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Review: Dan Wesson Bruin 1911 Pistol in 10 mm

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I recently acquired a sample of the Dan Wesson Bruin 1911 pistol chambered for the 10 mm cartridge. Like many ideas for articles, there’s a story behind this project. Our son Brock loves bear hunting and chasing hounds here in the Allegheny mountains. Last year, while negotiating a “Laurel Hell” following the dogs, his nice old 6.5-inch Smith & Wesson 29 somehow became un-holstered and was temporarily lost in the Mountain Laurel thicket.

He found the gun and later came to me to borrow my 10 mm (a Guncrafter Industries 1911) which has a lanyard loop mainspring housing. Not wanting my 10 mm to migrate permanently to Brock’s gun safe, I arranged to obtain the Dan Wesson Bruin for testing and possible purchase. Here’s where the project is to date.

I have had the 10 mm Bruin for about five months now. The 10 mm Bruin is a purpose built 1911 that is a typical recoil-operated autoloader of the Browning design. It has been designed and executed as a hunting gun and the 6-inch slide is a dead give-away. The Bruin’s slide has a unique top profile that is essentially a flat-topped pyramidal shape which forms a serrated sight rib on top.

Finished in the DW black Duty finish, the slide has both front and rear cocking serrations and is devoid of any billboard advertising. The only roll mark is “BRUIN,” which is nicely executed on the slide’s left side just to the front of the rear cocking serration. The dovetailed front sight is a combination Tritium/green Fiber optic blade and the rear is fully adjustable with Tritium dots.

Housed in the slide is the 6.03-inch match grade barrel. The barrel is ramped providing increased feed reliability and a fully supported chamber for the cartridge. The barrel has an 11-degree crown and is nicely fitted to the barrel bushing but the fit is not so tight as to require a bushing wrench for disassembly. When in battery, the lock up is nice and tight. The slide is powered by a typical, but slightly modified, John Browning-style recoil spring system.

First generation Bruins had what is referred to by some as a “slope nosed” front profile of the bushing/recoil spring plug which complicated stripping and assembly considerably. This has been changed on the newer Bruins to a traditional Browning-styled bushing/spring plug arrangement and is much appreciated.  However, the 22-pound recoil spring, plug, guide and spring are proprietary to the long slide 1 mm Dan Wesson pistols. Thankfully the Dan Wesson folks did not use a full length guide rod/spring assembly in the Bruin.

The Bronze Duty finish on the forged stainless frame nicely contrasts with the black slide. The frame has the ubiquitous 1911 controls; thumb safety, slide lock, grip safety, hammer and magazine release, all of which are finished in contrasting black duty finish as is the mainspring housing and all pins and grip screws. The trigger is solid aluminum and the hammer drops after just 4 pounds, 3 ounces of pressure. There is a bit of typical 1911 take-up in the trigger action with zero over travel. Purchase on the gun is made very secure by the 25 LPI checkering on both the front strap and lightly round butted mainspring housing. Uniquely textured black G10 grips contrast nicely with the frame’s Duty Bronze finish.

I have a couple of other Dan Wesson 1911s and have marveled at the degree to which they are detailed; the Bruin Bronze is no different. Knowledgeable 1911 fans first notice the subtle beveling of the appropriate edges of the slide and frame, and even the rear sight and hammer. The fit of the beavertail grip safety is precise and clean. The engagement of the grip safety has been tuned to perfection and the tension is, in my opinion, just right.

The thumb safety flicks on and off with a positive click and there is no overhang of the safety’s flange at the rear of the frame to abrade the thumb. The slide lock functioned reliably every time and the the enclosed Metalform Magazines dropped free when the checkered mag release was pressed. The lightly beveled magazine well has even been de-horned at the front corners where the front strap checkering ends; a nice touch often over looked even by custom builders.

Considering the overall build quality of the Dan Wesson Bruin, I was surprised at the .009-inch gap between the bottom of the front sight blade and the slide’s top. This is a minor point but the gap does detract from the impressive first impression I got from the Bruin.

Shooting the Bruin proved to be a pleasure. The 6-inch slide seemed to soften the recoil. This is mainly due to the square bottomed firing pin stop and slower slide velocity, I believe. The DW Bruin certainly shot softer than my 5-inch GI 10 mm with equal loadings. The Dan Wesson folks recommend a 300-550 round break-in for their 1911 pistols; clean and re-lube every 50 rounds.

