Established February 28th, 2002
February 28th, 2020


THE BREN TEN: Features, Models, And Modifications


A Better Mousetrap

The Bren Ten is described in the 1984 Dornaus & Dixon catalog as follows:

The Bren Ten is a heavy-duty combat service pistol designed to fire the 10mm Auto pistol cartridge. Both the Bren Ten and the 10mm Auto cartridge have been designed and developed from the ground up. The Bren Ten represents a breakthrough in production pistols. It has all of the custom features of the most refined combat pistols available, without these features costing extra. It is truly ready-to-go, right out of the box.


While the Bren Ten came in a number of variations in size, caliber and finishes, all the Brens had basically the same features. These included the following:

*Selective double or single action trigger where the first shot can either be fired double action with the hammer in the down position, or single action with the hammer cocked and the manual safety engaged (cocked-and-locked).

*Slide mounted manual cross-bolt safety which, when pushed to activate, blocks the firing pin from travel without interfering with trigger or hammer operation.

*Loaded chamber indicator located in conjunction with the extractor giving the operator both a visual and tactile indicator of the status of the pistol.

*Fully adjustable rear sight allowing adjusting for both windage and elevation.

*"Power-Seal" rifling which offers a better seal for bullets increasing both velocity due to less gass loss, and better accuracy because of less bullet deformation.

*Selective magazine catch which, by turning a screw head in the bottom corner of the right grip panel, gives the operator the option of either allowing the magazine to drop free of the gun, or pop approximately 1/2" for easy grasping while remaining in the mag well.

*Dual screwdriver set (full-sized models only) which works as an emergency tool that fits all screws on the gun.

*Lanyard loop (on the full-sized and Special Forces models) for those individuals, or police/military agencies, that desire a positive retention device.

In addition to these features all Bren Tens include such factory work as a "custom trigger job, throated chamber, polished feed ramp, enlarged ejection port, beveled magazine well, non-reflective sighting surfaces, and all corners and edges rounded for no-snag operation."

Picture from the Bren Ten Owner's Manual

Bren Models

While there are numerous version of the Bren Ten pistol, all share the same basic features.  When looking through the Dornaus & Dixon catalog you basically have one gun with two different barrel lengths and a number of finish options.  You can't even really count the .45 ACP as a caliber choice as the Marksman Special Match was a special run and not a cataloged pistol.  There were of course .45 ACP conversion kits available, and plans for a .22LR kit as well, but the only true .45 advertised would have been the Dual-Master with it's two slides.  The one standout in the catalog would have been the Pocket Model.  With it's slightly recontured trigger guard and single stack 8-round magazine the Pocket Model stands out from the rest of the pack (though it's a bit tough imagining this gun stuffed into a pocket!).

Full-Sized Models

Model Caliber(s): Barrel Length: Capacity: Notes:
Standard Model 10mm Auto 5" 10 rounds "Flagship" of the Bren Ten line.
Military/Police 10mm Auto 5" 10 rounds For potential military/police sales.
Dual-Master Presentation Model 10mm Auto 5" 10 rounds Included two complete slide assemblies.
Jeff Cooper Commemorative 10mm Auto 5" 10 rounds $2,000 pre-order gun.

Picture from the 1984 Dornaus & Dixon Bren Ten Catalog


As noted, the Standard Model is the basis for the entire line of Bren Ten pistols. Basically, the only differences you're going to see between the Standard Model and the rest of the Bren line deal with finish, barrel length and caliber. In the case of the Dual-Master and Jeff Cooper Commerative other extras include special engraving, a special custom wood case and, for the Dual-Master, an extra slide and barrel. In essence though, even these guns were basically Standard Models under all the window dressing. The frame of the Pocket Model was not simply a chopped full-sized frame, but was in fact built from the ground up as a compact frame. Even so, the Pocket Model frame retains the same basic design features of the Standard Model.

The Bren Ten Standard Model combines a stainless frame and a blued carbon steel slide. The words "BREN TEN" are inscribed on the forward portion of both sides of the slide and the Gunsite Raven resides on the left side of the frame just above the trigger guard and in front of the slide stop. The serial number for the Standard Models, located on the left side of the forward portion of the dust cover, reads "83SMxxxxx." Grips are a black textured nylon and made by Hogue.

