The Best is the Enemy of the Good, and the Bren X

The Bren X or Bren 10 was a Jeff Cooper brainstorm at the peak of the old Colonel’s celebrity (and his powers). It was based on what Cooper considered the best designed and executed service pistol of the era, but updated for a new round he considered perfect (instead of the stock 9mm, which he disdained). The gun was made with care in a US factory, of the materials Cooper insisted on (Steel and Stainless Steel, none of those lightweight alloys).

It received fawning reviews in every corner of the gun press, except where the reviews crossed the line from “fawning” into “slobbering.” And commercially? It failed. Royally. Resoundingly. Resonatingly. It failed like the Edsel, New Coke, and John Carter. Actually, it failed worse than those: Ford, Coca-Cola, and Disney are still with us, but the Bren Ten killed Dornaus & Dixon, the company that cut the metal to make real Cooper’s conceptual design.

But unlike the Edsel, New Coke and John Carter, the Bren Ten didn’t suck. Now that it’s no longer the cutting-edgiest thing out there, but a period piece, here’s Larry A. Vickers giving the rundown on the gun’s development, versions, and strengths — and weaknesses.

And yeah, there are still Bren 10s around (or Bren Xs to spell it as D&D did) with no magazine! (Mec-Gar or a forerunner made the mags… but somebody botched the Italian export paperwork and for all we know they’re still in a bonded warehouse somewhere in Lombardy).

But the gun didn’t die because it was bad. If anything, too many sincere guys worked too hard to make it the Absolute Best at Everything that they forgot that logistics count even for the individual gun buyer. He has to find ammo, holsters, and yeah, spare magazines. Or his firearm is not a defensive tool but an awkward and oily paperweight.

A lot of things have changed since 1983. (For one thing, more effective defensive ammo has rendered the “puny” 9mm respectable again). As Larry points out, modern polymer, striker-fired guns have diminished the wonder of an SA/DA gun that can be carried cocked-and-locked (Condition One for you old Cooperites). We still like our CZ — the model for the Bren Ten — but we’re no longer riding the crest of the Cool Guy wave. (We’re old, and stout… hey… like Larry). It’s a fact that the hot gun of today becomes the museum piece of tomorrow and the forgotten weapon of the year after that.

But if you’re going to call yourself educated, you owe it to yourself to learn about all those has-been hot guns, as well as today’s hot numbers. Maybe the Bren Ten is only playing on the gun equivalent of oldies stations, but it still has a catchy hook.

22 thoughts on “The Best is the Enemy of the Good, and the Bren X

    1. Buckaroo

      I thought the movie was REALLY good. Disney royally screwed up the marketing, starting with the name which should have been “John Carter of Mars”.

      1. James Sullivan

        I actually managed to enjoy the John Carter movie. I watched it with my kids and we enjoyed it.

        Sadly, it seems our culture is losing its patience for those middle ground movies that aren’t Tentpole Blockbusters or very Serious Academy Award contenders. I like solid, well made stories and family oriented adventure movies.

        Now, as to whether John Carter was a decent adaptation… Whole Other Matter entirely.

  1. Tom Stone

    Jeff Cooper was not wishy washy about anything and to many his writings were holy writ.
    If you consider the times ( Few reliable expanding bullets) his emphasis on a “4 in front” makes more sense
    I enjoyed his writing a great deal but if I want Holy Writ I’ll look elsewhere.
    I do think the 10MM is an excellent choice for some applications, but a 9MM with modern ammunition works just fine for self defense against human opponents.
    It will always be about placing your shot, not how loud the report is.

    1. Hognose Post author

      There was an incident this week in Alaska. Attacking brown bear vs. .44 mag revolver. Human scored five solid hits on Griz, put him down on ground, Griz was still alive so human administered coup de grâce. That’s one place you’re probably underarmed with a 9. Against less hairy and toothsome opponents it probably does the job. I think even with a Model 29 I’d want a speedloader up there!

      1. Tom Stone

        Hognose, I occasionally hunt pig here in Sonoma County, no way I’d use a 9MM.
        10MM would probably do it, but I use my old Ruger .44 Mag.
        If I ( God forbid) walk into another burglary in progress in the boonies I’d be fine with a 9MM or even a .38 snubbie.

      2. Roughcoat

        Lived in Fairbanks for 6 years; just moved back to the lower 48 this past month. I generally carried a 4″ S&W 657 or 629 when I wasn’t in town, with a belt pouch holding 6 individual rounds and a speedloader in my pocket or on my belt. 250gr hard cast flat nose for 41 Mag, 300gr for the 44; I kept the velocities around 1150 fps as I recall. I had a Glock 20 but never carried the thing; I never did get around to reloading for it, let alone developing good cast solid loads. I considered it a backup in case I broke my Glock 21, which was what I carried if I wasn’t leaving town.

        I liked the 629 best in practical terms, because I could easily swap out for 44 Special JHP loads in case I needed to defend myself against a person in town. I could’ve homebrewed a 41 Special of sorts, maybe with annealed LSWCHP bullets and trimmed down cases (or maybe someone makes real “41 Special” brass), but I never got around to that either.

