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Bersa Thunder .380 Review

by Terry Wieland   |  July 24th, 2008 64

The Bersa Thunder .380 is a Walther PPK lookalike, with all the PPK’s good points and eliminating some of the rough ones, such as its stiff trigger pull.

Except for the 1909 Argentine Mauser (which wasn’t even made there), Argentina is not a name that springs to mind as a source of fine weaponry. In recent years, however, Argentina has made a modest name for itself, and that name is Bersa. Bersa (formerly Baraldo SA) manufactures a range of handguns imported to the United States by Eagle Imports of New Jersey and selling at very reasonable prices.

The Bersa Thunder .380 bears a close resemblance to Walther’s famous PPK. Before discussing the Bersa, one really should look at the PPK. It was introduced in the 1930s as a concealed carry version of Walther’s police pistol, the PP. The PPK has been available in three calibers .22 LR, .32 ACP and .380 ACP. The pistol itself is, in many ways, a little gem, and was years ahead of its time when it was introduced. Even today, its list of features read like those of a new design, not a gun that’s been on the market for 70 years.

The PPK’s major feature is its double-action mechanism with external hammer and a decocking lever rather than a conventional safety catch. The PPK was introduced at a time when most small semiauto pistols employed spring-loaded strikers and safeties–not a combination that I, for one, would like to carry around in my pocket.

It is very quick to reload, with its magazine catch in the same place as a 1911 and slide release just above that. Both are readily operated by the thumb without shifting your grip.

If the PPK had a drawback as a gun for personal protection, it was the three calibers in which it was originally offered. None is very good, especially in the original loadings. In recent years, however, advances in ammo have made both the .32 ACP and the .380 ACP sound choices either as guns for concealed carry or second, backup pistols for police officers. The .380 will never be a 9mm

Parabellum, but it can come close with ammunition such as Hornady’s 90-grain XTP jacketed hollowpoint or Federal’s HydraShok JHP.

The old PPK was not perfect. Particularly, its double-action trigger pull is noted for being long, uneven and often gritty.

Bersa’s Thunder .380 was introduced in 1995. Externally, it looks exactly like a Walther PPK. It is available in a number of finishes, including nickel, matte black, deluxe blue and duotone, some with polished wooden grips, others with polymer grips. The Thunder .380 has a seven-round magazine, plus one in the chamber gives you eight shots.

Out of the box, the Bersa costs less than half the price of a PPK. As well, the Bersa is available with modifications for concealed carry or one or two additional rounds of capacity, at a slightly higher price.

The standard Thunder .380, however, offers a compact and cost-effective configuration, and I, for one, do not believe that if eight rounds don’t work, a ninth will make a difference.

Out of the box, the Thunder .380 has a better trigger pull than either of the pre-war Walther PPKs in my vault, but to someone accustomed to the silky slide and crisp trigger of a Kimber, the Bersa both needed and deserved some work. A quick trip to a gunsmith and the trigger was smoother in double action, crisper in single action, and the slide, while not silky, was at least acceptable.

The Thunder .380’s primary use will be in situations of last resort, in which case you need a gun that is easy to use and absolutely reliable, with accuracy to make it effective out to 10 yards.

We tested the Bersa with seven types of ammunition Three were standard FMJ rounds (Independence, Magtech and PMC); four were self-defense rounds (Hornady, Federal, Cor-Bon and Winchester).

Hornady JHP/XTP and Independence FMJ tied for the smallest group. Both loads printed to the same point of impact, whereas the other types of ammunition moved around slightly.

The only time in the testing that the Bersa failed to feed was the first round from a full magazine, after firing the round in the chamber. This happened with each of the three test magazines. This is not unusual with semiautos, and no amount of fiddling changed it. If I were carrying the Bersa for serious purposes, I would carry it 6+1.

Other than that, there was not a single malfunction. Empty magazines eject smartly, the slide release does so with authority, and the slide chambers a round every time.

