Last year we tested three 10mm Auto pistols and found there was a lot of interest in these big-bore handguns, so we decided to return to these powerful handguns for another look. Our most recent crop of 10mms includes two 1911 platforms and one based on the CZ 75 platform. The Kimber Custom TLE II and the Dan Wesson Bruin Bronze share the 1911 platform, while the Tanfoglio Witness is based on the CZ 75 design. We liked all three of these pistols and found that all three could serve multiple duties from hunting to self-defense. Since the 10mm has the power of a 41 Magnum, we feel it is a bit much for everyday carry. If we ever were in a shooting incident, it’s possible the overpenetration of the 10mm could be a liability. But in a self-defense situation where you are facing an angry bear in the back country, we think the 10mm Auto makes perfect sense. Also, as a hunting round, the 10mm offers a lot of power and is well suited for game like deer and pigs at short distances. We’d even use it in a tree stand to take black bears visiting a bait.
All three pistols ran exceptionally well with no malfunctions or jams, and we found they were accurate. Two-inch five-shot groups at 25 yards were the norm. For ammunition, we used SIG Sauer V-Crown Ammunition loaded with an 180-grain JHP bullet. The SIG ammo was loaded to velocities that 10mm Auto was designed for.
The other two loads were Federal American Eagle and Armscor USA labels, both using 180-grain FMJs. These two rounds weren’t as hot as the SIG load, as the table data reveal. The SIG ammo factory data shows a muzzle velocity of 1250 fps; we got very close to that muzzle velocity from the Kimber and Dan Wesson. The Tanfoglio produced less velocity. The Federal and Armscor ammo is factory-speed stamped at 1030 fps and 1008 fps, respectively. With the three pistols, we saw higher muzzle velocities than the factory figures.
|SIG Sauer V-Crown 10mm Auto 180-gr. Jacketed Hollowpoint||Kimber 1911 Custom TLE II||Dan Wesson Bruin Bronze||Tangfolio Witness Full Steel|
|Average velocity||1243 fps||1251 fps||1192 fps|
|Muzzle energy||618 ft.-lbs.||626 ft.-lbs.||568 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2.1 in.||1.7 in.||2 in.|
|Average group||2.4 in.||1.9 in.||2.4 in.|
|Federal American Eagle 10mm Auto 180-gr. Full Metal Jacket|
|Average velocity||1068 fps||1072 fps||1043 fps|
|Muzzle energy||456 ft.-lbs.||459 ft.-lbs.||435 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||1.9 in.||1.5 in.||1.4 in.|
|Average group||2.3 in.||1.7 in.||1.8 in.|
|Armscor USA 10mm Auto 180-gr. Full Metal Jacket|
|Average velocity||1121 fps||1143 fps||1099 fps|
|Muzzle energy||502 ft.-lbs.||522 ft.-lbs.||483 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||1.5 in.||2.6 in.||2.1 in.|
|Average group||1.7 in.||2.8 in.||2.2 in.|
|To collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups from a bench using a rest. Distance: 25 yards with open sights. We recorded velocities using a ProChrono digital chronograph set 15 feet from the muzzle.|
For accuracy testing, we used a rest and open sights, firing at targets placed 25 yards downrange. For our speed stage, we fired at 10 yards. A fast and accurate follow-up shot was faster with the Bruin and Witness, which we will get into shortly. Remember that a 10mm Auto is not a learner’s pistol or for those who are sensitive to recoil. In our opinion, the Bruins and the Witness helped us manage recoil the best. Shooting this trio side by side at the range, we learned a lot about them. Here’s the skinny on all three.
Kimber Custom TLE II 3200347 10mm Auto, $1028
GUN TESTS GRADE: A-
The Custom TLE II is an excellent version of a full-size 1911 platform chambered in 10mm. We would have liked the grips to be less textured because they chewed up our hands.
|ACTION||Semi-auto single action, locked breech|
|OVERALL LENGTH||8.7 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||5.25 in.|
|MAX WIDTH||1.28 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||38 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||46.4 oz.|
|SLIDE||Matte black, steel|
|FRAME||Matte black, steel|
|FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2.6 in.|
|BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3.6 in.|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.3 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||6.3 in.|
|SIGHTS||Fixed, low profile, 3-dot night|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||4.5 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (SA)||2.9 in.|
|MAGAZINES||1; stainless steel|
|SAFETY||Thumb, beavertail grip|
The Custom TLE (Tactical Law Enforcement) II lines of 1911s are designed for LE and conceal carry. The TLE II looked a plain-Jane compared to the Bruin since it wore an all-business matte-black finish. Rightly so, too, since the Kimber cost $1100 less. The Kimber’s finish was nicely applied. The TLE II is neither a 70 series nor 80 series 1911, but there is a firing-pin-disconnect safety built into the grip safety.
