Tanfoglio Witness Gunsmithing
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Here is the starting point for a Witness project gun. This one is just a basic model, but the top end is actually all custom shop parts (the original top end for this pistol had a comp installed). The frame was buggered up a bit when I messed up a scope mount installation. I ended up filling the holes with JB weld and Cold blueing that part of the slide. A bit of black marker ink darkened the JB weld to match. A bonus is that the slide to frame fit got tight and smooth. To help salvage the value of the gun (not much at this point), I decided to fit the trigger parts and feed ramp. Your basic Witness pistols come cheap because they are not particularly well fitted, but still a good bargain when they hover around $350 new. Used ones around $200 to $300 are a great find if you know how to straighten out some of their kinks.
First, of course you make sure the gun is unloaded and take it apart. Assuming you have unloaded the pistol, flip it over so you can see the dimples on the slide and frame toward the rear. Cock the slide back slightly to make them line up and push the slide stop pin out from the other side until it pops, then pull it out. The slide will move forward and off the frame. You may then disassemble the slide group for cleaning or servicing if necessary. What we are going to deal with at this point however, is some detail disassembly of the frame assembly. This is work that is beyond the level of the average user, but not quite something that should require the attention of a specialized gunsmith. I draw the line on this kind of work when it comes to roll pins. If a job can be done without messing with roll pins, then a reasonably competant person should be able to do it.
A basic fitting job is always going to include a trigger job. That is not particularly difficult on the Witness pistols, to bring them up to a decent level, but a perfect "over the top" job which will require removal of the hammer and resurfacing of the primary sear notch in the hammer. I found that the standard trigger action of the Witness pistols, in both single and double action, can be vastly improved without even messing with the sear notch in the hammer.
First, you want to remove the sear/ejector block. They are an assembly that is fairly easy to remove from the pistol as a unit. A jeweler's screwdriver or dental pick will be useful for this, but I found the jeweler's screwdriver to be pretty useful on several steps of this project. You will need to remove the safety to remove the sear block, so the first step of that is to move the tail of the sear spring that is holding the safety lever pin in place. The screwdriver is pointing to it in the picture. It rests in a notch in the sear block and in turn, rests in a notch in the safety pin to prevent it from sliding out. Really a smart design. Lift the tail of the spring a bit and kick it over to the dummy notch that is cut in there for that very purpose.
|Kick the tail of the spring up and to the side into the notch. You will then be able to remove the safety lever.||Now you can pull the safety lever out. It might take a little wiggling, but it will pop all the way out once you get it past the first quarter inch or so. At that point, the sear and ejector block will come out as a unit.|
Ok, at this point, you should have the safety out and the sear block out. By default, you have now learned how to get the safety out for replacement with an ambi unit. The ambi units will either have a split pin arrangement that is fairly easy to figure out, or a semi-permanent roll pin installation for the right side. That one is a pain, but once it is in, it is more secure than the split pin type. Both are fairly easy to figure out.
Next comes removing the plunger that keeps tension on the main trigger /action bar. This is one of the big culprits when it comes to the gritty or stagy double action trigger pull. The part serves a few purposes, so eliminating it will not work. What we need to do is remove it, and remove most of the machine marks that are hold things up. You need to remove that plunger assembly and smooth some things out on it. By default, you will also learn how to reverse the safety lever for "left handed" use.
|The plunger is spring loaded at the top. Use a small tool to push it down and turn the top piece sideways. That will unlock it from under the trigger bar.||Once you turn the top piece sideways, reach down there with a small tool and pull the whole unit out. Be careful, because when you pull it out, the mag release will come out too.|
The lower frame group disassembled about as far as you want to go without needing to mess with the roll pins. Note that getting the parts out for a trigger job also means the mag release comes out. You can flip it around so the button is on the other side on reassembly. All factory Tanfoglio mags are ambidextrous in that they have the lock notches on both sides. Note that a full fitting job will mean punching out the roll pins for the trigger and the hammer, but reinstallation is a major pain and I prefer to avoid it. Reinstalling the trigger requires a tool that you can make from a wide flat tip screwdriver. Also, there is the risk of launching the trigger return spring into oblivion on disassembly or reassembly.
Just a quick note on that mag release. There is a spring and plunger piece in there that are easy to lose. I lost one plunger and found I was able to substitute a piece of coat hangar wire cut to fit, but it was a major pain. Be careful when compressing the whole thing on reassembly or you will launch parts across the room. I found the best thing for pushing the plunger in for reassembly was again, the jeweler's screwdriver. That is because you need to be able to get that trigger plunger pin up against the mag catch plunger pin just right on reassembly for the whole thing to work. Remember, you can easily flip it around backwards if you want the mag release button on the other side.
