Reviews

Pink Pistols: Bersa Thunder .380 with Pink Crimson Trace Lasergrips

Crimson Trace’s grip is soft, smooth and comfortable.

Before shooting an unfamiliar gun model, I read reviews to get a general idea of what problems I may encounter while shooting it. Generally, this means I get a preconceived notion of what the gun is going to be like. Sometimes the reviews are spot on and other times I find reviews to be really off the mark. Often, guns surprise me. Everyone raved about the S&W Shield, but I personally don’t like it. Sometimes I think I am going to hate a gun, but end up falling for it. As is the case in the Bersa Thunder .380.

The reviews on the Bersa were mixed. Many said it was a cheap gun, malfunctioned, and heavy with a bad trigger. Other reviews mentioned zero malfunctions, reliability and a great grip. However, all reviewers mentioned the accuracy of the Bersa Thunder .380 and I agree. The Bersa Thunder .380 is by far the most accurate gun I have reviewed in a long time. I achieved less than three-inch groups from 20 feet consistently.

At first, I hated the little guy—the slide-mounted decocking lever and thumb safety threw me off. With the thumb safety on, the Bersa Thunder .380 still allows for a full trigger pull. (Red means fire, Suzanne. Duh.) After realizing my operator error, we were off and running—sort of. I only got through one magazine without a malfunction.

The Bersa Thunder .380 holds seven rounds, which goes fast, especially since follow-up shots were right on spot. The gun’s 20-ounce weight and heavier alloy frame make this gun’s recoil way more than manageable. The fixed-barrel design also helps minimize recoil. My friend purchased this particular .380 for concealed carry, so to see if the gun could run through the paces reliably, I shot through each magazine quickly. I had three magazines with me—two Bersa factory magazines and one ProMag.

Crimson Trace’s grip is soft, smooth and comfortable.
Crimson Trace’s grip is soft, smooth and comfortable.

Shooting Winchester white box 95-grain full metal jacket .380 target rounds, there was only one time I did not have a stovepipe malfunction. Surprisingly, the only magazine that ran without issues was the ProMag and it only did it once. During this particular range visit, I preferred the ProMag. The mag spring was weaker, making the magazine quicker and easier on the thumbs to load. Not to mention the one and only time I did not get a jam was using the ProMag. Since I had no other types of ammunition to compare, I will not make a conclusive statement whether or not the gun’s malfunctions were because of manufacturing or ammo.

Crimson Trace’s instinctive activation laser grip only activated 20 percent of the time, but it didn’t matter. Lasers are a personal preference, and personally, I don’t prefer them. I was more concerned with the Thunder’s highly visible white dot front sight. It is important to note here the particular Bersa I was shooting had upgraded sights from Bersa. The first time my friend shot the gun, the front sight fell off and was lost at the range. Bersa gladly and apologetically replaced the lost sight quickly. The 3-dot sighting system is bright and aided a quick target acquisition.

Anyway, Crimson Trace’s pink grip is soft, smooth and comfortable. The extended finger rest on the magazine allowed a full and firm two-handed grip around the pistol.

I read many reviews complaining about the Bersa Thunder .380 trigger. The gun fires single- and double-action. The first initial shot may feel like it takes a long time, but it did not take me long to find the trigger’s breaking point and the trigger reset was helpful. Even though the Bersa has a heavy double-action trigger pull, I’ve encountered worse.

The 3-dot sighting system is bright and easily goes on target quickly.
The 3-dot sighting system is bright and easily goes on target quickly.

The placement of the controls on any gun is extremely important to me. I like being able to easily operate the safety and magazine release one-handed. Controls on the Bersa Thunder .380 include thumb safety, a slide lock, exposed hammer, and magazine release button. Bythe end of my range session, I was getting used to the stiff thumb safety—flip up to fire. However, I had to twist the gun quite a bit and use both hands to release the magazine. Since the point of this range trip was to help a friend break in this particular pistol, I concentrated more on the function of the gun rather than speed of reloads.

The owner of the Bersa finds the slide to be stiff. However, I didn’t have a problem with it. She trains and carries a revolver, so some semi-automatics are problematic for her. You can solve this issue by working the slide at home repeatedly to get used to the action.

The more ammo I started quickly going through, the more I wanted to run this pink-gripped pistol. It is a pleasure to shoot and helped me regain my confidence in being a competent shooter. I can’t boast about its accuracy enough. As far as reliability is concerned only time will tell. This particular Bersa Thunder .380 at the time I had shot it had only about 100 rounds through it. It was successfully used to pass a concealed carry course, but passed over as a concealed carry gun for the Charter Arms Pink Lady revolver due to the Bersa’s heavier weight. As it stands, would I recommend the Bersa Thunder as your number one concealed carry gun? Probably not, but I would be more than happy to take this accurately pink number off my friend’s hands.