Picture from the 1984 Dornaus & Dixon Bren Ten Catalog


In esence the Military/Police is simply a Standard Model with a blackened frame. The Dornaus & Dixon catalog lists the finish for this pistol as a deep-blued slide and a black oxide stainless steel frame. Since the manual thumb safety and the slide stop on the SM and other brushed stainless framed guns are hard chromed I am assuming that these parts are not stainless steel. If this is the case I would think that these parts would receive the same blued finish as the slide rather than the black oxide applied to the frame. This is pure conjecture though. All markings for the Military/Police are the same with the single exception of the "MP" letter code in the serial number.

As the name implies the Military/Police was primarily targeted towards police and military contracts. In addition to this there are always those private citizens that just prefer the classic look of an all blued gun (or blued and black oxide in this case) over stainless steel.

Picture from the 1984 Dornaus & Dixon Bren Ten Catalog


The Bren Ten Dual-Master Presentation Model is one Bren I would REALLY like to have! In essence, the Dual-Master is a Standard Model with an extra slide/barrel assembly in .45 Auto. Unlike the Marksman though, the .45 caliber slide included the "BREN TEN" roll marks on both sides. Included in the package is a custom wood presentation case, fancy wood grips with gold "X" emblems, some light engraving, polished blued slide and even serial numbers in increments of 100 (i.e., 100, 200, 300, etc.). These guns were also to include the dual-caliber magazines which reportedly caused various problems with the smaller diameter 10mm round.

I have thought that if I could just find a .45 Conversion Kit I could use it with my SM and have my own "poor man's version" of the Dual-Master, but considering the rarity of the conversion kits I probably wouldn't be saving myself much money. That's assuming I could even find one!

Picture from the 1984 Dornaus & Dixon Bren Ten Catalog


This pistol is probably the most infamous of the Bren pistols.  The gun was basically a Standard Model with some nice gold inlay, custom wood grips featuring Col. Cooper's crest, and a presentation case with ten gold plated dummy rounds.  It's a beautiful pistol, but most of those who tried to purchase one were left bitter and disappointed.

There's nothing wrong with the idea of a top dollar limited edition gun built with premium embellishments in honor of an individual who has made a major impact on the shooting sports.  It's a rare firearm manufacturer who hasn't offered some kind of 'special edition' gun.  The problem is that the whole purpose for the JCC pistol was to raise funds to finance operations.  Selling 2,000 guns at $2,000 a piece would have provided Dornaus & Dixon with much needed cash, but when only around 150 orders rolled in the company was left scrambling for other sources of funding and found it difficult to build the guns they had committed to selling.  It is believed that in the end only about twelve of the Jeff Cooper Initial Issue Commemoratives were built.

Special Forces Models (midsize)

Model Caliber(s): Barrel Length: Capacity: Notes:
Special Forces Light 10mm Auto 4" 10 rounds Introduced at 1984 SHOT Show.
Special Forces Dark 10mm Auto 4" 10 rounds Introduced at 1984 SHOT Show.

Picture from the 1984 Dornaus & Dixon Bren Ten Catalog


The Special Forces guns are basically short-barreled versions of the full-sized guns sporting a 4" barrel rather than the standard 5" tube. There were two varieties of the Special Forces Model, Light and Dark.

The Special Forces Light matched the stainless frame of the SM (with bead blasted curves and brushed flats) with a hard chromed slide. The Special Forces Dark, on the other hand, combines a black parkerized slide with a black oxide stainless steel frame. Also, in addition to the standard "BREN TEN" on both sides of the slide, there is an additional "SPECIAL FORCES" rollmark on the left side.

You wouldn't think a 1" shorter barrel, with all other dimensions being the same, would make that much of a difference. Handling both though I quickly found that the SFL feels much handier and easier to bring on target.

Pocket Model (compact)

Model Caliber(s): Barrel Length: Capacity: Notes:
Pocket Model 10mm Auto 4" 8 rounds Only three prototypes produced.