Looking over the main trigger action parts in this picture, you can see the wear patterns where the blueing is rubbed off. You can get away without removing the sear from the ejector block for this job, but some people may want to if they want to stone the sear for a super crisp single action trigger. What we will be doing is smoothing up all of the parts that are showing wear. The parts are cast, so they are bumpy and even a bit porous under close examination. I mostly use a fine sanding disk on a dremel tool for this work, and then when necessary, follow up with polishing compound on a polishing bit. Critical areas are: the top of the plunger where you want to remove all tooling marks where the wear marks are, and polish the top to you can see your eyeball in it. On the sear, don't mess with the angle of the back. Just gently (very gently) take a thin layer off of it with the disk, while maintaining the angles and edges of the corner that you see now sticking up (the piece is upside down). For the smooth double action trigger pull, you want to polish and flatten out the bottom surfaces where you see the bluing wearing off. The smoother you make them, the better the action will be.
I found that spinning the safety pin and plunger assembly in a drill press bit and then working them with a bit of fine sandpaper will smooth them up a bit. I did some vertical work with the dremel on the plunger to take out some lathe tooling marks (that is apparently a cut, not cast, part). I then spun it with the sandpaper to take out my own tooling marks and it ended up smooth, but not shiny. Not pictured is basically the same thing I did to the safety lever, but to a lesser degree. I basically removed some of the casting lines and smoothed it out a bit, but not even so much as to remove all of the casting lines.
Removing the hammer and polishing these surfaces is the best way, but not the easiest. I hit a hard surface with the paper sanding disk to reduce the size of it a bit so it would fit in near the hammer without cutting other metal. I then massaged it gently just a few passes over the tops of the primary and secondary sear notches. I did not get at the shelf below the primary sear notch, nor did I touch the front of the primary sear notch (very sensitive specification that I don't want to mess with). The game on this is to smooth things out while avoiding changing the hammer to sear contact angles. You can see the polished parts on the sear block assembly and plunger here.
There are two tests you do to make sure you did not screw up on the trigger job. First, you want a bit of "negative" play on the sear to hammer interface. This provides a margin of safety as the gun ages. It is a test to make sure you did not screw up the hammer sear notch to sear angle when you were working on them. Stick your thumb between the hammer and the grip "beavertail" extension with the gun cocked. Then gently pull the trigger. You should feel the hammer cocking back just a wee little bit and pinching your thumb slightly as you are pulling the trigger. If you let up on the trigger part way through the sequence, you should not be able to force the hammer forward off the sear notch. Both the right and left sides of the hammer sear notch should be slipping off the sear at the same time.
The other trigger (really hammer to sear fit) test is to cock the gun and hold it with the safety off and the weight of the gun being supported by the trigger. The gun should not fire from its own weight against the trigger. If it does, the trigger is too light and probably unsafe for most practical uses. You will probably need to balance the pistol with your thumb a bit, but this picture should illustrate the intent of the test. Realistically, you will end up with a trigger pull of around four pounds doing this work, and none of it involves removing, snipping, or changing any of the original springs.
One other thing a lot of people have been asking about is what I meant by "slide peening" or "barrel peening" in relation to the barrel to slide fit. This is a fairly simple thing that will raise your point of impact and tighten up the front lockup a little bit. Place the barrel and slide in a vice as shown, and dimple at the point shown, on each side of the lower arc of the hole in the slide that the barrel rides in. That will push some metal up against the barrel and tighten the bottom of that hole a bit. Remember, the CZ design uses no bushing, so you have to come up with alternative ways to tighten the barrel to slide lockup compared to guns like the 1911 where you simply put in a tighter or fitted bushing. I put this barrel and slide in the vice like this to show the proper orientation, but if I were to actually be hammering on it, I would be using something to pad the vice jaws. It is not necessary to crank the vice down tight for this job so don't risk tweaking anything by doing it that way. Just tighten the vice jaws enough to hold things while you are working on the slide.
Next comes a basic ramp job on the barrel. I used a small dremel sanding drum on the feed ramp, but the barrel had already been chamfered a bit since it is a custom shop barrel. Between the funnel like chamfering of the chamber and the feed ramp work I did, the pistol was able to feed an empty case into the chamber several times right from the magazine by snapping the slide stop down. Needless to say, it will feed all known .45 ACP cartridges including hollowpoints and wadcutters. A little touch just to help out speed up the action and enhance reliability a little more is to polish the breech face.
That's if for now, but check out this page in the near future for details on bedding the grips, fitting a comp to a slide, installing a trigger with overtravel stop, and more details on the top end work.
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Three deer who know they can raid the garden right now because it is not season yet and I am such a nice guy to the wildlife around here. I spotted them just as I was leaving the workshop after taking the pictures for this article. Oh, well, here is to pretending. A well tuned Witness pistol will prove just fine for short range hunting here on the Oregon coast. I leave this little herd alone apart from the occasional faux hunting photo.