Pros: Accuracy, price, low recoil, pleasurable to shoot, and concealability

Cons: magazine capacity, reliability, placement of magazine release, and awkward safety

Specifications and Features

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 7 rounds
Barrel: 3.5”
Trigger: Double/single-action
Grips: Pink Crimson Trace lasergrip
Safety: Thumb safety and integral locking system
Sights: 3 dot sights
Construction: Alloy frame and steel slide
Finish: Black
Length: 6.6”
Height: 4.9”
Width: 1.3”
Weight: 20 ounces

Do you own a Bersa Thunder .380? Have you had better luck running ammo through it? Tell us which kind in the comment section.

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Comments (15)

  1. I have a Bersa 380 and it is wonderful to shoot. The only problems I have are with the FMJ flat nosed target loads. They occasionally stove piped, but all the hollow point and FMJ round nosed bullets cycled through without a problem wether firing fast or slow.

  2. I bought my Bersa Thunder .380 used, so I don’t know how many rounds have been through it. Added Crimson Trace laser grips. No malfunctions in 200 rounds. I love the weight, feel and accuracy. I emailed Eagle Imports with the serial number for the date of manufacture and asked if it might have problems (there was a time when Bersas had FTF and FTE problems). They replied with 2006 and said that there were no problems with that year. I love this pistol!

  3. I bought a new Bersa 380 in early 2011 because I liked the size for concealed carry, and the grip was very good for my hand. I later added the Crimson Trace red laser grip, and found it made the pistol twice as much fun to shoot at the range. Transitioning from iron sight to the laser was no problem at all, and I feel I pay more attention to the target now. I feel my accuracy has improved just a bit. Comparing it to my Glock with under barrel laser would be unfair, since the Glock laser is green, and shows up great at an outdoor range in daytime while the red laser does not. My MAIN POINT here is to say I have NEVER had any failure by the Bersa to operate flawlessly, with NEVER a misfire or hang or (etc) from DAY 1. (I have never fired the Winchester rounds through it, so maybe that is the problem. I have fired just about every other brand through it.)

  4. I bought a Bersa Thunder 380 with Crimson Trace Grips a little less than a year ago. Until that time I shot lights out with a long gun but couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a handgun. I bought the Bersa because it felt good in my hand. I love this little pop gun. It is lights out accurate. I can hit center mass at 25 yards consistantly and punch out the black at 11 yards or less. Now that is what you want a concealed handgun to do. I had the same feed problems when the gun was new but it appears to have been the tight spring in the magazines because I have put over 1,000 rounds through it and the problem has not re-occured. It seems that the problem occurs when you have a full magazine and one in the chamber and the gun is new and stiff. I like the laser sights becausee there are times that you can’t take a proper shooting stance and they make shooting off balance much more accurate. Hope this helps and stay safe.

  5. I bought my Bersa in mid-late 80’s. I considered it my poor mans Bond gun. My only thoughts on it was the triggers is was very strong and pulling it deters accuracy. A smith fixed that problem. Getting mags are a problem and there isn’t one with multi-rounds available in this old style. However,8 rds is probably enough in a backup weapon.
    Overall,I have to say I am very satisfied with the Bersa and it makes a great conceal weapon. However, on the street I think a weapon with more knock down power is better with the Bersa 380 as a backup. Glock 23/.40 with laser rod. Getting used to that odd trigger was a bit much for me, but once you get it…..
    I have several older mdl. .45’s but they get very heavy unless carried in shoulder holster. I am not in a position that I need to carry in a shoulder holster. My Glk .40 fits the purpose of carry/conceal much better, for me.
    I appreciate all the input on the Bersa.

  6. While I admit that I do see value in the .380 round, when it comes to an actual house gun I would certainly want something bigger/more powerful.

  7. I forgot the Laser Grips. I’m not much of a laser follower as I believe that laser sights slow down your target lock because your looking for the “dot” and not looking for or at the target. I have heard others comment on the reliability of the grips and the problem of actuating them. At the distance that a pocket pistol is effective I would further suggest that a laser is of little use. The .380 caliber is somewhat questionable as noted above in other comments and I will not add to those here. I agree with those comments and would suggest at least the 9 mm . . .but . . .thats a personal choice. If one learns to shoot a hand weapon correctly one should not need a laser. Instinctive shooting is easy to learn, and a simple skill to maintain. One should forget the grips until one is able to acquire the target and fire the weapon, hit center mass, and follow up with a second instinctive center mass shot and be looking at that time for the next threat. Learn to MOVE after he second shot to change your situational perspective and physical position but keep your first target in site until it can be confirmed as neutralized and no longer a threat. Sorry, I digress, my point is learn the fundamentals FIRST, then if you like get. Laser. Pete sends . . .

