Firearms

Bersa Handguns—An Inexpensive Handgun You Can Trust

3 handguns starting at the top with the Bersa .380 ACP, then the Commander .45 and finally the Colt Detective Special on the bottom on a mottled blue/white background.

Inexpensive, but reliable, accurate and powerful handguns are not common. Occasionally we get more than our money’s worth. Bersa handguns are among the best buys on the market. Although the Bersa line retails for less than many competing designs, they have proven both reliable and accurate.

3 handguns starting at the top with the Bersa .380 ACP, then the Commander .45 and finally the Colt Detective Special on the bottom on a mottled blue/white background.
The Bersa .380 ACP pistol, top, compares well in size to the Commander .45, center, and Colt Detective Special, bottom.

These handguns have given Americans on a budget peace of mind and good protection. A competent shooter can defend him or herself well with the Bersa pistol.

The Bersa is well made of good material and gives the bearer pride of ownership. Modern production techniques have given the Bersa a smooth operating mechanism that rivals that of any handgun at any price. Bersa pistols are widely used by police and military in Argentina. Argentina, of course, has a good handgun heritage, having given us the FMAP .45, a close copy of the Colt 1911, and the FM High Power 9mm as well.

The .380 ACP

The Bersa .380 ACP pistol features an aluminum frame for weight reduction. As a result, the pistol is lighter than most double-action first shot .380 ACP pistols. While larger than the Kel-Tec type or Ruger LCP pistols, the Bersa has several advantages. It is much easier to shoot well than the diminutive pistols so popular these days. The reputation of the Bersa pistol for reliability is spotless.

This pistol features a double-action first shot mechanism. The initial trigger press both cocks and fires the pistol. After the first shot, the slide cocks the hammer and the pistol is ready for subsequent shots in the single-action mode. The safety lever is slide mounted. The safety may be used as a decocker to drop the hammer or the pistol may be carried safety on. If carried in a proper holster there is no reason the Bersa could not be carried safety off.

The manual of arms is as follows:

  • Load
  • Decock
  • Draw
  • Take safety off if the safety is deployed
  • Fire

Many working people simply cannot afford $500 or more for a serviceable pistol, but their need for personal defense is real. The Bersa .380 ACP pistol gives them a quality choice. Accuracy can make up for power; the reverse is seldom true. The Bersa is a very accurate handgun. While the double-action only polymer frame pistols—which often lack usable sights—produces patterns at 10 yards, the Bersa is quite accurate well past 15 yards. As an example, I recently tested a number of loads in a Bersa .380 I keep on hand for reference. A compact pistol, with a fixed barrel, is often very accurate. My results follow.

Bersa .380 ACP Accuracy

Five-shot groups

75-foot groups measured in inches

Ammunition Group
Winchester USA FMJ 3.0 inches
Winchester 95-grain SXT JHP 2.5 inches
Winchester 95-grain Silvertip 2.75 inches
CCI Blazer 95-grain FMJ 2.65 inches
Speer Gold Dot JHP 3.25 inches

The Bersa is obviously not only accurate enough for personal defense, but for all around recreational shooting, taking out a reptile or even for putting food in the pot if need be.

The Bersa Thunder Pro

The Bersa Thunder in black with a stainless steel slider, muzzle pointed tot he right on a mottled blue/white background.
An advantage of the Bersa Thunder pistol seldom found on handguns this size, is the fully-ambidextrous controls.

The Bersa Thunder pistols have been around for well over a decade. Offered in full size, and compact versions in 9mm, .40 and .45, these pistols feature a double-action first shot and decocker safety. My favorite example is an Ultra Compact .45 version with stainless slide. The pistol features well-made polymer grips, external extractor and a loaded round indicator.

The trigger breaks smoothly at 14 pounds in double-action mode. The single-action trigger broke cleanly at about 6 pounds with modest backlash. The sights are well designed for personal defense.

