Bren Ten Buyer's Guide


What You Need To Know When Shopping For A Bren Ten

Over on the forum a little while back I brought up the topic of "what should the potential Bren buyer know and look for when shopping for a Bren Ten." Considering the lack of information (as well as all the misinformation) about the Bren I was thinking it would be a good idea to put something together that could work as a kind of guide for those considering taking "the plunge" into Brendom. Bruce asked me if I would like him to put something together and the result is the following article. Bruce has done an absolutely outstanding job of outlining what to look for and things to take into consideration before purchasing a Bren Ten pistol (I even learned a few new things myself!).


So you're buying a Bren Ten, possibly for the first time. What should you look for? What should you try to avoid? What about "fake" magazines? What was actually produced? These can be daunting questions for a new or experienced buyer. Instead of accurate information available in reference books, large amount of hearsay permeate Brendom. The guns are relatively rare and expensive. Even honest and experienced dealers make errors in their evaluations and descriptions of the guns.

I thought it might be helpful if I went through what I consider when accessing a gun for purchase and why. This is not meant to be a pricing guide but rather a collection of my investigations and observations over the years concerning Bren Tens.

* Probably the first thing to determine is whether the gun you're considering is in a standard factory configuration. Does the gun have the correct finish and barrel length for that model and does the serial number nomenclature match the features?

All Bren Tens produced are full size 5" guns with the exception of the Special Forces Models which have 4" barrels. The finishes for individual models can be taken from the catalogs with the exception of the Marksman Special Match, which was a non-catalog gun built for the Marksman Shop in Glenview, Illinois. 250 Marksmans were built, comprising approx. 18% of the total Bren production run. These guns are essentially .45 ACP Standard Models but do not have the Bren Ten name or the Gunsite raven logo engraved on them. With the exception of the Marksman, Bren Ten serial number nomenclature consists of the last two digits of a year, either 83 or 84, the models initials and the serial number. Therefore, serial number 83SMxxxx would denote a Standard Model; 84SFLxxxx would denote a Special Forces Light and so on. The Marksman Special Match has a "MSM" prefix followed by the serial number, for example MSMxxx.

* After field stripping a Bren Ten, you will find a series of small numbers engraved on the inner rear surface of the slide. These numbers usually but not always match the frames serial number. At one time I thought that if these numbers were mismatched, the gun was probably a "parts" gun but I now feel that this is untrue. I have in my possession a gun with non-matching numbers that Im sure was shipped that way from the factory. The gun is new, in a box with the correct serial number. The box also has the original owners name and old mailing address along with Dornaus & Dixons UPS shippers number stamped on. This particular gun sat in a bank safety deposit box from early 1986 until I purchased it.

* It is not unusual to see guns with finishes or barrel lengths not appropriate for their Model. At the time of this writing, a mismatched gun is for sale on one of the Internet classified add sites. Unless documentation can be produced showing that a gun was built and shipped with nonstandard features or finishes from the factory, they should be considered guns assembled from leftover parts purchased after the bankruptcy.

* Because of the popularity of the Miami Vice television series, a common modification has been refinishing the slide in matte hard chrome. All I can say is that while this is currently very popular and increases the value (in some owners view) of a gun short term, it will probably decrease the value of the gun as a collectible long term. This is an almost universal concept among gun collectors.

* All Bren Tens except for the Dual Masters and the Jeff Cooper Commemoratives were shipped in a plain off-white corrugated paper box. The gun itself was usually but not always wrapped in bubble wrap and the owners manual was packed inside the box in a plastic bag. The guns serial number is written on the side of the box in ballpoint pen. If either the box or manual is missing, a deduction of $25 to $50 each should be reflected in the selling price. A white box with a mismatched serial number should also be considered a reason for a small price reduction. Owners manuals can be found in a number of places including E-Bay but boxes were a proprietary size and just about impossible to find and replace. All Bren Ten owners manuals are identical. Almost all manuals issued with guns came with two 5.5"x 8" single sheet revisions while manuals sold or given away as promotional items are missing these sheets. Finally, all manuals shipped with the Marksman Specials have a clear plastics sticker on the front cover saying that all information in the manual, including warranty information, applies to both 10mm and 45 caliber Bren Tens. Be sure your manual is the correct one.

