Bersa’s New Thunder 380 Concealed Carry .380 ACP Auto Pistol


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

May 22, 2006




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I get this recurring email so often that I can almost read it in my sleep. It goes something like this:

"I read your article on the Bersa .380 pistol and went out and bought one. You are right, it is a great little pistol, and is downright cheap to buy compared to other similar handguns!"

I have received hundreds of such emails over the past four years, all but one praising the Bersa pistol. One guy got one with a bad magazine, which Bersa promptly replaced. All of the others have had only praise for the dandy little pistols. They are reliable, well-built, inexpensive, and powerful enough for most social situations.  Contrary to what many of us believe, every gun owner is not really "into guns" as much as we might think. There are hordes of people who want a good, reliable pistol with which to protect their family from the scum in this world. They don’t want nor need ivory grips, scroll engraving, Bomar sights, or fancy, extended anythings. They just want a gun that works, every time. The Bersa .380 Thunder delivers, and at a price that most anyone can afford. I have found the Bersa pistols to be more reliable than pistols costing three times the price.

There are also gun "experts" who state pompously that the .380 ACP is a "mouse gun".  That is nothing but bovine excrement. The .380 would not be my first choice of a weapon to take to a fight, but neither would any other handgun. Handguns built for social encounters are a compromise. One must weigh several factors to decide upon the best firearm for their situation, such as size, weight, recoil, and comfort, in addition to power. More power usually means a heavier weapon with more recoil. Extremely light weight usually means less power but better concealability. It is a balancing act to achieve the perfect combination of features for your own personal sidearm. The fact is, most people are not really concerned with finding just the perfect weapon, but want something that will save their hide, is easy to shoot accurately enough to keep the bullets on target, and is compact enough to have readily available at all times. My usual "always gun" is a compact .38 Special S&W 342PD. Loaded with the right ammo, I feel pretty well armed, but were I bound for a fight, I would much rather have a rifle or shotgun in my hands. Anyway, the Bersa Thunder .380 fills the bill for many people.

A little over a year ago, I was looking at the Bersa firearms display at the 2005 Shot Show, when a prototype of their new Thunder 380 Concealed Carry pistol was shown to me, and I immediately began my relentless pursuit to get one. It took longer than any of us anticipated, but the weapon is now in full production, and it should prove be a hot item for a long time to come.

The Concealed Carry (CC) is a slimmed and trimmed version of the Bersa Thunder .380, and the subtle changes make a big difference in the feel and concealability of the weapon. The CC weighs in at only 17.4 ounces unloaded, and is about the same size as my J-frame Smith & Wesson. The CC uses the same eight-shot magazines of the Thunder, but with a flat magazine floorplate for better concealment. The grip panels are very thin, but textured for a secure grasp. The backstrap is rounded and grooved, with finger grooves machined into the frame for a very comfortable hold. All of the controls are low-profile, but easy to reach and operate.  The thumb safety is right side only, serves to safely drop the hammer without firing the weapon, and imposes a block between the hammer and firing pin, while disconnecting the trigger.  The weapon also has a magazine disconnect safety, rendering the pistol inoperable when the magazine is removed. On the left side of the slide is a loaded chamber indicator. On the left side of the frame, just above the trigger, is an internal key lock for those who like to use such devices to secure the weapon from firing.  Also on the left side is the slide release lever and magazine release button. On the right side of the frame is the take-down latch for easy disassembly of the weapon for cleaning. Like its big brother, the Concealed Carry has a barrel that is fixed to the frame, which also serves as a recoil spring guide rod. It is a very simple, reliable blow-back operated weapon.  As stated earlier, the Bersa CC is very close in size to a five-shot thirty-eight, but is much thinner. It conceals very well in a jeans pocket or a slim holster. In an inside-the-pants holster, it would all but disappear. It is a very concealable weapon, and with a nine-shot total capacity, offers almost twice the firepower of the five-shot thirty-eight.  Needless to say, I was elated when the long-awaited little pistol finally arrived.

