Concealed Carry

Review: Bersa Thunder Pistols

Bersa Thunder .380 Pistol with Ammunition

When you look at the handguns available for personal defense, it is difficult to find a high-quality pistol for less than $500. Often, too much compromise has been made and too many corners cut.

An exception to the rule in inexpensive handguns is the Bersa Thunder series of firearms. These pistols are manufactured in Argentina, and see a lot of institutional and military use in South America.

They are designed to sell at an affordable price, but the quality of manufacture is high. The finish may not be presentation grade, but the pistols are reliable and keep working after long, hard use.

These pistols are worth their price and perhaps a little more. I owned one of the first Bersa Thunder .380 ACP pistols beginning in 1995, and good service has followed.

The Bersa .380 ACP

The Bersa .380 ACP pistol features an aluminum frame for light weight. 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 that are 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 and may be used as a decocker to drop the hammer, or the pistol may be carried with the 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:

  1. Load
  2. Decock
  3. Draw
  4. Safety Off (if applicable)
  5. Fire
Bersa Thunder .380
This is the author’s well-worn Bersa .380 ACP

Many working people simply cannot afford $500 or more for a serviceable pistol, but their need for personal defense is real. The Bersa Thunder .380 ACP pistols give them a quality choice.

Accuracy can make up for power, the reverse is seldom true. 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.

Using the long but smooth double-action first shot, it isn’t difficult to get a center hit on a man-sized target out to ten yards. After the slide recoils and cocks the hammer, the pistol is fired in single-action fire.

Slow-fire accuracy is outstanding. I have used the Hornady Critical Defense extensively in this handgun. Accuracy is good with five-shot groups of less than three inches at 25 yards — outstanding for a small pistol.

Most FMJ loads average about four inches. The Remington 102-grain Golden Saber is another good choice, heavy for the caliber and with good penetration.

If you rely on the .380 ACP for defense, remember that accuracy can make up for power but the reverse is seldom true. Use a loading with good penetration.

The lightweight bullets that fly apart in a few inches of water or gelatin may prove worthless for personal defense.

This pistol is accurate enough for personal defense. The fixed barrel offers good accuracy potential and the Bersa pistol isn’t difficult to control with fast back-up shots.

A note on the pistol’s heritage. The Bersa is a double-action first-shot .380 ACP, but it owes little to nothing to the Walther PPK, despite misinformed gun scribes.

The pistol is more similar to the Beretta series of pistols. That is a good thing as the Beretta is famously smoother and more accurate than the Walther. The Bersa may stand on its own merits.

It is not only a good gun for the money, but it is also my top pick if I were to choose a double-action first shot .380 ACP pistol.

Bersa Pistol In Holster
A quality inside-the-waistband holster such as this Gold Star, allows the Bersa to be concealed with minimal effort.

Other Bersa Thunder Pistols

Bersa also offers the Thunder Pro line in 9mm Luger, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. I like these pistols a lot. They don’t owe much to any other design, and they are workmanlike, reliable handguns.

The action is smooth, very smooth, surprisingly so. The pistol features a different safety mechanism than the smaller pistol. This is an innovation I like very much.

The safety is ideally located on the frame for rapid manipulation. By pressing the safety downwards, it also acts as a decocker. The safety is activated 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 Thunder .45 ACP features a short grip housing a double-column magazine that holds seven rounds, giving the pistol an eight-round capacity.

The pistol sets well in the hand and fits most hands well, including several of my female family members. In firing, the pistol recoil was not unpleasant, despite its light weight of 27 ounces.

I have also tested a rather roughly used older 9mm Luger Bersa a friend picked up at a pawn shop. Despite evidently riding in the floor of a truck or trailer for a decade, the piece is reliable and serves a real purpose.

Bersa .45 ACP Pistol
The Bersa .45 is a good choice for all-around personal defense.

If you are looking for a handgun less expensive than the SIG or GLOCK and 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 ever shot a Bersa pistol? What did you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

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 (43)

  1. I just purchased a Bersa Thunder 380 Plus (my first Bersa pistol) and could not be happier. I have been an instructor for 20+ years and have been asked repeatedly for a recommendation from my students for a carry piece. Normally I would steer them towards a Sig in .380 (or a Smith & Wesson revolver in .38 /.357 for those so inclined) but now I can confidently recommend the Bersa.

  2. I bought a bag of parts in a ziplock bag for $80. When it was put back together it was a Bersa Thunder. It has never jammed, misfired or had any problems what-so-ever. The trigger pull is kind of heavy but I trust it to fire and function 100% every time. That is more than can be said for pistols costing five to 10 times as much.