The Bersa Thunder .380 is equipped with adjustable night sights with the familiar three horizontal dots. The rear sight adjusted positively with a screw and stayed adjusted. The Thunder .380 also comes equipped with a key lock to disable the gun for storage.

  • BigJake292

    I was givin this 380 as a birthday gift from my wife. Im a big guy at 6'5 280 I tell you this to say I have large hands and most 380s are small and do not fit well in my hands. This Bersa is Great it fits great in my hand , I have put 150 rounds down range and havent had a problem ! Ive even used cheap russian ammo and still no problem. I used to carry a compact 9mm every day now I carry This Great Little 380 !

  • rifle 59

    I also received the Bersa as a birthday present. It was my carry gun for almost 2 years and I would not hesitate to carry it again. I tried serveral brands of ammo (even mixing brands in the same magazene) and never experienced any malfunctions. There are similar small autos on the market that cost a lot more and no where close to the Bersa's reliability.

  • 101st ABN

    It works and it works well. Take down and cleaning is easy. Very basic bang for the buck. No bells, no whistles, just a solid reliable pistol.

  • W. C. Rushton

    My first experience with a Thunder was with a customer's gun—–he sent it to me because it " just quit working for no reason" After opening it up, extracting half a handful of belly-button lint and spent powder, and giving it a good bath, it was clear this weapon had never been serviced since brand new. The extractor (the outside type) was stuck in the open position, fer cripesakes!! The gun is easily serviced by anyone with just a modicum of mechanical ability.
    I had read about the almost unbelievable accuracy of this firearm from several tests in different gun rags, and thusly was anxious to try it out during test-fire after repairs (really only agressive cleaning). I have a 2-inch spring-loaded target outside the shop that's set at 21 yards from the door. I threw this thing full of Tula hardball, and proceeded to put seven of the eight rounds in that target, and I sure ain't to be confused with a real pistol shot!!! I will own one of these right away.

  • MFF

    This is made in the Peoples Republik of Argentina. They only make 2 things there: Tango and Beef. Forget Bersa

    • Big Bad 40

      Yes u r right , junk just like a jennings. Would not put no cash for it . Big jake needs to work a few extra hours an buy a real gun glock sig hk xd or something

    • tmedna43

      Argentina sell some of the best beef found anywhere. And so goes the little Bersa .380. I am guessing that you have never used anything less that a .500 S&W. Don't sell this little popgun short because it will do the job it waas designed for…

      • tmedna43

        Sorry, did not use spell check

  • VaBersaOwner

    I think anyone who has bad things to say about a Bersa 380 has never tried one. I've put several hundred rounds downrange with my 380 Plus with no fail-to-fire and only 1 fail-to-eject. I've shot Winchester, Federal, Blazer, Remington, all with no problems. Maybe I'll try a box or two of Tula just to see how well it fires what I've heard is not good ammo at all. Solid weapon, accurate, dependable, big enough for my large hands, small enough for an ankle holster… solid and a great choice for anyone.

  • asfarasyouknow


    • Taeki

      Yes, the review seems to stop short for some reasons.


    With a Bersa .380, how much drop will there be at 45 feet?

    • Rob

      That depend on the fps rating of the ammo, not the gun firing it.

      • Smith and Wesson and Me

        Try Precision One 90 gr HP/XTP. No drop at 45′.

  • dave kenny

    I came here because this was supposedly a gun for a leftist
    Not clear to me that it is

    • Big Tex

      Gun for a leftist? What does that mean? I’ve been begging my leftist friends to buy guns. I listen to the Right Wing rants and tell my friends, you need a gun! To protect ourselves from the right wing!

  • Steven Siler

    This review should be called “History of the PPK” by some guy who saw a Bersa once. Worst review ever.

  • Clark Burnett

    Be very careful I have a new Bersa 380 that will not feed the next round as it should and it causes it to jam every time

  • vinvee

    the bersa thunder is a great gun and is half the price of the ppk. if yours doesn’t feed, the factory will fix it. super reliable gun. super smooth trigger out of the box. to compare it to a kimber is just stupid. if you think a two hundred dollar gun would ever be as smooth as a thousand dollar gun you are clueless. this is a really bad review.

