10mm Auto: One Shooter’s Perspective

Everything Old Is New Again

Mas’ Bren Ten, briefly his duty pistol, is now a safe queen.

I was intrigued with the 10mm Auto when it came out in the early mid-’80s and bought one as soon as I saw it at Riley’s Gun Shop in Hooksett, NH. It came with a .45 ACP conversion unit and one magazine in each caliber. It turned out the .45 mag worked with 10mm but not vice versa, and the .45 conversion wasn’t reliable but the 10mm configuration was. I loaded it with the hot Norma hollow points — Norma was all you could get in the caliber for a while — and carried it on duty. NH Police Standards and Training told me I was the first cop in the state to qualify with a 10mm.

I carried it on duty, but not for long. The Bren Ten fit well in a Bucheimer-Clark Auto Break front holster and it shot well. I was teaching weapon retention and liked that the Bren came with two proprietary safeties: a cross-bolt in the slide and a CZ75-like thumb lever. I found on the draw I could pop the crossbolt with the median joint of my thumb and then thumb down the other safety by the time the pistol was on target. What made me put it back in the safe was no more magazines were available and there was not yet any street feedback on 10mm performance.

The broad right side of the Bren Ten’s CZ-like frame seemed to beg for an inscription. In the canon of Conan the Barbarian, who followed the mythical god Crom, his sword was engraved, “Suffer no guilt he who wields this in the name of Crom.” At the time, Jeff Cooper and I were at odds because I was teaching about PTSD in gunfight survivors and Jeff felt no one should feel badly about killing criminals or enemy soldiers. I thought about having my new 10mm engraved, “Feel no guilt, ye who wield this in the name of Jeff,” but thankfully thought better of it.

1998: Mas, 13-year-old Justine and Mark Morris who made Mas’ 10mm.
M&J have just won National Champion Parent/Child Team.

Beyond The Bren

I was teaching with my mentor Ray Chapman at Chapman Academy at the time and tried Ray’s new Colt Delta Elite 10mm, built for him by Ed Brown. I liked it enough I ordered a Colt and had Larry Kelly Mag-na-port a 6″ Bar-Sto barrel for me, which tamed the muzzle rise with 10mm hot loads. Later, I sent the pistol to Mark Morris who created one of my favorite pistols from it, one of his Carry Comps. With full power loads, the comp worked so well it almost seemed like the Colt was recoiling downward.

In June of 1998, I had two memorable moments. I won the Outstanding American Handgunner of the Year award, and at the Second Chance shoot in Michigan where the National Junior Handgun Championships were held, my then-13-year-old daughter Justine and I won National Champion Parent/Child Team in Sub-Junior age class. If I could keep only one of those moments, it would be the one with my kid. I was shooting the 10mm Morris Custom Colt with Black Hills 165-grain JHP at 1,300 feet per second. It’s one reason I cherish the pistol.

The 10mm Silvertip did massive damage to a hog it instantly killed. Core remained
intact and went deep; fragments radiated outward causing corollary wound track damage.

S&W and the FBI did their damndest to popularize the 10mm. Smith made a standard third generation model, the Model 1006 with a 5″ barrel and the shorter M1066 in traditional double action with safety-decock lever. They put a SIG-ish decock-only lever on the 5″ M1026 and the gun FBI adopted, the 4.25″ M1076. I won a couple of 1026s at Second Chance, giving one to my wife and keeping one. I bought a 1076 as an exemplar gun for a case where I was expert witness for a female FBI agent trainee who had failed to qualify with the malfunctioning 10mm she was issued at the Academy. The exemplar remains in my gun safe. FBI had some trouble with their 1076s, but mine worked fine. My late friend Roger Bloomfield was a helluva shot, having led an A-team in Vietnam, and a total 10mm fan. In his heavy shooting with full loads, he told me 1911 10mms would start peening at 3,000 to 5,000 rounds, but his S&Ws didn’t start showing wear signs ’til around 10,000. His daily carry was a 1006.

Also in my armory are a 10mm GLOCK 20 I won at a GSSF match, and a Springfield Armory XD-M 5.25″ with the adjustable sights I learned to appreciate with the Morris Custom, the better to take advantage of the 10mm’s wide range of loads. In talking to many 10mm fans, the polymer pistols such as the G20 stand the gaff of heavy recoil buffeting better than anything else. My Morris Colt has stood up well because the compensator reduces that hammering on the 1911 parts.

Author’s favorite 10mm: a Mark Morris Carry Comp.

Power Factor

One reason the 10mm didn’t take off in police circles is that the early full-power loads were jacketed too tough to expand. I debriefed an armed citizen hero in Washington who dropped a would-be cop-killer with his Colt Delta, saving the life of the officer who was under fire with his own pistol jammed. All three 170-grain JHPs went through and through the bad guy without expanding, felling the perp only because one well-aimed slug cut his spinal cord. By the time the 175-grain Winchester Silvertip was in the field and doing well, the 10mm’s death warrant in law enforcement was apparently already signed.

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