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Hello. Many folks prefer heavier calibers or larger pistols for "serious" purposes, but there remains a contingent of folks who simply prefer the .380 ACP in a carry pistol. Examples of these would be Walther's PP and variations, Beretta's Model 84/85, the CZ-83, and SIG-Sauer's P230/232 pistols. All of these use a straight blow back action as does the Bersa and most share some similarities. The Bersa will cost less than any of the guns mentioned. I paid $199.85 for the one used for this report.

The Pistol:This Bersa Thunder .380 ACP Duo-Tone has a forged steel slide and an aluminum alloy frame that has been E-nickled. Grips are checkered black composite. It is a conventional double-action/single-action semiautomatic pistol obviously targeting the concealed carry market
with the light frame. The pistol has fixed sights with the familar 3-dots, but the rear sight is click adjustable for windage. It has a 3.5," conventionally rifled barrel. The magazine release is located to the rear of the trigger guard similar to the 1911 or Hi Power and is a single-side push button.


The slide is a matte blue and evenly covered. The trigger face is smooth with the front and rear grip straps having vertical serrations. The magazine floorplate has an extension for the little finger and the front of the trigger guard is both hooked and checkered. (I could do without this and would prefer the trigger guard rounded.) It does have a magazine "safety" and the single-stack magazine holds 7 rounds. Current magazine followers are steel. Slide to frame fit is very good. The top of the slide has a flat, slightly-raised rib that is knurled.The pistol weighs 19 oz., empty. The thumb-safety is single-sided and works as a dropping lever as well. "Down" is "safe" with "up" being for "fire," just like the Walter PP-series and other pistols like the Beretta 92. The take down lever is visible on the lower front of the frame. It is spring-loaded and must be held down while retracting the slide in order to remove it for cleaning.

Ammunition: This pistol was shot primarily with JHPs or ammunition intended for self-protection. One FMJ was fired for reliability "proofing" and was chosen. One make of defensive ammunition is no longer produced, but was shot out of curiosity on my part and some folks may still have some of it.

The average velocities, extreme spreads and standard deviations are based on 10-shot strings with the muzzle of the pistol approx. 10' from the chronograph screens.

Magtech 95-grain FMJ:

Average Velocity: 898 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 181*
Std. Deviation: 48
*One one shot was showed a really extreme spread. It was the low velocity for the string @ 769 ft/sec. The high velocity was 949 ft/sec.

Federal 90-grain Classic JHP:
Average Velocity: 969 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 40
Standard Deviation: 12

Federal 90-grain Hydrashok JHP:
Average Velocity: 975 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 13
Standard Deviation: 5*
*This was the most consistent ammunition fired today.

Corbon 90-grain +P JHP:
Average Velocity: 1015 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 64
Standard Deviation: 20

Glaser Silver 70-grain Safety Slug:
Average Velocity: 1221 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 172
Standard Deviation: 59

PPS .380 MPP 54.5-grain Copper Bullet*:
Average Velocity: 1399 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 57
Standard Deviation: 27
This round is no longer manufactured. It was originally sold in plastic boxes holding 6 rounds.

Similar in design to Corbon's new "PowRball," the bullet is solid copper with a massive hollow point under the dark polymer ball. Advertised velocity was listed as 1200 - 1400 ft/sec, depending upon barrel length. I'd say they advertised honestly. PPS stands for Personal Protection Systems and the MPP for Maximum Pocket Pistol.


Here's most of the loads tested. From Left to Right: PPS 54.5-grain MPP, Corbon 90-grain +P JHP, Federal Hydrashok 90-grain JHP, Federal Classic 90-grain JHP, and Magtech 95-grain FMJ. Not pictured is the Glaser 70-grain Safety Slug.

Shooting: All shooting was done off-hand and standing, using a 2-hand hold. Distances were 7, 10, and 15 yards. The 10 and 15-yard targets were fired slow-fire. The others were fired as rapidly as I could get a "flash" sight picture.

10 Yards:


I used a "dead-on" hold with the top of the front sight horizontally bisecting the smaller, inner circle. I figure this is the longest distance most shooters of these pistols would practice with them.

15 Yards: This was fired slow fire as were the 10-yard groups. The little thing was easy to shoot and I wanted to shoot it just a little farther out. This group would end the slow fire accuracy work.


