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Thread: Semi-Auto Bren?

  1. #1

    Default Semi-Auto Bren?

    Greetings,

    What do you guys think of building a semi-auto Bren Gun? I've done some research into it, and it appears that all of the semi guns out there are re-welds (even the guns built by companies) .... that makes me a little uneasy.

    Any comments on this? If I had heard of only a couple guys doing this... I'd chalk it up to them being crazy. But several different companies offer the jigs to re-weld the receiver, offer services to modify the bolt and FCG, etc. I've found lots of people who have built semi autos on re-welded receivers. I have not found one case where one of these rebuilt guns failed.

    I'm not to familiar with the inner workings of a Bren Gun, but perhaps being an LMG with a removable barrel means is less relied upon for strength (vs. say a bolt action rifle).

    I am very aware that the build is difficult and time consuming, but I have all the tools minus a mill ( and I'll have that soon ), and I'm pretty good at MIG welding. I'm much rather do the work myself than fork over thousands for somebody else to do what I am perfectly capable of doing.

    I've always wanted a semi-auto Bren and Sten, and the way things are going it would appear if I don't start soon, I'll never get my chance. Parts kits for both are only $150-200 for each one.

  2. #2
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    Default

    There's plenty of steel in a Bren receiver so that's not an issue if the welding is done properly, esp. with a mild cartridge like .303. It's the machining (Bren bolts are HARD, can you spell carbide?) that's the tough part of the build. In the world of "build your own" I'd put the BREN up there near the top for difficulty. A tough job for even the best. The good news is that there are good jigs (weaponeer.net and projectguns.com have them) available along with plenty of help online. See what's involved before leaping. You can save a lot of coin building your own but it'll still set you back over $1k by the time you're done. Still cheaper than $3k though!
    I've got a plumb MKII parts kit and plenty of spare barrels tucked away and have also been considering a build but just don't think I'm up to the task yet. I seem to remember that Historic Arms and Philadelphia Ord. were collaborating on a semi BREN receiver project (no reweld) a few years ago (even remember seeing photos of receivers in process) but it seems that it's died so my waiting for a finished receiver might have been in vain.
    The problem with the rat race is that even if you win you're still a rat!

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks for the reply.

    Reading on Weaponeer, I found that Bren receivers are very soft, being only .2% carbon. Plain old 1018 mild steel is easily just a strong. I'm a pretty good MIG welder, I've put floor pans in a car (my life on the line if they failed), welded new quarter panels on other people's cars (my rear end on the line if I screwed up), fixed the mowing rig on a tractor (kept an employee at the college from being fired) so I have confidence in my skills as a welder.

    I fear the return of a new, more aggressive, AWB. So I'm trying to gather parts for projects I'll kick myself for never getting if they disappear from the market forever...

    I'm a big fan of British weapons, having a mighty fine collection of Enfields. I also purchased a nice Sten parts kit from IMA. So I think I'll bite bullet and tuck a Bren kit away for a rainy day to spend in the garage.

    In reality... building a semi-auto Sten will cost around $700 in parts. So a beast like the Bren isn't that much more expensive, especially when you space out the purchases.

    PS. From what I've read, the reason we haven't seen new semi Bren receivers is the complexity of the originals. They started out as 22 pound blocks of forged steel and were machined down to 4 and a half pounds, lots of time, lots of waste.
    Last edited by YoungSurplusNut; 01-06-2009 at 10:12 PM.

  4. #4
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    YSN,
    You've got to be kidding! Welding a floor pan vs. a receiver? or a mower?

    They ain't the same.

    Just do it.

    Semi-plans are available.
    03man - Don Voigt
    Author of "The Japanese T99 Arisaka Rifle" 2010 edition
    Co-author of "The Knee Mortars of Japan 1921-1945" 2011 edition
    Near Charlotte, NC

  5. #5

    Default

    Actually I wasn't kidding.

    You must not be too familiar with repairing unibody cars. In them, the floor pan is where your structural strength comes from... it also requires you to weld sheetmetal to heavier frame rails.

    Welding on quarter panels isnt' as critical, but you have to make sure you don't warp the crap out of the panels.

    The mower I was talking about isn't a lawn mower, but I huge tractor towed thing driven by the PTO on the tractor. The guy hit a stump and ripped an entire corner loose, had to heat and straighten, and then use weld to fill the gaps in various pieces of plate steel, ranging from 1/8" to 1/2".

    The point I was trying to make is that, I'm not some guy with an $80 Harbor Freight Flux Core Welder that wants to rebuild a Bren.
    Last edited by YoungSurplusNut; 01-12-2009 at 11:51 AM.

