By Carrie Lightfoot
European American Armory
“People are very open-minded about new things—as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.”
This is certainly true for so many things, but not for a woman entering the world of firearms . . . she hungers for new and improved products designed specifically with her in mind, NOT exactly like the old ones! Unfortunately, when it comes to guns, it’s a man’s world. I have advocated with manufacturers to reconfigure their gun specifications with women in mind, but most don’t acknowledge the very real differences between the needs of the sexes. They make minor cosmetic modifications and don’t fully recognize the value of investing in a true design overhaul.
Enter the EAA Witness Pavona, built in Italy by Tangfolio. Designed by and for women, this pistol is more than just a pretty face. The creative team included Sharon Lacy, who did extensive research on the needs of women shooters, including gathering direct feedback from women gun owners of all ages and experience levels. The Pavona semi-automatic pistol is specifically engineered with their issues in mind, and addresses many of the common problems women have with guns.
It’s interesting to note that EAA/Tanfoglio refers to this gun as an “evolutionary project”, meaning they see it as a work in progress, and are committed to making modifications and improvements to the firearm, based on the feedback of its women customers. It’s so refreshing to see a company with such determination to ‘get it right’, and produce a gun that truly does work for women, rather than just slapping some color on a man’s model and marketing to women because it’s the trendy (and profitable!) thing to do. This is critical because it signals the beginning of a give-and-take relationship with women shooters that hasn’t existed in the gun-manufacturing world before.
I received both the Witness Pavona Polymer Compact, chambered in 9mm, and the Witness Compact 9mm to compare. I approach this review naturally as a woman and will compare the Pavona, which is promoted specifically as a woman’s gun, with the standard gun, the Witness Compact, from a woman’s perspective.
The Pavona measures 7.3” end to end and is 4.5” in height. The Pavona is available in .380, 9mm and 40SW, with a round capacity of 13 +1. It weighs in at 1.9 pounds and has a very affordable list price of $476. The Witness Compact has the same measurements but a lighter weight of 1.75 pounds. It is available in 9mm, 40SW, 10mm and 45ACP, with a capacity in the 9mm of 14+1. It has a list price of $571. Both are single-action (SA)/double-action (DA) firearms.
There is a huge difference in the look of these two guns, as you can see. The Pavona has a cool metal-fleck polymer frame and comes in some interesting new colors. I received the Blue Imperial. The glitter flecks are integrated into the polymer, so the pretty finish has a nice depth to it and can’t be rubbed or scratched off. Personally, I am not influenced by the color of a gun but do recognize the desire of many women to have options that speak to them as a woman. The colors and bit of bling in the finish add a touch of femininity and elegance that I think will appeal to women. The overall lines of the Pavona are clean and stylish. You can see the Italian influences all over this gun!
In contrast, the Witness Compact is black polymer and is more tactical in appearance. With its Picatinny rail, it has a ‘fighting gun’ look to it.
I would love to see the Picatinny rail on the Pavona as well, since this gun is well suited as a home defense handgun and the ability to attach a tactical light would be great option.
The larger size of the Pavona compared to similar-sized guns with similar capacity makes it a bit big for most women to conceal effectively, and with a weight of 1.9 pounds, it is quite heavy for all-day carry. Since many women choose to conceal carry their weapons for self-protection, I feel this is one drawback of the Pavona as a concealed carry option. Undoubtedly they will adjust this in one of their future re-models or new models once they get feedback from enough women.
The grip of the Pavona was one of the first ‘wow’ moments I had with this gun. I have quite small hands and have been extremely frustrated trying to find a higher-capacity handgun that I can actually get my hand all the way around. This gun is the first one I am able to get my entire hand around with my fingers actually touching. I can get a complete and solid grip on the Pavona. It fits very comfortably into the web of my hand and was extremely comfortable to shoot. With the deeply curved backstrap and extended beavertail, I could maintain a very high and strong grip, with no risk of hammer or slide bite.
My trigger finger was aligned perfectly with the trigger and no maneuvering was necessary for a good fit. This is a noticeable improvement and shows the designers’ attention to the needs of the typical woman shooter. These features allow for extremely comfortable shooting, even with a small hand. I could have kept shooting without too much fatigue, but my limited ammo supply dictated the time to stop!
The magazine release was close to being within reach to operate one-handed but still required me to shift my hand some to fully depress and drop the magazine. The slide lock was well out of reach for my one-handed operation. On a gun this size, I realize this is normal, but one day it would be nice to be able to fully operate the mechanical features with one hand on a gun larger than a pocket gun. Perhaps another future improvement for this “ evolutionary project”?
