Bersa Thunder 380

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Packing the Bersa Thunder 380 Pistol

The good news is the Argentinian company Bersa has been quietly offering one of the best defensive pistol bargains on the market for several years now. Imported to the U.S. by Eagle Imports of New Jersey, the Bersa Thunder 380 chambered in .380 ACP offers a top-notch set of features for real world prices under $300. In fact, everything you need for a comfortable, convenient quality carry rig can be found in the Bersa section of the Eagle Imports website. So I used the site as a one-stop-shopping option to assemble the accessory set tested with this pistol.

The Bersa Thunder 380 is a blowback-operated, double-action/single-action semi-automatic which takes its design cues from the Walther PPK, famously carried by the fictional secret agent James Bond. This pistol is offered with several different finish and grip options including the rubber gripped duo-tone matte black steel slide with silver nickeled aluminum frame model used in this review.


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The slide features a rounded muzzle for easy holstering, a 3-dot sight system and rear cocking serrations. Both the trigger and the slide cycled smoothly right out of the box. The external controls consist of a slide catch, round magazine release button and combination thumb safety/decocker are placed on the left side of the frame with the takedown lever located on the right side. An integral lock, which disables the trigger, is found on the left side of the frame just in front of the magazine release button for which a single key is provided with the pistol.

The safety lever automatically decocks the exposed hammer when it is pressed down into the “Safe” position, resulting in a double-action trigger pull for the first shot. Some pistols have fairly heavy double-action triggers in the 12- to 15-lb. range. The Thunder 380’s trigger has a much lighter pull of 8 lbs. 10 oz. that feels smooth and consistent throughout the arc of travel. After the first shot is fired, the hammer is cocked and ready to operate in single-action mode. This shortens the arc of travel and drops the trigger pull to 3 lbs. 12 oz.

 

I was impressed by the number of added touches and upgrades this pistol has to offer, especially since they are usually reserved for more pricey models. The metallic front sight is dovetailed into the slide. The adjustable rear sight has a small screw for windage adjustments instead of being drift adjustable or fixed in place. The top of the slide is checkered to reduce glare.

The front and back of the grip frame are grooved for improved purchase as is the face of the trigger. An extended beavertail protects the shooter’s hand from hammer bite. The front edge of the roomy trigger guard is curved and textured to act as a finger rest. The magazine release button is deeply checkered for positive operation. Some little 380s hold just six or seven rounds in the magazine. The Bersa Thunder takes an eight-round magazine that ships with an extended finger rest to ensure a firm three-finger grip. The features, fit and function all add up to a gun that give you plenty of bang for the buck.

Dismantling this pistol for routine cleaning and lubrication is quite simple. Start by locking the slide open, removing the magazine and verifying the pistol is completely unloaded. Swing and hold the takedown lever down in the 6 o’clock position while pulling back and up on the slide. The rear of the slide lifts off of the frame and then the slide can be pressed forward off of the barrel. A single, round wire recoil spring is coiled around the fixed barrel so there is no recoil rod to remove. Remove the spring from the barrel and the pistol is ready to clean.

While the standard textured polymer factory grip panels give the pistol a slim profile and feel good to hold there are other options available. I prefer to use rubber grips when possible and the Bersa rubber upgrade did not disappoint. It increased purchase without adding too much thickness. For those who want a thicker grip to fit their larger hands, and a splash of color to boot, Bersa’s checkered laminated wood grip panels are a solid choice.

For those who are looking to add a laser sight, the Crimson Trace LG-442R laser grip is the way to go. The grip consists of stiff polymer inserts over molded with soft rubber for comfort and added purchase. The side mounted 5mW red laser is activated by a front-mounted grip switch and adjustable for height and windage. Two #2032 button cell batteries provide up to four hours of run time. And, best of all, you can still use standard holsters with this laser sight installed.

Every type of leather and synthetic pistol holster that can be made has been made for the Thunder 380 with several versions available on the Eagle Imports website. For this review, I opted to work with two lightweight polymer options from Fobus Holsters. Rugged and reliable, the paddles of the Bersa logoed holster and dual magazine pouch are lined with a soft red rubber that works to keep the paddles in place while making them comfortable to wear. Together both of these Fobus products cost less than just a quality holster on its own.

At the range the Bersa Thunder 380 proved to be as fun to shoot as it was reliable. It sits straight down in the shooting hand without the sense of muzzle weight that some pistols exhibit. As a result it feels lighter than its already low 20-oz. unloaded weight. Some blowback operated .380 ACP pistols can be uncomfortable to practice with after just a magazine or two. But the combination of this pistol’s smooth, clean trigger, comfortable grip and moderate levels of felt recoil left me wanting more time at the range instead of less.

The Thunder 380 was utterly reliable. All of the controls worked properly and there were no stoppages or malfunctions of any kind in the course of testing. The slide was easy to cycle manually and the slide catch needed just a light touch to release the slide when it locked open. The pistol arrives with just one magazine so I ordered three more to work with. They all ran reliably and dropped free from the grip when the magazine release was depressed. They were a little greasy which gave them a mottled appearance when photographed in bright sunshine but the matte black finish was properly applied. A magazine disconnect safety kicks in to prevent the pistol from firing when the magazine is removed from the grip.