* Sometimes a Bren Ten will be described as an "early" gun. The Bren Ten actually had a production timeline of a little over two years so the term "early" is not a very accurate descriptor. Also, a gun's value doesn't change based on whether it was built in 1984 or 1986. Most people describe guns with low serial numbers as early guns. In fact, serial numbers have almost nothing to do with where a particular gun fits in the production run. Nobody knows with any certainty where Dornaus & Dixon's disposition books currently reside and they would be the only foolproof way of determining when a gun was actually built and shipped. Physical features of a particular specimen give clues pertaining to its relative date of manufacture however.

All guns in the initial lots have flat top slides and opposing setscrew rear site assemblies. After the first couple of months of production, a trigger stop screw was added to the trigger guard. It should be noted that a few guns were returned to the factory and were retrofitted with this feature but no proof marks of any kind were added to the gun denoting this change to my knowledge. About the same time, the rear site assembly was changed to a click adjustable unit. Their slot head adjusting screws make recognizing these units easy. Later, a third recess ("dot") was added to each side of the frame in the thumb safety area. This revision was not a manufacturing error but rather was done to make the action of the thumb safety more positive. It also made the red "dot" more durable. During the last 10 months or so of production, all slides on full size guns were changed over to round top configuration in order to eliminate a number of costly machining operations. Finally, it is not unusual to find guns among the last to be built showing mismatched small parts. The factory at that point in time was striving to fill as many orders as possible with what they deemed first quality parts, but not necessarily of the correct finish. These deviations usually involve the use of dark colored small parts such as magazine release buttons, thumb safety levers or bushing and slide release levers on light colored frames or vice versa.

* A large amount of ink has been dedicated to the issue of Bren Ten magazines, some going as far as to say that the lack of magazines directly resulted in the companys down fall. While that is not the case, some attention needs to be given to the subject here.

The original Bren Ten magazine was a dual caliber unit manufactured by MEC-GAR of Italy. These magazines were originally issued with guns of all models for the first quarter or so of production. Almost immediately, both reliability and durability issues with the magazines, when used in conjunction the 10mm ammunition, were identified. The magazines were redesigned for use in the 10mm lines and a caliber specific magazine was issued with these guns later in the first year of production. All 2nd generation 10mm caliber specific magazines issued by the factory have two pins (rivets) in the floorplate that touch the frame when the magazine is inserted into the gun. Any 10mm caliber specific magazine without these pins should not be considered factory issue and the selling prices should reflect this fact. If the gun you are purchasing is going to be a shooter, it is important that any 10mm model have the 2nd generation magazines.

* Braces of guns of the same model with consecutive serial do exist and command a premium when sold as a set. I, for instance, have seen two sets of consecutive Special Forces Lights. One set in particular still wakes me in the middle of the night. I also know of one set of consecutive Jeff Coopers and I know another collector who owns three consecutively numbered Jeff Coopers. Managing this is a real trick in view of the fact that only about a dozen or so Commemoratives are thought to exist.

* As a promotion during the introduction of the Special Forces Model, the factory offered as a bonus to anyone with a full size gun on order, a Special Forces Model with a matching number. I have never seen one of these sets offered for sale and therefore cannot confirm their existence. Another factory promotion offered to stocking dealers was an allotment of three guns with special serial numbers per dealer. I have seen shipping documents from the factory saying a gun with a special number was ready for shipment. I have additionally seen factory documents chastising a dealer for ordering too many specially numbered guns but relenting and approving the sale. This is probably the origin for the notion that you could get a gun from the factory with any number you wanted. This is only partially correct. Just think about it. Having said that, a gun with a special number currently resides at Gunsite and I have knowledge of at least one other with a high profile serial number. This can actually be a dicey situation to reconcile because it is my understanding that the serial numbers were not roll stamped but actually were engraved with a common font easily duplicated after the fact. I would not advise paying full price or more for any gun with a non-standard number without factory documentation of this deviation. I have also seen sets of different model guns with matching numbers but can offer no advise concerning any premium attached to such a set. I guess such a set is worth only what an individual is willing to pay for it. Again, factory documentation is the name of this game.

