*The Bersa Thunder .380*
By: JonBot007

Ok there are those of us that prefer the larger caliber handguns for self defense and home protection…. .40 S&W, 10mm Automatic, .41 and .44 special and magnum, .45 ACP and of course there are the extreme but less common choices like .454 arm breaker (LOL) and .50 AE. All these are fine rounds for various tasks but sometimes you need a smaller lighter package. Many like to go from a primary carry gun to a "pocket pistol" ….the neat little .32 guns seem to shine here with a few preferring the even smaller .25 auto. Neither school of thought is completely lost on most of us. To be honest I see a neglected spot between the "best gun is the one you have all the time"-camp and the "bigger is better" crowd. Many have already bridged the gap nicely with one of the many compact yet controllable .40 guns out there taking over where higher capacity 9mm guns were once the standard. These are a good answer to the call for such a role…easier to hide and more comfortable as well as somewhat lighter than a full sized pistol. The problem in this area seems to be finding a piece that is both comfortable to carry and shoot…while still offering acceptable accuracy and reliability in an affordable package.

One way to go is to split the difference caliber wise as well as in the pistol's size. To be honest the .380 (9x17mm) is the smallest I'm willing to go. It is a FAR cry from the effectiveness of the .45 ACP I favor in the Fall and Winter months. Yet sometimes you need a gun that hides well, shoots well, and is cheap enough that you can live with yourself as it takes the day in day out beating of a constant warm weather CCW. I know…I know….you're looking at my call sign and seeing the 007 in there and saying….oohhhh here comes the Walther PP/PPK article-LOL. Nope…this 007 has to buy his own carry guns and doesn't have the financial backing of the fictional character implied…besides the problem with the Walther is that you can A) get the PP…which is too long and too heavy…..or B) the PPK which is too short and too heavy-LOL. Both are expensive and being a .45 guy the magazine based slide release bothers me for some reason. I just like having a slide release lever…I'm used to it. You could choose a nice SIG .380 and have a compromise in length and a light gun as well…but the wallet will feel the weight of that purchase.

So begins my quest for a warm weather carry pistol I can afford and operate comfortably. I have large hands as well which makes for yet another obstacle. I had seen a .380 Walther-esque clone a while back cheap at a pawn shop in town. I decided since I still had a bunch of .380 stashed away from an old pocket gun I used to have that I'd go see if it was still around…I was sure if it was I could get it for a song from the owner. Well no such luck…so I stopped by another local FFL to see what he had brought in lately. I was looking at some Makarovs wondering if I could live with such an ugly yet functional piece when I saw something neat. Bersa…hhhmmmm I scanned the mental files for all the affordable gun makers I've heard bad things about…..no….nobody ever said anything bad about Bersa that I could remember. I looked at it….seemed rather well made….a duo-tone finish with a matte black slide and a metallic aluminum flake finished frame (like a Ruger P89…which it's trigger guard also somewhat resembles). It has a slide release lever, mag release button, the slide feels good…..hhmmmm….it feels like a well machined piece. It has a de-cocker/ safety that renders the trigger null and void as does the magazine safety. The whole thing takes down with the flick of a switch and pulling the slide rearward and upward all the way at the end of it's journey…like a Walther. The grips are plastic but look and feel good…at this point the Makarov went back in the case. The whole thing weighs 22 oz. empty….sheez that's not a lot more than some pocket pistols. The barrel length is perfect for this kind of gun. 3.5" right in between the PP and PPK sizing. It holds seven rounds is a reliable single stack magazine and of course one in the chamber safely with the de-cocker safety on. Now there is no firing pin lock on this gun like many more expensive choices have. However considering the weight of the piece and the amount of travel in the firing mechanism…I have no problem with that…just a few less parts to bind as I see it. So I'm pretty well hooked at this point…I dry fire it a few times…MAN I am NOT a huge DA fan but the SA shot feels light and crisp for such a cheap gun….$218 later I'm home with my new favorite warm weather CCW.