Picture from the 1984 Dornaus & Dixon Bren Ten Catalog


The Bren Ten Pocket Model is an interesting, and incredibly rare, piece of Bren history. From what I understand there were only three of these guns made, and only two of them are actually functional firearms. (One of these two was once listed for auction with a opening price of $10,000!)

From the information presented in the catalog it appears that the slide and barrel are identical to that used in the Special Forces models with the exception of the "SPECIAL FORCES" markings on the sides. Like the SFL the Pocket Model sports a hard chrome finish on its slide. The frame however, is definately a different breed. While it is very similar to its siblings in basic form, the Pocket Model not only sports an abbreviated frame (1/2" shorter), but it is also narrower. How much narrower is not specified, but from the pictures I would say approximately 1/4" is shaved from the frame's width. This was apparently done by machining recesses on the sides of the frame so that the plastic grip pannels sit flush with the rest of the frame rather than sit on top of it. This would seem to necessitate a narrower magazine body as well, but I'm not totally sure about this. Whether or not a completely different magazine was used, the listed capacity was only eight rounds giving it two fewer rounds than the rest of the 10mm Bren line. One of the most notable differences is the redesign of the trigger guard. All other Brens have a rather large, rounded-square look to the trigger guard, but the Pocket Model has a much more curved and "up-swept" look to it. Personally I don't care for it and I don't see how this change would have made the gun any more concealable, but that's just my opinion.

Other Unique Models

Model Caliber(s): Barrel Length: Capacity: Notes:
Marksman Special Match .45 ACP 5" 8 rounds 250 built for The Marksman Shop (non-cataloged).
Bren Ten Prototype 10mm Auto 5" 10 rounds Custom built by Tom Dornaus.
American Pistol Institute 10mm 5" 10 rounds Three A.P.I. guns built for Gunsite.
XM-9 9mm Parabellum 4" 14 rounds Purportedly for military trials.


One of the more interesting Brens is the Marksman Special Match, or Marksman as they are commonly known. The Marksman is a .45 Auto and was commissioned by The Marksman Shop in Glenview, Illinois (no longer in business due to various gun ordinances enacted in the Chicago area). Dornaus & Dixon was contracted to build 250 of these guns with serial numbers running from MSM001 to MSM250 (there was no "83" or "84" prefix in the serial numbers on these guns). I'm not sure if all 250 guns were built and shipped, but apparently there is no information to the contrary.

While the Marksman is very similar in appearance to the Standard Model 10mm there are some noteable differences. First of all the frame did not wear the Gunsite Raven on the left side above the trigger guard. Also, it did not have "BREN TEN" marked along the sides of the slide. It did, however, have "MARKSMAN SPECIAL - MATCH .45 ACP" marked on the left side. Internally the Marksman was basically a basic Bren Ten with the obvious exception of a .45 caliber rather than 10mm barrel. Magazines were of the original dual-caliber design and held only eight rounds of .45 Auto ammunition.

Cover of the 1983 Dornaus & Dixon Bren Ten Catalog


The Bren Ten prototype is an interesting gun to say the least. To begin with, the prototype for the gun that was to become the first production 10mm Auto pistol wasn't even chambered in 10mm, but rather .45 Auto. While the reasons for this aren't totally clear, one possibility could be that since the only 10mm ammo at hand was of the "experimental" variety there wouldn't be a sufficient amount available to properly test the gun's design. (Jeff Cooper stated in his article in the February 1981 issue of Combat Handguns that a second prototype was being hand built in 10mm, but to my knowledge there was only one prototype ever built.) Another interesting feature of the gun is that it is missing one of the things that made the Bren Ten so unique and that is the manual cross-bolt firing pin block safety located under the rear sight on the slide. Instead, where the cross-bolt safety should be, are simple verticle grooves for racking the slide. (Strangely enough these grooves look almost identical to the design that was later used on the Peregrine Falcon.)