* There are a number of known performance issues surrounding Bren Tens that are of note to the buyer of a gun destined to be a shooter. "A" number one at the top of the list is slide durability. There have been a number of catastrophic slide failures. The number seems to be far above the norm relative to the number of guns in service. "In service" is the key term here because many Brens are and have always been safe queens. As many members know, Dep has seen a Bren Ten slide in pieces over at the Marksman Shop and John Morgan, the shop's owner, has related that story to me. As of this writing, Erv of ESF Sales has a fractured Special Forces Light slide in his shop. Finally, Richard Voit mentioned that one of the things he took possession of when he purchased the assets of DDEI was a box of fractured slides from various models. For what its worth, BE FOREWARNED!

* Another common problem with the initial lot of guns was the ejector not being properly fitted. Any gun, which has been fired, should be inspected to insure that the ejector (which is part of the sear housing) is not damaged or broken off.

* It is unusual but not unheard of to find a gun with the barrel and slide incorrectly fitted and out of time. Sometimes this can be recognized by the slide not moving fully forward into battery but other times the gun must be inspected by a pistolsmith. If the gun is a non-shooting collector, it doesnt substantially change the value in my view but if the new owner is looking for a shooter, thats another story. If the gun is out of time, it could possibly fire out of battery, which, to put it mildly, is not good. Another member owned a gun that continually bent the slide stop. In general, any gun purchased as a shooter should be inspected by a pistolsmith familiar with the CZ-75 or Bren Ten. And if it were mine, Id have the slide x-rayed or magnafluxed in order to determine if the investment casting was porous in a structurally critical area.

* Dark colored slides or entire guns are sometimes seen which have a plum colored tint to them. Immersing the part in a bluing tank that has not been heated to the correct temperature causes this.

* Guns with either the smooth or checkered walnut Herrett stocks fetch a $50 to $100 premium. For each additional factory magazine add $100 or so. Double that if the magazine is a rare factory hard chromed dual caliber example. If the gun comes with Dual Master or Jeff Cooper walnut presentation case, pony up another $200. 45 ACP conversion kits with magazine command about $700. These are difficult to buy as a stand-alone item because many were bundled with a gun. Most collectors dont usually feel inclined to break up these sets. A word of caution is appropriate here concerning the conversion kits. Do not confuse a Standard Model bundled with a conversion kit as a Dual Master set. The Dual Masters came packaged in a special walnut presentation case. They feature high polish finish to both the frame and slide with a small amount of scroll engraving at the rear of the later. Additionally, the have a serial number with an "83DM" prefix followed by numbers in increments of 100 even. An example serial number for a Dual Master would be: 83DM0300.

* Regardless of what you may read in any reference book, there was only one functioning Pocket Model built, the prototype pictured in factory advertising. Products mentioned in factory documents but never built include 4" conversion kits, .22LR conversion kits, ambidextrous safeties and light colored 2nd generation magazines. A small number of 6" 10mm barrels were produced. The Marksman Shop ordered 100 large ballistic cloth carrying cases for the Marksman Specials. These did not come from Dornaus & Dixon however.
I would like to sum up by saying that I hope the above information is of some value to you, a prospective buyer. It was meant to give you an overview of what to look for by explaining, to the best of my knowledge, what was actually built, what happened in Huntington Beach and when. I did not delve greatly into the realm of Jeff Cooper Commemoratives or Dual Masters because so few exist and I don't own either-yet. I also didn't go into every machining revision made during production. One that comes to mind is the change from a square to round hole in the frame for the slide stop. Please dont use this as a pricing guide because the selling price of collectible guns fluctuates and Bren Tens are no different than any other collectible.

If anybody should have a question, I have an e-mail link at I will answer correspondence to the best of my ability as time permits.