  6. #6
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    having built several of these Brens, Tig welding should be done, but the ones I have done all have been mig welded, the welding is done by my buddy who is an 07 whom I have know for 30 years and trust his welding,, unless you have your own tig set up it will be costly, if you have your own mill your in like flynn, go to the scrape yard and buy some copper buss bars, machine them to fit the rails of the inside of the receiver, and all the areas that will be welded, the more time you spend in getting it ready to weld the easier it will be to finish, these latest imported kits were plasma cut and are in bad shape, but they are do able, these will need graphite plugs and some extra machining and fillers, only real concern is were the bolt locks up welding in this are must be complete, the Bren works basically like an upside down FAL, I must warn you, I was so excited to get my first one to the range only to find out the gun was never designed for the left hand shooter

    I working on one right now, its been welded, if anyone is interested I can post some pics

    yes the was a couple of new semi receiver prototypes no demand for them because of the ease to reweld, but with the new kits coming in they might be back, if I remember right, the price was $1,500, I think if they got into production the price might fall

  7. #7
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    Default

    I might be interested in pics (wink, wink).

  8. #8
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  9. #9
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    Default New Bren reciever...

    Hi,
    I saw your posts and thought you might want to take a look at our website. Yes even the website is a work in progress - but it is getting there. Anyway..... Look at the "coming soon" link at the top of the page. Tell me what you think. Thanks Rick

  10. #10
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    Default New Bren reciever...

    Woops... please go to smgguns.com - been a long day building gun parts....

  11. #11
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    Default

    Ok, this may seem stupid, but where are you finding these $150 dollar parts kits?

  12. #12

    Default

    Military Gun Supply has them for $200 (without barrel),

    But I found out the hard way that the MGS kits are trashed, they aren't really cut so much as melted... right through the barrel socket.

    So I painfully coughed up the money for a good, early 3-cut InterOrdnance kit and couldn't be happier I did. Any money saved by purchasing the MGS kit will be more than cancelled out by trying to fix the barrel socket.

    I've now nearly gathered all the parts to build a dual caliber Bren (.303 and 54R), just need to get a few more compliance parts before I can start welding.

  13. #13
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    Default New recievers

    Ok, last time we will bug this thread with this but if you talk about being interested in new recievers and such then please take a look at our websit at WWW.smgguns.com and tell us what you think. A lot of what we do is customer interest driven.... Rick

  14. #14
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by YoungSurplusNut View Post
    Military Gun Supply has them for $200 (without barrel),

    But I found out the hard way that the MGS kits are trashed, they aren't really cut so much as melted... right through the barrel socket.

    So I painfully coughed up the money for a good, early 3-cut InterOrdnance kit and couldn't be happier I did. Any money saved by purchasing the MGS kit will be more than cancelled out by trying to fix the barrel socket.

    I've now nearly gathered all the parts to build a dual caliber Bren (.303 and 54R), just need to get a few more compliance parts before I can start welding.
    I built one using a three cut IO kit that I bought a few years ago when they came with 2 barrels and 2 mags. Then I bought an original case with 12 bren mags from IO for around $70. All total it cost me under $500 to build mine.
    If you want to do it the hard way, get the Midwest Metal Creations weld jig and follow the build intructions they include with the jig. If you want an easier build to to www.projectguns.com and follow their build tutorial. I had a MMC weld jig that I bought a few years ago, but the instructions they included were so complicated that I lost my motivation for it and put it on the back burner. (plus they did not include the small parts for the FCG, another $250-300). Then I stumbled across the tutorial at projectguns and using those instructions completed my build in less than a week. They even have a cheaper weld jig and the compliance parts you need. I tig welded mine using a unit sold by Harbor Freight. It's been test fired (about 75 rounds) and I was surprised at the accuracy and the way the Bren absorbs recoil. Good Luck on yours.

  15. #15
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    Default

    Smgguns, I think the interest is there, but the majority of people don't browse here on the Board and many more are silent until they feel confident the thing will fly and fly straight. Lots of parts kits out there in hands that have no experience with welding or a build, much less a complicated build as the Bren. I think the only people actively looking around at a possible Bren market at the moment are a select few of us in the gun game. Not a majority common knowledge piece at the moment. Good PR will help. I am loathe to attempt a build but I want a semi auto Bren in the worst way!