I of course played with it for a while…field stripped and cleaned it (just because ;) and took it to work that night to be oohhh'ed an aaahhhh'ed over by several other gun savy folks here in radio land. The more I handled it and carried it the more I decided it was a great bargain. Several times I forgot I had it on that evening….MUCH easier to hide and live with than a .45 in Spring or Summer in the SE. I of course needed to make sure I wasn't carrying a nice looking paper-weight around so it was to the range the next afternoon. I had a few boxes of UMC .380 hard ball and some old federal classic HP ammo as well as some old PMC hardball from some time when the universe was young (LOL- I couldn't even remember how old it was) It took one box for me to fall for this pistola….the single action trigger is not at all bad. The barrel stabilizes the .380 round much better than the old pocket .380 I had a while back….out to 30 or 35 yards there was no doubt you could hit anything you needed to reliably enough to make anyone a good CCW. The way the gun feels and balances there is no real recoil to speak of…a bit of muzzle climb or "flip" but hey…in a gun this light I expected more. The rear site is adjustable for windage and required a few clicks to the left to bring things to center of aim. So I went through about 180 rounds of mixed HP and ball ammo…never a jam or feed problem or stoppage of any kind….NICE J I fired a few more times on different range sessions…more of the same…it just keeps going. I took to the DA/SA system like a duck to water…it was like I'd been carrying it for years.

Accuracy wise I was really not expecting much…I was again pleasantly surprised. With a properly cleaned gun I have pulled it from concealment just for fun at the range while doing some rifle work and it always groups well. Clean the gun will put any off the rack ammo I've tried into 3-4" at 25-30 yards with a good controlled fire unloading of eight rounds….dirty it doesn't open up much…just seems to cause a flyer here and there. I've never had any doubt that it could be put into service and put the holes where they need to be on any threat that proves to be worthy of such a response. I originally intended to carry 95 grain ball ammo as HP really doesn't seem to offer much at the velocity such a round offers. However Federal Hydro-shock ammo has once again proven to be an excellent choice for both accuracy and a bit more punch. It is the only HP ammo in .380 I care to use…short of that I'll just carry ball ammo until I score another box….expensive? ….not for what you get performance wise. I've long found Federal 165 grain Hydro-shock ammo the clear champion in accurate defensive loads for my commander style .45 –they just seem to know what a given round needs and come up with a good load for it. So is it a target pistol??? Heck no…but for just over $200 it is a great affordable CCW for someone who cares more about having a comfortable and accurate carry piece and is looking at a heavier and or more expensive choice…I'd highly recommend one. Would I take this gun to downtown Detriot…YEAH RIGHT!!! Where's my .45 at??? Would I carry it everywhere else I go on a daily and nightly basis…I do so I guess I would…it's a little big to throw in a pocket but it's been carried that way more than once as well….it would make an outstanding purse gun for a wife or daughter who prefer a smaller easy to shoot caliber pistol. What in the world am I doing with it??…hitting anything I aim at and forgetting it's on my person on a regular basis. It fills the nich rather well between pocket gun and full sized handgun….and it does it for WAY under $250…check one out sometime if you're in the market for such a firearm. There are a few variations….one seems to have a gloss blue finish and a weird hunk of plastic on the end of the mag instead of the regular Walther style pinky grip/extender. There are older versions on the market as well…these may or may not be as well made. I have the duo-tone finish but the matte black is the same basic finish type with a more down to business look. They come in .22LR, .25 auto, .32, and of course .380 as well. Check out the website if you're interested and you may notice they are imported by the same folks that supply an affordable .45 I've gotten a lot of mileage out of J I've been pleased with both choices and they even office out of an area very near where I grew up humorously enough. But the guns work just as well (if not better-LOL) down here in the South. Here is the link to the importer….enjoy.-OUT


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