||Dornaus & Dixon And The Ultimate Combat Handgun
||The Bren Ten Pistols
||The Demise of Dornaus & Dixon And The Bren Ten
Dornaus & Dixon And The Ultimate Combat Handgun
The story of the Bren Ten isn't exactly a new one. It is actually just another chapter in the quest for the perfect combat
sidearm. The evolution of the handgun has taken us in many different directions. Just in the past two hundred years or so
we have gone percussion single-shot handguns to percussion single-action revolvers, to rimfire and centerfire single-action
revolvers, to double-action revolvers to single and double action semiautomatic pistols.
Since 1911 the United States military has used a big-bore semiauto pistol. Generally speaking though, police forces and civilians
stuck to the revolver for another 70 years or so. After World War II the semiauto began to slowly creep in and eat away at
the revolver's dominance in the civilian and police markets here in the U.S., but it was an uphill battle. Most of these pistols
were chambered for the 9mm Parabellum, and while the 9mm is a respectable cartridge it had a hard time competing with the
.45 Auto and the .357 Magnum. One of the few things the 9mm semiauto had going for it (in some pistols) was a large magazine
In the late 1970's two men felt they had the answer. What was needed, they believed, was a semiautomatic pistol with its greater
ammunition capacity and faster reloads, but one that would also deliver power exceeding both the .45 and the .357. In step
Thomas Dornaus and Michael Dixon.
Appreciating the job they had before them they enlisted the help of an individual who would bring with him not only vast practical
experience, but also a hefty reputation. This person was none other than Jeff Cooper. It turned out that Mr. Cooper had been
working on a similar project and so he agreed to lend his expertise to the engineering, manufacturing and marketing capabilities
of Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises, Inc.
This is from the 1984 Dornaus & Dixon catalog:
Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises was formed in December 1979 with the combined efforts of two men, Thomas F. Dornaus and Michael
W. Dixon, who had decided to build what they hoped would be the heir to the Colt .45 Auto. In January 1980, they went seeking
advice from the most knowledgeable sources available. This effort naturally led to Jeff Cooper. Upon seeking his advice, it
was discovered that Jeff Cooper, likewise, was working on such an arm. It was decided that Dornaus & Dixon and Jeff Cooper
would join forces, with Jeff Cooper providing conceptual design criteria, as well as technical advice based on his vast practical
experience, and Dornaus & Dixon providing the engineering, development, manufacturing, and marketing expertise. To retain
his professional objectiveness, Jeff Cooper is not an employee of Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises, nor does he have any authority
in the manufacturing of the Bren Ten.
On July 15, 1981, Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises, Inc. became a legal entity and was incorporated by the Secretary of State,
in the State of California. On November 1, 1982, the manufacturing facility was dedicated in Huntington Beach, California.
This many thousand square foot facility has within it some of the most modern state-of-the-art computer controlled equipment
available today, which allows for precise workmanship second to none. Another fact unusual within the firearms industry, is
that all of the employees who work directly for Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises, Inc., as well as their key advisors and associates,
are all, themselves, shooters. This fact underscores the uncompromising dedication to excellence uncommon within the industry.
The goal at Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises, Inc., is to bring to the shooter the satisfaction he deserves in a quality product
second to none, and the kind of service he can depend on. Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises is firmly committed to this goal.
|From The Bren Ten Owner's Manual
The Bren Ten Pistols
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."
||"Flagship" of the Bren Ten line.
||Targeted police contracts.
|Marksman Special Match
||Non-cataloged item with 250 made.
|Dual-Master Presentation Model
||10mm Auto & .45 Auto
||10 / 8 rounds
||Included two upper assemblies.
|Jeff Cooper Commemorative
||$2,000 up front in 1982!
||10 rounds (?)
||Made from billet steel.
|"Miami Vice" Brens
||Hard chromed slide for TV visibility.
|API (Gunsite) Brens
||10mm Auto (?)
||"American Pistol Institute," made for Gunsite.
Special Forces Models (compact)
|Special Forces Light
||Introduced at 1984 SHOT Show.
|Special Forces Dark
||Introduced at 1984 SHOT Show.
||14 rounds (?)
||Non-verified. Was it ever made?
Pocket Model (subcompact)
||Reportedly only two made with one functional.
Full-Sized Model Descriptions
STANDARD MODEL (SM)
From the 1984 Dornaus & Dixon catalog:
The Bren Ten Standard Model is a full-size, heavy-duty, semi-automatic, defensive combat service pistol designed to fire the
10mm Auto pistol cartridge. The Bren Ten was conceived by Jeff Cooper as the ultimate combat pistol and engineered and developed
by Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises. It is the ultimate extension of the basic Browning design and is the natural evolution
of the best and most proven pistols in the world, being much improved upon, along with revolutionary design features, an aesthetically
pleasing appearance, and firing the optimum combat pistol cartridge. It is the basis for the entire line of Bren Ten 10mm
Auto Combat Pistols. Unless otherwise specified, all Bren Tens come with a brushed satin finish on the flat surfaces of the
slide and frame, and a sandblasted matte finish on the rounded surfaces of the slide and frame.