Now I don’t claim to be the expert on this topic but I’ve had quite a few true custom built 1911s over the years, as well as a goodly bunch of semi-custom and production guns. All seemed to have their own recommended break-in procedure. My experience has been that well built 1911 pistols, if well lubricated, will run correctly from the get-go with quality ammunition and good magazines. I stripped, cleaned and lubricated the Bruin 10 mm and just shot it, re-lubing and wiping down the slide rails and barrel when I felt like it. The gun has run 100 percent with an assortment of both factory and handloaded ammunition using the two included Metalform magazines.

Considering the current ammunition drought facing US shooters, I was lucky to have a pretty good assortment of 10 mm ammo left over from another project for testing the DW Bruin. Being a hunting gun that’s also great for bear defense purposes, I did not test any ammunition with bullets weighing less than 180-grains. The velocity and accuracy results are below. Needless to say, for obvious reasons, I cut back on the normal number of rounds chronographed and fired for accuracy.

Ammunition Avg. Velocity (fps) Avg. group (inches)
Federal 190-grain bonded JHP 1,008 2.75
Hornady 180-grain XTP 1,189 2.60
DoubleTap 200-grain hard cast solid 1,271 3.5
DoubleTap 230-grain hard cast solid 1,118 3
Wilson Combat 180-grain JHP 1,280 2.85
SIG Sauer 180-grain JHP 1,254 3.8

With a supply of once fired brass I’ve been saving (and a box from my bud Ken Hackathorn in Idaho), I started to finally work on some handloads for the 10 mm to ease the financial pain of shooting the relatively new-to-me cartridge. Using some 200-grain XTPs from Hornady, and some old 200-grain FMJ flat points from the National Bullet Co. scrounged from an old friend, I put together some blasting ammo using dies from Redding Reloading.

Loaded to an overall length of 1.265 inches in front of a 6-grain charge of Winchester 231, both bullets were tapered crimped in place. Since I had less than 1,000 cases, I decided there was no reason to set up a tool head to run this practice/blasting ammo on one of my Dillon presses. Instead, I decided to load this batch of 10 mm on my Redding T-7 Turret press.

After sizing/de-capping, priming and belling the 500+ 10 mm cases, I decided this was a bad idea; progressive loading does spoil you. I switched the Redding dies to a Dillon 550 toolhead and proceeded to finish my batch of 10 mm. The resulting ammo functions just fine in the Dan Wesson Bruin Bronze. Velocity of the 200-grain XTP load is 1,074 fps and the National Bullet Co. 180-grain FMJ FP runs 1,092 fps with accuracy of both loads in the 2.75- to 3-inch range at 25 yards.

Every handgun needs a holster, and I have become particularly fond of “chest rigs” for hunting handguns and general outdoor use, including personal defense, especially for larger guns like the Bruin Bronze. I reached out to my old bud Mike Barham at Galco and he had the Galco Custom Shop make up one of their Great Alaskan outfits for the long slide Bruin. Along with the accessory spare magazine pouch, the Great Alaskan and the Bruin are field ready.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, this Bruin project started out to be a test of a bear gun for my son Brock. Bear season is still a pretty long way off as this is written but the Bruin and the Galco Great Alaskan holster have been fielded some. Brock has carried it hiking in the Alleghenies and the Bruin saw some action taking three Timber Rattlesnakes during a LE long-range rifle training session in the mountains.

It actually got a bit western for a while with the three snakes together in an area the size of a pickup bed.  I’ve had the Dan Wesson Bruin Bronze for a little over five months now. It has flawlessly digested somewhere between 500 and 600 rounds of both factory and hand loaded 10 mm ammunition (as well as four .40 S&W CCI Shotshells, which had to be hand cycled for the snakes).

It’s hard not to like a well made 1911 pistol and the Dan Wesson Bruin is just that. Nicely featured, detailed, reliable, and accurate the Bruin should serve Brock well for following the hounds in pursuit of bears for years to come. The only thing the Bruin lacks is a lanyard loop to prevent being lost in the laurel hells of the Alleghenies; we are working on that.


Model: Bruin Bronze 1911

Caliber: 10 mm

Mag Capacity: 8

Frame: Forged Stainless

Slide Finish: Duty Finish

Grips: G10

Overall length: 9.7 inches

Barrel Length: 6.03 inches

Height: 5.8 inches

Width: 1.5 inches

Weight: 43.9 ounces

Trigger: Single action

Front Sight: Tritium/fiber optic

Rear Sight: Adjustable Night Sights

Safety: Manual thumb & Grip  Safety

Article by John Markwell 

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