If you want to know more about dynamic shooting competitions, check out our introductory article to IPSC. The Tanfoglio Stock III Xtreme is known as the Witness Stock III Xtreme in the U.S., and is distributed by the EAA Corp.
The Stock III is one of two Tanfoglio pistols specifically made for the IPSC Production division. Like most of the pistols from the Italian company it is based on, or evolved from, the CZ-75B, depending on how you see it. Guns of this pattern have shown to be very successful in dynamic shooting competitions with the CZ-75B Shadow and different Tanfoglio models in the hands of most of the top shooters.
The benefit of the Tanfoglio/CZ style pistol compared to polymer double-action only firearms is that they are heavier and have a much lighter trigger pull after the first round. This means that you’ll be quicker on target for follow up shots, due to less pistol movement from recoil, and better accuracy through less alignment shift when pressing the trigger in a non-optimal way.
Of the two Stock pistols from Tanfoglio, the Stock III differs from the Stock II in that it has a rail under the barrel and a cylindric instead of a coned outer profile barrel. The dust cover and slide also reach the very end of the barrel making it slightly heavier at the front. The Stock II is more expensive due to the fitting of the barrel. There used to be some differences in the trigger between these two, but I believe that they are identical in the Xtreme versions. Eric Grauffel, who’s dominated the IPSC sport since the mid-late 1990’s, uses both in Production division. From a practical perspective they are identical in use.
Most of the Tanfoglio competition gun line now has Xtreme versions which means that their inner components have been further optimized and they have ceramic outer coatings. The Stock III Xtreme has a much nicer color scheme than the Stock II Xtreme, where the bronze/brown frame complements the black slide making it look both ruggedly purposeful and sporty at the same time. The Xtreme line appeared after CZ’s launch of tuned stock components that made their production pistols approach factory race pistols in their triggers and control components. Whether the Xtreme line is an answer or just internal product development with the help of the world’s greatest pistol shooter is hard to tell, but they are a significant improvement to already good guns. The components are fully backwards compatible with their non-Xtreme siblings if you want to upgrade an existing gun.
The result for the Stock range is pistols for the Production division that are full race guns, even though they haven’t forgotten their ability to serve as service pistols. No police department or military force would probably use them due to the weight and overall package size – not to mention cost – but it’s nice to see that they haven’t been optimized beyond recognition.
Based on the CZ-75B pattern, the Stock III Xtreme is a full-size double-action/single-action pistol with an external hammer, thumb safety and double stacked magazine for 9x19mm ammunition (it is also available in .40 with a reduced ammunition capacity, but I see no reason to buy one in this caliber). So far it’s very similar to the other Wonder Nine pistols. Where the CZ-75 differs is that it has internal slide rails to lower the 125mm (4.9”) barrel as much as possible into the frame, bringing it closer in height to the web of the hand as it sits under the beavertail. This reduces muzzle flip from recoil by minimizing the resulting torque in the hand (torque being force multiplied by distance).
Also helping reduce felt recoil is the 1.2 kg (2.65 lbs) weight when empty. There are brass grips available that will make the entire package even heavier. This could help the top ten in the world get their splits down by a hundredth of a second, but for the rest of us it’s already heavy enough for 9mm ammunition.
The inherent accuracy is good enough for any conceivable purpose. The polygonally rifled barrel locks up rock solid and from my experience have never been the culprit of a missed shot. Also aiding is the long sight line and of course the trigger. It’s rated at 1.35 kg (2.9 lbs) for single-action and smooth but rather long 2.72 kg (6 lbs) for double-action. Reset is short but quite noticeably shorter on a 1911. Overall it can’t compare to a well tuned single-action trigger, whether it’s in a Tanfoglio Standard division special or a 1911-style competition pistol.
But, going back and forth between for example a Glock 19 and the Stock III is like night and day. The sheer weight and balance dampens movement from the hands and fingers making the barrel hardly move at all when you grip properly and send multiple rounds to the same point. The stock sights consists of an adjustable LPA target style rear sight and a fiber-optic front. With the fiber-optic it’s more suitable for fast shooting than 25m bulls-eye and for IPSC I haven’t found any reason to change these.
The low profile slide is part of what makes the gun both look and work really fast and aggressive, but it does provide one small challenge. The grip area when racking is reduced compared to most other pistols. There are big serrations, much more aggressive than on CZ guns, which really adds to the look as well as the grip. But I find that you’re a bit more limited in how you grip it compared to a Glock for example. Whether you use a sling-shot movement using the front serrations or a rear overhand grip you have to be more precise and actually place the fingers rather than just slam down the hand and grip. It’s the same with CZ pistols but a disadvantage compared to Glocks.