The Witness Compact’s grip was not as accommodating to my smaller hand and required a bit of tweaking to get a good grip and the proper alignment of my trigger finger. It is clearly better for a larger hand with longer fingers. This created quite a bit of hand fatigue and discomfort with prolonged shooting.
One very distinct modification that EAA has already made to the Pavona after listening to female customers was the redesign of the slide serrations. They are nice and deep and spaced wider. This makes for a very natural grip and firm hold to assist with racking the slide. My fingers found the natural spaces easily, and they had enough depth to grasp and pull the slide with authority and ease.
EAA/Tanfoglio has made some other significant mechanical improvements to assist women shooters to rack the slide. The recoil spring has been fine-tuned to make the slide easier to operate, and the external hammer allows for it to be cocked with the safety on, additionally reducing the hammer spring pressure for easier manipulation. All of these modifications are noticeable on this gun. The safety however, was very hard to work and almost impossible to do with a flick of my thumb while trying to keep the muzzle pointed down range.
The Witness Compact was noticeably tougher to rack than the Pavona. It was not exceptionally hard, as I have the upper body strength and do not suffer from any hand strength issues such as arthritis, so it was fully manageable. It has the standard rear slide serration pattern without the wider grooves of the Pavona, and it was not as easy to get a firm hold on the slide.
Both guns have Windage Adjustable sights that had clean, no-snag lines for smooth drawing from a holster. I had no difficulty sighting with either gun. The sights on both guns were clear and bright and easy to align.
The trigger pull on the Pavona was very clean and smooth with a very clear ‘reset’, which I love. You know where you are! The double-action trigger pull, which on most firearms can be a challenge due not only to the extended trigger finger reach required but also the strength required for the longer pull, was fully manageable on the Pavona at 9-10 pounds The SA trigger pull (5-6 pounds) was very comfortable. The average woman can confidently shoot and train with this gun in both DA or SA, not an easy thing to say about most firearms.
The trigger pull on the Witness Compact in DA was not only harder at 13 pounds, but it was longer. I had a hard time maintaining the finger strength to pull through to the end, one handed. As my smaller hand leaves my trigger finger a bit short, reaching the trigger with proper finger placement was not easy. In SA, (5-6 pounds) my reach was improved and I had no problems at all. Each pull of the trigger was smooth and with a clear reset.
Recoil is one of the key concerns of women shooters and is often the deciding factor in their ultimate gun choice. Shooting the Pavona in 9mm, the recoil was non-intimidating and was very manageable. I was able to fire and get back on target quickly and keep a tight grouping. The size, weight and balance of this gun made for controlled and consistent shooting. It is refreshing to see a gun manufacturer working to minimize the felt recoil in larger-caliber handguns. This will prove to be problem solver for many new women shooters. Many women, I’d say most women, in fact, come into gun ownership with self-defense as the motivator. Along with accuracy, caliber is a key definer in choosing the best and most effective option to stop a threat effectively. The ability for all gun owners to own and accurately shoot a higher caliber handgun and have the ability to get back on target quickly will only assist them to better protect themselves and those they love. As I said above, felt recoil is a, if not the, defining characteristic for women in choosing a gun, so this is a big thumbs-up for the Pavona.
Both of these guns operated beautifully through 200 factory rounds fired through each. There were no misfeeds with the Pavona and just two with the Compact. This is very impressive performance for any firearm.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed shooting these guns. They were solid, well-performing and accurate firearms, which coupled with their price point makes them a great buy. Clearly the design modifications on the Pavona are significant and open the door to further enhancements in firearm design for women.
I would love to see the Pavona become more readily available in stores. Women really like to ‘try before they buy’, and the unavailability of this gun will make it tough to get it into their hands.
Ultimately I would like to see EAA/Tangfolio design a smaller, more concealable 9mm option for women. The Pavona could be a concealed carry option for some, but its weight and size are not ideal for that purpose, especially for a woman who does not necessarily have a strong, belted waistband most days. Finding holsters for this gun, and ones that will work on a woman’s body is another challenge, I hope only short-term. The company has come out with some new concealed carry purses, which are pictured below.
The Pavona is great choice for women in the market for a gun for training and home or car defense. This is a gun that can be handled with confidence by women of all sizes and experience levels. The gun’s fit, feel and woman-friendly design and appearance is very welcomed. I look forward to seeing future enhancements and models from this company that is so fully committed to meeting the needs of women shooters.
Carrie Lightfoot created The Well Armed Woman, LLC to be a complete resource without fluff or frills for women gun owners of all ages, providing access to complete information, resources and quality tested products tailored specifically to women’s needs.