    • DON MAY

      i have a bersa thunder 380 i like it so much that i git me a bersa thunder u c 45 pro the 380 is the one i carry

    • tbat

      I really did not see a comparison. I read “If one is accustomed to a Kimber” cut him some slack. I would be willing to read some of your reviews, if you tell me where you have posted them. .. What, you never wrote any? Oh OK.

  • Molto

    I have a Bersa Thunder Plus with a 15 round double stack magazine. It is extremely accurate and reliable and is only slightly larger in the grip so concealed carry is easy. They are hard to find so be patient.

    • cptdmonkusaret

      Glad I got mine before it became all the rage. Have had 1 FTF after 300+ of all different brands. Enjoy the feel, glad I got 2 extra mags at $18 off EBAY. Don’t waste your time with other mags according to the reviews I’ve seen. Bite the bullet and get Bersa’s.

      • Clint Barnett

        I’ve seen several reviews that say (and show) the Promags for the Bersa working really well. You can get those in ten and seven round for about 15 bucks on ctd.

      • fang_zamillion

        I have 2 mags, one Bersa and 1 ProMag. With the ProMag, it stovepipes at least one round in every magazine full of ammo – JUST LIKE WITH THE BERSA magazine. There’s no difference I can see….

        • cpbcop

          Fang…u have a lemon. I have fired 300rds plus out of my cc 380 w/o a single jam of any sort. I would send it to the factory with your critique.

          • SnapperOne

            I am on my 3rd Thunder 380. The 1st two returned and replaced by Davidson’s (Great Warranty). The 1st 380 was returned for FTF problem; 6th round FTF from 5 factory mags. This last 380 is a keeper…..after having the feed ramp polished, pulling the mag springs from each magazine to check for consistent length (they were all different), and checking the blades on the mags (too wide). As mentioned above, the pistol FTF every 6th round as mentioned above, now 250 rounds are common w/o a FTF. Was going to turn the 380 into a frizzbee, but have decided to keep it.

  • fang_zamillion

    I am one of thousands of disgruntled owners of a Bersa Thunder. It has NEVER fired a full mazine of ammo without at least one spent round stovepiping. Absolutely, the most UNDEPENDABLE firearm I have ever encountered. Cleaning, polishing, changing magazines, etc never makes any change. Online forums indicate that this is a very widespread problem, and nobody can come up with an satisfactory fix. The Bersa Thunder .380 feels good in the hand, etc., but avoid this thing unless you simply want a single shot pistol.

    • RealisticallySpeaking

      Yeah, not what I’m seeing. I’ve been researching for 2 weeks on this gun and yours is the very first “Disgruntled Owner Post” I’ve seen. I’m sure there are Thunders that have had to go back for work (My $1100 SA 1911 had to go back for work), but I have certainly not seen a ‘rash’ of issues with the Bersa Thunder reported.

      • fang_zamillion

        All one needs to do is Google “bersa thunder stovepipe”, and you will instantly be looking at more results than I would bother counting. Research the stovepipe issue and, while they might not call themselves a “Disgruntled Owner”, it should become abundantly clear that they are, indeed, such.

        I have found THIS (too late, in this case) to be the way to ferret out serious problems: Google the item of interest AND any conceivable problem. Then you see something other than a paid writers assessment or an advertising piece.

        (Above search criteria brought 15 separate results on first page.)

        • brian1269

          And I have a challenge for you. Google your favorite gun, any gun, with the term stovepipe, and you will also get many results. No gun is perfect, every single model will always have some issues due to various reasons (mostly user). This is not a useful way to access a firearm.

        • Terry

          I bought a Bersa Thunder .380 several years ago because of features, sufficiency of weight and being well made at a reasonable price point. The gun is a pleasure to shoot and, even tho the sights aren’t the greatest, I can reliabity hit targets at 25 and 50 ‘. Because this gun has been 100% reliable – no failures to fire, eject, and “0” stovepipes, I decided to purchase the Thunder Plus and concealed version. I have never had a problem with any of these guns.