The one that I received for testing wears a satin nickel finish on its steel slide and aluminum frame, along with most of the small parts. With the black textured grip panels, it makes for a very good-looking pistol, and the nickel offers some corrosion resistance to the weapon.  For now at least, Lipsey’s in Louisiana is the exclusive distributor for the nickel finished Concealed Carry Bersa. For a weapon that will mostly be carried close to the body, the nickel is a worthwhile option, and would be my choice. The blued version will be available shortly, but the first shipment is of the nickel pistols.

Shooting the little Bersa proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The weapon is very comfortable to shoot, and reliability has proven to be one hundred percent perfect so far, with a variety of factory and handloaded ammunition. The little Bersa is much more pleasant to shoot and easier to control than the really small .380 autos, but is still small enough to conceal well. I believe that only good, high performance hollowpoint or other frangible ammunition should be carried in a .380 pistol for defense, so that is all that I bothered chronographing, but I did test some full metal jacket ammo just for fun. Most ammo was Jacketed Hollowpoint (JHP), except for the specialty Glaser pre-fragmented ammo. For years, I carried nothing but  blue Glasers in my AMT Backup .380 pistol, and that is also my ammo of choice for my .38 Special pocket gun. It is good stuff. Glaser Blue is made of number 12 shot, and the Silver is made of number 6 shot. These shot are compressed into a metal jacket with a polymer ball sealing the tip. Both are devastating on soft tissue, but reduce the chance of over-penetration. I chronographed several different personal defense loads  with the results listed below. The velocities are listed in feet-per-second (fps).

Glaser Blue


Glaser Silver 1201
Cor-Bon 80 grain DPX 1050
Cor-Bon 70 grain PowRBall 1205
Cor-Bon 90 grain JHP 970.1
Remington 88 grain JHP 840.3
Handload 88 grain JHP 929.7

As stated earlier, all ammo functioned perfectly through the little Bersa. The high performance ammo performed well from the Bersa’s three and one-quarter inch barrel. The trigger pull was very good for a pistol of this type, being very smooth, with a double action pull weight of just over eight pounds, and a single action pull weight of four and one-quarter pounds.

The Bersa fires normally from a double action first shot, transitioning to single action for subsequent shots. The slide locks open after the last shot, as it should on a defensive pistol.

The Bersa Thunder 380 Concealed carry was worth the wait. The pistol functions reliably, is comfortable to shoot, and is easy to carry concealed.  Rapid fire drills found the little pistol easily capable of keeping a magazine full of rounds on a standard silhouette target torso at thirty yards, and inside the head area at seven yards, again fired as fast as I could get the front sight back on target.

With the new Thunder 380 Concealed Carry, Bersa has another winner. It should prove to be as popular as the original Thunder. It is a great little pistol, at an excellent price. I like it.

The nickel version is available only through Lipsey’s, so have your dealer contact them at: 1-800-666-1333.

Look at the entire line of Bersa pistols online at:

To find a Bersa dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR icon at:

For high performance Cor-Bon and Glaser ammunition, go to:

Jeff Quinn

To locate a dealer where you can buy this gun, Click on the DEALER FINDER icon at:

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Bersa’s New Thunder 380 Concealed Carry .380 ACP Auto Pistol.



The Thunder 380 CC is equipped with Bersa's key-locking mechanism.



The Thunder 380 CC features a visual and tactile loaded chamber indicator.







Disassembly latch (top) makes field-stripping a snap.





Left-side controls include (top to bottom) thumb safety, slide release and magazine release.



Thumb safety is right-hand only, trading some Southpaw ergonomics for a more concealable overall thickness.





Sights are rudimentary, but acceptable for a close-range carry pistol.





The Thunder 380 CC compares favorably in size to Jeff's "always gun", a .38 Special S&W 342PD. While the Thunder 380 CC is equivalent in "footprint" size, it is noticeably thinner than the revolver and offers greater firepower.



Author tested the Thunder 380 CC with a variety of factory and handloaded ammunition.



Nine-shot group at seven yards shows that the Thunder 380 CC is both accurate and controllable in rapid fire.



Bersa's Thunder 380 CC is a fine successor to one of our favorite carry pistols, the original Thunder 380, and should prove to be even more popular.