Bersa’s Thunder .380 Auto Pistol


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

May 13, 2002




It is rare in today’s gun market to find a genuine bargain when shopping for a new handgun, particularly a new semi-automatic pistol that is made of quality materials with good craftsmanship. There are available many pistols that, at first glance (and a distant glance at that ), appear to be a good value, but turn out to be anything but. Usually these low price pistols are made of zinc or some type of pot-metal, and are too heavy, too soft, and too cheap of a weapon on which to bet one’s life. We do not review such guns here at, as we believe that to do so would be a waste of the author’s and reader’s time.

There are, at the other end of the price spectrum, several good pistols that would do well for personal defense. If you have a few hundred dollars to spend, you will be well-served by many quality auto pistols on the market. Some of the better European gun makers sell sleek double action pistols that meet the size and weight requirements of a personal defense pistol, but before you part with a few hundred dollar bills, you should look at the pistol that is the subject of this article; the Bersa Thunder .380.

Bersa has, for several years now, made what I call a real "sleeper" in the auto pistol market. The Bersa pistols have always been, in my experience, good solid little pistols. I have owned a few of the Bersas in both .380 and .22 Long Rifle chambering. They have proven to be reliable pistols in a portable, handy package.

The newest of the Bersas, called the Thunder series, are every bit the quality of the predecessors, in a smoother, more refined firearm. The Bersa Thunder .380 recently received for testing is the best Bersa yet. This pistol is well-finished in a matte blue, with satin nickel accents. Right out of the box, the first impression is one of quality. The Bersa has features not expected in a pistol anywhere near its price. The finish on the steel slide very closely matches the matte black alloy frame and the black checkered plastic grip panels. The gun features a Rowel type hammer, seven shot magazine with extended finger rest, and white-dot windage-adjustable sights. The Bersa has a hammer drop thumb safety that blocks the firing pin and also a magazine safety to prevent accidental firing with the magazine removed from the gun. It also has an extended slide release and a thumb operated magazine release button. All of the controls are within easy reach of a right-handed shooter’s thumb or a left-hander’s trigger finger. At 23 ounces in weight, the Thunder .380 has a solid feel without being too heavy for easy concealed carry.

For range testing of the Bersa, I assembled an assortment of .380 ammo and headed outside. One of the first notable features of this pistol is the trigger pull. It has, without a doubt, the smoothest double-action trigger pull that I have ever felt on an auto pistol, regardless of price. I wish that some of the high-dollar European manufacturers could produce a pistol with a trigger pull as smooth and light as this Bersa. The feel is absolutely butter-smooth with a constant force of about seven pounds. Also, the single-action pull breaks cleanly with just a bit of over travel, at around three pounds. 

Last month, a friend ordered a new .380 made by a famous and well-respected German pistol maker. He got a good price on the gun, paying just over 560 bucks, delivered. The pistol was pretty to look at, but had a horrendous double-action pull of over eighteen pounds. Perhaps they should send their pistols to Bersa for the trigger work.

All ammo tested worked well. The Bersa fed, fired, and ejected every round without a hitch. The feed angle of the Thunder .380 is almost straight in, and enables the weapon to feed the best hollow point ammo available. By far, the best performing ammo in this pistol is the excellent Cor-Bon 90 grain jacketed hollow point. This Cor-Bon ammo averaged 965 feet per second velocity from the three and one-half inch barrel, at twelve feet from the muzzle. The Cor-Bon also shot to point of aim at 25 yards, and grouped just under three inches at that range. With eight of these 90 grain Cor-Bons in the Bersa, one would be well-armed for most social situations.

The Thunder .380 is relatively easy to conceal, and has great handling qualities. The gun feels right at home in my hand, and points very naturally. The Bersa handles recoil well, due to the shape and texture of the grip panels and grooved front and rear surfaces of the frame. The pistol also has a hooked and grooved trigger guard, for those who prefer to place a finger in that position.

Overall, I am very impressed with the Thunder .380. It is a better gun than some costing three times its price. I have seen these for sale in gun shops for around two hundred bucks. That is a great price for a gun of this quality. The Thunder .380 is a reliable auto pistol with great ergonomics, controllable power, a perfect trigger pull, and an exceptional price. Check out Bersa’s pistols online at:

The Thunder .380 is a true bargain in today’s gun market.  I highly recommend it……..and I’m buying this one.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Bersa's Thunder .380 is a well-designed, well-made, accurate pistol at a very reasonable price.



With the proper ammunition, such as Cor-Bon's 90-grain JHP, the .380 can be an effective self-defense round. As the saying goes, "a .380 in the pocket is better than a .45 in the truck"!



The Bersa Thunder easily field-strips to its basic components. The simple, proven design of the pistol lends to its reliability.



The Bersa Thunder .380 is designed with a nearly straight-in feed angle, which means the Thunder can reliably feed the best modern hollowpoint ammunition without modification. There were no failures of any kind during the author's extensive range-testing.



The Bersa is a very handy-sized package, small and light enough for discreet concealed carry without being too small to handle with confidence.



The controls of the Thunder .380 are very well thought out, with hammer-drop safety, slide release and magazine release well-positioned for either right-handed shooters or for Southpaws like the author.



Shown alongside a pocket knife for scale, the Bersa Thunder .380 is perfectly suited for concealed carry.



Bersa's Thunder .380 features details usually found on guns costing three times its price, such as a hooked and grooved trigger guard and grooved backstrap.



The safety of the Thunder .380 is a rotating hammer-drop design that positively blocks the firing pin. The gun also features a magazine disconnect safety.