As noted above 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.
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.
MARKSMAN SPECIAL - MATCH .45 ACP (MSM)
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. (Thanks to Bruce and Rob for
additional info on the Marksman.)
|Thanks to Bruce for this great close-up of the Marksman slide.
DUAL-MASTER PRESENTATION MODEL (DM)
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
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!
JEFF COOPER INITIAL ISSUE COMMEMORATIVE (JC)
SUSPICIOUS BREN LISTING
There is currently a Bren Ten Jeff Cooper Initial Issue Commemorative (JCC) listed on a number of internet auction/sale
sites. This particular JCC is reported to have the serial number of 83JC00060 and is listed as the gun that was personally
owned by Col. Jeff Cooper. The listings even use this website as confirmation of this claim. I have discussed this with
a number of knowledgable Bren collectors and it is my opinion that this IS NOTCol. Cooper's
personal JCC and BREN-TEN.com does not endorse or support the seller's claims. For more information please click on the following
Suspicious Bren Listing Information Page
Austin Chang was good enough to send me a copy of an interesting Bren article all the way from Taiwan. The article is out
of a 1990 issue of the Japanese gun magazine "Gun." Written by Jack (last name unknown) the article "10mm Auto Lineup" covers
numerous guns including the Bren Ten Cooper Commemorative, S&W 1006, Colt Delta Elite, Springfield Armory Omega and IAI Javelina.
Also included was an interview with Col. Cooper. While I must admit I have no idea how the author felt about the pistol (or
any of the other 10mm's for that matter), it does include a couple of great pics of the gun. Thanks Austin!
Rob and Mark both sent me some good pics of the original illustrated color advertisement for the Jeff Cooper Commemorative
that came out in 1982. The ad lists a price of $2,000 for the gun (and this is almost 20 years ago remember!) and the first
Brens didn't even come out for another two years. Certainly an expensive leap of faith. Thanks guys!
Click here to see the Japanese article on the Jeff Cooper Initial Issue Commemorative.
Click here to see the 1982 Jeff Cooper Bren Ten Initial Issue Commemorative advertisement.
Col. Cooper's personal "Jeff Cooper Initial Issue Commemorative" (serial number 83JC00060) still resides at Gunsite.
Eric Hornady was able to send us these pics, including a view of the right side of the gun which is a rare treat as in most
pictures it is only the left side that is shown. You will note that the magazine has been hard chromed. This is certainly
a beautiful gun and a real work of art! To view Col. Coopers JCC Bren just click on the links below.
Click here to see the left side of Col. Cooper's personal JCC Bren (83JC00060).
Click here to see the right side of Col. Cooper's personal JCC Bren (83JC00060).
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.)
|From the cover of the Feb. 81 issue of Combat Handguns.
One of the things that has always bugged me about the information floating around about the Bren is that it had an 11 or 12-round
magazine. Rarely is the correct magazine capacity of ten rounds ever listed. The reason for the continuing belief by many
that the Bren Ten held 11 or 12 rounds might be found in the above mentioned article. In it Jeff Cooper notes that the 10mm
Auto cartridge -
"...is still compatible with a case narrow enough to be accommodated in a double-row magazine that holds twelve rounds
without requiring an oversized butt."
Strangely enough though, Col. Cooper never mentions what the capacity of the .45 caliber prototype is though. I would be
curious to know if it was more than eight rounds which was what the dual-caliber mags were capapble of holding in the .45
Auto Marksman and .45 caliber equipped Dualmaster.
"MIAMI VICE" BRENS
It appears that there were two pistols made for the television series "Miami Vice." These guns are interesting in a number
Firstly, the thing that stands out first is the fact that these guns had a hard chromed slide. While the Special Forces Light
and Pocket Model both had hard chromed slides, there were no full-sized models like this in regular production. It is said
that this was done to make the gun more visible in night scenes.
Next, while the Bren Ten was built specifically for the 10mm Auto cartridge, the Miami Vice Brens were actually chambered
in .45 Auto. On the show the gun has all the markings of the Standard Model 10mm, and there are a couple instances where "Sonny
Crockett's" gun is refered to as a 10mm. So why make it look like a 10mm and call it a 10mm if it isn't actually a 10mm? It
seems the simple reason is that while 10mm Auto blanks were basically nonexistent blanks in .45 caliber were quite common.
There has been a lot of speculation among Bren Tenners as to the make-up of these .45 caliber blank guns. What seems to be
the most reasonable explanation is that these two guns started out as Standard Models that were fitted with .45 Auto Conversion
Kits and then modified to fire blanks.
For more information on these guns please visit the "Miami Vice Connection" page.
AMERICAN PISTOL INSTITUTE (GUNSITE) BRENS (API)
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.
|Thanks go to Eric for getting us this pic of Jeff Cooper's API Bren Ten.
Compact Model Descriptions
SPECIAL FORCES MODEL, LIGHT & DARK (SFL & SFD)
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.