The fifteen-shot group was fired using a fully-loaded pistol (8 rounds) followed with one magazine-full.

7 Yards: Groups fired at this distance were fired as quickly as I could obtain a "flash" sight picture. A group was fired using only the double-action for each shot as the gun has no provision for cocked-and-locked carry and a two groups from the firing of controlled pairs are shown. One was fired strictly single-action while the other was fired with the first shot in each set being double-action with a single-action second shot. I used the Corbon ammunition as it had the sharpest recoil of any of the ammo fired today.






The transition from DA to SA did appear to result in some vertical stringing of shots.

Observations: First, the gun is reliable. On a previous day, the pistol had been fired with 100 rounds of Remington UMC 95-grain FMJ, 50 rounds or PMC 90-grain JHP, 50 rounds of Federal Classic 90-grain JHP, 40 rounds of Federal 90-grain Hydrashok JHP, and 50 rounds or Corbon 90-grain +P JHP. The gun was wiped off, but there was no lubrication nor cleaning inside. Though not a "torture test" by any means, smaller automatics can be less reliable than we like. Today's shooting consisted of 50 rounds of Corbon, 50 of Magtech, 20 of Federal Hydrashok, 24 rounds of PPC, 15 rounds of Glaser Safety Slugs, and 50 rounds of Federal Classic JHP. I believe that totals about 499 rounds with no cleaning. There were zero malfunctions of any kind. Ejection was positive throughout. For reasons I just flat don't know, the gun hits high for me with Federal's Classic JHP even though velocities are very similar to the others.

Felt recoil is subjective. This light-weight, relatively "mid-size" .380 was very easy to shoot and recoil was not unpleasant at all. To me, the "most" felt recoil was from the Corbon, which seemed greater for the relatively small gain in velocity. The least recoil was from the PSS and Glaser rounds and in that order. None of it was "bad" and I personally prefer to shoot this pistol than SIG-Sauer's P230 or 232. It's just more comfortable for me. I much prefer it to my Walter PP .380 as it does not bite me with both the hammer and slide as does the Walther. It is also utterly reliable with all ammunition I've tried; I cannot say this about my Walther PP.


You can see the residue and dirtiness of the pistol after 499 rounds of factory ammunition. Note also the position of the round in the magazine relative to the chamber. This pistol has proven very reliable.

After cleaning the pistol, the frame and slide were checked for undue wear or cracks. The slide-to-frame fit remains as before, very good, and no undue wear was observed.

Certainly, there were some "scientific mud expansion testing."


The Corbon expanded nicely with one recovered slug showing fragmentation.


Federal's Classic JHP showed some variation in expansion in the "scientific mud." This round feeds so smoothly in the Bersa that you think no round is chambering. The blunter JHPs did not "hesitate" in the feeding cycle at all, but this fed "slickest" of all the conventional JHPs.


Federal's Hydrashok in .380 is a popular round from what I read.


The PPS copper bullet appears to have expanded and fragmented with only the copper base and deformed polymer ball being recovered.


Here they are all together for a visual comparison. I did not try and recover the Glaser as finding each little piece of shot would be impossible. These "tests" are just for fun and not as "accurate" as water and cannot compare to the serious 10% gelatine tests....but, they are kind of fun.

In this price range is another reliable and popular pistol and a comparison is inevitable. The 9x18 Makarov is roughly the same size, but a little thicker and heavier as it is all steel. The picture below shows the stock Bersa .380 next to a stock E. German Mak.


Though very similar in size, the Bersa is considerably lighter. Were I required to carry one or the other in a pocket holster, I'd go with the Bersa. On a belt, I'd probably go with the Makarov if I could use my Bulgarian which has had Novak fixed sights added. Others may disagree, but I really prefer having a pistol I can see the sights with at speed. The stock Bersa beats the stock Makarov in this regard, at least to me.

Though I have not shot the gun enough to know if it has long term durability, I think it very well might and I personally believe that it is a "best buy" for folks wanting a .380 ACP for carry, but who cannot or will not pay higher bucks for "better" pistols. While I find it an inexpensive pistol, I don't find it cheap. It is not my first, second, or third choice for a primary personal protection piece as I just flat prefer something a bit more powerful, but were I wanting to carry a .380 ACP concealed, this would very likely be my choice. In short, I was very positively impressed with not only the fit and finish, but the reliability and that the sights were decently-regulated out of the box. The DA pull is long, but relatively smooth and light. The single-action pull would not match that of a tuned 1911, but was pretty clean-breaking and better than expected.


