Ultra rare Bren Ten SFL

Discussion in 'Autoloaders' started by bac1023, May 15, 2019.

  1. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Aug 15, 2011
    I’ve literally been trying to find the right one of these for at least 10 years, probably longer. Its always been a bit of a grail gun for me and not because they were super high quality or even necessarily great shooters. Its because they look awesome and have “cool factor” like almost no other semi auto in history. It’s the rare original 10mm in one of its rarest forms, the super duper cool Bren Ten Special Forces Light. :cool:

    The Bren Ten pistol was the brainchild of Thomas Dornaus and Michael Dixon. These two men were seeking out a new and more powerful semi auto cartridge to basically bridge the gap between automatic rounds and the generally much more powerful revolver rounds. Their idea was to develop this new pistol to accept high capacity magazines and fire a round with all the punch of a 357 Magnum revolver.

    Dornaus and Dixon needed help and advice from an expert. In 1980, they sought the assistance of Jeff Cooper, who coincidentally had similar dreams of his own. The three men combined their efforts and ideas. Dornaus and Dixon provided the development, manufacturing, and marketing. Cooper gave them design criteria and advice from a technical standpoint. By mid 1981, the Dornaus and Dixon company was formed.

    The pistol itself was adapted from a then fairly new Czechoslovakian pistol called the CZ 75. However, it was beefed up and given a stainless steel frame, since stainless was all the tactical rage at the time. The new pistol also had some features and styling traits all its own, making it look like nothing else on the market before or since. Jeff Cooper initially called the cartridge the 40 Special. His requirements of the round were to fire a 200 grain bullet traveling at a minimum of 1000FPS at 50 yards. After much trial and tribulation, the new round was given the overall length of the 45ACP and called the 10mm Auto. It was loaded by Norma. The new pistol was dubbed the Bren Ten.

    Popularity of the gun spiked when Sonny Crockett wielded a hard chromed model in the iconic 1980’s TV show, Miami Vice. Unfortunately, things went downhill quickly from there. Dornaus and Dixon started taking orders in 1982, which was way premature given their level of development. This forced their hand at shipping the Bren Ten before it was fully tested. The biggest issue was the initial magazines, which proved unreliable. While Dornaus and Dixon frantically tried to get replacement magazines into the pipeline, the delay caused them to ship guns without a magazine to impatient customers looking for their pistols. When potential new customers started catching wind of the issues, orders really slowed down. To make matters worse, many existing customers began having durability related problems with certain small parts on their pistols. With little new sales income coming in and heavy expenses trying to fix existing pistols, it strangled the company. By 1986, Dornaus and Dixon went bankrupt with less than 1500 guns produced in total from 1983 to 1985.

    The Standard Model (SM) had a 5” barrel and was the most common. Other full size models included the Bren Marksman, which was a special target model in 45ACP, the MP (Military/Police), which was a standard model with a blackened stainless frame, and the Dual Master, which was a standard model packaged with a 45ACP slide. There was also an expensive Jeff Cooper Commemorative model, which was very few and far between. A popular modification of the full size Bren Tens was to send the slide to a vender to get hard chromed, making it look like the Bren Tens featured in Miami Vice.

    At the 1984 SHOT show, Dornaus and Dixon revealed a new line of compact models with a 4” barrel to the Bren Ten series. They were called Special Forces. This included two variants, the Special Forces Dark (SFD) and the considerably more rare Special Forces Light (SFL). The SFD consisted of the same blackened stainless frame on the full size MP model. This was coupled with the standard blued slide, giving the entire gun a “dark” and tactical appearance. When the Bren Ten Special Forces is pictured, this is the one you see 90% of the time. The SPL, on the other hand, kept the standard unfinished stainless on the frame, but added a hard chromed slide, giving the entire gun a “light” appearance. These were built on a much more limited basis and from what I gather, only 75 were produced. Given the infrequency in which they show up on Gunbroker, I can certainly believe that. How many still exist now 35 years later, I have no idea. Incidentally, this was the ONLY Bren Ten variant to ship from the factory with a chromed slide. As referenced above, all the full size “Miami Viced” models were aftermarket.

    As for the Bren Ten in general, I never felt they were the highest quality pistols, due to lack of full development. The design was great for inherent accuracy, which is true for pretty much any pistol based on the CZ 75 and by all reports, the Bren Ten is a very capable pistol in that regard. The Bren also has several very unique features. These include a small set screw at the bottom of the right grip panel that can be turned a set amount to enable the magazine to either drop free or drop about a half inch to be pulled out manually. The full size models have a guide rod that can also double as an emergency screwdriver. The rifling was called “Power-seal”, which supposedly increased velocity due to improving bullet seal and reducing gas loss (sounds more like a gimmick to me, but cool nonetheless). The Bren also includes a cross bolt safety in addition to the thumb safety. Certainly not a feature well regarded today, but maybe it made more sense in 1982. It also included some other more common features such as a beveled magazine well, polished feed ramp, enlarged ejection port, etc. In summary, I feel the look and history of the Bren Ten make it one of the coolest pistols ever built. That’s my attraction to it. I’m not a huge fan of early stainless semi autos from the 1980’s. I’m not a fan of underdeveloped handguns. I’m not even a big fan of 10mm firearms in general. However, when it comes to this gun all that goes out the window. ;)

    As far as markings are concerned, the Bren Ten has several. The right side features “Made in USA”, along with “Pat.Pend” on the frame and the caliber and pistol name on the slide. One addition right side frame marking is a rather ridiculous note telling the owner where to get a manual, even though one comes with the gun. The left side of the frame features the serial number and Jeff Cooper’s Gunsite Raven. The slide again bears the name(s) of the gun. I guess all in all its not too bad, just a bit busy for my tastes. I prefer a cleaner looking pistol.