It's unknown how many were actually built, but it appears that at least three of these API (American Pistol Institute) Brens were made for Gunsite. This particular API Bren (API03) belongs to Jeff Cooper and still resides at Gunsite. It includes both 10mm Auto and .45 Auto slide assemblies, but whether other API guns included dual-assemblies as well is unclear. It's said that Col. Cooper's API Bren is kept well maintained and ready should he ever decide to come back and put a few rounds through it. The .45 slide assembly has been rebuilt and includes the newer sight adjustment screws while the 10mm slide does not. Also notice that this particular gun does not have the trigger stop installed.

The Infamous Magazines

 With all the impressive innovations and unique features the Bren Ten brought to market, from its CZ based design to its powerful 10mm chambering, it is ironic and unfortunate that one of the most memorable chapters of the entire Bren story were the magazines.  When the Bren Ten comes up in conversation the most likely thing to come up is how the lack of magazines killed the company.  While magazine production certainly had an impact on Dornaus & Dixon's ability to successfully market the gun, it was by no means the sole, or even the main reason the company failed.

Originally the planned capacity of the magazines would be eleven rounds for the 10mm and nine for the .45 ACP.  Getting that last round in proved to be exceeding difficult though, and so capacity was left at ten rounds and eight rounds respectively.  Additionally both Dixon and Cooper felt that the guns should ship with two magazines a piece, but this turned out to economically prohibitive.

I spoke with Bruce Orlowski about the magazines and he related the following information:

One of the clever features of the original Bren Ten design was that both 10mm and .45 ACP models utilized the same magazine. The original dual caliber Bren Ten magazines were manufactured by MEC-GAR of Italy with the first lots arriving at the Huntington Beach facility in early 1984. The feed lip dimensions for both rounds overlapped, allowing functional reliability in the prototype. The feeding problems encountered with the 10mm ammunition in early production guns proved to be insurmountable however. Additionally, after about 400 rounds of the original Norma 10mm ammunition was fired from each magazine, the magazine tubes, which were not heat treated, would become distorted. Many were bent to the point that they no longer could be inserted into the guns magazine well. Because of this, Dornaus & Dixon refused payment to the vendor. This necessitated a redesign of the magazines and the 2nd generation 10mm magazines were born.

The 2nd generation magazines design addressed a number of issues in addition to the feeding and durability problems encountered with the 10mm ammunition. While the dual caliber magazines were shipped to Dornaus & Dixon as complete assemblies, 2nd generation magazines came as components that were then assembled at the factory.

The new magazine tubes were heat-treated, which negated the durability problems encountered with the MEC-GAR magazines. The original receiver castings were too short in the grip frame area due to a vendor error. The resulting loose magazine fit contributed to the feeding problems and cause excessive wear to the magazine catch which, in turn, could allow a charged magazine to drop from the gun during recoil. Two pins were added at the factory to the magazine floor plates. They did not come this way from the vendor. This provided a temporary solution to the loose fit of the original magazines until the existing supply of receiver castings was exhausted and a new lot could be ordered. This never happened for obvious reasons. All 10mm magazines issued by the factory have these pins. It should be noted that the 2nd generation magazines and dual caliber magazines utilize different springs and followers. These parts are not interchangeable!

The sheet metal parts were sent out for black oxide (bluing), then shipped back and assembled at the plant. The factory issued no hard chromed 10mm magazines according to Mike Dixon in a Bren Ten Update. The given reason for this was that the heat-treated magazines would not take the hard chrome evenly. I believe that the real reason was that delivery considerations precluded the luxury of providing two different finishes.

Early production guns of all models were originally shipped with the dual caliber magazines. My Special Forces Light came with two from the factory. The MEC-GAR magazines function flawlessly in all .45 ACP Bren Ten variations and were issued only with these guns and .45 ACP Conversion Kits after the 2nd generation magazines became available. One of each type of magazine was issued with the later Dual Masters.

After production ceased, large numbers of the dual caliber magazines were left in the factory and these are available to this date. Additionally, enough components for the 2nd generation magazines were left over at the closing to assemble a large number of these magazines although much of this inventory was deemed defective at the time. Finally, substantial numbers of 2nd generation components were in the hands of the vendors after the shut down either as returned defective parts or new production awaiting payment prior to shipment. This probably accounts for most of the so-called counterfeit, or after market magazines often seen. At one time, Wolff made a small run of replacement springs for the dual caliber magazines but none for the 2nd generation magazines. Some shooters claim a Browning Hi Power magazine spring can be used as a substitute but I cannot confirm this.