  8. Hey Suzanne,
    Good post! I’m thinking that in some manner that buying a weapon is like buying an in home sound system. It’s not so much how much it coast or who the manufacture is BUT how that system ACTUALLY sounds to the buyers ears. ie; a $1000 system may sound lousy and a $200 system might sound great. It’s all about the end user . . . .
    As to the platform your discussing in your post. It’s just a thought but you may wish to wait for a fair breaking period of say 500 rounds or so before making a thumbs up or down call on it. Some platforms require this period to “smooth out” a bit and get rid of the “rough edges” both in reality and metaphorically speaking. These early “run in” problems concerning some manufactures platforms is common and seem to be found across a spectrum of MSRP. Even high end, well known high cost manufactures produce some lines that require substantial “run in” before they operate/function smoothly and to the buyers satisfaction. Sometimes, ten minutes in the hands of a good gunsmith, a set if diamond files, and a small buffing wheel can change the ugly duckling into the baby swan! Don’t loose faith in just 50 rounds! Spend some time and learn its inner workings, use the Mk.1 Eyeball and Fingertip personal survey equipment to find any rough areas, burrs, sticky metal to metal patches and the like. You will be amazed at the how a bit of TLC will change the “like-a-biliary” of an out- of- the- box- not- performing- so- good” platform! Any way, just a personal observation. This dosnt work all the time but more often than not will make a noticeable improvement!!

  9. To Marcus:
    I am sure that you are right about the test of the military rounds to determine the energy limit of the .45 ACP, etc. was 230 gr ball ammo at about 850 fps because of the Geneva Convention and its prohibition of expanding ammo.
    And, I was wrong on the .380 ballistics. I just checked Ballistic101.com. It showed the FMJ at just under 200 ft/lbs and the +P ammo got up to 285 ft/lbs. So, instead of 1/3 of the minimum energy, it is closer to 1/2 or slightly more than 1/2 of the minimum energy the DOD felt was required for a reliable defensive round and the +P was almost 3/4 of the minimum.
    I know that the energies are measured at the muzzle and not even at a distance of 7 yards. However, I doubt that there is much, or only an insignificant loss of energy at the usual “fight” distance.
    I know that muzzle energy alone is not the be all and end all of ballistics yet it is definitely one factor and can be used as a basis to compare the effectiveness of different cartridges. Bullet composition, weight and shape are all factors to consider. But many of the .380 rounds are less than 100 grains. Compare that to the 230 of the .45 ACP, or the 125 of the 9 mm (moving faster), or 158 gr of the .38 special. It is a little small and rather light to take an adult attacker off his feet, given the energy, bullet size etc. of the round. Especially if the attacker is high on adrenalin or something like meth.
    I know many people believe in a “magic bullet” that transforms a diminutive cartridge into a real whizz bang life saver. I am not of that school. I think Bryce Towsley, who I believe is an acknowledged expert on such matters, may have said it best: “I like any defensive pistol round that begins with a 4.” I, personally, agree.

  10. My first Bersa Thunder ended up going to my wife BEFORE I could even get into my ankle holster, my second one hung around for a couple years until a co-worker talked me out of that and a shoulder holster (for $260.00 mind you) but by then I had already found a Bersa Thunder plus (15 rounds, yeehaa) for three hundred and since only the grip size is larger, which I love btw, it fits the the same ankle, belt and other shoulder holsters I already had.
    and to Owen and Marcus – todays .380 ammo is quite capable of knocking a bad guy down, when you figure a nine mil is probably less than this much [] longer than a .380 I certainly don’t see that as 1/3 the power, to be truthful tho my Bersa is my main house gun but when I’m out and about it’s back up to my M&P .40

  11. I bet the 1/3 min. energy value is based on plain-Jane ball ammo. A good personal protection round would perhaps do a little to a lot better.

  12. My thought on a .380, a .32, a .22 (LR or Mag) or a .25 is that they dadgum well better be accurate. If you cannot shoot out both of your attacker’s eyes, you are likely in trouble. If I recall directly, a .380 is about 1/3 of the minimum energy the Dept. of Defense thought was the minimum for a Personal Defense Weapon. Not even half, just 1/3. So, anyone depending on a .380 better have an accurate gun and be able to shoot it very well. Or, get a club.

    Of course, scientific studies on energy and penetration done by the government may all be wrong. Besides, it will make a loud noise. Maybe someone hearing the noise will come to help.

  13. A few years ago I bought a Bersa .380 for my wife and she came to hate it. Too many buttons and levers, as well as unfriendly “sharp” edges. It also punished her strong hand at the range. I traded it for a .410 shotgun and bought a Ruger SP101 wheel gun which is her daily carry gun and she loves to shoot it.

    Also, several gunsmiths and experts recommend against using Remington white box ammo. Not only can it cause the malfunctions described in the article, it also leaves lots of copper “trash” behind in the gun. I’ve used it in my Glock and couldn’t believe the amount of copper particles in the gun after range visits.

  14. I have two .380 Bersas, an older all steel frame model and one of the alloy frame ones. They are wonderful, accurate guns (they are basically Walther copies). The older all steel one, because it is slightly heavier, is amazingly/scary accurate. While I sincerely love the fact that more women are getting into gun sports (I have done my bit by teaching my wife and daughter to shoot, though more work is needed there), I think “pink guns” are obscenely ugly, but if some women love them by all means go for it.

    There is a lot to be said for the fixed barrel, blow-back design (I’m one of those odd ones who thinks accuracy is everything).

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