Firestorm .22 Auto Pistol

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

November 4th, 2004

 

 

 

For many years Bersa of Argentina has been producing quality compact pistols chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. Over the last couple of decades, I have owned a few of these little gems, and still have one of their older single-action .22 autoloaders.  Their double-action .22 pistol has been produced for many years now, and one of these is the subject of this article. They are now marketed under the Firestorm banner, but are basically the same reliable little Bersa pistols that we have used for years, with but a couple of changes.

The gun tested here is the Firestorm FS22M, and is very similar to the excellent Bersa .380 pistol tested here a couple of years ago. I have received hundreds of emails from readers who have read that article on the Bersa .380, bought the gun, and are totally satisfied with the little weapon. The Firestorm 22 offers the same reliability and accuracy, chambered for the excellent little .22 Long Rifle cartridge.

The Firestorm is a double-action auto pistol that holds ten cartridges in its magazine, with a total capacity of eleven. It has a three and five-eighths inch barrel that is fixed to the frame, and does not move with the slide at all, resulting in a very rigid barrel position. The feed ramp to the chamber is polished smooth for reliable feeding, which was flawless during the extensive test firing of the weapon.  The gun has a manual safety that disconnects the trigger and blocks the hammer, and also serves as a decocking lever. The gun also has a magazine disconnect safety which prevents the gun from firing with the magazine removed. In addition, it also has a key-lock safety, if one so chooses to use that feature. The grip panels are of a semi-soft synthetic rubber material with finger grooves on the front of the grip. It makes for a very comfortable and secure hold. The magazine release button is located at the upper left of the trigger at the rear, and is easily operated by both right-handed and left-handed shooters. The slide locks open after the last shot is fired, and is released by the slide lock, which is located just above the magazine release. The easily visible three-dot sights can be adjusted for windage with a screwdriver. The Firestorm has a Rowell type hammer and a long tang to prevent the hammer from biting the web of the hand. The ten shot magazine has a finger extension, to effectively lengthen the grip.

Ergonomically, the Firestorm is very well designed, and is an exceedingly comfortable pistol to shoot.  The gun strips easily for cleaning, and reassembles in about two seconds.  The design is very much like an improved Walther PP series, but is simpler and easier to use, and sells for less than half the price. The Firestorm has a steel slide and an aluminum alloy frame, and weighs in at 19.4 ounces with an empty magazine. The trigger pull measured a smooth seven pounds and thirteen ounces in double-action mode, and released at three and three-quarters pounds in single-action mode. The Firestorm is a traditional double-action design in which the first shot can be fired either by a long pull of the trigger or by thumb-cocking the hammer for a single-action pull, with subsequent shots fired in the single-action mode, as the cycling of the slide cocks the hammer.

Shooting the Firestorm proved very enjoyable. The comfortable grip and light recoil of the cartridge made for very pleasant shooting.  The pistol proved to be plenty accurate for a gun of its type, keeping all shots within three inches at twenty-five yards, with its preferred ammunition doing a bit better. Rapid fire drills easily kept a magazine full of ammunition tightly clustered on a silhouette target torso at thirty yards, emptying the magazine in under three seconds.  As stated above, the Firestorm fed all ammunition tested without a malfunction. Ammo of adequate power functioned very reliably. The only problems occurred when using bullets of standard velocity that were of less than forty grains in weight. Lightweight hyper-velocity ammo such as CCI Stingers and Federal Spitfires functioned perfectly, but lightweight standard velocity ammo lacked the power to work the slide reliably every time. This is not a fault of the gun, but of using the wrong ammo in the gun. Full power high velocity and hyper-velocity worked perfectly every time. The gun worked very well with Winchester Wildcat low priced ammunition. It also really liked CCI Stingers, Federal Spitfires, Winchester Dynapoints, and CCI Mini-Mags. I tried hard to make the Firestorm mess up. I loaded three magazines and fired them off as fast as I could, repeating the process until the gun became hot to hold, but the little pistol kept functioning perfectly.

The Firestorm is compact enough to carry concealed if desired. While most prefer a defensive weapon with more power than a twenty-two, it will certainly do in a pinch. There are those who for various reasons cannot handle the recoil of a bigger cartridge. The Firestorm, having a fixed breech, gets more power from the .22 Long Rifle cartridge than does a revolver. The CCI Stingers clocked 1231 feet-per-second (fps) from the three and five-eighths inch barrel, which is faster than the velocity achieved from longer barreled revolvers, due to the barrel/cylinder gap inherent to the revolver design. The same ammo clocked 1120 from a Smith & Wesson four inch revolver, and 1213 from a Ruger six and one-half inch barreled sixgun. The CCI hollowpoint in excess of 1230 fps is nothing to toy with. It will penetrate very well, and is easy to shoot accurately from the Firestorm. The twenty-two allows a lot of practice for little money, and can serve for defense if necessary. For those who carry a Bersa .380 for defense, the Firestorm is a perfect choice for low cost practice.

The Firestorm also makes for a dandy little trail gun. It rides comfortably on the hip, and is accurate enough to take small game at reasonable range. Having no holster available to me for the little gun, I slid it into a Dillon Cactus League Slide holster made for the 1911 style autos, where it rode perfectly. Having eleven shots of .22 Long Rifle firepower on the hip is a good choice for a trail gun while walking around in the woods, and a quantity of ammunition can be carried with little additional weight.

It is hard for me to pigeon-hole this little gun into one category.  It is a great little trail gun, adequate for defense, accurate enough to pot small game, and an excellent little plinker. It is also very affordable, usually selling for around two hundred bucks, and has a lifetime warranty.  It is one of those little handguns that can fill many roles, and is just plain fun to shoot. I recommend it.

Check it out online at:    www.firestorm-sgs.com.

Jeff Quinn

 

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

The Firestorm .22 pistol.

 

 

The Firestorm (bottom) with the excellent Bersa Thunder .380 (top).

 

 

The Firestorm (bottom) with an older-generation Bersa Single-Action .22 pistol (top).

 

 

The Firestorm strips to its basic components in seconds without tools.

 

 

The barrel is fixed to the frame, an aid to accuracy and reliability.

 

 

The feed ramp is well polished, which greatly enhances the feed reliability of the little pistol. Using adequately-powered ammunition, malfunctions were nonexistent.

 

 

The slide features a large extractor and a large ejection port, resulting in 100% reliable case extraction. 

 

 

Semi-soft finger-groove grip aids in "gun control".

 

 

Slide stop lever, magazine release button and manual safety lever are well positioned for use by right-handed or left-handed shooters.

 

 

A key-locking safety system is included for those who have a need for it.

 

 

Sights are high-visibility "three-dot" configuration, with a windage-adjustable rear sight.

 

 

A very ergonomic design, the Firestorm handles and carries perfectly.

 

 

The Firestorm rode very well in a Dillon Cactus League Slide holster made for the 1911 .45.

 

 

Thanks to the design of the Firestorm, high-velocity ammunition such as CCI's Stinger does not suffer from the short barrel length. 

 

 

The Bersa Thunder .380 has proven to be among the most popular guns we have tested here at Gunblast.com. With its high quality, low cost, excellent reliability, acceptable accuracy, and just plain fun, the Firestorm .22 will be at least as successful.