The pistol features a different safety mechanism than the smaller pistol. I like this innovative feature very much. The safety is ideally located on the frame for rapid manipulation. By pressing the safety downwards, it acts as a decocker. The safety activates in the on position when the safety is up. Pressing downward takes the pistol off safe. This is the ideal safety for those wishing to deploy a double-action first shot pistol. Unlike slide mounted safety levers, this safety is very fast to use.

The Bersa features a short grip housing, double-column magazine that holds 7 rounds giving the pistol an 8-round capacity. The pistol sets well in the hand and fits most hands well including several of our female raters. In firing the pistol, recoil was not unpleasant despite its light weight of 27 ounces.

Most of the loads I fired in this pistol have been 230-grain standard pressure loads. The Bersa .45 rang the bell with these loads, producing good results on the steel gong at 50 feet. During the test program, the Bersa .45 fed, chambered fired and ejected with every load tested including a number of wide mouth hollow point loads. The pistol is omnivorous feeding anything I cared to stuff in the magazine. The Bersa is fast into action, and I was able to get good hits using the smooth double-action first shot trigger. At a long 20 yards, the Bersa proved accurate enough for a compact .45 caliber pistol.

25-yard groups, Bersa .45

 

Ammunition Group
Winchester 185-grain Silvertip 4.0 inches
Winchester 230-grain PDX 1 JHP 2.85 inches
Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ 3.5 inches
Speer 230-grain Gold Dot Short Barrel 3.2 inches

 

Woman in a gray plaid shirt and blond hair with pink ear protection shoots the Bersa .380 ACP into a brown hilly area
Susan Freeman is using the Bersa .380 ACP in rapid fire.

If you are looking for a handgun less expensive than the SIG or Heckler or Koch and you have not gotten on the polymer frame boat, the Bersa pistols have much to recommend. They get a clean bill of health and a hearty recommendation.

Have you shot one of the Bersa handguns? What did you think about it? Share your experiences with us in the comment section.

[bob]

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (34)

  1. I own two thunder 380s, an older style I bought used and a new style I bought new because I was so happy with the first one. Only problem I’ve encountered is that the newer one can be fussy about European ammo but loves American ammo.

  2. I purchased a Bersa Thunder .380 on March 24th of 2017. It is already at a gunsmith for two reasons. First is: the barrel. On the backside of the barrel there is a dimple right on the bushing and also a burr in the same place. The other problem I saw after shooting 50 rounds at the range is that the slide is sticking out past the frame in the back. Looks to me that it is bad milling at the factory. One other thing bothers me is that when I called the gunsmith and told him of the problems I was seeing in the pistol his answer to me was that I had caused the damage myself!? He has not seen the pistol so how in the heck can he say that? Has anyone else had this problem with their Bersa .380?

  3. Just tried out my new Bersa Thunder 380 today. Very impressed with it. Easy to shoot, is comfortable to hold and is accurate. I highly recommend it as a personal carry.

  4. I have owned the Bersa Thunder .380 Plus for 6 months now. I really, really enjoy shooting this gun. Extremely accurate up to 50 feet, holds 15+1 cartridge , and a joy to shoot. My only gripe, if you will, is the fact that the ammunition is rather spendy. For regular practice shooting, I tend to use my Sig Sauer 1911-22 because rimfire ammo is so inexpensive in comparison to .380 ammo. But oh my, I do <3 my Bersa!

  5. I live down in Argentina and that is one of the reasons I decided to ”buy local” – I went for the Bersa Thunder Pro 9mm HC or full size (17 round mag). I have to say that so far I love it. I put 200 rounds of cheap practice ammo through it the first day at the range and had only one stoppage and that with a round that was so obviously deformed/faulty nothing would have been able to handle it any better than the Bersa. Accuracy was superb. Off to shoot it again soon (tomorrow) but so far for home defence and range practice etc. this gun is extremely good value for money and I cannot recommend it highly enough…

  6. In our family, we have 4 Thunder Pro UC 9mm. We all love them. They are safe, dependable, and Very easy to break down and maintain. The only 2 problems that we have are (1) We can’t keep enough ammo on hand, and (2) All 4 of them shoot 4 inches low at 25 yards. My wife only has one hand and is very small yet has no problem with handling it on the range, break down, cleaning or reassembly! I Have Bear paws for hands and it still fits me perfectly! I would recomend Bersa firearms to anyone!