          Because of cost, carpal tunnel syndrome in my shooting hand, and just plain for fun, I also recently added the Bersa Thunder .22 caliber model for practice. It has been very reliable with two brands of ammo, Federal round nose, 40 grain and CCI Mini Mag, 40 grain, round nose, copper plated. Three other brands were also tried and were not as reliable, having two or three failures to fire per 10 round magazines (Remington Golden 40 grain, RN, plated; Blazer 40 grain RN; and Remington Thunderbolt, 40 grain, RN). Because the failures were not due to light strikes, I fault the ammunition, not the gun. While all the .380’s have been 100% reliable with the .22, it will be necessary to find the ammo it likes. I fired 100 rounds of the CCi Mini Mags, 40 grain, the last time I was at the range and I had “0” failures.

          I am so fond of these guns, just to complete my collection, I am looking for a Thunder .32 in excellent condition.

    • randy

      humm… just shot mine today for the umteenth time…. I rapid fired all 8 of my mags through it 3 times….. not one problem with it… have had mine for around 10 years and love it… never a problem with it feeding a round… want to sell yours that you don’t like???? I would gladly buy it!! :)

      • DumbassPatrol

        What is this? Freakin penthouse forum? Haha! Dumbass! That’s hilarious! Some people are so stupid I can’t help but laugh at their bullshit!

    • Acer9999

      I know this is a few months old, but regarding that stove pipe; do you recall what ammo you were using? Did it happen with reloads, cheap range ammo, or +P?

      Typically I’ve seen stove pipes with faulty extractors and certain types of ammo. I’ve been looking at this firearm and just trying to narrow down what might be causing it.

      • Henry J

        I’ve had my Thunder for about 7 years. The only time I have every had any problems with it is few times I have fired aluminum jacketed rounds.

        • socal

          Yep, I’ve had that as well. Quality ammo never a problem. Love my 380 thunder!!! I’m surgical with it at 30 yds! It goes everywhere with me

    • Winston Harrell

      Turn around the recoil spring, smaller end goes on first. I own three Bersa’s and all have been 100% reliable with all ammo. My brother’s Bersa stovepiped once, we broke it down and turned the recoil spring around, problem solved.

    • Wheeler

      Could be your spring or a magazine problem.

    • Mtnpilot

      I have had the PPK-S and the Bersa Thunder 380 about 1000 rounds through the bersa, with one stovepipe while me wife was shooting. Great shooting pistol! Had to give it to my wife she liked it so much. Now I’m looking for another. PS, mine is nickel.

  • Virgil Nuckols

    got a new one never fired. handles good but stove piped last round the next to last round. suggested that i clean mag inside .have not tried it yet.

    • Acer9999

      Do you remember the type or brand of ammo?

  • Charles Clemmer

    I need to know the proper way to cary 380, Loaded, 8 rounds, one in chamber, cocked, uncocked,I need some advice!

    • Juan

      The bersa 380 is a double action handgun so dont have it can have it clambered with the safety on just remember you have to take off the safety before you can fire it. Takes practice to remember that but its easy to take off on the draw.

      • Red Baron

        I carry my Bersa Thunder with one in the pipe for 8 rounds total; simply decock after loading and take safety off (the safety is also a decocker), now you’re ready to pull the trigger as soon as it clears the holster without having to fumble with taking the safety off, which IMHO would add a step to an already stressful situation where fractions of a second count. The double action pull is a bit long so it’s rather safe for carrying loaded with safety off. Never had a problem with mine this way.