The gun is a pleasure to shoot. The generous tang prevents hammer bite and I experienced zero slide bite.

In short, I think these are darned good little shooters.

Best.
 

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Well, Bersa must have learned something over the years. I recall reading a test in, IIRC Guns & Ammo many years ago of a Bersa pocket pistol in .22LR. In all my years of reading product reviews in numerous gunzines, it was the only time I ever read a review in which the author had nothing positive to say about the gun. One of the author's comments sticks in my mind: "It seems that Bersa designed this gun to not be fired."

Glad to hear they've gotten their act together.
 

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Stephen A. Camp said:
Hello, sir. This one's worked perfectly and I spoke with several current owners who've reported the same thing.

Best.
Stephen...I cannot agree with you more! I love mine and it has been reliable with anything that I have fed it! For about $200 it is the one pistol that I think should be in everyones collection. You can't beat the value! I carry it in an ankle holster when I feel I need a backup. Summer time...fanny pack! Nice and VERY thorough review! WOW!! Thanks!
 

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Stephan, Nice report. While I don't own a Bersa I must say that the people that I know who do own one like them very much. They (Bersa) seem to have improved over the years. The older ones were quite problematic if I recall.
 

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I own an old Bersa in .32 ACP. The little gun has a trigger that in DA requires two fingers to operate. Oddly, SA runs about four pounds. This is the ONLY pistol that I own which has BOTH a frame mounted safety, AND a slide mounted safety!! Evidently, to meet the 1968 GCA points requirement, they added another slide to the existing frame. Both have functional safeties. Since then, you can see where the frame mounted safeties were removed.

My step-daughter has a Bersa Deluxe .380. She loves it. It does feel good in the hand, and has proven quite reliable, as well. She uses Hornady XTP as a carry round.

A few years ago, I bought a six-pack of the PPS ammo in, of all things, .25 ACP. The guy threw another single round in, for a full mag's worth. Interesting ammo. It now sits with my old, flat, Glasers, early Zambone ammo, and "Beehive" rounds. :D
 

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Back in the Old Phat Phil Engledrum books, Handgun Tests they ran the old single action Bersa .22 until the crud flew off. Never had a malf.

Geoff
Who must go service the wife.
 

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The one malf with my Bersa was a failure to eject (with a Remington JHP) on round #61. Other than that, perfect so far. And it shoots beautifully, accurately and to point of aim.
 

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I have had mine for a couple years and have always that it was under rated by many out there. Mine has never given me a problem.
 

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Mine has functioned flawlessly and the only problem I have had is that the "adjustable" prt of the site detached itself somehow from the rest of the sight.
 

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Gunshop I worked for sold over 300 in about two years. No returns at all, no issues.. Only thing I told folks was to shoot the heck out of'em. The Bersas are pretty stiff when new.
 

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Hope

Well, I hope you guys were truthfull cause I went out and bought one yesterday. Box price was $219 but got 10 off just for asking.

Cleaned it and got alot of dirt(?) off on the white rag I used. Re-oiled and loaded it. Be careful dropping the hammer as it slipped off my thumb but did not fire. Will look to see how much of a dent the primer took (yes I was outside on the back porch with the muzzle pointing down and away from me).

Haven't fired it yet. Plan to Tues after all the neighbors wake up.
 

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ExSarge,

Use that decocker-safety to lower the hammer on a live round...that's why it is there.

I had an intermediate Bersa, one with the 12-round magazines, back in the early mid-90s. It went BANG every time the trigger was pulled over the course of two years that I owned it. As has been already mentioned, the DA trigger was much harder than it needed to be. The SA trigger was pretty smooth and broke better than the only S&W pistol I've owned.

I've been thinking about another Bersa.

Jon
 

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Safety

Thought I saw in the book the safety shouldn't be used to decock but I'll check again.

Thanks.
 

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Interesting, even after four years, Stephen's review is going strong. Stephen is a true Gentleman and does a great review.
 
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