  7. I bought my first Bersa .380 12 years ago for $200. I was just out of the Army and it was all I could afford. I loved the gun. Carried it as m CCDW for 10 years. I shot a lot of ammo through it and can only remember two times that I had complications. The first was going through a box of very cheap Tulla. (Never do that again). The second was with an old malfunctioning mag. The most impressive part for me was its accuracy and durability. Gun was in a flood and spent 3 days under water. Cleaned it up and used it for quite some time after that. I put the lil .380 through a lot and it kept on plinking rounds out. Sold it for $60 more than I had in it just a few months ago. Used the money towards another Bersa. Went .40UC Pro. Love it as much as the .380

  8. I want a Bersa .380 in the Combat Model. I usually carry a Taurus .380, but I am going to purchase this weapon whenever they re-appear at Academy. When I tried the functions at the store, I was impressed. $350.00 is a little pricey for a .380, but I’ll pick it up anayway.

  9. I own and shoot two Bersa pistols, a Thunder .380 which I got back in 2002, and a Thunder 9 which I got back in 2008. I love them both. The .380 is a great concealed carry pistol when armed with the 9 round extended mag and JHP’s. The 9mm is a great open carry weapon with 17 round mag. It is my first line of defense at home as well, residing on my lamp stand next to the bed and loaded with Remington JHP loads.

    Both weapons are very accurate, easy to use, break down nicely to clean, and look sharp. I did have a bit of a job finding the right brand of ammo to feed them consistently but when I found it I haven’t had a single failure to feed.

    The guns are well worth every penny spent. They are a joy to shoot and I trust them with my life and the lives of my family.

  10. Like my 380 Thunder fine. Easy to shoot, accurate, break down and clean. Big problem – decocker takes two hands to decock. Seems this a common problem. I expected better. Interesting that nobody above mentioned this problem.

  11. 2 years ago I began looking for a lightweight carry gun in 9mm. I have large hands and could never feel comfortable with any of the “two finger only” grips that are on the majority of the 9mm carry guns. I really thought that a S&W Shield would fill the need but after chasing one for a year I gave up. I found the Bersa BP9CC and it just felt right. Comfortable in the hand, three finger grip without a mag extension, light weight, slim, 8 rounds, two magazines, and priced at $375.00. On the initial trip to the range it shot great, over 100 rounds that day without a single failure. It comes up on target rapidly and the combination of Sig and Glock sights work really well. The trigger pull on mine is 3.8 lbs and the reset is short and tactile. Magazine release could stand to be a little lighter. For me it shoots point of aim point of impact, all I do is cover the spot with the front sight and squeeze the trigger. Took my daughter shooting and she preferred the Bersa over my S&W M&P9 said it just felt more comfortable. I often recommend the BP9CC to women because the feedback I have gotten is positive due to the combination of light weight, reduced felt recoil, slim size. For them it fits a smaller hand like a “full size” gun without the “full size” weight. To date I have shot about 500 rounds mostly FMJ range ammo from all the major manufactures along with Federal Classic BP9 hollow points with only 2 failures to fire, and those were Winchester White box with a light primer strike. I would not hesitate to recommend this handgun to anyone. I would recommend that anyone who does be sure to do a thorough cleaning and in particular an inspection / cleaning of the firing pin channel.

  12. I have a Bersa and really enjoy it. I have had one problem with it and it is going to a Gun Smith back east for hopefully permanent repair in the near future. Suppose to never happen again. The disconnector spring came off the disconnector. Right in the middle of firing for qual. It is under the right hand guard. We can not get Bersas in CA. We can own Firestorms. How are they?

