Bersa Thunder Review

BERSA THUNDER REVIEW: CCW DISAPPOINTMENT

The Bersa Thunder is a budget .380 ACP pistol that bears a resemblance to the classic Walther PPK. With its all-metal construction and available variants, it can seem like an appealing concealed carry option. However, as this review will show, it falls short in some key areas that become dealbreakers. Let’s take a closer look at the Thunder’s background, features, and performance to see where it excels and where it disappoints.

Specifications and Background

The Bersa Thunder is an all-metal DA/SA pistol chambered primarily for .380 ACP. Available capacity is 8+1 rounds. It has a 3.2″ barrel and an overall length of 6″. Manufactured in Argentina and imported to the US by Eagle Imports, there are over a dozen variants available. Most differ only cosmetically, but some have more significant changes.

The version reviewed here is the Concealed Carry or “CC” model. As the name suggests, it has some alterations intended to improve concealability. However, these changes come at the cost of certain features and, arguably, shootability.

Features

The Bersa Thunder does bring some worthwhile features to the table:

  • 8+1 capacity provides reasonable firepower in such a small package
  • Traditional double action/single action (DA/SA) trigger system with hammer provides an added degree of safety
  • Frame-mounted safety/decocker enables safer carry

There are also several variations of the Thunder available:

  • .380 standard and Concealed Carry (CC) models
  • Less common .22 LR model
  • “Combat” model with accessory rail and extended mag
  • “Plus” model with extended grip and 15+1 capacity

Review and Analysis

While sounding good on paper, the Bersa Thunder proved disappointing where it counts most – in practical use. Here’s a breakdown of how it performed.

Reliability

Reliability is the #1 priority for a defensive pistol. Unfortunately the Thunder struggled here. While it ran fairly smoothly, a malfunction occurred consistently on the last round of each magazine.

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The feed lips would hold the rim of the cartridge while leaving the round tipped vertically, fouling the action. Clearing this stoppage just required removing the magazine, but it’s less than ideal, especially for a carry gun.

After 200 rounds I was still experiencing this issue approximately every 3-4 mags. Testing with multiple magazines ruled that out as the cause. For a gun meant to save your life, dubious reliability is a glaring flaw.

Accuracy

Despite the miserable sights, accuracy exceeded my expectations. From a bench rest at 7 yards, the Thunder produced quite reasonable groups with ball ammo. The blame for mediocre practical accuracy lies squarely with the sights.

Ergonomics

Here the “CC” model shows its flaws, mainly through poor design choices that nominally aid concealment while hampering usability.

The Grip: Its molded finger grooves force an uncomfortable and inconsistent grip. The pinky finger also lacks adequate purchase, proving distracting.

The Controls: Both the safety and slide release are drastically thinned on the CC. The safety in particular becomes difficult to manipulate, especially under pressure.

While the changes may modestly improve concealability, it removes the Thunder’s potential as a serviceable defensive pistol.

Miscellaneous Issues

A few other quirks detract from confidence in this pistol:

  • An action lock requiring a key inserted in the frame prevents firing if engaged. While no issues occurred during testing, it’s one more component to fail or engage unintentionally.
  • magazine disconnect prevents firing with the mag removed. While some may prefer this, it takes away an already unreliable pistol’s last-ditch option.
  • The magazine release sits higher than typical. With years of training, such a deviation proves distracting and slows reloads.
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Final Thoughts

Considering its low price point around $300, the Bersa Thunder seems tempting. However, subpar reliability combined with mediocre ergonomics make it a poor choice compared to other guns in this bracket.

While some Thunder variants likely perform better, this CC model can’t be recommended, especially for defensive purposes. If choosing the Thunder, avoid this version, instead opting for a model with decent sights and controls.

Ultimately though, slightly increasing your budget enables vastly better alternatives like the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield in 9mm.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Comfortable to shoot
  • Capable of decent accuracy

Cons:

  • Unreliable
  • Ergonomics hampered by poor design choices

For carry, defensive use, or home protection, the cons outweigh the pros here. While the Thunder CC may work as a cheap range toy, depend your life on it and you’re likely to be let down. Upgraded variants merit consideration but better options exist even then.

Buying and Upgrades

Starter Pack

If acquiring a Bersa Thunder, you’ll want mags, cleaning gear, and some key accessories:

  • Mec Gar magazines from Palmetto State Armory
  • Universal cleaning kit from Gloryfire
  • Essentials like eye protection and ear muffs
  • Storage safe like the Vaultek LifePod

Deals

Check Brownells and Guns.com for the latest Thunder package deals. Models start around $300.

Upgrades

To improve shootability, consider:

  • Sights: Meprolight night sights or a Crimson Trace laser grip
  • Grips: Talon rubber grips provide way better purchase

I’d also suggest quality holsters like the Muddy River IWB rig.

Operation and Maintenance

Use decent range ammo like Magtech 95gr to break in your Thunder and combat any lingering issues. Down the line, potent hollow points like Remington 102gr Bonded JHPs make a good choice for self-defense.

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Field strip and clean your Bersa thoroughly to ensure reliability. Check Paul at Heavy Metal Guns & Outdoors’ tutorial on proper cleaning procedures.

For additional info, read the manual and see forums like Guns.com’s “How It Breaks” thread to further understand the Thunder’s quirks.

Comparable Guns

Frankly, better options exist at this price point. The M&P Shield provides incredible performance rivaling guns $200+ more expensive. For a bit over $300, the Shield is hard to beat with fantastic reliability and shootability.

Conclusion

The Bersa Thunder seems like a decent affordable carry gun. Upon closer inspection though, subpar reliability combined with poor ergonomics rule it out as a defensive pistol. While other variants may perform better, quality guns like the M&P Shield meet the same budget with infinitely more prowess.

FAQs

Q: Is the Bersa Thunder reliable enough for concealed carry?

A: Based on our testing, no. Repeated malfunctions make it too risky for life-protecting use. Other versions may fare better though.

Q: Does the small size of the Thunder make it hard to shoot?

A: Its size and weight actually make the .380 cartridge quite manageable. The ergonomic issues stem more from design flaws than overall size.

Q: What ammunition works best in the Bersa Thunder?

A: For plinking, we recommend an affordable 95gr ball round like Magtech. For self-defense, a potent hollow point like Remington 102gr Bonded JHPs makes a smart choice.

Q: What comparable pistols cost a similar amount?

A: The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield offers incredible performance for a bit over $300. Well worth the minor price increase over the Thunder.

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