  3. I took my Mini FireStorm (communist/California 10-round version of the Bersa Thunder 9 Ultra Compact Pro) to Front Sight in Nevada for four days of training. It went up against 30+ Glocks, Colts, Kimbers, etc. in the same class and performed as good or better than any of them for 1/2 or less of the cost. I think I had only 2 malfunctions in the four days of 550 rounds without cleaning it once. The decocker is fantastic, and the double-action trigger better than guns triple the price. I liked it so much after that, I went out and bought a second one (13-round version Bersa)! Oh yeah, we also own three Bersa Thuner 380. I highly recommend the Bersa. The next one I want is the full-sized military version.

  4. I’ve owned 4 thunder .380s over years I LOVE these little guns. First one I got I was hurting for money and sold a hand gun to a relative under the implication I can buy it back later. He ended up selling it once I found this out I decided to get a cheapo “throw away” gun. This “throw away” was a Bersa. After researching the gun I learned of their reputation. After a few months I was in love.

    As a person who’s constantly buying selling and trading every time I’ve gotten rid of a bersa I’ve regretted it. The one I currently have has quite working and this is the first instance where I’ve seen a bersa not work. The spring that allows the trigger to return forward has broke or come undone I’m not sure which.

  5. The Bersa Thunder .380 has by far the best trigger of any compact pistol I have ever shot. Crisp, smooth, no creep and always spot on. I own 7 compact carry pistols from Sig to Colt and this little jewel is always my go to. So much so that I purchased a second. It is just a good as the first. I strongly recommend this little weapon.

  6. I’ve owned the Bersa Thunder .380 for years and would put it up against any other .380 on the market. The only reason it isn’t as popular as the polymer frames is the same reason for all of those insufferable Alabama, Yankees, and Cowboy fans. Sure, they’re on to something, but not a single damn one of them can tell you why. They’re just happy to be on the bandwagon.

  7. I liked my Thunder 380 so much that I also bought the Plus model, which holds 15 rounds. The Plus is a double stack and the increased grip girth makes for extremely stable one handed control. The downside of that is that there is more of an imprint than the standard.

    My standard Thunder 380 came with the CTC laser, which I have to say is an exceptional fit and has operated flawlessly. Unfortunately, CTC has no plans to make one for the Plus.

    This has been my EDC for eight years.

  8. I own a bersa thunder double stack as a carry pistol. I use gold dot hollow points and love this little gun. I also have a bersa pro thunder .40,4inch service model. Both guns have been my carry guns at one time. My wife Carry’s a bersa firestorm. We love all three of these bersa models and recommend them highly.

  9. I owned a Bersa Thunder 9mm for over 10 years. I found it a great size to carry and never once had any operational issues. It is an extremely reliable weapon. I couldn’t fire more than 50 rounds comfortably simply because of the shape of the trigger, it is too curved for me. I now prefer my XDM’s and my Ruger SR1911. Bersa is a great value and quality weapon; if it fits, shoot it and enjoy it.

  10. I see comments and articles for the Bersa Thunder, but not the Mini 40 Firestorm. I have one and it is a great conceal carry weapon and I have not had any issues on the range. Anyone have thoughts on the Mini 40?

  11. Have noticed in reviews of the Bersa products, mainly the Thunder .380, that almost never is the Thunder Plus mentioned.Have had the double stack for several years with never a problem. Is the model discontinued, or not available anymore. Thanks

  12. I’ve owned a Bersa Thunder .380 for a long time and out of all the guns I have and use this gun ranks right up there with them. It’s not one of the easiest guns to conceal carry but as far as shooting and reliability, it’s right there, I paid $250.00 for mine years ago and it’s been worth every penny of it…

  13. I’ve owned my Bersa Thunder for almost 30 years. I loved the safety on it so much and trusted its reliably to such a point that when my mother at 83 years of age finally decided she needed protection I gave mine to her and she had it by her bedside till she passed a few years ago. I now proudly carry it on light days just for fun.
    Great Gun!!

  14. I have owned my Bersa for close to 20 years and it is a workhorse..

    You didnt mention one very cool thing about the safety. There is a middle position between fire and safe. If you put the safety in this position, you actually don’t need to hit the safety at all to go to fire position. Squeeze the trigger once and the safety moves to fire, squeeze the trigger again and you are shooting. This can be practiced so it is actually faster than hitting the safety.

  15. I have 2 Bersas; TPR9, TPR9C. I have been trying to get a Thunder 380 CC for months and still haven’t found one. I LOVE my TPRs, they are accurate, little recoil, and with 17 round mags, lots of firepower. The only complaint, is trying to find a rigid, class 2 retention holster. I’ve got soft sided holsters that kind of work. Let me know when and where I can get a 380CC, please?

  16. I have a .380 thunder and it is an excellent firearm. For its price, it has features (that work well) usually found only in more expensive models. It is accurate and easy to shoot. The only issue I’ve had with my Bersa is Sellier and Beloit Browning 9mm court (.380) ammunition. It does not eject properly, and causes the pistol to jam. I have not found any other ammo that does this. This is a repetitive issue, and I no longer fire the S&B ammo in my Bersa Thunder .380.

