Bersa Thunder .380 Review

This was my first .380 and the first compact gun I ever owned. My brother loves his, so I decided to give it a try for myself. For a small gun it really feels good in your hand. The all-steel frame gives it nice heft and the short grip is still long enough to get all your fingers around. Plus that whole Walther PP look isn't bad, either.

bersa380The Thunder .380 is very accurate for a small gun, too, thanks to the fixed barrel.  The barrel is fixed to the frame rather than floating, like most handguns. Most handguns disassemble with the slide, barrel, and recoil spring sliding off the frame. With the Thunder (and many .22 caliber handguns), the barrel is fixed to the frame, so the recoil spring coils around the barrel, and the barrel fits through the opening in the front of the slide. To remove the slide, you push down a small lever above the trigger guard, pull back on the slide and then tilt it up and off the rails. Then you push it forward and off of the barrel.

Re-assembly simply reverses the process but it can be a challenge to remember which end of the spring fits over the barrel and then pulling the slide back far enough to fit it back down onto the rails. There were a couple of times where I simply could not get the thing reassembled. It takes a little practice to get used to.

The gun also required a bit of break-in and jammed more frequently than I would have liked. Stovepipes and FTE's were not uncommon. Most of this, it turns out now, may have been due to crap Russian .380 ammo. At the time I did not think so, but later (when shooting the Diamondback DB380) I found almost constant malfunctions with the same ammo. I am now convinced that the majority of the issues were ammo related, and very few were due to weapon break-in.

The biggest problem, however, was the difficulty in racking the slide. The recoil spring is very stiff, which improves accuracy by reducing muzzle climb and felt recoil. It also makes the slide more difficult to rack. One reason for getting this gun was to transition from a very large, heavy full-sized gun to a smaller gun which I assumed would be perfect for my wife. Not knowing any better at the time, I assumed a small gun works better for a woman. My wife has problems with grip strength due to an old injury and racking the slide was beyond her ability. I showed her the overhand grip technique but it was still beyond her. She could rack it, but it was hard to get a good grip and she pinched her fingers enough to make her frustrated. I knew it would be an uphill climb to get her want to shoot this gun.

She could shoot it very accurately, though. We took it to the range for our first trip and she shot very tight groups.

Concealability: ***
a little too lumpy for a pocket gun but very easy to conceal. there is an even more compact model now available that smooths out some of the offending edges.

Accuracy: ****
not intended for long-range shooting, but the fixed barrel makes the Thunder very accurate for it's size.

Reliability: ****
there were some malfunctions, but most were ammo related.

Ease of Use: ***
disassembly/reassembly is a chore, and racking the slide takes some effort.

Features: ***
pretty standard stuff.

Trigger: ***
a stiff double action trigger with a very light single action.

Sights: ***
Fixed, 3-dot style.

Ammo Capacity: ***

Weight: ***
With a solid steel frame and slide, the Thunder 380 tips the scale at 23 ounces.

Firepower: *

Aesthetics: ****
Walther PP styling without the price.

Comfort: ***
straight blowback action makes it a little snappy but the weight helps. the full-length grip makes it easier to control and more comfortable than most small guns.

4 Comments on "Bersa Thunder .380 Review"

  1. Alec mcarthur | October 3, 2012 at 10:37 pm |

    Read all the reviews I could find and bought the 380. Looking forward to the range time.
    Now I must instruct my Lady(wife/the boss). She is pretty savvy, don’t expect any problem.
    Will fill in the blanks later.

  2. Rick Garlington | November 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm |

    I carry a Kahr CW9. Being polymer framed, the recoil is snappy. Normally not a problem, but a recent injury to my shooting arm has made it somewhat painful to practice. With an Aluminum alloy frame, steel slide and blowback, I feel the Bersa Thunder 380 might be a good answer. Can you give me an idea of the recoil (subjective, I know) based on other firearms you may have used? Thank you.

    • The Armed Lutheran | November 13, 2012 at 3:02 am |

      The recoil is very manageable. The .380 cartridge is comfortable to shoot. The Bersa is heavier and larger than other 380s, like the LCP, the P3AT, or the DB380, and it absorbs recoil pretty well.

  3. Andy Krueger | March 7, 2013 at 6:56 pm |

    I prefer the Bersa 380 Thunder Plus, it holds 15 plus 1, fills the hand better, and I can conceal it just as good as a PPK. 1000 rounds through it with no hick-ups! Wish it were made in America.

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