Picture from Ron A. Carrillo's BREN TEN: The Heir Apparent

As you can imagine, all these issues with what should be a relatively simple component created ongoing problems for the company.  While the issues were slowly but surely being sorted out it was still a huge public relations disaster and another blow to Dornaus & Dixon's reputation as a reputable firearm manufacturer.  Not only were the new magazines a long time in coming, but the magazine well of the delivered guns had not yet been broached and would require gun owners who had opted to take their guns sans magazine to return them to the factory to be broached.  With as much trouble as Dornaus & Dixon was having delivering backordered guns numerous owners were justifiably leery of returning their Brens for this work fearing it would be a long time (if ever) for them to get their guns back!

Interestingly, when author Chuck Taylor lambasted the Bren in the December '84 issue of "Survival Weapons & Tactics"  the gun he was sent for evaluation apparently didn't have a magazine and so his testing was done one round at a time.  The rumor is that the poor review was due to an ongoing dispute between Taylor and Cooper (which Mike Dixon addressed in his second update letter), but it seems somewhat foolish to send a product out for review that doesn't have all it's parts!

Manufacturing Variations

With the Bren being so rare most individuals will have very little contact with an actual pistol.  Those who are fortunate enough to own one, most likely only have a single example.  Because of this it is obviously difficult to compare different guns.  Even with only a limited number of Brens being produced there were numerous minor changes made during the gun's short run.  Some addressed problems that were being discovered as production ramped up and guns were getting into the hands of actual shooters, which is a process that happens in all areas of manufacturing.  As pressure built on Dornaus & Dixon to fulfill orders, and financial troubles grew, the need to streamline production and cut costs became increasingly important.  Evidence of this can be seen in some of the machining and other manufacturing steps during the assembly of pistols.  The exact timeline of what happened when is rather confusing, however.  To begin with, the way that Dornaus & Dixon assigned serial numbers to guns makes it very difficult to tell whether a gun was an early or late production example.  Also, some earlier guns may have recieved a modification made to later guns because it was returned to Dornaus & Dixon for service.  Because of this, it is entirely possible to have a mishmash of machining features on a single pistol.

Picture from "Peko's Gun Box
Picture from "Peko's Gun Box

One of the most obvious and commonly mentioned cosmetic differences deals with profile of the top of the slide (upper left picture).  When reading listings on such sites as Gunbroker you might see a Bren described as being a 'round top' refering to the lack of the milled flat on top of the pistol's slide.  There were also changes made to the adjustable rear sight involving the screws and the way in which the notch was cut (upper right picture).  In this same view of the top, rear portion of the slide you will also note that the flats on the slides are of different widths.  The angled cuts to the beavertail area of the frame (bottom right picture) are yet another area for seemingly random variations.  It could be that in the company's rush to ship as many guns as possible frames with cosmetic blemishes were used requiring more material to be removed to make them useable, or possibly changes were made to the milling machines.  The magazines (which were discussed in depth above) were another item with multiple different versions adding to more confusion.

Picture from "Peko's Gun Box
Picture from "Peko's Gun Box

Bren collectors will also note differences in the trigger stop, with holes being drilled through the bottom of the trigger guard in slightly different positions and angles.  The first Brens did not have this feature.  This was actually part of Dornaus & Dixon's first recall which included other modifications such an upgrade to the rear sight, broaching the mag well for those pistols that were shipped without magazines, and in improvement to the cross bolt safety.  This work began towards the end of 1985, but again not every Bren owner was willing to ship back their pistol resulting in only some guns having the work done.