  13. I have owned a Bersa .380 with CT laser for over 3 years now. I have shot over a thousand rounds thru it and have had a misfeed here and there ONLY when using cheap or possibly improper toleranced re-loads. I use as my back up CC or just to leave in the car. I clean and maintain all my handguns each time I take them to the range. A clean gun with good ammo is a reliable gun…..this is true for almost ANY mainstream manufacturer…..

    I can’t say enough good things about this gun for the price. I also own several Sigs and Rugers in this same caliber and although the Sigs are very nice looking guns and shoot amazingly…..for the price you can’t beat a Bersa……the Rugers are nice but have had more feeding issues per 100 rounds shot…..with comparable ammunition as the Bersa. Read all the negative or positive reviews you want. But my experience with the gun has been great.

    You only will truly know if you try it yourself.

  14. I have a Bersa 380 series 95. They were only made for 1 year 1994-95. Better gun than the Bersa thunder. Wish I could find some mags. that held more than 9rds. I carry this gun daily.

  15. I have the Ultra Compact 9mm. I had a used one before and sold it, that was a mistake. I purchased a new one in 9mm double stack, It is perfect, the best trigger pull I have ever used. It is a little heavy for conceal carry, but perfect for the house. All my friends love to shoot it. The price was very good compared to other brands.

  16. I own 4 Bersa pistols and I like them all. The Thunder .380 is a solid, well made handgun. I also own several Glocks, Rugers, and S&W so I have a good point of reference. If you want a good “this is the only gun I own” pistol I am quite comfortable recommending you try several and pick the most powerful in the Bersa line you can handle safely.

  17. I have a Bersa Thunder CC (Concealed Carry) that I have carried for years. I have fired at least a thousand rounds through it. I find that the MagTech 77 gr solid copper hollow points, at 1100 fps function flawlessly and accurately. I am an old school fan of the classic DA/SA operation such as the Walther PPK and this Bersa. Prior to this Bersa I carried a S&W 3913 (Gen 3) making the transition to the Bersa easy. I also have a Walther PPK, but I prefer the Bersa for carry due to its smaller size, it is the size of a PPK/S. Its design, function, mechanical functioning have been every bit equal to the Walther. Like a Walther it is all metal gun with a steel slide, this makes it is a little heavier, but that weight tames the recoil. Even with hot 77 gran SCHP rounds, muzzle rise is very controllable, and follow on shots are rapid and accurate. I have never felt out gunned and believe I can double tap the little pistol in the same time someone else is trying to recover from the recoil of firing a 10 oz. pistol like the Ruger LCP.

  18. My wife and I each have a Bersa Thunder .380 for concealed carry. Function and ease of handling are flawless. They are very easy to maintain and with the barrel that is attached to the receiver it is engineering genius. Light and accurate for a small pistol. I also have a Walther PP but prefer the Bersa.

  19. Bersa Thunder 380: Own 2 – for more than 3 yrs now! Brother ‘ALSO’ bought one about a yr ago. In 380, it surpasses ANYTHING OUT THERE!! Dont know ANYTHING ABOUT other Calibers… Has an indisputable REP in 380!! YES – I’ll STAND BEHIND THAT REMARK. Also had a RUGER LCP. Didnt like: too small; ammo finicky! *** TRUST the Bersa Thunder 380 WITH MY LIFE – only ever jammed with cheap tin stuff. DUHHHH!! Buffalo Bore +P, incl. BARNES TAC-XP, PDX, Hydra-Shok – NEVER…repeat: ‘NEVER’ a prob -thru dozens of boxes over the years. I ‘Honestly’ have no idea what these other geeks are talking about. Also have/carry a GLOCK 26… pit the Bersa Thunder 380 against it ANY DAY -in both reliablity & accuracy! Bersa Thunder 380: BEST KEPT SECRET OUT THERE!!! LIFETIME GUARANTEE -and their service is GREAT!! Sent one in to “custom’ fine-tune. Was expecting to pay, of course… N/C!! And if u call, they’ll send U a UPS pickup slip. … Overall: What the HELL MORE can u ask?!! Wow!
    ** Put a CT LASER on it – and shoot 1 half-dollar-sized ragged hole at 15yds!! MUST be kept clean with a good Super Synthetic (inside/out) like SLIP2000 or WEAPONSHIELD (doesnt like FROGLUBE). See MIDWAY.COM. Heat the metal with a hairdryer b4 u apply. let sit overnite b4 u wipe clean.