    • Red Baron

      I carry my Bersa Thunder with one in the pipe for 8 rounds total; simply decock after loading and take safety off (the safety is also a decocker), now you’re ready to pull the trigger as soon as it clears the holster without having to fumble with taking the safety off, which IMHO would add a step to an already stressful situation where fractions of a second count. The double action pull is a bit long so it’s rather safe for carrying loaded with safety off. Never had a problem with mine this way

  • kcook

    Bought one from an FFA who took it in on trade I think. Only the FFA had ever fired it and he put one mag through it then cleaned it. When I picked it up it was basically “in the box” new. 49 rounds with no problem, but then it stove-piped round #50. That means it’s a “no carry” for my wife or sister and I’ll probably only use it for plinking and a backup to a backup. The slide is not very smooth, yet; Maybe after I clean it and put a few more rounds through it the action will smooth out. The trigger is fine in both double and single-action. Weight is great as is balance. No problem dead centering 7 rounds in 3 seconds at 10 feet (3 meters). I’d be concerned about anything farther away than 25 feet (8 meters) in a win or die situation.

    • Navybat

      Yup, you’re right about that. I picked mine up and it didn’t fire. I realized I had not loaded it. So obviously I can’t depend on it. And I tried to hit a flying swallow at 50 yards and missed…it’s very inaccurate.

      • kcook

        I guess that’s Navy training for you; No ammo and it’s just a brick. And, if you’re shooting at swallows you’re probably breaking all kinds of laws, plus you’ve obviously chosen the wrong equipment for the job. Anchors aweigh!

        • mtkin

          kook You don’t get sarcasm do you?

        • brian1269

          kcook, you sound like a total n00b.

  • lj

    I have owned my bersa 380 for at least 5 years and probably have 500 rounds through it.I can not recall a stovepipe or ftf. I may have happened but if it did it has been very early and hasn’t happened in the past several years

  • Kim

    My bersa 380 was stove pipping the last shell. I have been dealing with this sense March. They said that they are going to replace the gun. The import company that imports these guns has been giving me the run around. For two Months now. No one will give me my money back. They all say that they can’t do that? can anyone tell me why?

  • Derbydad

    I have a Beretta40 storm. A little to much for me. I want to trade even up for a Bersa Thumder with 5 mags and 330 rounds. I know you should have a gun you can handle without being overpowered. Would this be a good trade. I paid $450 armslist.
    What do you think I should do

  • Knife10

    I’ve had my Bursa .380 for several years. The gun had some unfavorable reviews because of ejection malfunctions after it hit the market, but most owners like it. I’ve taken mine to the indoor range regularly. Had a couple of “stovepipe” malfunctions with the first box of ammo. Nothing since, so the Bursa seems to need a little breaking in when purchased new. It’s an excellent personal defense weapon at a reasonable price. 6+1 seems to be good advice. That’s the way I carry mine. The Bursa is quick and easy to reload, and extra magazines aren’t expensive.

  • RetiredGuy

    I am a Bersa Thunder .380 ower. I chose this model for it’s size, weight, ergonomics, but mostly for it’s price point. I’m sure ANY handgun owner would prefer to own a Kimber, but many of us have thinner wallets than those that can. An additional extra was relatively low cost of ammo and accessories. As to article content, it does sound like a PPK review but it’s hard not to because the Thunder is a PPK clone. I too have expirenced stove pipes and FTF/FTE’s. But the ammo used may have been a cause for some of these problems. More “cheap” ammo has found its way down the barrel of my Thuder .380 than premium ammo has. I’ve also had those problems with other Brands, which include and are not limited to, SIg Sauer, H&K, Beretta and Glock. Brlieve me, I’m not nocking any of the Brands I just listed, they are all very reputable manufacturers with consistantly well designed products. But, NO BRAND OR WEAPON IS 100 PECENT RELIABLE. That being said, if you find any weapon that you feel confident carrying, by all means DO. To gain self confidence in MY shooting skill as well as the given weapon fired, I try including the Tap, Rack, Bang training drill into some of my firing strings. You can never anticipate a FTF or FTE, unless you are using dummy rounds in magazines loaded by someone else. When your weapon doesn’t go BANG, 1.) you TAP upward on the bottom of the mag, 2.) RACK the slide all the way back, then release allowing the next round to be chambered, 3.) pull the trigger and the the weapon should go BANG. If it doesn’t repeat drill until it does. Hence, the importance of having someone else loading your magazines. PRACTICE this drill every time you go to the range until it becomes MUSCLE MEMORY. Stove pipes MAY be cleared by this method but if it DOES NOT, be ready to remove magazine and rapidly /repeatedly RACK slide back and forth until it does, reload and continue firing. Remember if you do this drill at your local range, check with Range Master/Officer and ask if practicing this drill is allowed, that you are SAFETY conscience and ALWAYS maintain MUZZEL INTEGRITY. As I said earlier, no weapon is 100 percent reliable, knowing YOUR weapon and developing skill sets and commiting them to muscle memory will mitigate panic in a high stress life or death situation. The other three important rules are: 1. PRACTICE, 2. PRACTICE, and 3. PRACTICE.