        I never had any bear problems in the Fairbanks area–I think I only ever saw 2 black bears in the borough–but I had a few encounters while salmon fishing in the Copper River Valley and just north of Valdez. Honestly moose are much more of a threat if you spend a lot of time walking around. They’re all over the damn place! I had a number of hairy moose encounters right in Fairbanks and around my cabin. Would a 9mm or 45 ACP with JHPs stop a moose? I dunno, but I always figured I’d try to get an obstacle between me and the pissed off moose and dump a whole mag into her if it came down to it.

  2. Alien

    For what it’s worth, European American Armory is importing several Tanfoglio-manufactured CZ-75 clones under the “EAA Witness” label in 10MM, as well as the usual, and not so usual, other calibers (38 Super, for example). Certainly not the collector value of a Bren 10, but functionally the same gun. And one can readily get magazines for it. I’ ve never shot a Bren 10 (probably no one else has either given the lack of magazines and because of the gun’s rarity I’d wager few people have even held one) but I have shot a Witness in 10, and it seemed to operate completely as expected. I have no clue as to whether it’s a suitable substitute for the Bren.

      1. William O. B'Livion

        Oddly enough it’s the only firearm I’ve ever sold.

        It wasn’t a *bad* pistol for game playing, and it was incredibly consistent–clean it and you could fire 9 magazines without problem, and it would start to have issues around the last round or two on the 10th mag. So you could pretty much count on 100 shots (assuming 1 in the chamber) between cleanings :)

        My issue with it was mostly that it was .45 and I didn’t care for the round.

        1. John Distai

          Maybe I didn’t break mine in. I probably shot a few boxes through it, and it had trouble feeding. It was the first in a series of long, hard lessons that I needed to learn that you get what you pay for.

          1. DaveP.

            I sent my Witness (.45 ACP) back to the factory three times for feed problems, and after the third time it still wouldn’t fire four rounds in a row without a misfeed or jam… so I traded it for a Ruger GP100, which I still own today.
            Other folks own Witnesses they have hand no problems with and I congratulate them., but mine was a lemon.

  3. Gray

    I have some photos somewhere of another much younger iteration of Gray being not so, and holding both a Bren X and magazine. Purchasers with the lowest numbers (very low numbers) on the list received 2 magazines, and the supply was shortly exhausted.

  4. W. Fleetwood

    Wait a minute. The Edsel didn’t “suck”. The Edsel was “Oh merciful Jesus is that Ugly.” but as a motor vehicle (of its day) it was a very sound and efficient product. My paternal grandfather waited until the dealers were desperate, got one for near nothing, then drove it the rest of his life with no problems.

      1. William O. B'Livion

        What car from that era didn’t rust?

        Hell, American cars had that problem into the 2000s.

  5. Dienekes

    Hey, don’t knock the Edsel. I was out getting gas last evening and an Edsel went by with a small travel trailer in tow, headed for Gillette. It looked like it had been well taken care of, too.

  6. Texas Raider

    Larry Vickers is *hardly* the last word or final authority on pistols. Yeah his opinions are his, as blowhard as they may seem to be at times, but they are just that….opinions.

    “It’s a fact that the hot gun of today becomes the museum piece of tomorrow and the forgotten weapon of the year after that.”

    Really? Fact is, the 1911 is 114 years old and has not succumbed to being a museum piece. The Sig Classic P series is 40 years old and going strong, too. Not everyone is a slobbering glock fan boy, and polymer strikered fired pistol are hardly “perfection”. Plenty of shooters understand that hammer fired pistols, even when made of heavier stainless alloys, have advantages over their plastic counterparts.

    The Bren X was not perfect, true, but if several mags were available, it would be a very viable carry weapon even today.

    I think in the mad rush to appear to be trendy and cutting edge, many instructors jump on the latest hot selling fads and concepts, even if not totally proven superior (C-clamp, anyone?) Just to be able to keep their YouTube videos fresh.

    No offense to the guy, but I’d take Bill Jordon with a S&W m19 or Cooper with a 1911 over 10 Vickers with an 18 round plastic crunchenticker ant day of the week…

    1. robroysimmons

      Somebody piss in your barbeque? The new pistols are better with some of the better models are out of the box good and reliable for under a grand.

  7. Boat Guy

    I like the round; I have a Delta to shoot it through, but have been flirting with the notion of a Glock 20. I’ll admit to being a “Cooperite” at one point, passing through “Orange Gunsite” (on my own dime) and still admire Cooper’s turn-of-phrase which says more about California public education in the 1920 and 30’s than anything else. Closer contact with Cooper took some of the shine off.
    Daily carry? Plastic frame, striker-fired. Anti-dangerous quadruped gun? Redhawk filled with Buffalo Bore hardcast (and two speedloaders). The Delta naps in the safe a lot unless I get to thinking about it.

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