grip of the pistol into which it fits. A double-stack gun has the cartridges almost side-by-side in the magazine. It has a higher capacity, but the grip must be wider to accommodate the wider magazine. In small cartridges such as 9x19mm, it isn't as noticeable as it is when the cartridges are fat, like the .45 ACP. Then, the grip has to be wide enough for the fatter cartridge to ride almost side-by-side in the mag. A 1911 can be obtained in either caliber, but .45 ACP is by far the more common one.
So, this BB pistol's grip is thicker than a traditional M1911 grip. It houses the 20-shot stick magazine that drops free from the pistol when the mag-release button is pressed. That button is the only control that actually functions. All other switches, levers and the sights are simply cast in the outer plastic shell, except for a sliding safety switch on the right side of the pistol. That moves forward and back and disconnects the trigger from the rest of the gun when it's on safe. The grip safety is solid too, as is the 1911 manual safety, which is ambidextrous. You can hook your thumb over the traditional 1911 manual safety to shoot with more control - a hold I have really taken to ever since learning it recently.
This is a 1911 - not a 1911A1
This is an important distinction, because nearly all pistols calling themselves 1911s these days are really based on the A1 variation. Only a purist would know the subtle differences, but it does matter to some. Since the Tanfoglio has been tricked out, we lose the clues of the hammer shape and the short grip safety. But the cutouts for the trigger finger are missing from both sides of the frame, and the backstrap is flat instead of arched. While a backstrap can be replaced (on a firearm, that is), nothing short of machining can make those relief cuts in the frame for the trigger finger.
What comes in the package?
You get the pistol, an owner's manual and a small plastic package of some really fine-looking BBs. From the looks of them, they're finished as well as ball bearings.
Pull straight back on the grips and the place for the CO2 cartridge is revealed. A drop of Crosman Pellgunoil goes on the tip of the first CO2 cartridge to be pierced, then the winding key at the bottom of the grip shoves the cartridge up until it's pierced. The key is not visible from the side of the gun, a feature that nearly every BB-gun shooter will like.
You cannot cock the hammer (it doesn't move) nor does the slide move (no blowback) so this is a double-action-only pistol. While that isn't in line with many of the recent BB pistols that have come to market, most of them cost more than $45. So, you give up a little function to gain the price break.
Realistic size and weight
At 24 oz., this is a lighter pistol but not unbelievably so. It has good heft and won't feel toy-like to most shooters. As already noted, the grip is even larger than a conventional single-stack M1911, so it definitely feels real in your hand.
Though they aren't adjustable, the Tanfoglio sights are crisp and sharp. The front has a white dot, reminiscent of tactical sights, but the rear has nothing to go with it. The front blade is sharp and square and the rear notch is sized right for it.
This is a different BB gun, that's for sure. With so many Euro-style BB guns around, it's refreshing to see one take the shape of the familiar M1911. It promises a velocity of 380 f.p.s., which should translate to a number of shots greater than the normal 50 or 60. We'll see next time.