This is how the Special Forces Models are described in the 1984 D&D catalog:
The Bren Ten Special Forces Model is a combat size, heavy-duty, semi-automatic, defensive combat service pistol designed to
fire the 10mm Auto pistol cartridge. It features the ideal blend of a combat length barrel and slide, for ease of carrying
and quick-into-action use, with a full-size grip and resulting full-cartridge capacity, for maximum controllability and tactical
advantage. The Special Forces Model is the commercial version of the military pistol submitted to the U.S. Government.
I will be the first to admit that this gun may never have been produced. There is an article by Jerry Rakusan that appears
in the March/April 1984 issue of American Handgunner however, that talks about the new Special Forces model that was to be
unveiled at the 1984 SHOT Show. In describing the new SF model the article states how it will be basically the same gun as
the 9mm Bren being submitted to the Department of Defense for the XM-9 trials that were to select a new 9mm Parabellum sidearm
to replace the military's aging inventory of 1911 Government Models. The article then goes on to say that Colt is hoping to
produce the 9mm Bren Ten in an effort to secure a major military contract.
While a 9mm Bren seems a bit far fetched at first (after all, the Bren was built as a 10mm Auto, right?), there are a number
of interesting possibilities to consider. First, what gun company wouldn't want a military contract? I'm sure Dornaus & Dixon
would have loved such a deal, but at the same time it is highly doubtful that they could have geared up to produce 9mm Brens
in the numbers required without some kind of outside help. Colt was, as well all know, the original producer of the 1911 Government
Model and if their gun was to be replaced then it would be in their best interests, both financially and reputation wise,
to be involved in the production of it's successor. So, in a way, it makes perfect sense that Dornaus & Dixon produce a 9mm
version of its Special Forces model.
What would the 9mm Bren have looked like? I would guess that such a pistol would have probably looked almost identical to
the Special Forces Dark. As the article stated the new Special Forces model was to be basically the same gun as the 9mm gun
submitted for testing. As far as finish, well I think we can all assume that America's new military sidearm would not be a
stainless steel and hard chrome gun, so that means a dark finish like the Military/Police and Special Forces Dark. As far
as operation I don't see why the gun submitted for the trials would be any different from the standard Bren design. It is
true that the Bren Ten does not have a decocker like the Beretta M9, but with the cross-bolt safety engaged the hammer can
be manually lowered in perfect safety. Both the full-sized and Special Forces Brens have a magazine capacity of ten rounds
of 10mm Auto ammunition. Just out of curiosity I tried cramming as many 9mm rounds into one of my mags as possible. Of course
the feed lips and magazine follower would need to be redesigned for it to function properly with the 9mm cartridge, but I
was able to get fourteen rounds into it quite easily.
The first obvious question is whether such a Bren was ever built. If it was, then I would have three more questions. The first
would be where are the guns now. My second question would be how many were built and submitted for the XM-9 trials. And finally,
I would want to know how they performed in the trials. If these guns were indeed built they would be real collectors' items!
Unfortunately, if they do exist, then they are most likely the property of the US Government and probably packaged up in a
box and sitting on some dusty shelf in a storeroom somewhere.
Click here to view page one of the March/April '84 American Handgunner article.
Click here to view page two of the article.
Subcompact Model Description
POCKET MODEL (PM)
The following description is from the 1984 Dornaus & Dixon catalog:
The Bren Ten Pocket Model is a compact, heavy-duty, semi-automatic, defensive combat pocket model version of the full-size
standard model Bren Ten. It is not a cut-down full-size Bren Ten, but rather a totally separate design that incorporates most
of the features of the full-size model in the smallest practical size configuration possible, and at the same time fires full
load 10mm Auto pistol cartridges. It is the world's most powerful production pocket pistol.
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 recently 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.
The Demise of Dornaus & Dixon And The Bren Ten
While it is fact that Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises, Inc. filed bankruptcy and closed its doors in 1986, the reasons for this
have long been unclear and misunderstood. One popular belief, often refered to in the gun magazines of the time, was that
the unavailability of magazines was the primary reason. While problems with the mags were another "nail in the coffin" so
to speak, they were not the main issue. Simply put, the company lacked sufficient funding to continue operation. Dornaus &
Dixon started taking advance orders (along with payments for these orders) at least as early as 1982. This created huge pressures
to deliver and because of this guns were shipped prior to any kind of endurance testing. If this testing had been done beforehand
all the various problems which surfaced subsequently could have been addressed during the development stage, before any guns
ever got into the hands of consumers. But instead what happened was that Dornaus & Dixon were forced to scramble in order
to fix problems with guns that had already been paid for while still trying to fill long paid for orders. Of these problems
the first generation mags were just one of the more publicized issues. Basically the company was trying to ship guns to buyers
who's money had long since been spent while at the same time trying to fix guns (and magazines) that had already been shipped
and were now being returned for warranty work. This equates to labor and product going out and no money coming in. So, with
bankruptcy papers filed, the company of Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises, Inc. shut down operation and the Bren Ten semiautomatic
pistol became yet another piece of firearm history. (Thanks to Bruce for providing the information for this section.)