    AGain: CANT VOUCH for other Calibers. HAve heard much negativity regarding. But in 380? UNSURPASSED!!! Happy Shooting!!

  20. I’ve had a Bersa Thunder 380 Plus for a few years now. The only thing I have improved on it is bending the bow of the mag catch to prevent an unintended magazine drop; a simple DIY fix. The pistol fires everything .380 ACP I put through it. One of my mags holds 14, not 15 rounds, and getting extras is pricey, but even with the high capacity, the grip isn’t too big and it’s one of my lightest handguns. The trigger, sights, and accuracy are more than good enough for defensive needs. I’m happy with it.

  21. I had a Bersa 380 , I purchased it from a friend who only had it for home defense , may-be he fired 100 to 200 rounds out of it . I took it to a range fired 30 rounds of Federal 230gr FMJ. Then I heard a loud “pop” and looked at it to find the barrel had cracked in half. Bersa found a way not to stand by it. I was told by them ” It’s Not like you bought a SIG ” The last Bersa I will ever buy, And the end to a friendship..

  22. I own a 380 and am very pleased with it even though I haven’t fired it. I purchased it based upon price for personal protection in my home.

  23. I’ve owned my Bersa Thunder 380 for about a year.One of my favorite handguns.Very reliable ,well made gun.I have had no problems what so ever.I would say for the money ,it is an excellent carry gun.

  24. I’ve had my .380 Thunder for nearly a year now and have nothing but good things to say. I shoot it every month, running at least 50 rounds through it. I’ve had only ONE set of feed/ejection issues with it and I’m blaming it on the ammo because I haven’t had it happen before or after that batch. Accuracy? Fantastic. Reliability? Utterly. Almost the perfect carry piece.

  25. I have a Bersa .380 thunder from when they with started selling them here about a week before it was on the cover of guns and ammo as the poor mans PPK and its price doubled. After over 500 rounds of NEW not badly reloaded ammo I have had zero failure to feeds zero jams zero miss fires of any type even when shooting limp wristed as a test, which cant be said for the Ruger P345 I got at the same time which failed to feed about once every 2 or 3 mags. At 50 feet I can shoot a -2 inch group, it is simple to break down clean and maintain (breakdown instructions are in the manual if you can’t figure out how to do it yourself). If you have large hands you may want to get an extended mag for a more comfortable grip, I carry open as long as it is warm out but can easily and comfortably be concealed with little more than a tshirt.

  26. I had the Bersa Thunder Pro HC 9mm. It was fine until it got dirty, when I found that it was impossible to disassemble it. Sold it immediately. I don’t like guns that I can’t maintain myself. Bersa suggested that I send it to a smith for cleaning. I’m not going to spend money to have my gun cleaned. Sticking with the 1911 and Glock.

  27. I have the .380 Thunder, its a nice little handgun, I like it a lot. I’ve only shot about 300 rounds through it and have only had one failure to feed.

  28. I would agree with this for all model except the BP9CC. I tried one of these out and had big problem with failure to feed. Sent it back to for warranty repair, and 6 months later when it finally came back it still had the same problems. Others have tested it as well and found it not acceptable as a defensive handgun until issues are worked out. I do like the 380 and thunder 9 UC models though, they function very well for the price.

  29. Purchased the 380 as well as the BP9cc. Wanted to like them but both but had multiple problems out of the box and after break in. My opinion is that their reliability is no where near that of guns that cost a little more. The problems continued after warranty service and replacement. Maybe I just had two lemons in a row. Never had any similar problems with other guns I own.

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