Another rather odd variation is the 2-dot versus 3-dot safety markings on the pistol's frame.  Actually the reason for this change is simple enough.  It was found that the small amount of red paint added to the hole in which the safety's detent would pop into actually filled in the hole just enough to keep the safety from positively 'snapping' into position.  I would think that simply drilling the hole a touch deeper would rectify this, but maybe this was difficult to do with consistent results.  Also, since this was the gun's primary 'safety' mechanism it may be that for legal protection it was best to just avoid the problem altogether by drilling the third hole?

'Viced' Bren Tens

Probably the most famous and sought after Bren Ten was never actually made, that is as a production gun available from the factory.  This would be the 'Viced' Bren Ten as used by the character Detective Sonny Crockett in the 80s television crime drama "Miami Vice."  While the Special Forces Light model has the same finish, it is of course a 4" model and was not available when the Bren was chosen as Crockett's sidearm.  The reasoning for the hard chrome treatment to the slide was that as there would be quite a bit of filming at night it was felt that an all-silver pistol would show up better than the two-tone Standard Model.

Understandably those who's first introduction to the Bren was via television (including myself) were disappointed that the gun they wanted wasn't actually being made.  I have no doubt that had Dornaus & Dixon survived they would have eventually offered this version, but as they went out of business so quickly they never had the opportunity to capitalize on this.  This problem, however, didn't stop Bren owners with a Miami Vice fetish from taking things into their own hands.  Numerous individuals have 'Viced' their Bren Tens by sending in the slide to be hard chromed.  I have seen this done on not only Standard Models, but also .45 caliber Marksman Special Match pistols.  I have even seen at least one M&P had it's blackened frame finish removed along with its slide hard chromed to achieve this look!

It is certainly a beautiful gun, and it's not surprising that when Vltor was planning to reintroduce the Bren Ten they had an all-silver model actually sporting the serial number prefix "MV."

How Many Brens?

A.T.F. Letter, 12/19/01

Probably one of the most hotly contested questions is, "How many Brens were made?"  Well the honest, though unpopular answer is that nobody seems to know and that it is extremely unlikely that a definitive number will ever be determined.  You will usually hear most people say that there were around 1,500 guns produced, but in truth it is most likely less (maybe around 1,350 or so?).  There were of course the 250 Marksman Special Match pistols chambered in .45 ACP built for the Marksman Shop in Glenview, Illinois, but other than these guns the serial numbers were not necessarily assigned sequentially as one would naturally assume.  One of the services Dornaus & Dixon offered was to take custom serial number requests.  Because of this it was more than possible to have a late-manufacture gun with a low serial number, or an early gun sporting a high digit serial number.  Not only this, but when the company closed shop there were quite a few frames that either hadn't been built into guns, or were rejected due to flaws but still bore serial numbers.

Years ago when I spoke with Richard Voit (who tried to resurrect the Bren Ten as the Peregrin Falcon and Phoenix) he stated that when Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises closed up shop all their records were sent to the A.T.F., but then when I contacted the agency in hopes of possibly getting a concrete production number they informed me that they had no such records and that therefore the current owner of the rights to the Bren Ten must have them.  At the time this would have put them back with Voit and Peregrin Industries.  According to the law these books are supposed to be maintained, so they must be somewhere.

In an attempt to scrounge up even the smallest scraps of information regarding production numbers I started keeping track of online sales (primarily from Gunbroker, Auction Arms, and Guns America).  This gave me a starting point, but I soon realized that this would reveal only a small percentage of the guns as most serious collectors will keep their precious Brens.

I just recently started searching for pictures of Bren Tens on the internet.  Trying to keep things as verifiable as possible I only recorded guns from pictures where the serial number is plainly visible.  This method seems to be providing more numbers, but of course it doesn't provide any help in establishing the going price for a particular model of Bren Ten.

I have put this information into an Excel spreadsheet.  If it was an auction I have included the final price and the date sold, as well as any accesories or other noteable information about the gun.  If it was simply a picture I found I included the website URL and the date it was added to the database.  You can download the most recent version of the Excel spreadsheet by clicking on the link to the right.

If you have a Bren and would like to add it to the database I will require a picture that shows the serial number.  I will NOT include any personal information in order to protect your identity.

Bren Ten Model & Serial Numbers Excel Spreadsheet
as of 2/25/20