    Just a little reference from past experience. I actually purchased a built Semi Auto Bren a few years back from a place in Georgia. That gun gave me nothing but trouble. Sent it back 3 times and I think the dealer was as frustrated as I was. He actually gave me a refund! For the money, I expected it to run right with NO issues, but that certainly was NOT the case.

    have considered buying a WiseLite, bit worried I will have the same experience. For me, it is a healthy price tag to take a chance on. At least WiseLite seems to be a company that would work to get things right.

    It was funny, but back when I was having the issues, I found that most other Bren owners (of the same manufactured Bren) had not actually fired their rifles! They just bought them I guess to hang on the mantle? I want a working piece I can rely on. Otherwise, I would make myself happy with setting the thing out, torch cuts and all for a LOT less money.

    I will say that striker fired conversions of open bolt guns leave something to be desired. Have experience with the aforementioned Bren, a Catco Sten and now the CAI Sterling. The Sterling is running pretty regular now and that conversion system seems reliable enough. But the Bren system and the Sten system I have experienced leave me with grave doubts. So as a potential customer, my advice would be to test, test, test, and then do some more testing. Just a friendly pass along. All th best. Look forward to seeing your work in the near future.
    Last edited by AmEngRifles; 06-10-2009 at 10:02 PM.

  16. #16
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    Sounds like you had one of the Historic Arms semi-Brens. I have a friend that had one of those and reported his had problems too. His kept slam-firing. He had it 'fixed' a few times by the builder and eventually gave up and sold it off.

  17. #17
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    Hi AmEng,
    I read your post with a smile as everything you say is true. This business is a huge pot of wonderful things, new toys, cool gadgets, near misses, ideas gone wrong, things that almost work, work sometimes and not others, and gee wouldn't that be cool if only's...... Most of the people I have met in this business are honest hard working folks with a love of the sport or they would find something much easier to do!
    I have only been in the manufacturing end of it for the last few years but a class III back in the 80's when it was real cheap and cool - pass that 34 sample at $350 cause the finish sux days.... But even then it was an every man for himself, put no more down than you can afford to lose proposition and deal with only the big names or the well known.... Pretty much everything stays the same. Hard for a little guy to break in - that's just the way it is.
    Be ready to sell your product at wholesale to dealers nice enough to market your product and do all warranty work for free to try to build a reputation that stands or falls on the product - as it should be. Listen and read when your stuff fails and be embarrassed it did and not sure what to do but fix it and make it better so it doesn't happen again - really embarrassed if it ever comes back a second time as they can..... Work hard and long to make a design right the first time - and willing to swallow your pride and redesign if needed to make it right! Be miffed when you read or hear people talk bad about what you do as if you cobbled it together one weekend and sold it the next with no regards to anything but money.
    But ah the smiles it brings when they like it and tell their friends! Cool stuff! And things get better - the products evolve and get better - as long as like you say - you keep working and testing! And shoot those guns - thats why we build em and I sure don't want to own one that doesn't work either. Just an expensive paperweight is all it is if it won't shoot!
    Ok, I have ran off at the mouth but...... Appreciate the honesty in your post - have a good one and keep watching as we have lots of "wouldn't that be cool" ideas that we work on when we get the chance.
    Rick at SMGGUNS.com
    Last edited by Smgguns; 06-11-2009 at 09:25 PM. Reason: misspelled word

  18. #18
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    Interesting. Glad I bought mine a good number of years ago. The go-fast switch works. Paid 5K for the gun (plus the $200 transfer tax)

    If anyone is interested, a dealer in town has cases of NEW Bren barrels.

  19. #19
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    Default Gonna try this winter and do the Bren2

    just ordered a couple of kits and gonna have at it this winter and do the 54R and 303 and see what happens.

  20. #20
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    Project Guns in Boca Raton, Fl do a really great job building Brens. They may have a tutorial on the web site. They will do a complete build, weld receivers, modify parts, supply jigs etc. This build is labor intensive and not for the amateur, but that is my opinion.
    www.projectguns.com

  21. #21
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  22. #22
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    Well if you've got the tools it shouldn't be terribly difficult to reweld the receiver... just go slow and be careful because it's easy to bugger the bolt. If you follow the general rules of rebuilds and the advice of people out on the Prexis weapon builder forums you should be able to get through it without destroying your kit. Though if you've got the coin to do it... I'd still recommend sending it to Global Military Gunsmithing... having it built for you might set you back about thirty bills but you're guaranteed not to have a hiccup.
    Signed,

    Fatherandersonthepaladin
    Purveyor of fine Mosins, Hater of Bubba, and Pantsless Evil Dictator of Eggplants.

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