Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Hour with the Bren Ten

Living in "Gun Culture 2.0" is freakin' awesome.

I teach with some of the best instructors I've ever met, I compete with some of the best shooters in the country, and I have friends whose firearm collections occasionally put me within inches of history.

This weekend, I had the good fortune to get my hands on a unique, esoteric, and somewhat storied piece of gun lovers' history -- the (in)famous Bren Ten.  Following an hour-long photo shoot, I got to run a couple rounds of full-power 10mm through it and, for a moment, I could understand why Jeff Cooper made such a stand for the 10mm cartridge and could almost feel the influence in developing the Bren.

It would become the greatest combat handgun that never was...  In concept, it was very nearly perfect.  In execution, the Bren Ten was virtually doomed from the start.  Looking to call upon modern technology to replace the venerated 1911 platform, the Bren's designers combined ergonomics, modern design, and next-generation (in the 1980s) power which, even today, remains nearly unmatched in combat handguns.  Sadly, a perfect storm of circumstance kept the Bren from ever taking off and today, it's said fewer than 1,000 were ever produced.

Plagued by spotty quality control, international shipping issues killing magazine availability, and the eventual bankruptcy of the manufacturer, it never really got off the ground.  Modern attempts to resurrect the Bren Ten have largely fallen flat.  Today, it's understood that to own a Bren means you own a unique piece of firearm history.  Some guns have stood the test of time well, others became victims of their maker's shortcomings over the years.  Fortunately, the example I shot has held up well, looks amazing, and runs like a top.

The Bren Ten was never meant to become as rare as an old Colt nor was it designed to fill a goofy niche in the marketplace like a Wildey.  This was supposed to embrace the evolution of the combat handgun, designed by Jeff Cooper and made right here in America.  It should should have become a legend... instead it went straight into the history books, filed simply under "I could have, should have been great."

This particular gun was in phenomenal condition for a 30 year-old legend.  Having recently been inspected and worked over by the gunsmiths at Tall Guns in Colorado, the action was spot-on and it was quickly evident Cooper had an amazing idea and the company he paired with to manufacture it was onto something special.  Designed around the 10mm Auto cartridge from the ground-up with a classic double/single action similar to the Browning Hi-Power and borrowed heavily from the successful CZ 75 design, it's large without feeling like a caricature of itself (like a Desert Eagle or Automag).  It's heavy, which provides a counterbalance to the recoil of the 10mm rounds it launches downrange.  However, the double-action trigger shoots incredibly smooth while the single-action break is clean and light.

It would be understatement to say I never thought I would have the opportunity to hold, much less shoot the Bren Ten.  I could have never guessed I would be lucky enough to have the opportunity to photograph it for its owner.

This was indeed a good weekend...

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