Bren Ten

Bren Ten
Bren Ten
DCB Shooting Bren Ten & SW 610.jpg
Bren Ten pistol (bottom)
Type Semi-automatic pistol
Place of origin  United States
Production history
Designer Michael Dixon, Thomas Dornaus
Designed 1983
Manufacturer Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises, Inc.
Produced 1983–1986
Number built 1,500
Variants Bren Ten Compact Models
Bren Ten Pocket Model
Weight 38 oz (1,100 g) (Standard Models)
28 oz (790 g) (Pocket Model)
Length 8.75 in (222 mm) (Standard Models)
7.75 in (196.9 mm) (Compact Models)
6.90 in (175.3 mm) (Pocket Model)
Barrel length 5.00 in (127.0 mm) (Standard Models)
4.00 in (101.6 mm) (Compact Models)
3.75 in (95.3 mm) (Pocket Model)
Width 1.25 in (31.8 mm) (Standard Models, Compact Models)
1.00 in (25.4 mm) (Pocket Model)
Height 5.75 in (146.1 mm) (Standard Models, Compact Models)
5.12 in (130.0 mm) (Pocket Model)

Cartridge 10mm Auto
.45 ACP
.22 Long Rifle (conversion kit)
Action Browning short recoil, vertically tilting barrel
Effective range 40 m
Feed system 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17 or 20-round box magazine
Sights Adjustable 3-dot type; rear notch, front blade

The Bren Ten was a semi-automatic pistol designed to advance the state of the art in sidearms, combining the then-new, powerful 10mm Auto round with a weapon of greater strength and accuracy than previous designs. While the Bren Ten's design has an appearance similar to the 9x19mm Parabellum CZ-75, it was larger and stronger with several unique design elements that made it a distinctly separate firearm. The design was produced only in small numbers before the company went bankrupt. A subsequent attempt to resurrect it by Peregrine Industries (as the Falcon and the Phoenix) was equally unsuccessful, as that company succumbed to financial pressures and dropped production of the pistol. Most recently, Vltor Weapons Systems established the Fortis Pistol Project to reintroduce the pistol as the Vltor Bren Ten. As of June 3, 2010, the project was experiencing production delays attributed to a shift of resources to delivering on Vltor's urgent military contracts.

The Bren Ten remains a weapon of some controversy. Many enthusiasts consider it to be one of the best pistols of its era, and the 10mm Auto is one of the most powerful semi-automatic pistol rounds. Quality control, however, was poor; many of the guns were delivered with missing or inoperable magazines for instance. The magazines were very hard to find and cost over $100 each. Although Norma Ammunition Company's 10mm Auto ammo was made in large quantities in Sweden, after the demise of the Bren Ten the only other pistol chambered for the round was the Colt Delta Elite, a 10mm version of the M1911 pistol, which was launched in 1987.



In the 1970s the police and some military forces used a mix of semi-automatic designs and revolvers. Automatics offered high rates of fire and quick reloading, but generally used small rounds that would neither overstress the mechanism nor the shooter. Revolvers were generally more accurate due to the availability of longer barrels, and were offered in calibers with considerably more power than the automatics, but held only a small number of rounds and were fairly slow to reload. Neither could be considered ideal.

On December 15, 1979, Thomas Dornaus and Michael Dixon decided to start the development of a new semi-automatic pistol to address the gap between revolvers and automatics. What was needed, they believed, was a semiautomatic pistol with its greater ammunition capacity and faster reloads, but one that would deliver power exceeding both the .45 ACP and the .357 Magnum. They hoped the new design would become as popular as the then-aged Colt 1911.

On January 15, 1980, they went seeking advice from the most knowledgeable sources available. This effort led to Jeff Cooper. Upon seeking his advice, the two discovered that he had already been working on such a pistol. The trio combined their efforts: Dornaus and Dixon provided the engineering, development, manufacturing, and marketing, while Cooper provided conceptual design criteria and technical advice. The company was formally incorporated as Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises Inc. on July 15, 1981 in California, and a new factory was set up in Huntington Beach.