  17. Picked up a really pretty Bersa Thunder .45. Great price. Well made. Absolutely hated it. The single-double was completely un-nerving. accidently double tapped the ceiling of the range (no damage as it hit a baffle) and immediately went out and sold it. In Bersa’s defense, it sucked no more than the M9 and M9A1 with the single double. Hate those too even though I qualified with them. Not a 1911 luddite either. I have and carry SA 1911’s, Ruger and M&P striker fired weapons and for the life of me, can not understand how anyone can think that having different trigger pulls from shot to shot is a good idea.

  18. I like the Bersa 380. My wife and daughter both shoot it quite well and they’re somewhat recoil sensitive. I carry a 1911 5″ .45, but I really like the Bersa 380. I have thought about the 9 mil, but I’m no fan of that caliber or the 40.

  19. I have the compact version, 380CC. Everything in this article is consistent with my experience with the CC. I have never had a failure of any type. No failure to feed, to fire, or to eject. It has been flawless.
    I do have one complaint. Even for a very small pocket gun, the sights are too small. Think LCP but worse. Useless in any thing other than bright light with time to obtain sight acquisition. I painted mine white, helping some, but ridiculous for a handgun with so much going for it to be deficient in this area.

  20. I have had a Thunder 380 for a number of years now and have had only a couple of problems and those were ammo related. I am a smaller framed person and have small hands. The Thunder 380 is a perfect fit for my hands and reach. I also like the Thunder 380 Plus a lot, but with its double-stack mag, it was designed for much larger hands. It seems that many pistol Mfgs. don’t take smaller people’s hands into consideration when designing the grip size and trigger reach. I have tried many different types and loads of .380 ammo and the only failures I have had had were with Russian steel-cased ammo. The Thunder 380 is my favorite pistol if I am wearing loose-fitting clothing for concealment. If wearing tighter fitting clothing, I prefer my little Taurus TCP-738 (sorry GRUMPY 49). It hides fantastically well in a well-made leather ” pancake” holster. It has also fired several thousand rounds with now failures or feed problems!

  21. isn’t the Bersa 380 more of a copy of the CZ-83 ?
    I’ve had a CZ for many years, it’s always accurate & reliable.
    CZ uses a steel frame .making it perhaps one of the heaviest 380’s on the market.

  22. Bought a Bersa .380 some 30 years ago, it broke in less than a hundred rounds. I thought they were junk for many years. I now own a Bersa .380 CC, which has turned out to be a fine weapon. I’ve put north of 1000 rounds through, never had a failure. Eats anything I want to throw at it. Much more accurate than comparable .380’s.

  23. Have the Thunder in .380, 9, and 45. The 9 and 45 are comfortable to hold and shoot and are scary accurate. Haven’t bonded with the .380

  24. I love my “mouse gun” and can shoot the gonads off a gnat at 10 yards. With Hornady 90GR FTX I feel confident that I can take care of any problem that comes up. It all depends on where you put ’em down range. Looking forward to getting a new Bersa with larger magazine capacity when the panic dies down.

  25. I’ve dealt with Bersas extensively in the 90’s and early 00’s and I’m not a fan much. The trigger is atrocious in the thunder compared to better comparable brands.
    Bersas are reliable and that’s a great point I can’t deny. They can be fed anything and the print is subtle.
    I’m just a stickler for good feeling in hand firearms that have an excellent trigger. I find very few strikerfire pistols possess such but hammer fire pistols seem to be superior in my book exception being the Bersa Thunder.
    Ton of take up first round but an audible crisp break and reset so it’s a mixed bag.
    The Walther variant is superior in every way but it’s several hundred more dollars. Like $800 which is ridiculous so I can see why people go for the knockoff.
    The design is classic and perfect for cc.
    I’m a Sig and Colt guy and I prefer the p238 and Mustang over the Bersa.
    Note did not have any failures what so ever but accuracy (spite the conclusion above) isn’t great.
    I’ve researched Bersa as a company and found many improvements have been made over the decades just like Taurus inc. and that has to be considered when deciding on buying one.

  26. I’ve owned one of the original Bersa .380, I believe the model was the either the 383 or the 83, from the early 90’S, this was their initial entry with the all steel frame and wooden grips, at the same time I also owned a Walther PPK/s in .380/9mm Kurtz and the Bersa hands down was not only better to shoot, but as listed in the article, was much more accurate than my much more expensive Walther. I believe their claim at the time was “pin point accuracy” and they were not wrong. unfortunately I gave tai to a friend that needed personal protection, and he bragged about how accurate it was. I do own one of their BP9cc in 9mm, with the polymer frame and it as accurate as my old Bersa .380, very affordable, reliable, slim and light weight for everyday carry and in 9mm which makes it even better. IMHO very under rated.