Formal benchrested accuracy testing was conducted at 7 yards using the factory iron sights with the trigger in single-action mode. Browning’s BPT 95-gr. full metal jacket practice load yielded a best single group of 1.25″ with a five-group average of 1.31″. Gorilla AmmunitionSilverback Self Defense 95-gr. segmented all-copper hollow points produced the lowest level of felt recoil with a best group of 0.95″ and an average of 1.22″. SIG Sauer Elite Performance 90-gr. V-Crown jacketed hollow points produced the tightest groups of the test with a best group of 0.91″ and an average of 1.03″.

All too often, easy-to-carry defensive pistols represent an exercise in compromise that makes them a tool that has to be endured more than enjoyed at the shooting range. The grip is a little too short for comfort, the recoil is a bit too excessive, the sights are hard to see and so on.

What I like best about the Bersa Thunder 380 is how likeable it is compared to some subcompacts I’ve worked with. I actually enjoy shooting and carrying it. It’s slim, light and comfortable on the hip. As I’ve been writing this review I’ve found the pistol is hard to put down. It feels so well balanced and the grip fits my hands so comfortably. It’s an ideal option for self-defense practitioners who are new to shooting or those who have been pulling triggers for years.

With its moderate recoil, reliable feeding and solid defensive accuracy, it’s an ideal all-day-every-day concealed-carry piece. It’s hard to believe that it’s a budget-friendly gun that can be picked up for real-world prices just at or below $300. Will all of the affordably priced accessories available for this pistol, it’s a worthy candidate for daily carry.

Specifications:
Importer: Eagle Imports
Manufacturer: Bersa
Model: Thunder 380, Duo-Tone (Matte/Nickel) Finish
Action: Blowback-Operated Semi-Automatic
Caliber: .380 ACP
Slide: Matte Black Steel
Frame: Matte Nickle Finished Aluminum Alloy
Grips: Textured Polymer
Sights: 3-Dot with Windage Adjustable Rear Sight
Barrel Length: 3.50″
Overall Length: 6.60″
Height: 4.90″
Slide Width: 0.90″
Grip Width: 1.30″
Weight: 20 oz. with Empty 8-Round Magazine
Capacity: 8+1 Rounds
Twist: 1:10” RH
Rifle Grooves: 6
Accessories: Key for Integral Lock, Hard Case, Owner’s Manual
MSRP: $332 with Rubber Grip, $324 with Polymer Grips

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34 thoughts on “Bersa Thunder 380

  1. My wife has weak hands. How hard is slide to rack? I am looking at the S&W EZ as it is advertised as extremely easy to racks slide.

    Thanks

    1. Cock the hammer which reduces the effort to rack the slide. My young daughter found this a simple method to chamber the first round.

    2. @Ronald Greenwood – My wife has severe RA, she had to switch from her beloved Hi-Power, to a .380 recently because of deteriorating hand strength. She purchased a S&W EZ and absolutely loves it.

    3. I have both a Thunder 380 and a Thunder 22. Both have an extremely easy slide. I love both, and the 22 has the same feel and fit as the 380 making range time a little less expensive.

    4. My wife had a hard time with the slide and ended up with a Sig Sauer P338. I was hoping for the Bersa because of the $ but I’d rather spend the extra $ for something she is happy to use.

  2. I had mine for a while I love it but I wish I would have known they made a double stack but where I bought mine all they had were two of the single stack still love it use it as a backup

  3. Looks like a nice little gun for someone in the market for such a .380. Too bad the parent company’s state, NJ, does everything possible to discourage the ownership of such a pistol.

  4. Have a bersa, love it . wearing dress pants or slacks ilt fits just fine with a pocket holster and is totally comfortable, easy to access and unnoticeable.

  5. I read about the weak fingers and hands and trouble loading the pistol, go explain your problem to a qualified gunsmith and see if he can reduce the spring’s strength and still get the pistol to function. I did this with my daughters Bersa 380 and found a spring tension that was balanced enough to allow the girls to load the chamber easily and not get beaten up by the recoil and both of my daughters shot perfect scores on their concealed carry shooting qualifications both with their Bersa 380’s and not only at the 3,5, and 7 yard targets but at 25 yards… I don’t think I want them shooting at me.
    The Bersa 380 is a excellent lady’s pistol and a wonderful pistol to shoot for fun. I reload the 380 and I don’t think you will find a more economical round to load, 2.6 grains of 700x is all it takes and how many rounds will a pound of powder load, I will tell you when I finish the first pound, I am still loading from the first pound.
    A great little gun for our beautiful lady’s tiny little hands… and a safe round for them to shoot.
    Take your wife and children to the range and teach them gun safety and responsibility and remove these video games that depict gun violence from their life and there will be a stop to school shootings…try it and see… teach them the right way in the beginning and pray you don’t have to explain gun violence to them…in the end.