In our opinion, the trigger on the Kimber was excellent. It measured about 4.5 pounds on our Lyman digital scales, and that trigger-pull weight made it suitable for defensive carry. The trigger is aluminum with three holes and felt match grade. Matte silver is the color; it contrasted nicely with the finish. The thumb safety was only on the left side, making it a bit of a liability for the left-handed shooter. It clicked on and off nicely. The stainless-steel match-grade barrel was polished and includes a loaded-chamber indicator port on the top side. The slide was equipped with low-profile 3-dot night sights, which we liked a lot. In particular, we thought they were easy to acquire.
Angled slide serrations appeared forward and aft, so manipulating the slide was easy and simple. The receiver front grip strap was textured with 30 lines-per-inch checkering, which is where the Kimber started to lose points with the other pistols. The front grip strap and the aggressively textured G10 grips felt excellent in the hand, but when shooting, they rasped against some of our team’s palms like a cheese grater. Some felt it was much too sharp for the sharp recoil of the 10mm Auto. The full extended beavertail did a good job of protected the chubby hands of some of our team members.
Disassembly was like any other Government 1911; only a bushing tool was needed to depress the recoil spring guide. There was little wiggle with the Kimber. It had a tight slide-to-receiver fit. Manipulating the slide was smooth, however.
In use is when the Kimber lost ground due to the sharply textured grips. We might deep-six the factory grips and add smoother aftermarket grips if we had to have this pistol. The TLE II was 5 ounces heavier than the Witness, yet the Witness was more pleasant to shoot. The main spring housing was machined to a sharp edge, and during recoil, it jammed some reviewers’ palms. We deducted points for this. There was a marked difference between the light 10mm loads and the hot one. Shooting the Kimber was the least pleasant experience of the three pistols. Even so, the accuracy of the Kimber was a solid 2 inches at 25 yards. There was no complaint about the accuracy. All ammunition cycled flawlessly through the TLE II.
Our Team Said: Recoil was very noticeable due to the grips and the sharp edge of the mainspring housing. Accuracy was good, and if you are looking for a standard full-size 1911 platform juiced up to 10mm Auto, this would be a good option if you’re willing to spend the bucks.
Dan Wesson Bruin Bronze 1881 10mm Auto, $2194
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
If you are in need of a 10mm hunting pistol, the Bruin is an excellent choice, despite its expense. The trigger was crisp and recoil was very manageable when firing stout 10mm rounds.
|ACTION||Semi-auto, locked breech single action, Series 70 design|
|OVERALL LENGTH||9.7 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||5.8 in.|
|MAX WIDTH||1.5 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||43.9 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||52.3 oz.|
|CAPACITY||8+1 (single stack)|
|SLIDE||Matte black, steel|
|FRAME||Forged stainless steel, round butt, 25-LPI checkering on grip straps|
|FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2.6 in.|
|BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3.1 in.|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.3 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||5.5 in.|
|FRONT SIGHT||Tritium fiber optic|
|REAR SIGHT||Adjustable 2-dot tritium|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||3.9 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (SA)||2.8 in.|
|MAGAZINES||2; stainless steel|
|SAFETY||Thumb, beavertail grip|
|MADE IN||Norwich, NY|
The Bruin is a long-slide variant of Dan Wesson’s 1911 platform pistols. The 10mm Auto cartridge’s performance is enhanced when fired through a 6.3-inch barrel. The longer barrel wrings out extra velocity and provides a longer sight radius than traditional Government-style 1911s, like the Kimber Custom TLE II reviewed above. In our opinion, the longer barrel and added weight from the barrel make the recoil more tolerable.
Our sample came with a bronze-finished steel receiver and matte-black slide and controls. We all felt it was a sharp-looking pistol. The muzzle is tapered. In fact, the recoil spring plug is tapered, so it only fit back in place one way. This was a little tricky to line up during reassembly. Small details that made the Bruin softer shooting included a rounded-butt mainspring housing. Dan Wesson rounded off the sharp edge so in recoil, there is less discomfort when the shooter is firing hot loads. Both the mainspring housing and the back and front grip straps were finely checkered. The G10 grips had texture without a bite. We felt these grips were well suited to the recoil of 10mm Auto.
The controls on the Bruin were top notch. The trigger is long and smoothly slid to allow the edgy squared Commander hammer to fall. The pull weight was slightly under 4 pounds, but it felt much less. We thought the trigger was well suited for hunting situations. The thumb safely also flicked on and off crisply, giving the user confidence it was on or off. The controls did not have any sharp edges that might cause a cut or bruise on the shooter’s hands.
The front sight is a fiber-optic tritium unit, and the fiber optic allows for easy aiming on a dark background. The fiber optic absorbs light, transferring it the tritium dot. The rear is fully adjustable with two dots. The shooter-facing flat of the rear sight is serrated to cut glare. This is a nice feature, and the top of the slide is nicely machined with serrations along the length. Serrations on the slide are angled and located toward the muzzle and in the rear.