After some experimentation with wildcat loads like the .40 GA and "centimeter" cartridge, they worked with ammunition manufacturer Norma to standardize the cartridge and design the pistol to fire it. The pistol, meanwhile, was adapted from the CZ-75 but heavily modified, including a stainless steel frame, easily visible sights, and various other features that would normally only be found on heavily customized arms.

Production of the Bren Ten ran from 1983 to 1986, with a production run of fewer than 1,500 total pistols according to some sources[who?]. They had started taking orders in 1982, forcing them to ship out examples as soon as possible, before any sort of in-depth testing could be done. The first batch of pistols was sent out to the customers with one magazine from a pre-serial batch. The much needed magazines could not be available on the US market for two years because Italy prohibited their export and customs seized them as war material. Customers cancelled their orders and in 1986 Dornaus & Dixon Inc. was forced to file for bankruptcy.

Design details

The Bren Ten models borrow some traits from the famous CZ-75 pistol design, however the "ten" was designed from scratch for the 10mm round and is not an offshoot of the CZ line of firearms. The Bren Ten was offered in several variants in full sized and compact pistol frame sizes, made out of stainless steel. The slides were made out of carbon steel and had a blued or hard chromed finish. A .45 ACP conversion kit and an ambidextrous competition thumb safety were available for all Bren Ten variants. A .22 Long Rifle conversion kit was offered for the full size variants. All full sized models contain a dual screw driver set that fits all screws used in the pistol as an emergency tool for performing field repairs.

The Bren Ten is a short recoil operated, locked breech semi-automatic pistol that uses a Browning Hi-Power style linkless system. The pistol has the capability of being fired single- or double action and feature an ambidextrous frame-mounted combat "switch" style manual safety that locks the sear so the trigger cannot be moved rearward as well as an internal firing pin block safety which stops the firing pin from traveling forward. The manual safety allows the pistol to be carried with the hammer back, ready for use just by switching the safety off, a configuration known as condition one. The Bren Ten has adjustable iron sights with three dots for increased visibility. The Bren Ten standard grips are made by Hogue from black textured nylon.


The capacity of the detachable box magazines of the Bren Ten pistols varies from chambering to chambering and the exact Bren Ten variant. Technically the length of the magazine well in the handgrip dictates the shortest possible magazine length and accompanying minimum ammunition capacity. The manufacturer offered the following default factory magazine capacities:

Model / Chambering 10mm Auto .45 ACP .22 Long Rifle
Full size and compact models magazine capacity (in rounds) 11 10 13
Pocket model magazine capacity (in rounds) 8 - -

The magazines of all full size Bren Tens handle both 10mm Auto cartridges and .45 ACP cartridges.


Standard Models

The Bren Ten Standard Model is the basis for the entire line of Bren Ten pistols. Basically, the only differences between the Standard Model and the rest of the Bren Ten line deal with finish, barrel length and chambering. In the case of the Dual-Master and Initial Issue/Jeff Cooper Commemorative other extras include special engraving, a special wooden case and, for the Dual-Master, an extra slide and barrel. Basically, these guns were Standard Models with added window dressing. The Bren Ten Standard Models could combine a stainless steel frame and a blued carbon steel slide, though some collectors/owners opted for aftermarket hard chroming factory blued slides to make the pistols look like the Miami Vice Bren Tens. The Bren Ten Marksman Special pistols were made for the Marksman Police Company in Chicago, IL. They were part of an initial trial order and chambered in .45 ACP because of the aversion of some shooters to using the more powerful and sharper recoiling 10mm cartridge. The initial order of 250 pistols was filled, but the project was discontinued as the manufacturing company began to fail. Of the 250 pistols received by the Marksman Police Company, an unspecified number were returned to the manufacturer because the fit tolerances of some parts were found unsatisfactory. It was not known by the Marksman Police Company what became of these returned pistols.[1]

The full size models were made in the following variations:

  • Bren Ten Standard Model (SM) - the basis for the entire line of Bren Ten pistols.
  • Bren Ten Military/Police (MP) - targeted law enforcement and military contracts.
  • Bren Ten Dual-Master Presentation Model - 10mm Auto and .45 ACP included two upper assemblies.
  • Bren Ten Initial Issue/Jeff Cooper Commemorative – listed at $ 2,000 in the 1984 wholesale price list.
  • Bren Ten Marksman Special Match - .45 ACP non-catalogued item (250 pistols made).
  • Bren Ten API - made for the American Pistol Institute.
  • Bren Ten Original Prototype - made from billet steel.
  • Miami Vice Bren Tens - .45 ACP blanks firing pistols with hard chromed slides for better lowlight television scenes visibility (2 pistols made).

