Often a bike shop who stocks Brooks products will have one to give you (or at least use). Don't over-tighten it. Also, each person and each cow is different. Your friend with the similar saddle could very well push into the saddle less, weigh less, or have a saddle made from a cow much younger (or a different part of the cow). The tension bolt is completely safe to use, but don't go overboard. People will tell you not to use the bolt - it's there for a reason. Brooks is a company that has been doing nearly the same thing for almost 200 years. I trust their product and its features (i.e. the tension bolt), if used properly. I've used the same B17 for 10s of thousands of miles, since 2008, and tensioned it thrice so far. It's long now, but it still does it's job, and has really taken a beating. A B-15 from the 50s, that is just now drying up, due to lack of care (though I'm reviving it, but it will take a long while before I can use it again) - I alone have a few thousand on that one as well.
A saddle won't last forever, and I don't expect it to. I spend $30-40 per touring tire, and they go out every 5-12k miles. $100 for a saddle (the most important part of comfort on a bike, IMO) that lasts 10-40k miles if taken care of, has more than paid its dues. Try hard, and you can get even more miles out of them.