  27. I recently got a good buy on a PPK .22. Don’t buy one. The trigger is HORRIBLE. I am a gunsmith and I don’t see an easy fix. It’s just not worth it. 12 pound trigger!

  28. Be sure to check the fit in your hand and shoot the Bersa before buying if possible. The reach to the double action trigger is longer than it looks, which may cause the shooter to pull the first shot left or right. Otherwise, it’s a reliable, high quality pistol that is an excellent value.

  29. I have a Bersa Thunder and a Walther PPKS and I can confirm that the Bersa is a slicker, more comfortable and accurate gun to shoot. I love the Walther, it’s a beautiful gun and fits great in the hand, but it would take team of oxen to pull the trigger in double action, and the single action is gritty and not very smooth. The Bersa is just an easier gun to shoot, which contributes to better accuracy. For the money it’s great gun.

  30. I own 3 Bersa pistols. A Thunder 380, a Thunder 9 pro XT, and a BP 380 CC, All have proven to be very accurate and reliable. I am not a volume shooter so I can’t speak to the longevity but I have no reason to doubt they will be around and function long after I am not.

  31. I have the Bersa Combat .380 and a Thunder 9 ultra compact. Both feel good in the hand, are reliable with anything you want to feed them, and are plenty accurate for their intended purposes.

  32. I bought a used Bersa 380 several years back in literally NIB condition. At the range two rounds discharged without incident. The third trigger pull went all the way back without firing. As I relaxed the trigger it then fired. You can imagine how dangerous that was. The gun, NIB condition aside, is unusable without a trip to the gunsmith rendering the Bersa no longer inexpensive. Beware.

  33. I’ve owned my Thunder for a while now and have run many rounds through it. So far no problems with any thing I’ve fed it. I too load Hornady Critical Defense when carrying for self defense. However at the range I usually shoot whatever 95gn solids that are available, without any problems. I really like the fact that it’s very easy to carry with either a IWB or OWB holster (I use both, depending on how I’m dressed). IMO, this little “beauty” is a keeper.

  34. I’ll have to say, yes to the Bersa line, I have 3, 1 9mm, and 2 in the Thunder .380, I bought my first .380, and it came in about the time I was going to the range, so I took it out of the box, at the range, and gave it it’s first trial, that’s the reason I have 2 of them, I stopped on the way home, and ordered another one, I was amazed at the way it felt, operated, and for me at the pistol range, I felt like I was a lot younger, I was actually hitting where I was aiming. I found the same with the 9mm, and somewhere in my collection, I have one in .45 also, best cc I have tho, is the .380. Thanks for Bersa, I bought the kits so I really got a deal with comes in the box. Bob

  35. I have owned a Bersa Thunder 45 for 10+ years and I absolutely love this gun. It is my preferred concealed carry, and I love to shoot it. The safety is very easy to access. It also came with a key for locking an internal safety for storage or transporting. This was a purchase that I am very happy with, but one drawback is the limited selection of holster manufacturers. Fortunately, Crossbreed has an excellent holster for it.

  36. I have owned and carried a Bersa Thunder .380 for about 10 years. I’ve rotated it out with several other handguns over that period of time but have always felt confident with the Bersa. I had one failure due to me trying to see if it would fail while limp wristng it. It did and it was done on purpose just to see if I needed to let the wife know that it needed a firm grip just like any other semi-auto.
    Great gun and I’ll be getting a .45 by Bersa shortly.

  37. I’ve had the Bersa .380 for years. Great carry weapon! Never fails on the range and adding the enhanced grips with finger groves dials it in tight. A must have for anyone wanting a .380 that is reliable and accurate.

  38. I own several Bersa firearms. My first one was the 383-A. I’ve had it since the mid 90’s. Great shooter. I even used it to get my CDW. The range master looked at it and shrugged it off as a cheap gun. When I got done with the class and qualifying he took it from me. He wrote down the make and model so he could buy one. Since then I’ve bought one in 22lr, a thunder, a CC model and a UC9. My wife also has one in Robin blue.

  39. Own a .380 Thunder for about 18 years now, and compared to the Walther and their clones, much better gun in all ways. Until recently, there was nothing in the .380 “pocket pistol” field that was a match to the Bersa. As example, I also have a TCP 738 “mini” .380. Easy to understand why it is no longer made.

    For a first .380 “pocket pistol”, Bersa is a good choice. Used to have a similar model Bersa in .22LR, and used it as a trainer. For a first time handgunner, the idea of a .22LR and a .380 in similar models, is great. Now, several other manufacturers have realized the benefits of such a pairing.

  40. I have both a Bersa .380 and a Bersa Thunder 40 Compact Pro.

    The .40 caliber Pro is a daily carry when I want more concealment than I get with my .40 SigPro.

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