Compact Models

The Bren Ten Special Forces Models are basically short barreled versions of the full sized Bren Ten. The Special Forces Bren Ten Model was offered in two variants; L (Light) with a hard chromed slide and D (Dark) with a blued slide, both where introduced at the 1984 SHOT Show.

Pocket Model

The Bren Ten Pocket Model is a true subcompact short barreled Bren Ten variant with a special compact frame that deviates from the Standard and Compact models. Further it retained all the features of the Bren Ten Standard Model. Reportedly only two pistols were made.

Bren Ten resurrection attempts

In 1986 after Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises Inc. closed their doors, entrepreneur Richard Voit purchased the rights and other materials from the bankruptcy courts and established Peregrine Industries. In addition to this, Thomas Dornaus and Michael Dixon were hired to help remedy some of the Bren Ten's flaws and "update" its design and features. Steve Blair had a minor participation in the redesign and Shanna Everaert-Robb was hired as office manager. Peter Agocs was hired as QA Manager and helped solve many of the quality problems that plagued the earlier weapons. The result was the Peregrine Falcon and Phoenix. Peregrine Industries, however, fell victim to the Savings and Loan scandals of the early nineteen nineties and saw their loans dry up. Consequently, while many Falcon and Phoenix prototypes were produced, none ever hit the market.

On February 1, 2008, Vltor Weapon Systems of Tucson, AZ announced that they would be resurrecting the Bren Ten with the launch of their Vltor Fortis pistol project.[2] The blog hinted that the project would involve a more modern version of the Bren Ten design, but offered little other information. On July 27, 2009, Vltor announced they obtained the rights to use the Bren Ten name and logo for the production version of the Fortis project and intend to release the pistol as the Vltor Bren Ten in May 2010.[3] The first run pistols was to be priced between $1100 and $1200, depending on model (approximately three times the price of the Italian made EAA Witness in 10mm Auto but on par with the Colt Delta Elite and the Smith & Wesson 1006). This was going to be a limited run of approximately 1200 but the latest information indicates that greater first-year production will be pursued to reach a sustainable price point. Rumors of 'private collectors' buying the guns were largely based on speculation and poor marketing undertaken by a third party which misrepresented the manufacturing and motivation behind the project. VLTOR weapon systems currently aims to deliver the weapons to market by Summer 2012.

Bren Ten/CZ-75 inspired semi-automatic pistols

Some firearms enthusiasts consider the Tanfoglio T95 Combat/Standard pistol (EAA Witness) and Tanfoglio TZ-75 Force (the polymer frame version of the T95 Combat/Standard), both chambered in 10mm Auto, as the "natural" heirs of the Bren Ten pistol. Like the Bren Ten, these handguns are based on a modified CZ-75 platform and are close in appearance and size to the Bren Ten.[4]

In film and television

The Bren Ten is notable for having been one of Sonny Crockett's pistols in the television series Miami Vice. Excepting the pilot episode, he wore the pistol during the first and second seasons of the show.[5][6]


  1. ^ Sales Associate at the Marksman Police Company, circa 1988
  2. ^ Vltor blog about the Fortis
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Side by side views of the EAA Witness Steel and the Bren Ten 10 mm Auto pistols.
  5. ^ Ayoob, Massad (2008). The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry. Gun Digest. p. 177. ISBN 9780896896116. 
  6. ^ Sweeney, Patrick (2003). The Gun Digest Book of the Glock. Gun Digest. p. 148. ISBN 9780873495585. 

External links

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