  • Smith and Wesson and Me

    The best ammo for the Bersa .380 is Precision One 90gr HP/XTP. Makes it a serious contender. There is something to be said about, in the heat of the battle, to be able to double or triple tap your target accurately as opposed to spraying and praying with a .45 ACP, .40 S&W or even 9mm.

  • Wheeler

    When I bought my Bersa Thunder .380 new I was told by my dealer that since being ‘discovered’ and having ramped up production due to demand, that there had been some less than stellar finish on the firearms BUT that they were still fine guns if one took the time to break them in properly. My first 5 boxes of fifty rounds each had a failure to feed rate as follows, beginning with the first BOX (1) of 50 rounds and going to the last box (#5) of 50 rounds:

    1-20, 2-12, 3-7, 4-5, 5-3 and since that last box, I have put over 2500 rounds down the tube with only TWO failures to feed and that was due to the projectile’s design.

    If you can hit your target accurately and with consistency, it’s an excellent daily carry piece.

    I’ll add that the Kimber I carried with the Sheriff’s Department was not 100% reliable right out of the box either. I had it tweaked and played with it for a full 6 months before I used it as a duty firearm.Before that I carried my old beat up, rattle trap WWII Remington 1911 .45. Honest as old Abe, reliable as hell and dead on accurate. Why did I quit carrying the Remington? Tell me, how many old WWII era, Remington 1911 .45s have you seen still around?

  • SweetDreamn

    I have owned my Bersa .380 for five years now….and i never have a problem with the gun unless, unless I want to actually hit what I am aiming at. Anything out over ten feet with this pistol, and you may as well be shooting blindfolded as far as i am concerned….It is hands down the most inaccurate pistol I own.

    • Laer Carroll

      I suspect the gunner rather than the gun is the problem.

  • Gary

    I was having FTF problems with my Bersa Thunder .380 Plus when using “Flat Nose” ammo. It was frustrating having a FTF every couple of rounds and sometimes every round. The solution was to switch to smooth nose or round nose ammo. Once the switch was made — no more FTF problems. Today at the range I put through 150 round nose rounds with no FTF problems whatsoever.

  • Eric Ridenour

    I have 2 of these 10 round pro mags that fit into my bersa thunderer .380 acp, it fits and ascends to the point right below the chamber which is so frustrating on both. The advertisement from Midway say they work, I don’t know how they could because they can’t even get into the chamber to fire. What gives?! I get the impression this gun only accepts up to 7 rounds, which is a great disappointment and I’m stuck with it. While on duty as a patrolman I carried a 9mm Glock 17, so/so sweet, I was much more protected with this gun now to be taken down to the Bersak, again so/so sad

  • James

    Extra factory mags are available, generally in the $35 range. I like having the pinky rest/extension on my mags. So there’s no need to guess with aftermarket magazines just to save a few $$. Been very happy with my Bersa, bought rubber grips with finger grooves (after scouring the internet). Many of its safety features make it more likely to be carried by me, than my 1911. Cannot figure-out the purpose of the magazine disconnect though….

  • sullyks68

    Very unreliable gun. I call it the Jam-o-Matic! FTF on nearly every mag, and you have to drop the mag out to clear it. Mine broke and Bersa kept it for 5 months and then weaseled out on the warranty! I’ll never buy one again.

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