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.
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:
- Safety Off (if applicable)
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.
Other Bersa Thunder Pistols
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.
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!