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Bersa Thunder .380 ACP

by Phil W. Johnston   |  March 3rd, 2009 12
Bersa Thunder .380 ACP

The Thunder .380 controls are all in the "right" places. All are handy and easy to acquire.

This job is full of surprises. One of them popped up this week when we wrapped our hands around a new little .380 semi auto for a couple days of shooting. It’s called the Thunder .380 and it’s produced in Argentina by Bersa S.A. This little rig generates a lot of bang for the buck.

The Thunder .380 is a small arm, measuring but 6.6 inches overall. It weighs 20 ounces and is just over an inch and a quarter wide. It’s available in two finishes–the attractive matte black of the sample as well as a satin nickel.

The little Bersa sports a dual-action trigger that allows the first shot from a magazine to be delivered double-action with the subsequent shots going single-action. The pistol features an exposed hammer that allows the hammer to be manually cocked, moving the arm into single action, instantly. Out of the box the trigger isn’t bad. The single-action pull is around six pounds or so with little takeup and just a bit of creep. It’s good enough to allow some respectable shooting. The double action pull, likewise isn’t bad-probably about double the single action pull–but smooth and linear just the same. Operationally, the little Bersa has everything in the “right” places. The safety is located on the left side of the slide and it acts as a de-cocking lever when it’s fully depressed. The safety engages the firing pin when activated, as well. The pistol also features a magazine disconnector or safety as well, unfortunately. While we understand the motivation for these things, we prefer a firearm that acts like a firearm, should the magazine be unavailable for some reason. Weighing but 20 ounces it doesn’t make much of a club.

Field stripping the pistol takes seconds--if you're slow.

The arm is shipped with one seven-round magazine. Additional magazines are available for a MSRP of $33.95 and Bersa also offers a Thunder 380 Plus, 9 round magazine for $47.95. The magazine release is located on the left side of the receiver, behind the pivot point of the trigger. Depressing the release nicely ejects the empty magazine.

The slide release is immediately above the magazine–again on the left side of the receiver–and it is activated when the last round from the magazine is fired.

Typical of arms based on this simple design, the Bersa is a snap to field strip. After verifying that the arm is empty and dropping the magazine, one simply rotates the takedown lever (right side of the receiver) downward and then pulls the slide back and upward.

The recoil spring is coiled around the barrel and remains there during the disassembly process. It takes about two seconds to field strip the Bersa and about the same amount of time to put it back together.

The Thunder .380 sports good sights with one white dot up front and a pair of white dots at the back. The rear sight is adjustable for windage but elevation is fixed. Out of the box, the rig was in the black at 10 yards.

Because the Bersa and similar arms aren’t designed as long range target rigs and most confrontations occur at the proverbial 7-10 yards, we elected to run this arm indoors at 10 yards for the entire session. The fact that it was near zero outside also had a slight impact on our decision!

At any rate, our ammo locker was getting low where the .380 is concerned, but we managed to come up with five loads that tend to mirror most of the ammo that is out there. We rested the arm on sandbags and again used our competitive shooting glasses to clear up the front sight.

Throughout the limited range session, the Bersa didn’t miss a beat. When things quieted down, the little .380 averaged just over an inch and a quarter with all five loads, generating around 150 ft/lbs of instrumental energy, 15 feet from the muzzle. The exception to this rule consists of Cor-Bon’s great 90-grain +P load that leaves even this stubby barrel doing five fps shy of 1,000 fps, producing very nearly 200 ft/lbs of energy in the process. This load would be a natural choice for serious social work. Because our ammo was limited, we managed only to run 125 rounds or so through the Bersa–not a torture test to be sure. Still, the Thunder .380 gave no indication that it would perform differently after a thousand rounds, either.

Selling for less than $250–or about half the price of some of the competition–the Bersa Thunder .380 looks like a bargain any way you cut it. Clone or not, this one’s a winner.


  • richard

    What a bargain this little .380 is! If you don't mind having a knock-off, it does everything a small pistol should do, reliably and accurately. This is a fun gun for the range and makes a very good introductory gun for first time shooters. From many reports I've seen, the Thunder is actually more reliable than the Walther PPK it mimicks…just no James Bond factor!

    • brandon

      i know it,s so great

  • andrik

    I love Bersa, even though 380 is fine (rather cheaper,better PPK variant from Bersa) my absolute favorite is Bersa Thunder 9 Ultra Compact, 9 shot, all metal, 9mm, compact pistol that for its $350 price worth every penny!!! Can't find a better deal on compact conceal carry 9mm than Bersa Thunder 9.

  • dave

    Junk!Nothing but problems with this little bastardized Saturday night special.Yeah lets make a gun the street thug can afford on or off the street.

    • Mickster

      ……you must work for Ruger

    • Red Jacket Fan

      I own ruger lcp 380 and keltec 380 bersa is better in every aspect thug gun or not

  • Bwanadave

    I love my little Thunder. Never had a jam or misfire in over 2 years. Why would I want to pay $600 for a US made PPK when I can pay $300 for the Argentine version that's every bit as good or better?

  • JFAker

    I got the pink version for my wife. She loves it. After many boxes of various 380 ammo brands it has only missed a beat with cheap ammo, and even then it was an occasional FTE that was easily cleared.

  • Papa

    I have owned this modei foe several years It shhots well and is very reliable, mine is more accurate with +P

  • John

    I have the 15 shot version. Shoots well, no jams, very accurate. 15 rounds of .380, not a bad deal when you are in a fix.

  • Richard L Moore

    I love the coments about thug guns & saturday night Specials they have been outlawed,and all tha accomplised was to force the real thugs to upgrade.And we wonder why the murder rates are up.the worst thing in the world is a know it all self rightious gun snob.I own two Bersa and i would not like to be on the wrong end of one.I once had an eperienced gunner advise me to buy an inexspensive gun and a lot of Bullets,Guess what nI have never looked back,No one says the right of self defence is only for the well healed,and guess what thugs do not buy handguns legally

  • Nick

    My mom just pick one of these bad boys up a few days ago. Let me start by say WOW. this gun rocks. between the both of us we popped off 100 rounds at the range. my first time shooting the gun I was making 2in groups in the head at 20ft out. sights are perfect. controls handle great. I also like the internal trigger lock. its a nice feature to have. for the price you can not beat it. its looks are not horrible either. my only complaint is that it comes in a flimsy cardboard box, but I guess that's just me comparing my M&P40 I Bought a week before her. Hope this helps put to rest some of the bashing of this perfect little piece. happy shooting.

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