    1. Like that you found a spring ease the firing. I have had mine for a long time and now having troubles with the pull. Did you do the work yourself or have it done? I need to do something the pull. The hands now have weaken over the years. Would like to keep my gun so if you could give me some help about the spring would love it. Being left hand handed makes it interesting.
      Thanks, Joan

    1. I’ll bet you were gripping the gun too loosely. Common occurrence to get stove pipes when you don’t provide enough forward resistance to assist the slide and extractor to perform.

  6. The Bersa 380 Thunder CC model would be a perfect concealed carry gun if the sights were larger, well rounded but larger. As it is, the 380 CC is just a point fire handgun.

    1. I used day-glo phosphorescent paint to make three lovely orange dots where the miniscule sights are on the CC…I covered them with several coats of clear nail lacquer. They’re actually very usable now to 10 yards as “real” sights! Try it.

  7. I use it for everyday carry in pocket (front left) no impression ever seen. sombody made comment about jamming , I believe I have run at least a thousand rounds through the gun not one jam or hang fire ,the only lube I have ever used on all my weapons is a product called gun slick it works for me. Thanks fo letting me send your ear L.D.

  8. I have owned one for about 6 years. With factory sighting, it is a very reliable weapon out to about 10 yards. At the range, I extend practice to about 30 yards at which point I have to adjust my siting slightly left and somewhat higher. At that range, I can group to about 8″ using Hornady hollow points. As a former fan of the S&W Model 13 .357 revolver, for many years a mainstay of the Special Agents of the FBI, the Bersa Thunder .380 has now become my home defense weapon of choice as well as my concealed weapon response to potential problems in some neighborhoods through which I must occasionally travel at night. I am 80 years of age.

  9. I have owned one for about 6 years. With factory sighting, it is a very reliable weapon out to about 10 yards. At the range, I extend practice to about 30 yards at which point I have to adjust my siting slightly left and somewhat higher. At that range, I can group to about 8″ using Hornady hollow points. As a former fan of the S&W Model 13 .357 revolver, for many years a mainstay of the Special Agents of the FBI, the Bersa Thunder .380 has now become my home defense weapon of choice as well as my concealed weapon response to potential problems in some neighborhoods through which I must occasionally travel at night. I am 80 years of age.

  10. I have had one of these for several years. I bought it for my wife when i ride Mtn Bike and she hikes we are usually together on the way up but not on the down She loves it and so do I, it shoots very well, feels great in the hand and you can’t beat the price. A very nice peice that performs incredibly well; Very accurate

  11. I’ve owned it’s big brother the Bersa Plus 15-1 for years and I couldn’t be happier. This thing will eat anything you want to put in the magazines. I like the DA/SA because it doesn’t take a lot of space or finger pressure to fire. Accuracy is great! I think these are very under rated weapons. With the ammunition available I have no qualm as an everyday carry. Just guess I’m hooked on them. If it ever wore out ( not a worry though) I’d get another in a heart beat. They make good firearms period.

  12. Loved your review of the 380 Bersa Thunder. I own two of these, a salt & pepper model and one that is all silver. Over the past few years I have put well over 1500 rounds through both of them. I used one to qualify for my NRA Pistol Instructor certification and got complimented for my shooting ability with the Bersa. They are easy to load, aim, shoot, and take down and re-assemble. Both were my carry firearm until recently when they were replaced my my Rock Island 1911 in 9mm. A friend has a Walther PPQ and after shooting my Bersa, he bought one of them and really likes it. I’ve read comments that because it is a $300 pistol it must be a piece of junk. That is SO wrong. Hmmm… This reminds me, I should take my Bersas to the range and shoot them next week. You wrote a great review and it was very accurate. Keep up the good work!

  13. Has digested all the rounds I put thru it. Very dependable and mild recoil. A little heavy but only noticeable since I got my Ruger 9mm carry gun. The Ruger is a lot lighter but kicks a lot harder too. The Bersa is a good buy for the money if a .380 is your bag. I sure wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of those little 95 grain flat nose slugs I use.

  14. I have the 16 round Thunder plus. Like me, it is a little pudgy, but still very concealable.
    The frame has sharp edges that left my hand bleeding after my first range session. Suggest taking a file to smooth out sharp edges before shooting for the first time.

  15. Concerns about hand strength when racking the slide are misguided because we guys were never taught the SMART way to do it. Thumb and forefinger strength are weak compared to your arm muscles. This is how new shooters are now being taught: Turn 90 degrees and face the wall. Put your weak hand over the slide and grasp it with all fingers and thumb. Hold in place while using your other arm to push the GUN FORWARD! Try it and you will see that issues of recoil spring strength are irrelevant.

  16. I have the Bersa 380 380 Plus (15-1) and it has no preference to what it is feed. ball hollow point or whatever. The trigger reset is almost nil and makes follow up shots a breeze. I think I’ve had this weapon for 3 or 4 years and have yet to experience any failure to feed or eject. With the 15 round magazine it adds a little weight but with a good holster can wear it all day without any problem. I can’t say enough good about it. With the ammo available for self defense it will do it’s part if needed. Personally, I don’t want to be shot with a good pellet gun at close range and this is far past that. If it ever wore out, I would be tracking down another one to purchase.

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