This article is a compendium of information gathered from the internet. Please take it as intended - as a list of things to check for, nothing more. The issues noted here range from confirmed (example, the recall) to items which numerous people have reported (cracks) without a lot of in-depth engineering work to identify the cause. In the interests of fair disclosure, I did all of this research in order to decide whether or not to buy an AE series Witness. I ultimately chose not to because my goal was to take advantage of a 10mm conversion slide, and the AE series doesn't readily accept these without a bunch of fitting.
Witness vs Elite Match
It seems that the EAA Elite Match is an altogether different grade of firearm. While the Witness has a lot of reports of cracked slides, the Elite Match is apparently the same basic design, but with considerably fewer issues. I'm going to delve into the differences between the two eventually.
This is an excerpt from the safety upgrade on EAA's website:
SAFETY UPGRADE NOTICE This Notice applies to EAA Witness style semi-automatic pistols bearing serial numbers between AE00000 to AE70000.
Any pistols bearing a serial number in this range should receive a firing pin Safety Upgrade. If a pistol is returned to you for service, please advise the owner that the slide assembly will be removed and returned to European American Armory Corp., 411 Hawk Street, Rockledge, Florida 32955. Upon receipt, European American Armory Corp. will replace with original firing pin with an upgraded firing pin.
There are anecdotal stories of the original firing pin being wedged and going full auto, and another user experiencing an issue where the safety malfunctioned and the weapon discharged.
Slide Cracks (particularly in 10mm)
There are numerous reports on the internet of 10mm slides cracking, a few 45ACP slides, and a smaller number of 40S&W slides. While EAA has not disclosed a root cause, typically they require that you ship the entire gun back to them to have the issue corrected. Folks suggest the installation of Sprinco recoil systems or extra-strength recoil springs in order to combat this. One report (Wally from thehighroad.org) states that his replacement slide was heavier and thicker than the original slide it replaced. In both of the pictures below, it would seem that the Witness is using a slimmer slide with "lightening cuts". The pistols used to have a squared-off "blocky" slide, then they moved to a slimmed-down slide later on. That slimmed down slide exhibited far more tendency to crack than the old-style slide. It seems that people frequently receive the old style slide as a replacement for the new style slide.
On March 4th, 2011, jjh of czfirearms.us posted a crack on the top of his 40S&W slide, towards the rear of the ejection port.
On October 9, 2007, wally of thehighroad.org posted a crack towards the front of his slide.
On January 1, 2008, boomer1911a1 of thehighroad.org posted a crack on the top of his slide, towards the rear of the ejection port.
On March 21, 2002, A&Ptech of thefiringline.com posted a crack near the ejection port of the Witness he purchased in '97.
There are far fewer reports of cracked frames than slides, but those which have had photos posted tend to be towards the very rear of the frame - just in front of the hammer.
On March 28, 2010, Mlarkin_09 of thefiringline.com reported a crack in his 10mm Witness on the first time out with it. The pistol had just been bought; presumably it was new.
On Match 29, 2010, oldandslow of thefiringline.com reported cracks in his two 45ACP Witnesses - time of crack indeterminate, time of purchase indeterminate. There were cracks in both the slide and the frame for both weapons.
On March 30, 2010, 10mm man of thefiringline.com reported a crack in his 10mm Witness starting under the safety and traveling back along the groove. He states he bought it a couple of years before, so presumably '07-'08 is the latest this weapon could have been made.
The Witness breech face is usually roughly machined, which produces friction on the back of the case and then cause the round to nose up or down. This can be remedied via the use of lapping compound. Very rough breech faces may need some careful application of fine sandpaper.
Upgraded springs - stronger springs absorb more recoil - the consensus seems to be that 20-22lb recoil springs reduce the risk of cracking quite a bit. Another alternative is to use the Sprinco recoil systems.