There’s a big beaver tail making it easy to really push the hand high without worry about slide bite. Combined with riding the thumb on the ambidextrous safety allows for a nice and consistent grip every time. The extended, reversible magazine release button is just where you expect it to be but can be a challenge for some people with short fingers, as is the front of the trigger in DA-mode.
At the base of the grip is an internal mag well. It’s not nearly as big or efficient as the one on an Open or Standard Division gun, like the Tanfoglio Limited Custom HC, but it’s a big improvement over what you get in most service pistols. The four included magazines has an extended base plate making them easy to grip and possible to load to 17 rounds.
The outer ceramic finish is even and the internal parts all fit really well. The frame is made from cast steel and this can be seen on the front and rear checkering. It works well but wouldn’t exactly classify as a nice workmanship. The included grips are made from aluminum and also checkered, with a better finish than the frame checkering. They are quite slim and work for most hand sizes, I wear size large gloves with somewhat thin fingers and it’s perfect for me but I know of several ladies who use this type of gun with no problem.
One thing I’ve found out was that the internal components are so precisely fit that you have to be careful not to apply too much grease. I got the tip from my first Tanfoglio dealer to make sure that the locking lugs on the barrel never went dry to reduce wear and increase the life of the pistol, since this is the part that will wear out the quickest. I might have been a bit too ambitious with this advice when I first got this gun with the result that it failed to return to battery on numerous occasions in its first match. This had not been a problem on a Limited Custom HC so I guess the reason is that the Xtreme’s ceramic coating is just a little bit thicker making the slide to rail fit tighter – and with a little bit too much grease and dirt it just became too tight. Over the course of 3000 rounds there has been no other reliability issues.
To break down the Stock III, and other Tanfoglio pistols, you rack it to take the pressure from the hammer away and then press the slide slightly backward to align the two dots on the left rear of the frame and slide. This can be done with one hand. With the other, you take a magazine or some other flat object and gently tap the protruding slide lock pin on the right side of the gun. Pull out the slide lock lever and the slide can be removed forward. Push the guide rod and recoil spring forward, tilt slightly up and remove. Remove the barrel. This is very easy to do and quite swearing-proof.
Being of the CZ-75B pattern you would think that there would be an abundance of accessories. But this is not the case. The outer dimensions are slightly different to sister (or relative) pistols, including the finger guard, so holsters don’t work across the range, for example. With that said, there are both race style holsters as well as plastic carry holsters from multiple manufacturers. Some race holsters can be a little finicky, I’ve tried and given up on the DAA Race Master since I had to be incredibly precise in pulling the gun straight up, otherwise it would jam and not move (I had the same problem with the Limited Custom HC and its block). Instead I’m using a Blade-Tech OWB holster with a drop-offset arm which works very good, really smooth in the draw but still good enough retention for running and jumping around. Most people with Tanfoglios use holsters from Ghost and these work well, both the service and race style varieties.
To summarize, the Stock III is a superb range or competition gun but can’t compete with the single-action only pistols made for the Standard division, but within the Production division it’s really as good as it can be. Is it better than the CZ-75B SP-01 Shadow? In use they are incredibly similar and the differences mainly comes down to looks, accessories and support from the local dealer. As Eric Grauffel says, “Tanfoglio guns are sexy” and I couldn’t agree more. I think the shape and machining is superior to the CZ pistols but there are more people with spare parts for the Shadow on competitions. There are top shooters using both guns. The Shadow is quite a bit cheaper which can be a factor.
Where there’s a significant difference is compared to other types of service style pistols. Compared to other metal guns they have a lower barrel for better recoil management and ergonomics that just works (I’m talking about you, Beretta 92F). Accuracy is really good for pistol distances, for shots above 25 meters it has a disadvantage against super-tuned long barrel single-action only pistols. Glock and other polymer guns have the DA/SA action working both for and against them, the overall operation is easier on DA-only style pistols but the SA trigger pulls of the Stock III is a clear advantage after the first shot, as is the weight for more recoil damping.
When I started with IPSC I competed in the Standard Division and constantly felt undergunned. It was an arms race to fit enough rounds in the magazine, to only just clear the power factor and have a light enough trigger. With a Stock III Xtreme in the Production division you can be confident that there’s no “better” gun available, equally appropriate for a beginner as it is for a seasoned veteran. When it comes down to it, I really like the Stock III and can’t see a better pistol for IPSC Production competition right now.
|1.20 kg (2.65 lbs)