Two stainless-steel magazines with rubber bump pads are included. They were well built and were easy on the thumbs when loading.
Disassembly requires no tools, but, as mentioned, the recoil spring guide needs to be aligned correctly, and that took a bit of ramp-up time to learn.
Trigger time with the Bruin was pleasant. Recoil felt like we were shooting a 45 ACP-chambered 1911. The long slide added weight to the pistol, which contributed to the reduced recoil. We could feel a slight difference between the hot SIG ammo and the light American Eagle and Armscor loads. One member of our test team was able to shoot 5-shot groups that averaged 1.6 inches at 25 yards. Looking at the data, we also found the Bruin had higher muzzle velocities compared to the other pistols due to the longer barrel.
Our Team Said: Recoil was very controllable due to the extra slide weight. The sight radius also helped us keep groups small. The small touches, such as the rounded mainspring housing and coarsely textured grips and excellent trigger, made the Bruin a pleasure to shoot. The cost is high with the Bruin because you pay for those small features. We thought about grading the Bruin down half a point due to the cost, but if you want to go big, this gun will get it done, and that costs money.
EAA Tanfoglio Witness 10mm, $665
GUN TESTS GRADE: A (Best Buy)
The Witness offers a comfortable shooting experience, is relatively compact and accurate, plus it is affordable. We liked the Witness a lot chambered in this powerful cartridge.
|OVERALL LENGTH||8.1 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||5.5 in.|
|MAX WIDTH||1.4 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||33 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||47.7 oz.|
|CAPACITY||14+1 (double stack)|
|SLIDE||Matte silver, steel|
|FRAME||Matte silver, steel|
|FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2.5 in.|
|BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3.5 in.|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.3 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||6 in.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (DA)||10.8 lbs.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (SA)||4.6 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (DA)||3 in.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (SA)||2.6 in.|
The Witness is based on the CZ 75 design in which the slide rides inside the receiver, not outside the receiver like a 1911. This design allows the slide height to be less and the bore axis lower than a 1911. There is less slide to grasp than the Kimber and Dan Wesson or any other 1911 for that matter. We did become proficient at manipulating the slide, and if we overgrasped the slide, the thumb safety and slide stop were smooth and allowed the user to cycle the slide with no interruptions. Serrations were coarse and grippy and appeared both toward the muzzle and rear of the slide, The top side the slide was equipped with three-dot low-profile sights. The front was red, and the rear two were white. We would have preferred all three dots to be white since the front dot was hard to see on a dark target. A little white paint will fix this. The rear of the rear sight was also cut out to reduce glare. The Witness, unlike the 1911s, uses an external extractor.
The receiver of the Witness is a lot beefier than a 9mm CZ 75 and more like a CZ 97 chambered in 45 Auto. Most members of our team liked the heft of this all-steel pistol and the polymer grip, which had all smooth edges. There was an accessory rail built into the receiver. The beavertail was substantial, too. The girth was slightly more than the 1911s tested, but that extra space enables the Witness to carry a 14-round magazine, nearly double what the Bruin or TLE II carry. One steel magazine with a polymer floor plate was provided with the Witness, so you might as well plan to buy more at the time you transact the pistol. The front and rear grip straps are serrated.
The Tanfoglio Witness uses a DA/SA trigger, which is a preference for some shooters as well as team members. The edge the DA/SA trigger has over the SA trigger of Bruin and TLE II is the DA/SA trigger can be instantly pressed to fire the pistol. All three pistols can also be carried cocked and locked. The thumb safety on the Witness locks the trigger but allows the slide to be cycled. With the hammer down and the safety on, the slide and trigger are both locked. The Witness also incorporates a firing-pin safety. The firing-pin block is released only by pulling the trigger all the way to the rear. The trigger is wide and smooth and felt less than the nearly 11 pounds it measured in DA mode. We noticed the receiver around the trigger was rounded and smooth, so a shooter using gloves on his hands posed no problem.
The exterior of the Witness wore what is called Wonder finish, which is a matte gray look. It was well executed. All the controls, slide stop, thumb safety, trigger, and hammer, on the pistol are matte black and contrast nicely. The grips are a textured polymer.
Going hot with the Witness, we found the pistol offered a sweet recoil — a bit sweeter, that is lesser, than the recoil from the Bruin. We attribute that to the slide/receiver design. There was no wiggle between the slide and receiver, a thorough examination found. The grip was smooth, and the added girth provide more contact with our palm, so the recoil felt like the recoil from a 45 Auto. Accuracy with all ammo tested was under 2.5 inches. With American Eagle ammo, one tester was able to shoot a 1.4-inch five-shot group at 25 yards.
Our Team Said: The Witness offers a more comfortable shooting experience, holds more ammo, is accurate and costs a fraction of the Bruin and TLE II. One team member noted it would make a great defense gun in black-bear country.
Special thanks to Eastern Outfitters of Hampstead, North Carolina for their assistance. Written and photographed by Robert Sadowski, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.