    This example was built in 1984, hence the serial number. I’m fairly sure just about all the Special Forces are 1984 models, as that’s all I’ve ever seen. Its listed as unfired, which I also believe given the immaculate condition of the gun and bolt face. As you can see, its all here to include the original white cardboard box and manual. Its certainly a pristine specimen of a gun I’ve wanted for many years and certainly my most exciting purchase in quite some time strictly from a “cool factor” standpoint.

    Herein lies the problem…my other Bren is also unfired. Due to the highly collectible nature of these pistols, they will remain as such. As bad as that may sound, I can’t bring myself to shoot them. However, my goal is to find a shooter for a reasonable amount in the future. Unfortunately, availability is going down and Bren prices are ever increasing.

    Any Bren Ten owners here? Any Bren Ten fans here?

    Thanks for reading. Please enjoy the pics. :)















    Here it is with my 1983 Standard Model.

    Definitely a cool pair... :cool:

  2. Bender

    Bender Supporting Addict Supporting Addict

    Aug 15, 2011
    Holy cow........thats a rare bird

  3. Kip

    Kip Sir Kip Esquire

    Apr 12, 2016
    Thanks for the look at it/them!!
    WOW! :)
  4. mlea5150

    mlea5150 Well-Known Member

    Apr 22, 2016
    I do not have a Bren Ten...yet, but am patiently awaiting Chuck Warner's reproduction, the CSP. Those are a couple beauties you've got there.
  5. Acroyer

    Acroyer I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a 1911 today Supporting Addict

    Dec 16, 2015
    I say "Life is short." Pick one and shoot it.
  6. gaijin

    gaijin Well-Known Member

    May 18, 2015
    You STUD!
    That is an extraordinary find.

    Get a dual Galco shoulder holster and a Robins Egg Blue Linen jacket.
    I want a photo.

    Nicely done!
    SparkyAZ, wrmiller and Kip like this.
  7. Les White

    Les White Well-Known Member

    Nov 17, 2015
    Great write up. Fantastic pistols!
  8. wrmiller

    wrmiller The Tinker

    Oct 29, 2016
    Now I gotta go watch some early episodes of Miami Vice... ;)

    Love the shooters Dude!
  9. gunfighter45

    gunfighter45 Well-Known Member

    Dec 8, 2012
    I actually owned a SFL for a bit back in the day. Unfortunately, it couldn’t make it through a magazine without a malfunction. Being a poor “deppity shurf” I wasn’t into collecting. If it didn’t run it was traded for something that did.
  10. Novak77

    Novak77 Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2019
    Outstanding write up and pair of pistols you have there sir.
  11. azguy1911

    azguy1911 I'm done buying guns, I'm just a bystander now

    Oct 22, 2015
    I'm not sure there was a bigger Miami Vice fan than myself so you sir are my hero :cool:
  12. livinthelife

    livinthelife Well-Known Member

    Jul 30, 2015
    You have the best write ups. But this might be my favorite. Because you like it for the cool factor not because of the usual high quality of your other pistols.

    Thanks a bunch for the trip down memory lane. I watched Miami Vice with my parents when I was a pup. Definitely cool :cigar:
  13. 7.62Kolectr

    7.62Kolectr On guard

    Jun 6, 2018
    I did move back to south Florida from Ct because I wanted to live the Vice life. That never happened but I did own and operate a detail company which was responsible for cleaning all the vehicles on the show for three seasons. Every car in every scene had to be cleaned. Sometimes they’d reshoot a scene and we’d clean em all again before that. I detailed the Scarab many times as well. In the opening scene with all the Rolls Royces lines up we cleaned the cars for that shoot as well. Met all the actors several times and got to hang out and watch them film episodes quite often.
    Bigger fan...:)

    Cool guns in the pics above. I say you gotta shoot one just a bit.
  14. Doc45

    Doc45 Well-Known Member

    Jan 26, 2018
    Excellent write up and thank you. I too remember all the excitement when this pistol was announced, when it showed up in Miami Vice (who can forget the scene with Jim Zubiena performing the Mozambique drill on the hapless bodyguard with a 1911??) plus I had a now passed friend that owned a gun shop in Denver and had one in his collection.

    The store had a breakin (this when there were multiple gunshops in Denver city limits), lost the Bren and amazingly had it recovered. I spent many days in that shop, drooling over many of the fine S&Ws in his collection, made many many purchases but that Bren was always the pistol I lusted after most.

    No idea whatever became of it. If memory serves he had two magazines with it as well.
  15. Busa Dave

    Busa Dave Well-Known Member

    Mar 3, 2018
    Very Nice Indeed! Would love to have the SS one!:) A Pity that the pistol has not been brought back the last few years. The 10mm is getting more popular now!
  16. zipper046

    zipper046 Well-Known Member

    Dec 28, 2013
    outstanding find!! and AWESOME pair!!
  17. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Aug 15, 2011
    All Brens have stainless frames and carbon steel slides.
    Busa Dave likes this.
  18. Busa Dave

    Busa Dave Well-Known Member

    Mar 3, 2018
    Ahhhh yes did not read close enough and thought it was special. Oh well I much prefer SS even if it is HC over it Cobra Chrome for me now but still slobber:cry: over that variant of your pistol.

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